Brooches – A Surprising Bit of Personality for Your Athleisurewear

In these times of Zoom meetings and staying at home, wearing jewelry may seem like more of an afterthought than ever before, especially when the default mode of dressing is athleisurewear. A delicate pendant necklace and stud earrings may be part of one’s regular look, even when the clothing is super casual, but statement jewelry seems out of place.

Let me suggest a way to inject a bit of personality into athleisurewear dressing. As an impressionable young girl, I was influenced by the fashion selections of my slightly older and more world-wise relatives. I distinctly recall that one of my cousins wore a sweater with the most charming addition – a small brooch pinned to the side near her face. I don’t recall the motif of the brooch, but I recall that it fascinated me because it was so unexpectedly, sassy, stylish. A simple addition but one with great visual impact.

Image:  A Trifari ice cream bar lapel pin I’m wearing during these dog days of summer.

Add a pretty poodle or ice cream cone, a fleur de lis or garden fairy, a vibrantly colored piece of fruit, a convertible car, maybe a sprinkling of mismatched starbursts – and take a basic tee shirt or sweater to a pretty, playful or poignant place. And let your brooch inspire smiles.

The Nostalgic Charm of Charm Bracelets

During these days of extended home stays, the impetus to sort through one’s belongings is irresistible. For many Baby Boomers and other jewelry lovers, one or more charm bracelets may hold a place in their jewelry collections. Rediscovering these bracelets brings on the nostalgia.

The 1960s were the heyday of the style, and what fun it was to add charms to a bracelet, whether that bracelet was sterling silver, costume jewelry, or real gold. Travel bracelets were a frequent choice, collecting a charm from each state or country visited. Coming into contact with someone’s charm bracelet, it seemed de rigueur to ask to look through that collection of charms.

My favorite grammar school teacher was known for her jangly gold bracelets that announced her arrival. My mother and I both had cherished charm bracelets, adding charms to mark special occasions (anniversaries, graduations, piano recitals).

The May 2020 issue of InStyle magazine features new versions of charm bracelets available for purchase, perhaps interesting new generations in the style. You can also find pre-owned charm bracelets on eBay and other resale sites. These bracelets may supply charms you might want to add to your own new collection. They may make you wonder about the women who owned those bracelets – what stories those bracelets tell.

Casual Wristwatch, Formal Dress

Menswear-influenced fashion plays a significant role in most professional women’s wardrobes. Luxe fine fabrics of wool and cashmere and subtle plaids bring elements of quality and elegance to a woman’s style. Today, chic pantsuits provide ease and comfort that avoid pesky issues about hosiery and heels (so long as the heel height is correct – reference my last post).

I’m having an “Oh No” moment, however, with the promotion of menswear-influenced wristwatches paired with women’s formal wear.

The perfectly gorgeous wristwatch in the ad shown here from Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe, does no favors to the wearer paired with a stunning evening look, particularly when the evening look is so ethereal and delicate as the flower-appliquéd ensemble pictured. The watch interferes with the line of the sleeve and looks jarringly out of place.

The lovely model would be much better accessorized with substantial earrings that complement her long neck and coordinate in style with the top. A more delicate evening wristwatch would be a lovely option.

By all means, enjoy a beautiful menswear-inspired watch, but leave it at home when heading out in evening wear.

Break Out the Button Earrings

The September 2018 issue of Marie Claire magazine spotlights a classic jewelry design:  button earrings. Calling them a “retro-classic style more playful than stuffy,” Marie Claire looks to jewelry designer, stylist and vintage jewelry aficionado Jill Heller for her insights on why acquiring this style is “worth it.”

Heller defines button earrings as “oversize gold studs—the bigger the better,” but of course button earrings can be constructed of any type of metal, including gold, sterling silver, copper, platinum at the high end, and all type of base metals or other materials including a wide range of vintage plastics in costume jewelry. She adds that button earrings are “reminiscent of the fancy buttons you’ll find on vintage cardigans. The assumption is that they’re always round, but there are so many other shapes out there.”

Illustration:   Classic pearlized vintage button earrings, under $15. https://www.ebay.com/itm/183508412724

What all button earrings have in common is that they are as wide as they are tall and symmetrical. They are universally flattering because they draw the viewer’s eye up to the earring wearer’s face. Longer dangling earrings, in contrast, can draw attention down to the wearer’s neck.

