Jewelry Strategy for Accessorizing Military Style

Military-inspired looks are a key trend this season, with khaki and olive drab fabrics being made up into a wide range of garments adorned with antiqued metal buttons and buckles. The universally flattering trench coat, seemingly ubiquitous in its variations this season, is a popular example of military-influenced fashion.

The October 11, 2010 issue of People magazine issues a trend alert that the cargo pockets, chunky buckles and epaulettes of military style are back. The bullet ring of crystal, silver and copper pictured is from Lia Sophia.    

The September 2010 issue of Allure notes that rugged dresses and jackets are the perfect urban uniform. The sterling silver dog tag necklace is from Gucci; the silver-plated pewter necklace is from Ben-Amun by Isaac Manevitz.

Lest you think that the military style is only served by jewelry of such unmistakably military influence as dog tag necklaces and bullet rings, take note: Fashion experts recommend accessorizing the masculine look of military styles with feminine jewelry.

Illustration:  Photo of Jessica Alba in cargo pants from the October 2010 issue of Marie Claire.

Thus, in the October 2010 issue of Marie Claire in his column “Gunn Laws,” fashion guru Tim Gunn addresses a reader’s question as to whether she should wear manly or feminine accessories with her new cargo pants. After expressing concern over the generally unflattering effect of cargo pants, Gunn offers this advice:  “Owing to the masculine nature of the look, I suggest feminizing it with light and buoyant jewelry—gold or silver filigree as opposed to stones or large costume jewels.”

Illustration: From Elle magazine, a photo montage of military-inspired dresses from the fall 2010 collections, plus a still of Virna Lisi from 1969.

Elle magazine’s expert Anne Slowey provides similar advice to a reader who expresses her interest in the army fatigues on the runway and wonders how she can wear the military look “without looking like G.I. Jane.” Slowey focuses on styles that utilize “humble fabric to make elegant, feminine dresses,” resulting in “modern WAC-wear . . . perfect for cocktails.” She notes that these garments “come with more than a dash of irony” and recommends accessorizing them with leggings or tights and a “seriously trendy shoe” to “give the look the spunk it needs to stay on the edge.”

Slowey adds this comment:  “Warning: Stay away from accessories that drag the look back into the trenches. Studded jewelry, combat boots, anything heavy or masculine or that reeks of a vintage shop should be furloughed” since “no one wants to end up looking like a cliché.”

In a fashion spread entitled “How to Wear the New Military” in the September 2010 issue, Elle magazine does present one example of jewelry that meets both Gunn’s and Slowey’s recommendations:  what appears to be a mixed-metal tassel necklace from Club Monaco.  

It is unfortunate that the fashion magazines do not provide more examples of feminine jewelry that might balance the masculinity of military-influenced styles. A light and buoyant piece of jewelry works so long as it has sufficient size, visual weight and scale to hold its own against the chunky details, such as the straps and buckles, of military styles.

Subdued metals, such as those with antiqued or distressed surfaces, metals with patina, and mixed metals, are likely to provide a more cohesive look with the trim on khaki and olive drab garments than bright, shiny metals. Chains and filigree that have texture will be more in harmony with the garments than large expanses of shine. If the jewelry you select is too tiny and too fussy, then, just as Tim Gunn opined re wearing heels with cargo pants, the combination might just “look ridiculous.” Choose well and the fashion world will salute you.

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