The Sizzling 2009 Primetime Emmy Awards, and Tips for Wearing Jewelry in 100 Degree Heat

Last Sunday was overcast here, near the beach, and much cooler than it reportedly felt at the 2009 Primetime Emmy Awards held at the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, just 20 miles away. By many reports, the temperature on the red carpet exceeded 100 degrees as the stars were photographed and interviewed under hot television lights. In such heat, looking cool and collected is practically an art form.

The celebrities blotted their faces and took every advantage of portable fans. The men in their tuxedos had to resist the temptation to remove their jackets. The women needed to be concerned about their makeup and hair along with their dresses and jewels. Satin gowns wrinkled. White gowns looked so much cooler than basic black. Those who strategized grooming, dress and jewelry based upon the weather looked the most chic.

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Illustration: The predominantly white color of Alicia Witt’s strapless dress makes her look much cooler than many of her colleagues. She accessorized with diamond drop earrings, black diamond bracelets and an eye-popping black diamond ring, all by Martin Katz.

Hairstyles that kept the hair off the neck looked elegant and polished despite the heat. Long hairdos, in contrast, typically wilted, drooped and sometimes just looked hot. Updos provided plenty of opportunity for moving the jewelry up and pinning it into the hair, but hair jewelry was rarely seen in lieu of earrings – wonderful, glorious earrings of all sizes and shapes. Earrings, of course, are perfect for a heat wave in that they barely touch the skin but still bring the attention up to the face and add immeasurably to the glamour quotient of each ensemble.

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Illustration: Mary-Louise Parker

Long gowns looked decidedly hot next to short dresses, which I would have expected to be more popular. Among the best-dressed were Kristin Chenoweth in a silvery spangled dress perfect for her petite figure. I loved Mary-Louise Parker’s ultramarine violet dress by Zac Posen, rendered in a bold, unusual color that suited her beautifully. She wore diamond accents in the form of dramatic drop earrings and a sizable bracelet. I also loved the appropriately youthful styling of actress Allie Grant in her short black one-shouldered dress with platform shoes that repeated the bow detail of the dress, worn with drop earrings and a simple line bracelet, both of which had movement, plus an elaborate ring worn on an index finger.

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Illustration: Allie Grant

While one-shouldered gowns had a strong presence, strapless gowns were the most popular option, a classic style and perhaps also a bit of a concession to the heat. Often those gowns are used provide the perfect showcase for eye-popping gemstone necklaces, and given the trend toward statement necklaces this season, one might have expected necklaces to be much more popular.

Of course, one reason necklaces didn’t make their usual red carpet showing this year may well have been the weather. Keeping the neck bare is cooler than sporting anything on it, even if that anything is dazzling with diamonds. Among the exceptions were Katrina Bowden, Joely Fisher, Ginnifer Goodwin, singer Sarah McLachlan, Nancy O’Dell, Hayden Panettiere, Tracy Pollan and Chandra Wilson in a diamond confection from Chopard. The latter necklace had a central element that appears off-center in some of the photos, perhaps sticking to Wilson’s neck in the heat. A riviere style would have been easier to wear.

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Illustration: Chandra Wilson in a gown by Pamella Roland and necklace, earrings and ring by Chopard.

As could be expected, bracelets made a strong showing adorning bare arms, as bracelets don’t add immeasurably to the wearer’s feeling of being hot unless the bracelet is wide and close-fitting. At the Emmy Awards typically only one wrist was adorned, with Leighton Meester a notable exception wearing cuffs on both wrists.

Some of the more creative styling included brooches, which add a bit of dazzle exactly where one wants to place it but without placing anything directly on the wearer’s skin. Lindsay Price chose a stunning 19th Century Edwardian diamond Maltese cross brooch from Fred Leighton to accent the bodice of her J. Mendel dress, Chloe Sevigny wore a ferocious panther head brooch at the waist of her demurely sweet dotted Swiss gown by Isaac Mizrahi, and Tina Fey left ‘em wanting more with a huge crescent shaped brooch at the back of her Gucci gown. Some of the men, too, including Leslie David Baker and designer Nick Verreos, sported brooches to up their glamour quotient.

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Illustration: Tina Fey’s brooch is the only piece of her jewelry she wore for which I was unable to find attribution. Her earrings and bracelet are by Fred Leighton

As the final touch, gorgeous eye-popping rings were everywhere. Among my favorites were the Cartier Panthere figural ring worn by Jennifer Morrison and the charming oversized flower ring by Fei Liu worn by Lisa Edelstein.

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Illustration: Lisa Edelstein wearing the Fei Liu diamond Flower ring, with bracelets and earrings from Neil Lane

Here are some tips for wearing jewelry in 100 degree heat:

• Earrings are the easiest, most effective way to add dazzle and shine in the heat, without making the wearer feel hotter. Small earrings may appear visually lighter, but keep principles of scale in mind and let the wearer’s features and ensemble dictate the optimal style. Lightweight earrings may be more comfortable than heavy earrings.

• Skip the necklaces. Even a thin chain can irritate a perspiring neck. Be mindful of necklaces with central design elements that may become askew when they stick in the heat. If you choose to wear a necklace, periodically check for the location of the clasp so that it stays in place.

• Bracelets are a good choice. Opt for loose bangles or link-style bracelets that slide up and down the arm rather than close-fitting, wide cuffs, which can trap the heat against the wrist.

• Bring on the brooches. They can be used as a dazzling accent almost anywhere on a garment and do so brilliantly without adding to the wearer’s sensation of heat because they don’t touch the wearer’s skin.

• Don’t forget jewelry pinned into the hair. An updo presents an excellent opportunity to repurpose a necklace, link-style bracelet, brooch or earrings. However, be especially careful about using porous materials such as pearls, turquoise or opals if the updo stays put due to hairspray and other sticky hair products. Use hardier gemstones and readily cleanable materials.

• Finish the look with one or more gorgeous rings. Rings can be big and bold without adding to the sensation of feeling hot.

• Whatever your choice of jewelry, now’s a good time to have the jewels cleaned, both before the red carpet wearing, for maximum dazzle, and after, to eliminate the last remnants of that red carpet perspiration/glow.