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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Jewelry for Women of a Certain Age

Jewelry purchase decisions encompass a wealth of factors, including:

  • For what occasions is the jewelry to be worn (spanning the range from daily wear to gala occasions).
  • With what apparel will it be worn (considering the style of the clothing and its design details).
  • What styles of jewelry are most flattering to the wearer ( considering such factors as scale and color).
  • What styles suit the personality of the wearer (from classic to singularly quirky).

Quite beyond all those factors is another consideration:  What makes sense as a fashion investment. Rare is the individual who does not need to be mindful of her budget. As with most purchases, what is cheapest is not synonymous with what provides the best value for one’s money.

What is of-the-moment trendy — immediately recognizable designs that have achieved cult status and seem ubiquitous for a season or two in the fashion press – will inevitably look tired and dated soon enough. If you want to wear one huge single earring because the fashion editors have embraced that trend right now, that’s fine, but rather than shelling out significant dollars for a single piece, consider purchasing a pair of identical huge earrings that either may be wearable as a set or possibly may be adaptable into a fresh look by a clever jeweler when the trend has finished its course.

What is incomprehensible to me is the promotion of inexpensive jewelry designs that riff off current trends but don’t merit cult status, when the promotion is directed to women of a certain age who have financial wherewithal. The September 2014 issue of More magazine is rife with this type of promotion.

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In your 40s, advises the editors, “become the boss–or just dress like her.” As to jewelry, “Embrace delicate,” urges the magazine. The jewelry selected to wear with the pulled together “multitasking looks” is a $40 metal cuff accented with crystals. The wide cutout style requires a wide expanse of arm, and would not work well with long-sleeved apparel such as the print wool-blend coat pictured. The missed opportunity: A lovely slender bracelet with a tasteful, daytime-appropriate sprinkle of pave diamonds on genuine gold or silver. That’s something the boss might actually wear.

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In your 50s, “dress to please yourself” suggest the editors, adding “You’ve earned the right to wear whatever feels best.” The jewelry selected:  An attractive but uncomfortable to wear square bracelet that has a modest $225 price tag.

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In your 60s, “break with tradition:  stop sticking to safe (yes, you) and show the world you’re full of surprises.” As to jewelry, “update your pearls” suggest the editors — excellent advice in this season of extraordinary designs that incorporate pearls. The first of two recommendations is a $588 necklace of brass, crystal and glass pearls in an eye-catching design from Lulu Frost that merits consideration.

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The second of two recommendations is something entirely off the mark:  a $28 pair of earrings incorrectly described as “12k gold-plated brass and pearl studs.” The earrings do not contain pearls — the pearls are faux, as one might expect from the price. The man-made pearl-like orbs are set on top of square backings. There is nothing whatsoever surprising about this design.

Why is a magazine that targets women of means promoting a $28 pair of faux-pearl earrings? A pair of freshwater cultured pearl stud earrings can be had for under $12 on Amazon.com.

Does anyone aspire to a jewelry wardrobe of inexpensive gold-plated — or worse, gold-tone metal — designs with faux gems and nothing-special style? Dress like the boss. Dress to please yourself. And show the world you’re full of surprises. Don’t settle.

What’s in your jewelry box?

Wristwatches: Go for Edgy Chic, But Mind the Edges

A certain style shows up periodically, an attempt to jazz up a wristwatch by adding bracelets to the same wrist. The idea shows up this season in the June-July 2013 issue of Lucky magazine, which promotes large statement wristwatches: “These oversize timepieces are as classic (and cool) as it gets.”

Lucky continues: “And there’s no need to wear a watch solo, either. Laddered with wooden bangles or friendship bracelets or even worn two at a time, it’s the perfect statement piece that never feels overpowering, adds just the right amount of sparkle and goes with seriously everything.”

Laddered with wooden bangles or friendship bracelets, which typically are made of soft woven materials, the combination is unlikely to be damaging to the watch. Piling one watch on top of another, however, presents quite a different potentiality for damage to both timepieces.

More on the “more is more” style appears in the photo top right, which bears the caption “Worn with chunky gold and leather bracelets, a classic watch feels edgier.” Notice that the leather bracelet is worn between the metal wristwatch and the chunky metal bracelet pictured, and acts as a bit of a buffer, although the metal hardware of the leather bracelet appears to be bumping into the watch. Any bangle bracelet is almost certainly going to bang against the watch as the bracelet slides up and down the arm.

