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Sep 30 2011

Fashion Friday: Jewelry

When the original conversation in this blog about fashion and style went south, I had two emotional reactions. The first was to want to crawl into a hole and hide; to think, “I never ever want to write about this topic again, it makes people hate me, I clearly can’t write about it without having people jump down my throat, so never mind, let’s just forget the whole thing.”

The second was to think. “Fuck that noise. I love this topic, and I’m fucking well going to write about it as much as I want. Anyone who’s interested can read it, and anyone who isn’t can ignore it, and the haters can go fuck themselves.”

This is me. Guess which route I’m taking.

I am officially inaugurating Fashion Friday. Every Friday, I’m going to write something about fashion and style. Maybe a little something… maybe a lot. Maybe an exegesis on some complex issue of fashion and society; maybe a discussion of a personal fashion issue I’m having; maybe some pretty pictures or a link to an interesting fashion blog.

I will do this every Friday, except when I don’t feel like it, and until I get bored.

*
Today’s Friday Fashion topic: Jewelry.

I came to jewelry late in the game. For years, it was barely in my style consciousness at all. I had a few pieces I wore for special occasions — but on a day to day basis, I never wore it. And I mean never. I didn’t hate it or feel anxious about it or anything; I just didn’t care about it enough to explore it. It seemed like a hassle, one more thing to worry about. I wanted to spend my clothing budget on, you know, clothes.

But as I’ve been exploring fashion and style more consciously and thoroughly, and as I’ve been having more fun with it, I’ve been embracing jewelry. And I’ve come to a couple of realizations about it that have made me want to embrace it and explore it even more.

Revelation One: Jewelry can make a basic outfit fun and unique.

If I don’t have the time or energy in the morning to do more than throw on jeans and a T-shirt or tank top? In thirty seconds, I can dress it up with a necklace or a bracelet or a ring, or some combination of the above. And bang — the outfit goes from the same old “jeans and T-shirt” background noise that everyone is wearing, and becomes my own. It makes me feel like I’m not blending in. It makes me feel like me.

And it makes me feel like whatever version of me I feel like that day. The quizzing glass makes me feel sophisticated. The red leather wristband makes me feel rock and roll. The black and white seashell ring makes me feel exuberant and playful, and just a little Carnaby Street. The zipper necklace makes me feel elegant from a distance, kinky and punk rock from up close. The octopus bracelet makes me feel sensual and sybaritic and delightfully nerdy.

Jewelry adds color and flair and personal style to jeans and a tank top. Or, for that matter, to a little black dress. Trousers and a jacket. A skirt and a blouse.

And it does it in thirty seconds.

Neat.

Revelation Two: Jewelry is cheap.

The jewelry I like, anyway.

My absolute favorite pieces, my go-to pieces? The zipper necklace. The delicate steampunk choker. The quizzing glass. The swirly red-and-black leather wristband. The swirly black-and-white ring made out of a seashell. The steel ring made out of watch parts. The textured steel bangle that hints at a snake around my arm. I have one or two slightly more pricey pieces that I love and wear all the time (the octopus bracelet that Ingrid bought me leaps to mind, the one I’m pretending I don’t know the cost of). But on the whole, the jewelry I love most, the jewelry I most passionately respond to? It’s the costume stuff. The local artist stuff. The stuff made by my friends. The stuff in the twenty dollar bin.

So it’s a cheap way to make my wardrobe more versatile. In the discrete combinatorial system of fashion and style, it’s a cheap way to multiply my options… from a few dozen (if you put all the combinations in my closet together), to a few hundred. And if I’m feeling bored with my wardrobe but can’t afford new clothes, I can usually find a way to afford a new twenty-dollar necklace or five-dollar ring.

And I can do it without feeling like I’m settling.

When I look at high-end clothing, I lust. I yearn. Not all the time, of course — plenty of high fashion is pig-ugly at best and laughably clownish at worst — but some of it is so beautiful, it makes me ache. When I look at Rodarte and Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen, I get envious to the point of resentment. Serious high fashion, the kind of fashion I point to when I’m postulating drunkenly on how fashion can be fine art… that fashion is out of my price range, wildly out of my price range, out of my price range by an order of magnitude or more.