As Heller notes, button earrings were a staple in the 1960s. Alexis Carrington wouldn’t be dressed without her clip-back button earrings on Dynasty. You can find a treasure trove of vintage button earrings on eBay that won’t break the bank. There you will find innumerable clip back and older screw back earrings for non-pierced ears, as well as post-style pierced earrings.

Illustration:   Embellished buttons, under $30. A design for the Dolce & Gabbana aficionado. https://www.ebay.com/itm/173606677049

If you decide to explore the wealth of offerings on eBay, don’t limit your search too much. The term “button” is considered an old-fashioned term and is not used in most listing titles. Instead, do a search looking for the specific features of the earrings you seek:  round, square, star shape; rhinestones, enamel, (faux) pearls, Lucite; translucent, luminous, colorful, one color, gold or silver tone, sparkling, over-the-top.

One inch earrings, about the size of a quarter, are the standard for earrings that are eye-catching but office appropriate. Go larger for even more visual impact. It’s time to bring back button earrings.

All That Glitters: Know Your Gold

I was struck by the headline on the one-page fashion piece in the July 2018 issue of Elle Magazine:  “24-Karat Magic:  Glam up a chill ensemble with GOLD BOHO CHAINS and DELICATE PENDANTS—the more the merrier.”

24 karat gold is, of course, pure gold – and it is unlikely you will ever come across any jewelry represented as such. 22 karat jewelry is about the highest karatage one comes across. Much more typical in the United States is 14 karat and 18 karat gold jewelry. 18 karat gold is 75% gold and 25% other metals; 14 karat gold is 58.5% gold and 41.5% other metals.

None of the jewelry pictured in the piece is 24 karat gold. Here’s a rundown of the pieces by designer, magazine description, and gold content as determined from my research on the Web:

  • Stone and Strand “gold charm necklace”: 14 karat gold rose charm necklace
  • Ariel Gordon “diamond and gold hoop earrings”: 14 karat gold pave huggies
  • Seb Brown “gold, diamond, aquamarine, sapphire and topaz ring”: 14 karat gold
  • Theodora Warre “gold-plated necklace”: no additional information available online
  • Aurelie Bidermann “gold-plated earrings”: no information available online
  • Pandora “gold pendant necklace”: 14 karat gold dazzling droplet pendant with cubic zirconia
  • Alighieri Jewellery “gold-plated pendant necklace”: gold-plated Il Leone necklace
  • Jennifer Meyer “gold, diamond and turquoise earrings”: exact earrings not seen at Barneys.com site; however, Meyer works in 18 karat gold
  • Gabriel & Co. “engravable gold and diamond bracelet”: 14 karat yellow gold chain engravable
  • Johnny Was “gold vermeil bangle”: 18 karat gold vermeil snake bangle with wrapped tail
  • Nalin Studios “gold-plated coin ring”: 18 karat gold-plated over 925 sterling silver  – gold vermeil – love ring

Note that, of the pieces described as “gold,” all are 14 karat except the Jennifer Meyer earrings, which are crafted in 18 karat gold.

“Gold-plated” refers to a thin plating of gold over another metal. That metal is likely to be a base metal such as nickel, bronze or lead. Because of the thinness of the gold, items that are gold-plated may need to have the gold plating renewed from time to time to keep the same appearance.

“Gold vermeil” refers to sterling silver covered with a layer of gold (usually by plating). This differs from gold-plated in that the metal underlying the gold is not a less expensive base metal. The Nalin Studios ring should have been described as gold vermeil in the magazine article.

You may come across jewelry, especially vintage jewelry, described and marked “gold-filled,” which refers to a process by which the item is covered in a layer of gold at least 1/20th of the total weight of the metal in the piece, in 10, 12 or 14 karat. Gold-filled jewelry has more gold content than gold-plated jewelry.

By all means, glam up your look with “gold” chains and pendants. But do your homework,  know what it is you are buying, and then buy with confidence.

Jewelry Can Spotlight Your Best or Worst Feature

As an image consultant, I advise my clients that jewelry can do much more than add a finishing touch to an ensemble. Chosen well, jewelry can also draw attention to one or more of the wearer’s best features.

