The Continuing Appeal of Brooches

It is rare that they receive top billing in any discussion of jewelry, yet red carpet shows are replete with dazzling examples, Chanel has been utilizing camellia designs as a signature for decades, and, looking forward, Isaac Mizrahi is showing these rendered in poodle motifs at New York’s Fashion Week for fall 2011. First Lady Michelle Obama has been an aficionado of these since we first saw her on the campaign trail with her husband. Don’t overlook the timeless style and extraordinary versatility of brooches.

Dita Von Teese, burlesque star and retro aficionada profiled in the February 2011 issue of InStyle, has a passion for brooches. When she’s not wearing them, they are on display, pinned to a foam board, reports InStyle. Von Teese says: “I prize my brooches, even though a lot of them are costume. Brooches are like art. I love looking at them.”

In the November 2010 issue of More magazine, Janie Bryant, costume designer for the style influential television show Mad Men, shares photos of jewelry from her personal collection included in her new book, The Fashion File. The magazine pictures the above jewelry combination with these comments: “Bryant calls this high-impact ’50s brooch one of her most prized pieces. Pairing it with a gold and black-leather Erwin Pearl necklace from the ’90s adds edge.”

More re-creates the look with contemporary pieces: a brooch from Kate Spade New York and necklace from R.J. Graziano.

Several designers have made brooches the focus of their ads, providing jewels that are causing more than a few viewers to take an appreciative look. Butterfly brooches by Van Cleef & Arpels are featured in an ad that ran in the January 2011 issue of Vogue.

The Olindias clip by Van Cleef & Arpels, which was inspired by the fantastic science fiction of Jules Verne, is featured in the Jan. 2, 2011 issue of the L.A. Times Magazine.

Outside the realm of jewelry designers, brooches are used as stylistic touches. A January 2011 ad for Ulta Beauty features a model with flawless skin wearing a pair of snowflake brooches.

The placement of a single eye-catching brooch on a lapel or bodice of a dress provides panache with classic styling. For example, in the February 2011 issue of InStyle, Natalie Portman is pictured in a Fred Leighton antique diamond brooch and antique amethyst and pearl ring adorning a sweater from 3.1 Phillip Lim and shirt from Arnold Zimberg.

A huge Lucite brooch and ring from Patricia von Musulin adorn a trench by Stella McCartney and dress by Akris in the December 2010 issue of Elle.

In a fashion spread on modern classics “inspired by the ultrafemme ’60s” in the November 2010 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, a number of ensembles are adorned with very traditional placement of a single large brooch on the bodice, including this ensemble featuring a Kenneth Jay Lane brooch and an on-trend small-face wristwatch from Aaron Faber Gallery. The jacket and skirt are Nina Ricci and the bag is Hermès.

Back in October 2010, InStyle pointed to runway looks from Dolce & Gabbana and Oscar de la Renta in recommending that readers: “Wear a single pin as a dramatic statement on a dress or a coat. Cluster an assortment to personalize your outfit.” The featured brooches are from Miriam Haskell, R.J. Graziano, and Tuleste Market.

Generally it makes stylistic sense to find some commonality among the brooches chosen to be worn together in a cluster. Choosing pieces all by one designer is a reliable way to select pins that work together. Pieces of varying sizes but similar shape can make an interesting grouping. Brooches can also be selected based upon common size or color. As a general rule, the amount of detail in the individual pieces as well as the scale of the brooches should be similar to provide aesthetically pleasing groupings.

The February 2011 issue of Elle adorns an embroidered leaf-print gown from Oscar de la Renta with a large cluster of colorful poured-glass brooches from Mark Walsh Leslie Chin.

Wearing an especially creative styling with brooches is Princess Firyal of Jordan pictured in the February 2011 issue of Town & Country. She wears a trio of starburst brooches in a vertical line on her bodice and an additional brooch at the waist of her Stephane Rolland gown while appearing at an event at the American Museum of Natural History.

Will brooches appear on the red carpet at the upcoming Academy Awards?  I wouldn’t be surprised to see examples of these eye-catching little pieces of art.