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.

Festival Fashion Don’ts

The news that the U.S. Olympic team’s apparel, supplied by American designer Ralph Lauren, is being manufactured in China has caused a firestorm of criticism. The concern relates to something more than national pride – it relates also to issues about the working conditions of the workers who produce the clothing.

According to Robert J.S. Ross, a professor of sociology at Clark University, who wrote an op-ed piece entitled “A fashion don’t”  published in today’s Los Angeles Time, the Olympic team women’s skirt produced in China costs $498. Ross states that Chinese producers officially pay their workers between 93 cents and just over $1 an hour, although unofficially many workers earn less and rarely get a day off. Ross urges the U.S. Olympic Committee to ensure its logo gear is sweatshop free, wherever it is made.

Attending festivals is a delightful part of the summer season, and seeing what the vendors have to offer is part of the fun. For instance, the Festival of the Arts in Hermosa Beach, California, held on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends each year, is a delightful opportunity to enjoy festive music and tasty food and to shop for artwork, clothing and trinkets under the Southern California sun.

I relish the opportunity to browse through handmade artwork, clothing and jewelry designs at the festivals. There’s something wonderfully special about acquiring an item created by a local vendor, and always associating the item with the place it was purchased and the story behind it.

What I find sad, however, is seeing the throngs of women crowding the booths where jewelry is being sold for as little as a dollar or two.

I can’t fault the high school students or others with limited resources for taking advantage of an opportunity to buy something fun for a song. For the rest, consider: If the jewelry is being sold for so little, imagine what the vendor paid for it and its likely source. These products are a fashion don’t.