All clothes protect our bodies from the elements, but dressing with flair and style is a way of announcing one’s taste and standing in society. As Charles Dickens put it, “any man may be in good spirits and good temper when he's well dressed.”

Accessories are literally the flair—the final touches that decorate an outfit. While we tend to think of women as the gender given to accessorizing, adorning themselves with jewelry, scarves, elaborate hats, stiletto heels, and glamorous handbags, men have nearly as many accessories at their disposal, including ties, belts, cufflinks, and fedoras.

Some of the most common accessories today—ties with Windsor knots, purses, belt buckles, silk scarves, cufflinks, and sunglasses—only came into fashion within the last hundred years or so. Before the last century, early Victorian fashion demanded touches like elegant canes, delicate hand fans, châtelaines, pocket watches, and suspenders.

These days, canes are primarily used as aids for those who have difficulty walking on their own. However, canes and walking sticks have a long history of being elegant fashion accessories, must-haves for well-dressed gentlemen and ladies. In fact, at one point, it was considered quite improper to lean on a cane for support. Canes also doubled as containers for everything from maps and weapons to alcohol and perfume. In the Victorian Era in particular, canes were invented to hold every device imaginable, from microscopes and barometers to horse measures and fishing poles.

Another accessory that has mostly fallen by the wayside is the hand fan, used by Victorian women as a means of flirtation and rejection, as much as a tool to stay cool. These beautifully decorated objects had leaves made of everything from ostrich feathers and ivory to silk, paper, and celluloid.

For men, belt buckles—originally plain, utilitarian devices—have long been worn to indicate power or status, particularly in the military. However, it wasn’t until the 1920s, when the waists of pants were lowered, that belts became common accessories for men and women. That beloved Hollywood creation, the Western film, brought back the idea of the big, ornate buckle, a.k.a the cowboy belt buckle, reflecting a man’s status as an alpha male.

Ties, meanwhile, have their roots in a time when wealthy and powerful men proudly wore lace and other frilly fabrics, known as cravats, around their necks. This look evolved into...

Cufflinks, designed for shirts with French cuffs, were also the height of men’s fashion in the late 1800s. They were often made of 14-karat gold and set with onyx and agates in the shapes of lions’ heads, as well as with ancient Roman coins. After World War II, cufflinks experienced a surge in popularity—a sophisticated gentleman had both an array of cufflinks and a collection of ties to choose from.

For women, perhaps the most coveted accessory is the purse, which emerged out of the 19th-century trend of attaching châtelaines to waistbelts. These fasteners were replaced with small, decorative bags that served the purpose of pockets. Early purses were often beaded, embroidered, or embellished with tassels. Meanwhile, handbags, which were sturdier than purses and had more compartments, evolved from luggage.

Around the turn of the 20th century, purses and handbags were adapted to the style of the era, whether it was Art Nouveau or the Belle Epoque. In the 1920s, flappers in little black dresses wore the smallest purses possible, which hid elaborately decorated compacts that were designed to hold little more than powder, lipstick, a handkerchief, and perhaps cab fare.

Huge shoulder bags came into fashion in the 1940s, thanks to the practicality of World War II-era fashions. During the prosperous postwar years of the 1950s, when Americans first starting using credit cards, wallets as we know them today came into fashion for men and women.

Since then, top fashion houses like Louis Vuitton and Coco Chanel have produced matching purse-and-wallet sets for women, often with their logos displayed prominently in the design. Men’s wallets have ranged from high-end leather ones to novelty wallets bearing likenesses of pop-culture characters like Hopalong Cassidy and Superman.

Modern sunglasses first appeared in the 1920s, when Americans and Europeans took to the beaches for their vacations. The sunglasses craze exploded when designers like Persol and Emilio Pucci made high-fashion shades for the likes of Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Men favored wire-framed Ray-Ban "aviator" sunglasses, which featured an innovative anti-glare polarized-lens technology, developed by Polaroid Corporation in 1936. Thanks to their air of mystery, dark shades became a symbol of cool detachment for beatniks, hippies, and jazz and rock musicians. Ray-Ban’s chunky 1952 Wayfarer style became a standard look among the young and the hip, while the Beatles' John Lennon made small tinted “teashades” popular in the ’60s.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Ventagli.org

Ventagli.org

Anna Checcoli's homage to the beauty and art of hand fans ('ventagli,' in Italian). Use the left-hand nav to browse… [read review or visit site]

Antiquespectacles.com

Antiquespectacles.com

Dr. David Fleishman's comprehensive spectacles site (over 3500 images), in collaboration with museums around the wo… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

