I have come across this phenomenon in working with some of my image consulting clients: They are attractive, even beautiful, but they are afraid of bringing attention to themselves with statement-making jewelry.
Some of this reticence, no doubt, can be attributed to shyness or an introverted personality. A sense of modesty can be refreshing in a world where fashions sometimes translate to exposure of too much information about the wearer.
Sometimes, however, it is a matter of a different kind of lack of exposure—a lack of exposure to current trends. For the self-confident professional woman with a full schedule of obligations, including family, volunteer work, professional networking and energy spent on the treadmill or bicycle in addition to long hours at the office, there may not be enough time left at the end of the day or week to curl up with a fashion magazine. The few pages on fashion typically found in a publication of the category “woman’s magazine” barely scratch the surface on current trends, and rarely go so far as to include more than a passing reference to jewelry. Celebrity magazines can be a good place for jewelry styling ideas in addition to a dose of gossip, but these publications tend to focus on affluent 20-somethings who live a world apart from most people’s reality and who often exhibit an undeveloped sense of taste or style.
Retailers, most certainly including jewelry retailers, play an important role in educating their customers on what is stylish and appropriate. Keeping fashion magazines onsite for inspiration is one manner of conveying this information to the customers. Even more valuable is having salespeople serve as models, wearing the kinds and combinations of jewelry that may spark inspiration to bring customers’ personal style up-to-date. And be sure to employ your store’s full-length mirror to show a customer that the jewelry she thinks appears overly large relative to what she has been wearing, is actually of size and scale perfectly appropriate to her person and consistent with current trends.
The reticence to bring attention to oneself occurs even in surprising places. French actress Marion Cotillard, for instance, admits in the July 2009 issue of InStyle magazine “that there was a time when she hesitated to dress to impress. ‘I was afraid to look pretty when I was younger,’ she says. ‘I thought that it was superficial. But now I know that feeling beautiful makes me more confident and that’s a good thing. I can finally appreciate dressing up.’”
And in the same issue of InStyle, American actress Michelle Pfeiffer admits that, when she was first starting out in the business, she was “a little sensitive” about being told she is beautiful because she felt she hadn’t yet proven herself. She adds, “I was careful to not wear a lot of makeup; I’d show up for interviews in men’s clothing. It took me about eight years for me to feel it was OK to look my nicest.” Today, however, is a different story: “And now, the older I get, the more I like hearing it.”
For the woman who is determined not to leave her comfort zone in the size and volume of jewelry she is wearing, addressing quality rather than quantity may be an approach that resonates with her. If she is uncomfortable wearing a gemstone over a certain size, perhaps she would appreciate the highest quality gemstone of that size available.
For many customers, however, there’s excitement in venturing into unknown territory, of trying something a bit more adventurous, of pushing the envelope. Some months back, I sold a vintage necklace to a friend of mine, a young, highly successful corporate executive who tends to wear understated jewelry. The necklace she purchased is a complex, multi-strand design of high-quality costume jewelry—definitely a statement piece. I saw that the piece was very flattering to her. Nevertheless, after she purchased it, she put it aside for a while, not quite ready to wear something that eye-catching. And then one day, inspiration hit. She sent me an email reporting: “I got brave and wore [the] necklace I bought from you and got the MOST compliments ever!!”
Here’s a great example of someone evolving into a confident jewelry wearer, one piece of jewelry and one compliment at a time.