Which makes me a little wistful. I love the clothes I have, don’t get me wrong: I feel comfortable and happy and joyful in them, and I feel like myself in them, and a closet full of Rodarte would not feel like me at all. I am not someone who spends six figures on her wardrobe, and I don’t ever want to be. But would I like to have just two or three pieces of clothing that make me feel like I’ve stepped into a work of genius? Yes, I would. And I probably never will. Insert wistful sigh.

I do not feel that way about jewelry.

Not in the slightest. When I look at high-end modern jewelry, it puts me to sleep. I find it boring at best, flat-out ugly at worst. There are exceptions… but they’re few and far between. I sincerely do not like expensive jewelry. I sincerely like cheap jewelry.

So I can enjoy it unreservedly. I can enjoy it without envy, or resentment, or the slightest hint of wistfulness.

Neat.

24 comments

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  1. 1
    hoverfrog

    My unwife, the lovely Hil, makes her own jewellery. I can’t say that it particularly interests me but if it makes her happy then I’m happy. I like that it doesn’t cost much too.

  2. 2
    LadyBlack

    I think it’s a terribly emotional subject – which does mean, therefore, that it’s something worth caring about! You see, fashion to me has two reactions. One is…well, if you came up to me and said, “JShfksdfhue”, you’d probably connect with me more than with the word, “Fashion” and the second reaction is, “So you don’t like what I’m wearing, huh? Huh? Well, f you buddy!!” without me actually being angry at YOU. It’s a knee jerk reaction, created by all those people who pointed at my hand me downs. Try wearing flared bright orange trousers to an “out of school” activity and see how much you care about fashion after that. But you see, you do make me think about things, and I have to accept that when people describe fashion items as works of art, well, then I’d have to agree. I don’t see that some of them have any practical application, but then…works of art don’t always have practical applications, so….And hey, I get moved by comics which other people call trash.

    And I appreciate that you might want to get away from “Fashion” in some sense and instead talk about “Style”, which probably applies more to me, but I just wanted to maybe help with the frustration that you seem to be feeling. So I’ll read your columns and maybe you can impart some knowledge to me or at least infect me with some of your enthusiasm.

  3. 3
    gbjames

    You should feel comfortable writing about fashion on Friday. I am comfortable waiting for something more interesting on Monday.

  4. 4
    Ally

    Loved the post, Greta! And honestly, I’m looking forward to reading more about it! I totally agree about fashion being a way to express creativity or individuality – hell, I’m saving up for a Sweet Lolita dress, and that’s not a cheap way of putting out who I am! And, you know? Sometimes I like to dress up and be a little girly and femme. (Or, hell, dress up and be a little androgynous – I would LOVE to have some of those incredible Steampunk coats and trousers and top hats!)

    And I really agree that it’s quite silly that almost all of the things associated with femininity (clothes, make-up, ~BOYS~) are associated with vapidity and shallowness, especially given how hard women are pressured to care about those things! Sometimes, it’s kinda nice to just go ‘You know what? Screw it! I am femme, and I am proud!’ And then there are times when I just want to wear jeans and a t-shirt, but that’s nice in a different way! :)

  5. 5
    rick020200

    I’d love to see that zipper necklace. Elegant, kinky, punk? Gotta get one for my wife.

  6. 6
    asmallcontempt

    I am a no-frills kind of girl and OWN lots of jewelry (well, “lots” meaning “more than 2 of something”) but wear it rather sparingly. When I get dressed, it just doesn’t occur to me to “put on” anything beyond pants and a shirt, ya know?

    I love to cook and bake, and when I do the wedding band and engagement ring come off. Beyond that, I have many sentimental pieces that were gifts, by and large, that make me feel warm and fuzzy when I do dip into my jewelry box and put them on. I can identify where almost every piece came from and usually it points me to a significant moment or memory (I’m not the type to just go shopping as a leisure activity, so most of my jewelry comes from local artisans and whatnot when I’m taking trips).

