The Blogger Beat: The Art of Accessories

It’s time to glamorize with accessories-obsessed blogger Dana Williams-Johnson.

By: Emily Leaman

Dana Williams-Johnson—known to her readers as DWJ—started her blog last year as a school project. Part of a course called Electronic Publishing Theory and Practice, a requirement to complete a master’s degree in publishing at George Washington University, Williams-Johnson and 30 other students launched blogs. Her grade? “I got an A, of course,” she says.

The Art of Accessories
documents Williams-Johnson’s obsession with accessories. “I see them as artwork,” she says. “The Manhattan Saks Fifth Avenue is my Guggenheim.” The 30-year-old writes about anything fashion that’s not clothing—think makeup, handbags, shoes, skin-care products, and fragrances. She has several regular features, including a question-and-answer column called Wednesday Woes, in which readers write in with their accessory dilemmas.

Predictably, most of her readers are women, but she says men—including her dad and husband—check the site when she posts a gift guide. And here’s a nice surprise: When she recommends products, Williams-Johnson tends to feature items that won’t break the bank. But, she admits, “I’ll post an expensive item I’m drooling over even though I know I’ll never buy it. It’s okay to look!”

We caught up with this sometimes-frugal fashionista to talk about how to accessorize. Read on to find out what every woman should have in her makeup bag, one wardrobe item worth an investment, and this blogger’s best advice for the accessory-inept.

One word to describe your style:
“Fearless. I always get the ‘I could never wear that’ comment from folks about leopard-print heels or a huge statement necklace. Something that’s just standard in my wardrobe can seem wild to others, but I’m not afraid to be bold or adventurous. My response is always ‘Yes, you can wear it—just put it on!’ It took me years to finally give in to animal prints, and now I wonder how I lived without them for so long. I love color, patterns, print, and texture, and I encourage everyone to try something out of their comfort zone every once in a while.”

One word to describe Washington’s style:
“Evolving. Washington doesn’t get enough credit for style because we’re seen as being so traditional and classic—but we’re not. I work downtown, and I’ve seen some great colorful trench coats and wild shoe choices. Plus, you can’t ignore the power of the Obamas in the White House and how that’s highlighting Washington style.”

Number of handbags and pairs of shoes in your wardrobe:
“Are we talking about my spring/summer set or my fall/winter set? (Don’t judge me. I’m an accessories blogger. What did you expect?) Since I put the fall/winter stuff in storage, I’ll just give you the spring/summer numbers. Shoes: 77 pairs. I’d estimate there’s another 50 pairs in storage. Handbags: 52. I’m always searching for that perfect bag. Right now I’m looking for a soft gray carryall.”

Most embarrassingly expensive accessory you’ve ever purchased:
“I almost bought a pair of Christian Louboutin cheetah-print peep-toe platform heels in Las Vegas. Almost. But I got sick to my stomach at the idea of spending $800 on a pair of shoes. Even though my husband encouraged me to get them, I didn’t think they’d fit my lifestyle, so I walked away. Of course, I tried them on three times and took lots of pictures of my feet. Then I blogged about it. When my dad read the post, he said, ‘You bought them and just didn’t tell anybody, right?’ I had to laugh at that one.”

Total cost of the outfit you’re wearing right now—including shoes:

“Jeans, $58; Chuck Taylors, $45; white tee, $8; large orange chunky necklace, $29; watch, $60; and tote bag, $25. That brings the grand total to $225.”

Three things every woman should have in her makeup bag:
“(1) Mascara. I’m currently in love with Bare Escentuals Buxom Lash. It’s fabulous. A lot of women don’t wear mascara, but it really does make your eyes stand out and your lashes look amazing. And there’s definitely mascara for every girl and every lash type. (2) Cheek/lip color. Everyone is making a convertible color that you can use on your cheeks and your lips. (I adore Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge.) I think everyone looks better with a little flush of color on the cheeks and a dab on the lips. (3) Pressed powder. It’s like the holy grail of cosmetics. I actually had a girlfriend who had never used it. If you have nothing else, get powder because otherwise you will always be a shiny mess.”

Best advice for the accessory-inept:
“Don’t be afraid. Try a large cocktail ring, a statement necklace, or a patterned pair of heels—something to help liven up your outfit. Accessories are meant to evolve as your style evolves. Have fun! Don’t be stuffy; show your personality.”

Best and worst accessory trends this season:
“I’m not a fan of the caged-shoe trend that started with Yves Saint Laurent. It looks great on the runway, but replicating it in real life is a bit tricky. I’d be afraid that my feet would look like they’re being squeezed through a wire cage—not sexy. I love, love, love all the colors this spring. Florals, brights, ombre . . . I love it all. I love bright patent-leather pumps, bright-pink glossy lips, colorful belts as accents to your wardrobe—they all make me happy.”

One wardrobe item worth the investment:
“I always say invest in something takes your breath away. Buying a handbag or a pair of shoes that makes you smile whenever you wear them is always worth the investment. For me, it’s a pair of leopard-print high heels. They work with a dress, skirt, slacks, or jeans. They make me stand taller and feel so fierce when I wear them. You’d be amazed at how one fantastic piece can make everything else you’re wearing appear even more fabulous.”

Favorite splurge-worthy boutique:

“I honestly don’t do splurges (see the hole in my closet where those Christian Louboutin shoes could be). Louboutins are like a piece of artwork—I like to look at them—but I’ll buy a pair of Oh Deer! peep toes to satisfy that high-end-style craving. That said, I do enjoy window-shopping at Betsy Fisher on Connecticut Avenue.”

Where to buy shoes without breaking the bank:
“DSW. I love to just browse the aisles and see what bargains I can find. Plus, you can get money back when you spend. What more could you ask for?”

Favorite place to shop online:
“For makeup, I love Sephora.com. Their warehouse is in Maryland, so even with standard shipping my packages usually arrive very quickly. For shoes, handbags, and jewelry, Endless.com or Zappos.com are my staples. I love getting free overnight shipping, too. Talk about instant gratification!”

Most fashionable Washington neighborhood:
“I love people-watching in Dupont. You get a mix of professionals, artistic types, and on occasion the fabulousness of the drag queens!”

Best neighborhood for shopping therapy:
“Georgetown, definitely. I can browse Sephora, load up on fashion mags at Barnes & Noble, buy soaps and body-butter bars at Lush, find something unique at Urban Outfitters, and have only gone one block! Plus, the Circulator makes the shopping experience even more convenient.”

Finish this sentence: “I never leave home without my . . . ”

“ . . . watch. I’ve been obsessed with Swatch watches (specifically, Pop Swatches) since I was 12 and got my first one. I’ve branched out and own tons of brands of watches, but I always stay true to Swatch. I even wore a watch on my wedding day. My mother gave me her mother-of-pearl Movado as my ‘something borrowed.’ I’ve walked out of my house without my wedding band but never without a watch.”

Favorite local fashion blog besides your own:

Design Wonderland. It’s an interior-design, fashion, and style blog all merged into one fantastically artistic and inspiring package. I feel chicer and smarter just reading a post.”

Next week, we hear from standup comedian/blogger Erin Jackson of You’re Welcome. We ask the former reality-show star—she competed on season six of NBC’s
Last Comic Standing—what tickles her funny bone in Washington. Stay tuned!

Earlier:
Silver Spring, Singular
Counter Intelligence
All Blogger Beat interviews

Have a favorite local blogger you’d like to hear from? Send suggestions to eleaman@washingtonian.com.

More>> Capital Comment Blog | News & Politics | Society Photos