Celebrity stylist Micaela Erlanger crafts red carpet looks for style superstars such as Lupita Nyong’o, Meryl Streep, Diane Kruger, Tatiana Maslany, Michelle Dockery and more. Now, after years of creating looks for celebs, she’s bringing her insightful approach to fashion to a wider population with the release of her first book, How to Accessorize: A Perfect Finish to Every Outfit, which hits shelves today ($14, amazon.com).
“I knew I wanted to share my knowledge with people who love fashion or maybe even struggle with it,” the stylist tells PEOPLE over the phone this week. “For me, I feel like accessories are really how you can transform a look, and it was the best place to start.”
Consider the illustrated pocket guide — yes, it’s a mini size at 5.3 inches wide by 7.4 inches tall — an intro to your most basic Qs about accessories. What are the right sunglasses for your face shape? Turn to page 38. What about the best way to tie a scarf? Flip to page 72. Should you match your belt and your shoes? Page 81 has the answer.
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But what we found truly revelatory is her section on handbags (page 96). “Handbags are a really important area to invest,” the stylist tells us. “I don’t skimp, personally. It’s where I spend my money because it’s the easiest way to transform an outfit. If you have an amazing handbag, you instantly elevate your look.”
In the book, she identifies six key styles that every woman should own. “If you have these six, you are set,” she says. “These are really the basics. Of course, there is room to expand with variations and colors and trends, but with these six go-tos, you will truly have yourself covered for any occasion.”
What are the lucky half-dozen, you ask? Let’s break them down…
1. The Top-Handle Tote
This is your ultimate ladylike option (because of its frame shape) that you carry in your hand or in the crook of your arm, says Erlanger.
Our pick: ZAC Zac Posen’s Earth Iconic Soft Top-Handle Mini Satchel in Pinot, $144.99 (on sale from $295); 6pm.com.
2. The Cross Body Bag
This is ideal for an everyday, hands-free option, but it’s generally smaller, says the stylist.
Our pick: Topshop Premium Leather Grace Crossbody Bag, $74.98 (on sale from $150); nordstrom.com.
3. An Evening Bag
Erlanger writes that this small, delicate style that fits in your hand or under your arm is “the bag equivalent of wearing a piece of fine jewelry.” Plus, “it means you’ll have something appropriate for a date, night out or wedding.” Look for one in black and one in metallic. Erlanger adores styles from Edie Parker and Judith Leiber: “I don’t think anyone makes a prettier evening bag than Judith Leiber,” she says.
Our pick: Forever21 Ribbed Metallic Clutch, $15.99 (on sale from $22); forever21.com.
4. A Day Clutch
This is a slightly oversized version of the evening bag, and a little more versatile, Erlanger explains of the style, which usually comes in the form of a pouch or an envelope. “You can fit more into it, and it’s appropriate for casual events but still feminine and fashion-forward,” adds the stylist, noting that one of her faves is by Clare V (shown above).
Erlanger’s pick: Clare V. Bow-embellished glitter suede clutch, $235 at net-a-porter.com.
5. The Hobo
This is something slouchy or bucket-like that you can throw all your essentials in — great for travel, great for work, says Erlanger.
Our pick: Kate Spade New York Jackson Street Mylie Small Crossbody, $268; macys.com.
6.The Carryall or Work Tote
“This one is also great for work, a little more sturdy and you can throw your laptop in there,” she explains. “It’s more practical for the working woman. It’s your “live-in” Monday through Friday bag.” (She’s insistent that this is not your gym bag, as that’s something else, which is why seven bags are pictured in the illustration in her book.) Erlanger’s work tote is Saint Laurent ($995 at net-a-porter.com; shown right), but she suggests Madewell ($188 at madewell.com; shown left) for a lower-price alternative.
She also says to look for bags without logos and little embellishment so they last season after season without looking trendy. “My job is to make people feel good,” she tells us, noting a fabulous bag that you truly love can do just that.