Versatility & the Perception of Value

From the September 2009 issue of InStyle magazine comes an instructive article with the oddly worded title “Two (or More!) in One: Get More Bang for Your Buck with These Working-Overtime Pieces.” In the current economy, consumers are looking for ways to maximize the value of their purchases. The perception of value can be significantly enhanced when an item has multiple uses.

While the article is focused on apparel, there are some useful and creative ideas that might be extracted and applied to jewelry as well. Perhaps these comments will trigger fresh and versatile new design, marketing or wearability ideas for your jewelry.

1. The Reversibles

InStyle shows a range of garments and a nylon tote bag that can be enjoyed inside out. In jewelry, reversibility has long been a creative design technique to allow the wearer to get more use out of a piece. This might be accomplished with different color metals, finishes or embellishments on opposite sides of a necklace, bracelet or pendant, or hanging elements on earrings that can be flipped over and worn in two different ways. What is key to success in the Reversibles category is that both sides of the item are finished beautifully.

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Illustration: A reversible tuxedo jacket pictured in InStyle – “Dotted all over or just as an accent” – by Yves Saint Laurent Edition 24 2009.

2. The Detachables

Like a coat that can be turned into a jacket by unzipping and removing the lower portion of the garment, so too, multi-strand necklaces and multi-component jewelry of all types might be designed to allow for a more streamlined version to be worn. Detachable dangles are a perfect example.

A variation on this category is the “Additionals” such as necklace enhancers and charms that might be added to necklaces or bracelets, or, in some cases, even to brooches and earrings. Depending upon the findings selected, a detachable style enhancement can be created.

3. The Convertibles

In this category, InStyle includes a dress that can be worn five different ways (changing the neckline and sleeves), and a skirt that converts into a top. Changing a piece of jewelry from one category to another is one area in which jewelry designs succeed beautifully. In the category of Convertibles, one would find such jewelry as:
• A brooch that has a bail and can be worn as a pendant.
• Vintage “Duette” brooches by Coro, and similar brooch designs, that separate into parts to be worn as a pair of matching dress clips.
• Necklaces that can be divided into bracelet-length segments.
• Necklaces that can be worn as one long strand, doubled, and maybe even tripled.
• Necklaces worn wound around a wrist.
• Any piece of jewelry pinned into the hair.

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Illustration: One of the most creative items in the Convertibles category pictured in InStyle is this side-knot garment that doubles as a top or a skirt by Rachel Comey.

The InStyle article contains a number of additional examples in “The Multitasker” and “The Extras” categories, which might trigger additional creative ideas. A “puffer coat” that can be worn in multiple ways and that also can be adorned with a fur collar and cuffs that are sold separately (Max Mara), ankle boots with fur (Salvatore Ferragamo) or leather (Fendi) leggings that snap on to extend the footwear up the leg, and a double-layered purse that separates into components (Louis Vuitton), are featured.

Of course, with each styling idea comes a countervailing idea. Combining two types of jewelry into one may reduce rather than expand versatility, and the October 2009 issue of Vogue contains an excellent example. Vogue notes that the back of the hand is a portion of the body generally ignored from an adornment standpoint: “There’s the traditional Indian panja-a bracelet and rings attached by chains-of course. But if [designer Alyssa] Norton has anything to do with it, the look will be going more mainstream.”

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Illustration: Hand piece by Alyssa Norton pictured in Vogue.

For those interested in making this style of adornment more mainstream, consider making the portion of the design that extends over the back of the hand detachable, so that the wearer can wear the ring(s) or bracelet portion independently. Here’s a great example of the potential versatility of even a cutting edge jewelry design.