For instance, someone with green or blue eyes may choose jewels of a similar hue to relate to her or his eye color. Repeating the hue provides pleasing harmony and brings the viewer’s eye back to the wearer’s eyes.

Jewelry can also provide directional emphasis. For instance, a long necklace can provide a vertical line that draws the viewer’s eye up and down.

A particularly fine example of the power of jewelry to spotlight a feature appears in the March 2018 issue of Harper’s Bazaar. Focusing on “the quest for a younger-looking neck,” the magazine promotes a neck cream sold on its web site and illustrates the sought-after effect with the photo of a model wearing huge earrings with a triangle-shaped drop from Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello.

Notice how the earrings point to the model’s neck. Not even the crystal-studded Gucci sunglasses distract from this effect.

For many women over 40, spotlighting the neck is not the desired effect. When choosing earrings, be mindful of how the earrings draw attention to your features. Long dangling earrings can end at a spot where they draw attention to your neck. And earrings as arrow-like as those in the photo above will bring every eye to that precise spot.

Jewelry of Flattering Scale

Almost every ensemble becomes more polished with the addition of tasteful jewelry —  jewelry that is not only cohesive with the ensemble itself — the garments, shoes, handbag and any other accessories — but also flattering to the person wearing it.

0717 Effy jewelry scale on model REV

I was struck by this ad from a high-end design house, which features an exquisite suite of ruby and diamond jewelry. The beautiful model wears two chunky rings, a tennis-style bracelet, and a pair of earrings.

The model has generously sized features — eyes, nose and mouth. Consider how the jewelry selections relate to her. While the other pieces of jewelry in the photo have plenty of presence, the earrings are quite delicate –  too delicate to be flattering to the woman, as lovely as they are. The slender linear design of the earrings has the effect of drawing attention to the model’s nose and making it appear relatively larger.

This effect could be easily remedied by having the model wear earrings of a design more akin to the chunky design of the rings. Changing the scale of the earrings would be more flattering to the woman.

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The Brooch Is Back

There’s something special about a look when you can personalize it and make it uniquely your own. Whether professional wear suiting, bold graphic designs, military-inspired khaki, or pretty floral dresses are your cup of tea, a quick way to add pizzazz to your look is with a brooch. Stylists have been adding brooches to add interest to fashion photographs over the last several months, and this trend holds strong this spring.

0317 brooch Feb HB Harry Winston on Dolce & Gabbana polka dots REV

For instance, the February 2017 issue of Harper’s Bazaar has a 10-page spread devoted to bold, graphic prints, and adorns four of the black and white looks with brooches. Above, a bold polka dot dress from Dolce & Gabbana serves as the backdrop for a fabulous De Beers Diamond spray brooch.

0317 brooch Feb HB Lynn Ban brooc on Stella McCartney REV

In the same issue, a “message” dress, top, leggings and shoes by Stella McCartney receive added edge from earrings and a Maltese cross style brooch from Lynn Ban.

0317 brooch floral Feb MC REV

The February 2017 issue of Marie Claire features a selection of two-tone metal brooches from Buccellati in a feature focusing on retro floral prints.

0317 brooch styling Jan Elle REV

The January 2017 issue of Elle suggests that “Sparkly pins are more punk than prim when they veer off jackets and onto rocker tees.” The brooches spotlighted in the piece vary in price from a message brooch in rhinestones from BAN.DO at $10 to a $22,700 flower clip from Van Cleef & Arpels.

0317 brooch April Real Simple lapel CU REV

The April 2017 issue of Real Simple demonstrates how to wear a brooch on the lapel of a trench coat or jacket. In the photo above, a jacket from J. Crew is accented with a pin from White House Black Market.

0317 brooch Tiffany elephant Dec 16 MC REV

In the December 2016 issue of Marie Claire, models Doutzen Kroes, Imaan Hammam, Fernanda Ly and Constance Jablonski demonstrate a variety of ways to wear a spectacular elephant head brooch from Tiffany & Co. The brooch, based upon an archival Jean Schlumberger design, was re-issued by Tiffany & Co. in support of the Elephant Crisis Fund, which raises awareness of the plight of those magnificent animals killed for their ivory tusks.