Metal on metal is a bad idea. Metal can scratch metal as well as the glass face of the watch. The result: Damaged watch, damaged bracelet, and a resultant loss of chic.

A wristwatch combined with less potentially damaging wooden bangles or friendship bracelets is appropriate only for casual looks. A more sophisticated take on this style is the addition of a slender and lightweight link bracelet of gold or silver worn next to a medium or large wristwatch, adding just a bit of sass and sparkle in a pleasing proportion without the same potential for damaging either your jewelry or your timepiece.

When Necklaces & Necklines Clash

Some garments are especially tricky to accessorize, as they are so full of eye-catching details that they demand the full attention of the eye. The drawstring neck of a hippie Boho-style dress from Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane is such a garment.

On the cover of the April 2013 issue of Marie Claire magazine, actress Olivia Wilde wears this dress, the drawstrings tied loosely and the front of the dress open low. Despite all there is to see with this decidedly sexy dress, the stylists for the magazine chose to add two necklaces – a short pendant necklace from Eva Fehren that lays above the neckline of the dress, and a chain with a much larger starburst-shaped pendant from H. Stern.

The starburst pendant is lovely, but it extends several inches under the neckline of the dress and is hidden under the drawstrings. The placement of the pendant makes no sense. It distracts from the dress and yet itself is unable to be appreciated fully as it is half-hidden. And the dress needs no help drawing attention to Wilde’s figure.

The shorter necklace is lovely too, but it is simply too small to contribute any kind of visual impact to Wilde’s look.

When choosing a necklace, always give consideration to the neckline of the garment with which the necklace will be worn. If the neckline is particularly detailed and eye-catching, the best choice may well be to forego any type of necklace. A cocktail-size ring or a set of rings, the latter a popular choice this season, would be a superb substitution.

How Not to Wear a Diamond Necklace

While it’s the bustline darts on Anne Hathaway’s Oscar gown that have garnered the lion’s share of negative attention, her choice of jewelry for the Academy Awards is equally puzzling.

Hathaway wore a pink Prada apron-style gown, Asian in its design influence, accessorized with over $300,000 worth of platinum and diamond jewels from Tiffany & Co. The stud earrings were stunning in size if uninspired in design, and the pair of bracelets were exquisite. The necklace, however, is inexplicable.

The necklace consists of elaborate alternating floral motifs that had nothing in common with the sleek linear design of the pink gown or Hathaway’s sporty hairstyle – from a style perspective, a mismatch. But far worse is that the necklace was too long for the square neckline of the gown. The necklace was tied or otherwise rigged in back to pull it higher in front so that the necklace didn’t fall over the neckline of the gown. The result was a miniature ponytail loop of diamonds created from the stump of the necklace at the back of Hathaway’s neck, adding fussiness to what was otherwise the stunning sleek design of the back of the dress.

It is curious that Tiffany & Co. didn’t have a jeweler on hand who could have taken out some of the necklace links to allow the necklace to fit properly or better yet, provided jewelry designs that better matched the style of the gown.

Hathaway has been reported in the press to receive a substantial sum of money to wear Tiffany  & Co.’s jewelry designs when she co-hosted the Oscars in 2011.  None of that jewelry was memorable. The Tiffany & Co. jewelry selected for her to wear in 2013 has been worse than disappointing. It might be time for her to engage an objective stylist who doesn’t have a vested interest in her choice of jewelry. . . . and who also can recognize a red carpet gown likely to land her on the worst dressed list.

Reptile Rings Are Rarely Right

Women’s hands tell a lot about their age – in some cases, much more than faces or figures. The hands are far too often neglected when it comes to sunscreen, and veins and a crepe-like texture, along with wrinkles, mark the march of time.  Even the smoothest, loveliest hands have little collections of wrinkles at the mid-finger knuckles. This is just a normal part of human physiology.

Perhaps then rings that mimic the texture of reptile skin and that extend all the way up to that little mid-finger collection of wrinkles should be viewed as a celebration of human design. Sadly, it’s mostly a reminder of one’s wrinkles.

How surprising, then, that the February 2013 issue of Vogue highlights a set of three reptile-inspired rings by a certain London designer. Vogue poses the three rings in front of a taxidermy lizard to further emphasize the markings on the textured rings, but photographing any of the rings on a human hand would have created almost the same effect.