-rare- Wwii -us Army- Vintage Gi Fixed Bale/front Seam M1 Helmet W/linerVintage 50s Original Lilly Dache Dachettes Flower Saucer Plate Hat 3-d Chinese Carved Brise Export Fan Eventail Qing Dynasty 1820 乾隆帝80's Bl5022 *wayfarer* B&l Ray Ban Usa + Marlboro Ray Ban CaseVintage Ray-ban B&l Aviator *ambermatic Outdoorsman 24k Gp *vgu 1980s SunglassesAntique 1950s Western American Navajo Indian Sterling & Turquoise Belt & Buckle80's *traditionals Premier C* W0859 Bausch & Lomb Ray Ban, Rb-3 Lens90's Blonde Frost, B-15 Lens, Wayfarer Ii 54mm Lens B&l Ray Ban UsaAntique Edwardian Deer Bone Handle Sterling Silver Banded Walking Stick Old CaneAntique Victorian Era Leather Wrapped Old Horn Handle Silver Walking Stick CaneCoach Rare Vintage Pre-creed Bonnie Cashin Metal Tag Black Courier Leather Bag 90's L2052 (bl5022) *wayfarer* B&l Ray Ban Usa + Police CaseAntique Teardrop Malacca Palm Tree & Animal Bone Walking Stick Edwardian CaneVtg Enid Collins Orig Wood Box Bag Handbag Purse-lacquer Handle-owl & Pussycat80's Green Tortoiseshell Bl5022 *wayfarer* W1443 B&l Ray Ban UsaRare Vintage B&l Ray Ban Tortoise Aviator Outdoorsman Gold Sunglasses LargeVintage 1950's Fahey Brockman Fabroc Zenith Fedora Hat Made In The Usa Nice L@@kVtg Lot B&l Ray Ban Frames Lenses Arms Amber Gradient Mirror Kalichrome Rb-3 NosVintage Genuine *crocodile* Chestnut Brown Gladstone / Doctors Bag 1940's SuperbRay Ban Rb3447 Flash Lens 019/30 Round Metal 50mm Sunglasses & CaseAntique Edwardian Bamboo Antler Bone Handle 800 Silver Banded Walking Stick CaneRay Ban Rb4165 "justin" Wayfarer Sunglasses & CaseVtg Ray Ban Bausch & Lomb Aviator Shooters Bullet Hole Sunglasses Cable TempleAntique Victorian Era Paper Disc Old Parade Staff Style Walking Stick Old CaneRay Ban Wayfarer Ii Rb2143 919/32, 50mm & Case1980's B&l Ray Ban Signet I W0386 Sunglasses & Case Ray Ban Rb3447 Polarised Round Metal 001/3r 47mm Sunglasses & CaseAntique Old West Style Horn Handle Sliced Horn Disc Western Cane Walking Stick Vintage Rare B&l Ray Ban Usa 58mm Leather Aviator Bausch & LombAntique 19thc Victorian Wgd Gold Presentation Top Ebonized Cane Walking Stick Gianni Versace Vintage Brown S72 31l Sunglasses Man Women Medusa Gold UnisexAntique Mandalian Collectible Vintage Mesh Purse With Silk LiningVintage 40s Original Red Lizard Skin Handbag W. Purse Wallet Made In EnglandAntique Victorian-period Brass & Seed Bead Scenic Purse Pocket Book Nr80's *traditionals Premier D* W0861 Bausch & Lomb Ray Ban & CaseRay Ban Rb3507 Clubmaster Aluminium, 139/85 & CaseSuperb Antique Silver And Uranium Glass Tigers Claw Belt Buckle Anglo Indian?Antique Edwardian Era Eagle Head Carved Wood & Bamboo Shaft Walking Stick CaneAntique Silver Snake Figural Knotty Walking Stick Old Folk Art Wood Carved Cane1920s Antique Art Deco Flapper Beaded Dresses Blue Sheer Ostrich FeathersVintage Ray-ban B&l Aviator Chrome *changeables Vietnam War Era *vguc Sunglasses1990's B&l Ray Ban L1725 Wayfarer Ii, 54mm & CaseRay Ban Rb3136 001 58mm Caravan Sunglasses & CaseB&l Ray Ban *olympian Iii Deluxe* W1303 Sunglasses & CaseRay Ban Rb2140 Large 54mm Wayfarer 901 & CaseB&l Ray Ban Rb-3 62mm Lens Aviator Large Metal Ii L2849 & Case80's B&l Ray Ban Gold Street Neat W0495 Wayfarer Ii, 54mm Lens + Case1980's B&l Ray Ban *aqua Jade* Street Neat W0522 Wayfarer, 50mm Lens, Bl5022Vintage Ray-ban Bausch & Lomb Wayfarer Black Sunglasses 5024 Green Neutral GrayAntique Green Celluloid Egyptian Design Frame W/ Medium-size Beads Gorgeous Ray Ban Leather Rb3475-q 112/53 Craft Round Metal 50mm Sunglasses & CaseVintage 50s Original Lucite Winged Cats Eye French Sunglasses Sparkly!Mandalian Purse W/ Rare Persian Rug Pattern & Enameled FrameGood Condition Vintage B&l Ray Ban U.s.a. 5 ¼ 1/10 12k Gf Olympian With CaseVintage 1970's Ray Ban Aviator Sunglasses Leathers Edition With Original CaseAo Vintage American Optical Tortoise Sunglasses Saratoga Cosmetan Cx 25t-51Authentic Vintage Ray-ban Aviator 12k Gold Filled Frame Sunglasses & Case Vintage B&l 5022 Bausch & Lomb Rayban Wayfarer Usa Tortoise Brown G15 W CaseRay Ban *clubmaster Flash Lens* Rb3016 1145/17 51mm Lens & CaseAntique, Japanese Katana Cane/ Walking Stick-nr!