It's almost impossible to keep up with the comings and goings of fashion trends. Hemlines rise and fall, pant legs get skinny and then wide again and often, designers will resuscitate the '60s or '50s only to drop them from the It radar just a mere season later.
It's a world often so fleeting and fickle that staying fashionable can be daunting. Unless, that is, you turn to one trusty item that has the power to freshen up the looks of ensembles you've worn over and over -- the accessory.
"If you want to update an outfit, if you buy a great pair of shoes or a great handbag, that immediately updates your entire look," said Mary Jimenez, spokeswoman for eLuxury.com. "You don't have to go out and buy all new clothes for spring -- you can go out and buy a great statement piece for the season."
Tom Julian, New York-based fashion trend analyst for Fallon Worldwide, said this spring is an especially good time to shop for accessories. Even though consumer spending has dropped in recent seasons, accessories have continued to sell well, so retailers are placing more emphasis on them. Designers from Oscar de la Renta to Luella Bartley have been trotting them down fashion runways. And recently, J.C. Penney announced it would begin phasing out makeup so it can stock more women's accessories in its 1,061 stores.
"People from J. Crew to Banana Republic have stepped up their accessory offerings," Julian said.
Besides jazzing up an ensemble, there is another advantage to picking an eye-catching accessory.
"Accessories are so unique now that everything looks like it has an artisan quality to it," said Gregg Andrews, Nordstrom's East Coast fashion director. "Maybe you inherited it from somebody; maybe it looks like you bought your earrings in Morocco. Your accessory creates a story."
Spring accessory trends at a glance:
* Exotic statements: Look like a world traveler with sandals, earrings or purses that resemble souvenirs from some far-flung city.
* Whimsical purses: Handbags, now available in all shapes, sizes and colors, are destined to make a quirky fashion statement.
* Conversation pieces: Whether it's jeweled shades or funky looking watches, pick an accessory that's a definite conversation starter.
* Thongs and slides: This season, they come brightly painted or adorned with leather flowers. The best part? They're comfortable.