Less is more when it comes to jewelry, and Coco Chanel’s direction to take one thing off before leaving the house is a useful piece of advice.
Here are a few helpful guidelines taken from the ultra-chic of Paris fashionistas from 1912-1925 as recorded by Parisian fashion illustrators.
Clothing designs by Paul Poiret and Worth were drawn and colored by artists of the period and published in the Gazette du Bon Ton – approximately translated as the magazine of good taste.
Rule 1. Jewelry should not confuse the eye.
Both these models are wearing such great statement earrings.
Almost shoulder-dusters, the first pair on the left has globes as the finishing bob, with a smaller sphere half-way down. Perhaps they were studded with pavé-style diamonds or rock crystal. Likely, they were clip-ons. (If you’re interested, check out this history of the clip-on.)
On the right, the dangles are a waterfall collection of what might have been Gripoix style glass beads. The structure of the earrings repeats the motif of the dress design, so the earrings don’t compete with the dress.
And both pairs of earrings appear colorless or white – perhaps a monotone clear crystal – a way to compliment the dress without competing with it.
Notice the model on the right wears shoes with crystal buckles adorning matching shoes. A popular accessory in the 1920s, buckle clips get a pass from this rule. Put whatever you want on your shoes, apparently. Confuse the heck out of everyone!
It’s perfectly acceptable for your shoes to drawn the eye down for the moment, cause ultimately the eyes will rise again. The green shoes on the left send the same message.
Both models in this plate also are wearing crystal-studded buckles in Deco’s standard geometry. The adorning orange shoes more traditionally match their orange gowns.
The earrings here are colorful stand-outs, and presumably by the same jewelry designer for both models. Again, possibly Gripoix-style glass, or semi-precious stones: carnelian and aquamarine?
The important take-away here is that, even though large and colorful, the earrings still don’t compete with the dresses. Even the light blue aquamarine stones selected to contrast with the orange terra cotta gown are simple and don’t confuse the eye.
And nothing is competing with the earrings, either. In both fashion plates, not one of the four models is wearing a necklace that challenges or takes away from the statement earrings. This allows the earrings and the dress to have space to breath.
Rule 2. Jewelry needs space to breathe.
The human body has several public domains for adornment. I can think of nine.
But sticking to the more traditional pieces of jewelry, and forgetting for the moment upper arm bands, shoe buckles, anklets, bandeaux, and tiaras, it really just leaves a few areas for jewelry: 1) ears & throat, 2) chest, and 3) wrist & hands.
These are in the end three distinct areas: earrings will be seen together with collars, chokers, and other short necklaces; longer necklaces that lay further down on the chest have the chance to stand alone; and bracelets and rings will be seen as a set.
The dangle earrings shown above are similar in design to the one at top. Both illustrations were drawn by George Barbier, so perhaps they are the same pair. In this scene, too, there’s no short necklace to compete with the earrings, and no long sautoir – like a long feather boa of beads – to compete with the busy print of the dress.
However, the bracelet makes a statement. I’d hate to cook with it, but as an evening accessory, it’s pretty awesome. And it’s far enough away from the earrings to give each the space to breathe.
Bracelets are actually my favorite jewelry piece, and I usually style around them, choosing my bracelets first, and then adding other pieces after.
This seafoam silver lamé gown (wow) is simple enough to allow a long black and red sautoir with matching black and red earrings. The simplicity of the dress allows very bold, contrasting colored accessories that themselves are as much a part of the costume as the gown. The arm and wrist bracelets are simple enough not to interfere.
There’s nothing tight around the throat or even against the chest that will overlap visually with the shoulder duster earrings. Arguably even a ring would’ve been too much.
Rule 3. Find a signature piece of jewelry and wear just that.
There is something awesome about wearing one lovely, enviable piece of jewelry, and letting the rest of your places go bare. If you have a four foot length of beads you can wear wrapped several times around and then hangs to your waist, like with the costume above, do that! (The little studs she wears disappear, as they should.)
Here, a pair of gorgeous green chandelier earrings, likely in emerald or jade, stand alone to reflect the green beads of the dress’ belt.
The shoe buckles are reminiscent of an Elizabethan era collar like the Queen herself would’ve worn, but they don’t cause any problem at all.
Of all the above, which pieces of jewelry are your favorite?
If you love jewelry, make your statement and find your signature piece at minusOne jewelry. Because I love jewelry, too!