0317 brooch antique Dec-Jan HB REV

The December 2016/January 2017 issue of Harper’s Bazaar recommends in its selection of what to buy now, an antique brooch. Pictured is a lovely piece from Cartier, but all manner of exquisite budget-minded designs are readily available on eBay. Considering the extraordinary versatility and sheer delight of these lovely pieces of wearable art, whether fine or faux , I couldn’t agree more.

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Not So Hot Under the Collars

Wide collar-style necklaces may have an aesthetic appeal, but they are notoriously difficult to wear, as recent fashion photographs confirm.

1115 collar InStyle Zoe Kravitz in Dior REV

1115 collar InStyle Zoe Kravitz in Dior CU REV

Actress Zoe Kravitz makes the best-dressed list in the November 2015 issue of InStyle. One of the photos pictures her at the Guggenheim International Gala Dinner wearing a white crop top and split skirt from Dior, accented with a thick pearl collar necklace with an enormous blue cabochon. The necklace separates her head from her body, almost making it appear to be pasted onto the photograph, just a tad larger than might be expected for such a slender frame. The unfortunate accessory distracts the eye and makes it look as though she has no neck.

1115 collar InStyle Hailee Steinfeld in Stella McCartney Jennifer Fisher neck cuff REV

Better  is this look, also pictured in the November 2015 issue of InStyle declared to be the “best dress” of the issue. Actress Hailee Steinfeld wears a Stella McCartney ensemble with flared pants and cape, again in solid white, accented with a wide Jennifer Fisher collar.  The actress has a slender neck, long enough to accommodate the necklace, and its plain design complements the sleek look of her ensemble. With the wide shoulders of the cape, her face appears to be in proportion to the rest of her body.

1115 collar story InStyle Drew Barrymore long neck Etro choker REV

The ideal neck length for any wide collar-style necklace is long, longer, longest. Actress Drew Barrymore, pictured in the November 2015 issue of InStyle, demonstrates how this might look. Indeed, she is pictured in a Dior dress and coat from The Row accessorized with a slender metal choker from Etro. This is a look that can accommodate much more of a statement piece on the actress’s neck.

1115 collar InStyle thin neck cuffs REV

For the vast majority of women with average or short necks, slender metal collars are a far better choice than a thick collar. The same issue of InStyle spotlights four examples of cuff-style collars that are narrow and have an opening in the front. The exposed skin on the neck is a look flattering to most everyone.

Awkward Necklaces

“Necklaces should always be chosen with the neckline you’ll be wearing in mind. ” Thus I concluded my blog post in September 2013, ” Necklines & Necklaces:  The Issue When Everything Is the Same Perfect Length.”

A spate of recent examples in the fashion press of necklaces not chosen to coordinate with necklines prompts my post today.

0415 awkward necklace Y choker over wide neck More 0315 REV

A pair of examples derive from the same fashion spread in the March 2015 issue of More magazine. The first example pairs a thin rigid collar necklace with a drop, visually creating a Y-shape, with an overly large knit tee shirt that looks to be puckering rather than lying flat. The necklace hangs awkwardly over the neckline of the tee, further drawing attention to the problematic neckline. The top was not chosen with consideration for the necklace or the model. In my opinion, the necklace is also too delicate a design for the model, who is tall and has strong features.

0415 awkward necklace ladder style More 0315 no 1 REV

0415 awkward necklace ladder style More 0315 no 1 CU 72dpi 6 in wide

A substantial necklace more flattering to the model appears in the second photo, but again here, the neckline of the ensemble clashes with the necklace. The necklace, with its rigid chunky lattice design, is placed over the vee shape of the neckline, creating a jarring visual effect. The lovely flowing lines of the ensemble would be much better served with a long pendant necklace, which would extend the vee of the neckline.

0415 awkward necklace Kelly Ripa Shape 0315 tee over camisole REV

My final example is modeled by actress Kelly Ripa, whose necklace dips to meet the neckline of her camisole in this photo from the March 2015 issue of Shape magazine. The necklace is just about at the sweet spot of her first balance point, as is her neckline. The result: a visual clash. The necklace looks droopy, not an adjective that any woman of a certain age wants to embrace. Shortening the necklace a couple of inches, or choosing a different necklace at a shorter collar length, would make all the difference.