Spilling the Beads—Long Necklaces with the Season’s Blouses

Adornment around the neck continues as the key trend in jewelry this season, the easiest way to update a look. Moreover, in these economic times, shoppers want value for their money, so the more versatility that can be wrung from a single item of jewelry, the more its perceived value. The result is that a single necklace or a single combination of necklaces is often burdened with the task of updating many ensembles in a wardrobe.

A necklace, more than any other item of jewelry, needs to be chosen with consideration of the garments with which it will be worn. Almost any necklace, long or short, complex or simple, can work with a simple sheath dress, a garment that lives for adornment. But with the cooler weather arrive styles of garments that are not as forgiving in their requirements.

One of the trickiest of such garments is the blouse. Created from a soft, even fluid, fabric such as silk, a blouse is too fragile to support the weight of a brooch, let alone recover from the puncture marks it would cause. Long (or long-ish) sleeves limit the number of bracelets that can be worn. And thus the necklace becomes the adornment of choice.

Jewel-neck blouses, like sheath dresses, love adornment. So long as the necklace(s) are visually dominant over the short neckline of such a blouse, any style necklace, long or short, works well. When a jewel-neck blouse is layered under a blazer or jacket, that third piece will guide the placement of a necklace.

Blouses with collars, ruffles and button fronts are much trickier to adorn with necklaces, and several recent items in the fashion magazines demonstrate this point.

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For instance, here’s a photo from an ad from White House Black Market, which accessorizes a ruffled neck blouse with three long necklaces that spill out of the vee-neck of the blouse and end up in a tangle with the ruffles. Does anyone else get the urge to pull the model aside and “fix” her necklaces? Sadly, there is no fix. The necklaces just don’t work with that blouse. They interfere with both the line and the embellishment of the blouse.

I appreciate the fact that ads are expensive, but combining jewelry and apparel that work at cross-purposes is not the optimal way to display merchandise.

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Here’s a photo from an ad for Burberry Brit fragrance, featuring a young woman wearing a fragile blouse with tuck pleats overwhelmed by three heavy black chains. The poor blouse does not appear to have the wherewithal to survive more than a photo shoot under the weight of those chains.

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Sometimes, the promoter isn’t even selling one of the two conflicting items in question. Here’s a photo from an ad from the pearl design house Honora, which combines beautiful coin-shaped freshwater cultured pearls with a taupe satin blouse. I like the combination of pearls with the silky texture of the blouse. I do not like the ad styling, however. The front of the model’s blouse is pushed open by an extreme number of pearl strands, which spill out over the front of the blouse. The lapel of that blouse is going to be a wrinkled mess in no time. It also seems that the pearls may consist of very long strands that are going to require constant adjustment. This styling is entirely impractical.

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Finally, here is the cover of the November 2009 issue of Marie Claire magazine, featuring actress Hilary Swank wearing a shirt by H&M with a multi-strand necklace by Sid Vintage spilling from the neckline. The shirt fabric appears to have more body than the blouses featured in the ads shown above, and seems able to stand up to the weight of the necklaces that push the neckline open. For that reason, the look is more cohesive and therefore more successful than the stylings shown above.

Exuberant abundance can be a good thing, but remember that it’s not just about the necklaces. It’s about an entire ensemble and how the elements work together.