4,000 Years of Pearl Fashion History in 5 Minutes

Have you ever looked at a pearl? No, I mean really held one up close to your eye and examined it in bright, natural lighting? If so, then you’ve been treated to one of mother nature’s most spectacular displays of brilliant light, lustre, color, shape and texture gloriously captured in an organic gem roughly the size of a humble pea.

It’s no wonder then that pearls have been highly valued and associated with classical elegance, romance and timeless beauty throughout the ages and among cultures spanning the globe. Here’s a brief snippet on pearls and their rise to the center stage of luxury and fashion:

Cleopatra the last Egyptian queen is said to have dissolved a single pearl in a glass of wine and drank it to prove that she could consume the wealth of an entire country in one meal.

Roman statues of goddesses including Venus were commonly decorated with magnificent pearl earrings and Caligula the Roman emperor wore pearl studded sandals and adorned his favorite horse with a pearl necklace.

Possibly the oldest pearl necklace in existence, an exquisite 3-stranded necklace with 216 pearls was discovered inside a queen’s tomb in the ancient Persian city, Susa, dating back to the 7th-9th century B.C. This masterpiece has been on display in the Louvre Museum for over 100 years.

Elizabeth the I of England was famously portrayed in a long, pearl-studded dress.

European royalty developed an insatiable demand for pearls and lavishly wore them as jewelry, in crowns, dangling from ropes and embroidered on clothes between the 17th and 19th century.

Jacque Cartier traded 2 pearl necklaces for his landmark store on New York’s famous Fifth Avenue in 1916.

Iconic figures such as Jacqueline Kennedy, Coco Chanel, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Louise Kelly epitomized modern beauty and glamor by wearing elegant pearl strands in the 1960’s.

Today, pearl jewelry is commonly featured on runways and in photo shoots by major fashion labels such as Dolce & Gabanna, Christian Dior, Oscar De La Renta and Georgio Armani.

Do you have any prized pearl jewelry pieces in your collection? What outfits or occasions accentuate them best for you?

Fashion History – The Effect of World Events on Design Trends in the 1930’s and 1940’s

The stock market crash of 1929 effected a lot more than bank accounts. The ensuing Great Depression threw the world into a period of change that showed up at the dinner table and at fashion shows. Where a few short years before, the Roaring 20’s was a time of wild exuberance, fashion trends of the 1930’s followed the economy toward a new austerity that ruled fashion designs for the next 20 years.

In the 1930’s, women’s dresses showed a more tailored look than they had in the 1920’s. Where once women wore loose, short dresses adorned with fanciful decoration, they now wore longer skirts and higher waists. Skirts and dresses cut on the bias hugged hips and flared slightly below the knees. The new line was diagonal, a way to add interest to the tailored, simplified silhouette.

The new frugal styles did not end with the decade, however. World War II ushered in a different kind of austerity in ladies’ clothing styles. Fabric was restricted by governmental decree. Wool and nylon were needed by the military as well as the metal used for zippers. Where the 1930’s frugal styles displayed a sleek elegance, the clothing of the 1940’s were utilitarian.

During the war years, women enlisted in the military. They took on jobs formerly performed the men who had gone to war. Work clothing had to be functional. Women began to wear trousers at factory jobs and for casual wear.

In order to save money at the beauty parlor, women let their hair grow long in the 1940’s. The long hair, curled at the ends for a touch of femininity could be caught up in a twist for safety in industrial settings.

Most women knew enlisted men and as the whole country, and the world, marched off to war, fashions followed suit. A military style emerged in women’s clothing. Even dresses took on a military look with padded shoulders and neat, short skirts.

Recycling became necessary for the war effort. Women remade old blankets into jackets and learned to ‘make do’ with the new ‘war wise’ fashions.

Even when World War II ended, supplies were limited and fabric was expensive. When Christina Dior introduced his New Look in 1947, women were shocked at the extravagant use of fabric. The New Look introduced a new silhouette, an hour glass figure with longer hemlines, wide skirts and large, wide brimmed hats.

But, after 20 years of austere clothing design trends, the New look caught on and influenced ladies’ fashions for the next decade.

Turtlenecks Steeped in Fashion History

Turtleneck Origins and Acceptance

The popular turtleneck of today came about as a necessity rather than a fashion option. During the turn of the century, seamen and deckhands were in need of a clothing accessory that could protect their neck from the bitterly cold winds. A scarf was impractically dangerous, exhibiting the potential for snagging on deck hardware or being caught up the rigging. This prompted the invention of the first polo-neck sweater, which was a collar extension for the neck. The first material was comprised of heavy worsted wool. The first collars were fitted with buttons, and then later replaced with zippers. Zippers and buttons were excluded some time later with the invention of more lasting and stretchable fabrics that allowed a permanent attachment. The general public began to take notice and accept the turtleneck as popular wearing apparel, taking advantage of the many colors and styles

The 1940s saw the turtleneck sweater adopted by the female audience, who found favor with some of the more elegant materials like cashmere and silk. The ’60s brought about a more frenzied interest in the turtleneck when many of the rock musicians began wearing them. Noel Coward, respected for his artistry and station, began wearing turtlenecks for all occasions and the public took immediate attention. He was, after all, known as a walking fashion statement, regarded for his flamboyance, pose, poise, chic and cheek. A groundswell followed, cementing the turtleneck in the concrete foundation of fashion and style.

It seemed every clothing manufacturer wanted a piece of the pie. Some of the old stylistic trends came back into vogue-zipper or no zipper, with or without buttons and the inclusion of pleated designs. Some turtlenecks were loose fitting, having shallow or large fold-down collars. Business men began to wear them under suit jackets and sports coats, and they were popularized by such luminaries as Ted Kennedy and Steve Jobs of Apple Inc.

Today, the turtleneck has shown resurgence, reminding us of an era that spawned bold, new looks. It’s as practical and classy as ever, harkening to a time of fond memories. It’s here to stay, fondly engrained in our consciousness.

Love them or hate, turtlenecks are here to stay and are recapturing popularity in the fashion trends of today. They appeal to men and women of all ages, whether they’re used for formal or leisure attire. They are applicable to a wide range of outfits, styles and themes. Smart and classy looking, turtlenecks also serve the practical function of keeping the neck area warm and cozy, negating the need for a scarf. They blend well with sports activities like golf or venues that require just a little bit more warmth for the occasion. The short sleeve turtleneck allows easy summertime wearing, but still retains that classic look. The history and application of the turtleneck is short, but interesting.