Unless your skin is as smooth as silk, or unless you get a kick out of highlighting your wrinkles, let these reptile rings slither on by.

Don’t Ever Let a Print Wear You

Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones is so lovely that one would think it almost impossible to make her look bad in a fashion spread.

Indeed, she looks radiant on the cover of the December 2012 issue of InStyle magazine in a dress and belt by Nina Ricci accented with beautifully chosen jewelry by Fred Leighton. Notice how the staggered chunky bracelets visually repeat the pattern of the serrated lacy edge of her dress.

Peer inside the magazine, however, and you will see Zeta-Jones photographed sitting in a Stella McCartney leopard-print coat worn over a Dolce  Gabbana dress and Valentino Garavani heels.  The print visually enlarges the coat, with the result that the wearer appears to be twice the size of Zeta-Jones. The print is so dominant and visually overpowering that one barely notices that the woman wearing it is Zeta-Jones.

The coat does no favors for the jewelry selected either. Zeta-Jones is wearing a pair of stunning diamond, platinum and 18kt gold vintage brooches from Beladora.com, one placed above the other under her face near the top of the print coat. The soft gold designs are completely lost against the busy animal print.

Animal prints are perennially popular, but always step back, look in a mirror, and consider the big picture. Never wear a print that wears you.

How to Layer Necklaces

Supermodel Gisele Bundchen is so stunning that she could likely make anything she wears look good. But I may have found a jewelry combination that even she couldn’t pull off.

Consider this ad for Lauren Ralph Lauren running in the December issue of O, the Oprah Magazine.  The model (who is unidentified, not Bundchen) wears four necklaces: a short chunky chain, a short rigid collar or choker, a long chain of oval links with larger double oval accents, and a necklace of long rectangular links accented with what looks to be crystal or plastic spacers.

The issue I see with the styling is that there is no focal point. The thick choker renders the shorter linked necklace superfluous and competes visually with the two long strands, which in turn compete visually with the bright orange belt and metallic belt buckle below. The eye doesn’t know where to look. Even if the model’s shirt were buttoned and the belt hidden, the necklaces do not work together. The only design element the necklaces share is metal color.

The single longest necklace, with its rectangular links, takes on a somewhat jagged shape that starts and stops and does not flow, a shape that clashes with the smooth rounded shape of the next longest necklace. Those two necklaces do not complement each other. Notice too how the awkward angle of the longest necklace at bottom right emphasizes the angular shape of the jawline of the model.

Next consider this beautifully styled ad:  In a current ad for David Yurman jewelry running in the December issue of Vogue, Bundchen wears a starburst pendant necklace plus five other necklace strands of varying widths with an alluring off-the-shoulder sweater. Three of the strands that are identical may actually be one necklace wrapped three times around her neck. The necklaces are layered beautifully, highlighting the pendant and providing a nested effect with a visual focal point.

Layering necklaces is more of an art than a science, but the overall effect of any combination  is easily determined. Evaluate any look by considering where the eye is directed. If the eye is confused, the look will benefit by revision.

How might one revise the Lauren Ralph Lauren styling? First, eliminate the choker, which interferes with the long line created by the deep vee of the open shirt and further emphasized by the long necklaces. Eliminate the short chain necklace too, as its impact is de minimus. Choose a pair of longer necklaces that complement each other, one slightly shorter than the other (which may require taking out several links, a task easily accomplished by any jeweler), or wear only one long necklace. Either replace the bright belt or intend for the belt to be the focus of the ensemble. The overall look will be less cluttered, more cohesive, sporty and chic.

Softness Personified with Jewelry

Here’s an example of styling perfection that brilliantly uses jewelry to focus attention on the soft womanliness of the wearer.

The model in the Neiman Marcus ad has big round eyes, a small nose and ears, lush lips, and fair coloring – blonde hair and hazel eyes. She wears a cream-colored sweater of textured yarn that invites touch. Her look is soft, warm and approachable.

Further emphasizing the softness of the look is the beautiful pearl jewelry she wears, from design house Yvel. Fresh water pearls of luminescent peach and golden hues encircle her neck and wrist and dangle from her ears. The pearls are reminiscent of her pillowy lips and round features. The colors suit her perfectly.

There are designers creating all manner of fabulous jewelry at all price points. Choose for your jewelry wardrobe jewelry designs that draw attention to and highlight your best features.