What Jewelry to Wear with Brass Buttons & Military-Inspired Style

The military look has been big this past year in the music world, with Coldplay riffing on the style of the Beatles in their “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” look, and, of course, the world remembering Michael Jackson and his military-inspired jackets. The look translated into women’s high fashion in the spring 2009 collection of designer Balmain, where a highly embellished military jacket was introduced to great acclaim. Today, military jackets adapted for the female form are available at substantially more budget-friendly price points from lines such as Club Monaco and DKNY Jeans, the latter a look I featured in my October 5 posting “Trend Watch: Over or Under-Options for Necklace Placement with Bow Blouses and Tie-Neck Dresses.”

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Illustration: Shapely feminine versions of military jackets seen on Demi Lovato in a Temperley London jacket and Emma Roberts in a Louis Vuitton jacket, as pictured in the October 2009 issue of InStyle.

Pictorial features in both the October 2009 and November 2009 issues of InStyle magazine suggest that the look will continue into the winter with not only military-inspired coats and jackets, but also sweaters, skirts and accessories. Several stylistic aspects to the military look affect choice of jewelry. Here are six tips for wearing jewelry with military-inspired fashions:

1. Metal features prominently as an embellishment to military-inspired garments. Whether it is brightly polished gold or brass or a subtle dark metal with a distressed finish, this element of the style must be taken into account in selecting jewelry. The jewelry does not need to match the metal trim of a garment, but it should play off the metallic hue. The more subtle the colors of the metals, the easier it is to mix them. Silver or platinum with patina, antiqued gold, gunmetal grey and oxidized bronze are examples of metals that are less bright and easier to mix.

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Illustration: Rihanna in the famous Balmain jacket worn open and accessorized with chain necklaces and simple button earrings.

2. Although the design of most military-inspired garments suggests symmetry and precision, the garments themselves are often constructed with inherent asymmetry. For instance, double-breasted jackets, like the Balmain seen on Rihanna, above, have an asymmetrical closure. Double-breasted jackets, particularly when the lines of the garment are emphasized with a double row of bright buttons, look best either worn completely buttoned, for a sleek, form-fitting look, as seen on Demi Lovato, above, or when worn open with an appropriately edgy attitude. In the latter case, necklaces can provide a feminine counterpart to the traditionally masculine military theme.

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Illustration: Examples of military-inspired accessories pictured in InStyle a Longchamp tote with medal appliqués, leather gloves with metal buttons by Carolina Amato, and an embellished oxidized bronze necklace by Nicole Romano.

3. Too much military styling in accessories can cause the look to veer off into the realm of costume. Accordingly, beribboned medals and Maltese cross shapes, which may add just the right touch of military look to another style of clothing, is likely to be too much combined with a military-inspired coat or jacket. As InStyle notes, “An army-inspired boot or glove may pack enough pow for an entire outfit.”

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Illustration: The cover of the November 2009 issue of Lucky magazine.

4. The size of the brass buttons and other embellishment should be taken into account in choosing jewelry of similar scale. Thus, for instance, Rachel Bilson wears a boiled wool military jacket by Gary Graham on the cover of November 2009 issue of Lucky magazine. The jacket is worn with a necklace with a pendant so small and dark that when I first saw the cover, I thought Bilson had been photographed with a mischievous fly sitting on her chest. She also wears tiny stud earrings. Both the 14 karat gold and onyx pendant necklace from zoechicco.com and 14 karat gold and black diamond stud earrings by Phoenix Roze are lovely, albeit tiny, but they are completely overshadowed by the relatively huge buttons of the jacket. I prefer the more substantial button earrings seen on Rihanna, above, to match the weightiness of the jacket’s embellishments.

5. Often military-inspired designs bring a lot of focus to the upper body with a banded and trimmed collar and fancy epaulets. For such garments, earrings need to be kept relatively modest to avoid conflicting with the garment’s design focus.

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Illustration: Coach sweater and Zimmermann skirt with military-inspired details, pictured in InStyle. Removing or swapping out the buttons would change the style of both garments.

6. If you want to tone down the military-inspired aspect of many garments, this can sometimes be achieved with a simple removal or swap-out of buttons. Similarly, if you want your jewelry to be more prominently noticed, tone down the buttons. Make certain that the buttons coordinate with your jewelry both in metal color and scale for the most pulled-together look.