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Stuff doesn’t make you happy, but research shows that smiles do, and designers are inspiring plenty of them by decorating accessories and shoes with witty charms and playful embellishments.

It’s about flair, and it’s a great chance to express some individuality at all price points and pretty much any age.

Salvatore Ferragamo, Metallic Flower Clutch ($1,790)
Photo courtesy of Salvatore Ferragamo

Stuart Weitzman, The BRMOREPEARLS Sandal ($455)
Photo courtesy of Stuart Weitzman


We’re talking about pompoms and fur, patches, three-dimensional flowers, and ever popular pearls and sparkling crystals sprinkled across shoes, bags and jewelry.

While these modes of embellishment aren’t exactly new, contemporary applications of them are far from traditional.

Designers clearly had fun coming up with unconventional, cheeky styles like sandals lined in mink and athletic rubber slides topped with floppy satin bows.

Gucci, Princetown leather with bow ($1,890)
Photo courtesy of Gucci


Louis Vuitton, Bubble Duo Bag Charm & Key Holder ($730)
Photo courtesy of Louis Vuitton


Cartoon characters, happy emojis and balls of fur are among the whimsical embellishments that dangle from or decorate handbags. Interchangeable guitar-style straps embellished with inlaid leather patterns or three-dimensional patterns transform a serious handbag from office to playtime with the snap of two clasps.

Tassels continue to hold sway with their beguiling kinetics and endless variations in texture and material, from frayed silk to colored metal chain. Some trends burn brightly for decades, and the tassel is showing signs that it could be one of them. Case in point: variations of the jeweled leather wrap bracelet that Chan Luu created in 1996 are still selling today.

Graphic patches are back thanks in part to Gucci, which splashed them across denim jeans and jackets last fall. Younger generations are discovering new takes on the pins and patches that Boomers remember well from the counterculture fashions of the Sixties, Seventies and punk era.

Coach, swagger 27 in embellished canyon quilt leather ($695)
Photo courtesy of Coach


This time around their messages are tongue-in-cheek wit and wonder, from comic book exclamations to lipsticks and rainbows, emojis and ice cream cones. Iconic American handbag maker Coach dotted its popular leather Swagger bag with stars, hearts and cherries.

It makes you smile, and that’s good for the soul.