    So yeah. Jewelry = fun modifications to my wardrobe when I think about it and good sentiments when I return to it after not wearing any for a while.

    And I have really enjoyed your posts about fashion! I look forward to more, and I just wanted to lend my support to you. Haters gon’ hate, but you’re awesome regardless, so whatever! Carry on. :)

  7. 7
    Alison

    I love fashion Fridays. I hope you keep them up for a long time. Its nice to experience a different side of a person and I can’t wait to see some of the fashion blogs you like. Thanks for sharing!

  8. 8
    Flimsyman

    Actually, I can say that I kinda get it. I, a boring guy, totally do this with the jewelry that I wear. I pick what piece of jewelry I want to wear to fit my mood that day. Trouble is, I own about three pieces of jewelry.

    http://www.etsy.com/shop/surly?section_id=5265740

    Now, what little I do own is really cool, don’t get me wrong. What I’d really like to do, though? Make my own. I’d love to. Just don’t have time. *shrug*

  9. 9
    Ubi Dubium

    Yes, Jewelry!

    I’m with you on liking the cheap stuff. The high-end jewelry stores with their glass cases full of tiny overpriced pieces that all look alike? Bleh. Give me a big interesting stone that you can actually see. Give me something covered in sparkly rhinestones. Fake pearls dress up an outfit every bit as much as the real ones, and I don’t have to be worried about losing or damaging them.

    And more Surly-ramics, of course. I only have one so far, and I wear it more than any other piece I have.

  10. 10
    Timothy (TRiG)

    I love looking at jewelry in shops, picking out pieces, examining them, but I’ve never bought any and never worn any. I’m not sure why.

    Unless my rainbow wristband counts as jewelry. Probably not.

    TRiG.

  11. 11
    tabitha

    I love fashion. It took me many years to figure out I like and don’t like. I’m now starting to figure out what jewelry I like and don’t like. Please don’t stop talking about fashion.

  12. 12
    Ani Sharmin

    The second was to think. “Fuck that noise. I love this topic, and I’m fucking well going to write about it as much as I want. Anyone who’s interested can read it, and anyone who isn’t can ignore it, and the haters can go fuck themselves.”

    This is me. Guess which route I’m taking.

    Greta, this is one of the reasons why your blog is awesome.

    The steel ring made out of watch parts.

    That just sounds so cool.

    Seriously, though, despite my ambivalent feelings about fashion (or perhaps, more specifically, frustration with certain aspects of it) jewelry is one of the parts of fashion/style I’ve always liked. I especially love rings. In fact, I tend to get sentimentally attached to them. I tend to buy jewelry that symbolizes something to me (even if it’s just some random symbolism that only makes sense in my own head). I think this is helping me understand more about what you mean when you say that fashion can be a way of communicating. Even though I don’t often understand what various clothes or jewelry are “supposed” to mean, I still find myself attaching some symbolic meaning to some things, even if it’s just a personal impression or expression.

    When I was younger, I liked to wear a piece of jewelry called a tikka/bindi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bindi_(decoration)). It’s this metal decoration that hooks to your hair and hangs on your forehead.

  13. 13
    Mattir, Another One With Boltcutters

    I’ve teamed up with the DaughterSpawn and made an order from SurlyRamics. Next up, a custom order from Fisticuffs.

  14. 14
    Lyra

    I hope you keep writing about fashion. I really like fashion, and it has been one of my sources of sadness that the only discussions about fashion I can find within the feminist community are ranting about how terrible it is.

  15. 15
    Eidolon

    As man, I have been pretty much oblivious about fashion for a very long time. About a year and a half ago, I met someone who really gets fashion and style, especially jewelry.

    Most of it is costume – and lots of it – but I have seen her transform an ordinary summer dress into a ‘put together’ outfit with jewelry an a few accessories. As was said in the original post, it reflects who she is that day. I am always fascinated by the side journeys here on FTB and your blog in particular.

  16. 16
    martha

    Dear Greta,

    I like my clothes cheap, comfortable and uncomplicated and will probably ignore fashion writing even from so gifted a writer as yourself.

    BUT, it occurs to me that I have preteen daughters who do care about fashion, to whom I have nothing helpful to say beyond, “Yeah, that looks like your kind of thing.” If you have all this energy for fashion writing why not write a book, or better – a comic book, for girls and young women? The Spaghetti Monster knows they go through enough angst on the subject and could use a friendly, female-power positive, sex-positive voice.

  17. 17
    HS

    One of my stronger memories centered around jewelry, specifically the sixth grade trip to see the Jewels of the Romanoffs. I’d never seen such beautiful man-made things, I couldn’t look away. I remember the Sheaves of Wheat crown in particular, just an elegant work of art in white gold and yellow diamonds. At the same time, I knew how much blood and suffering went into the making of these things, so my fascination was also largely morbid and horrified. It’s right up there in emotional intensity with the Monet retrospective I went to at about the same age, seeing his paintings change as his eyes deteriorated.

    Oh, and then there’s the Victorian mourning jewelry made out of taxidermied hummingbirds. Man, those Victorians were weird.

    Anyway, this post just let me dwell on an interesting memory for a moment. Also, Mattir just made me aware of Surlyramics, which will be supplying X-mas presents this year, so I’m fully in support of fashion Fridays.

  18. 18
    24fps

    Most of my regular jewelry is storied – it’s a sort of tactile reminder of places and times. I travel a fair bit, so it may be something from somewhere I enjoyed being, or a gift from someone special. Some of my favourite pieces: A jade necklace I haggled over in a market in Shanghai; a pair of earrings my husband picked out for me in France; a bluestone pendant bought at Stonehenge; my wedding ring, which was designed by my beloved and the “engagement/anniversary” ring, also his design, he gave me for our 10th anniversary (amethyst set in silver and white gold); a Dene choker that belonged to my father; a vintage rhinestone pin that belonged to my grandmother; a green amber bracelet that my daughters picked out for me; a copper bracelet from a street vendor in the Caribbean.

    None of these pieces are extremely expensive or valuable to anyone but me, but they’re cool, they look nice and they are a bit of the story of what my journey has been so far.

  19. 19
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    I know, I’m a bit late for the party, but it has been a busy weekend.
    There’s something else to say about jewelery that hasn’t been mentioned so far:
    Jewelery can be worn by people of all sizes. You don’t have to spend 5 hours to find a shop that caters for your size/height and find something you feel comfortable in. No matter if you’re skinny or overweight, if you’re 6 foot something (I’ve heard that getting clothes for a woman that high is difficult) or only 5, if you’re disabled or able-bodied, you go into the same store everybody else does and you can pick what you like, having the same amount of choice as the rest of us.

    I own lot more jewelery than I wear (small kids take the fun out of it). I think I could start wearing more again, but I’ll never have my ears pierced again.

  20. 20
    JesseW, the Juggling Janitor

    (Only partly on-topic). Here’s a possible subject for one of your Fashion Friday posts: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/09/30/yolanda-dominguez-exposing-the-artificiality-of-women-in-fashion/ It’s a series of pairs of photos: high fashion model, and normal person reproducing the pose in a public situation. They seem to be effective at encouraging a new eyes on the poses.

  21. 21
    Melody

    Love this post! And I know how you feel about jewelry! I just got into it this year after a life time of not paying much attention to them, and have fallen in love with earrings. A big vibrant pair can really change the way your whole outfit looks, this is more true now because I’ve recently cut my hair short and the earrings stand out a lot more. BTW I’m in love with your necklace! ^_^

    PS. A friend has recently introduced me to scarves, and I am loving them. They can be worn in many ways, head band, scarf, belt, shall, (I saw a women make an impromptu purse of one)and they add a little something extra to any outfit. :3

  22. 22
    Michael Anderson

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  23. 23
    JesseW, the Juggling Janitor

    The previous comment, from “Michael Anderson” is SPAM.

  24. 24
    S13A13M

    Great post! I just discovered your blog, and although I came to you looking for intriguing atheist spitfire writings, I was OVERJOYED to see a Fashion Friday blog. Keep it up!

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