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How To Wear It: Costume Jewelry Part I | Manolo for the Big Girl

How To Wear It: Costume Jewelry Part I

Earlier this week lovely and fragrant reader Jenna B asked for a little help on the successful use of costume jewelry. It’s been a while since I’ve done a jewelry post so I am only too happy to oblige. I’ll have more posts next week on the subject, so if your questions aren’t answered here, put them in the comments and I’ll try to incorporate them into next week’s posts.

So. Jealous.

Ready? OK!

Fun fact: your pal Plummy’s greatest regret in life is not being born a wealthy Indian woman.

First of all I ADORE the fashion, but mostly I am heart-stabbingly jealous of the way they can just pile on pound after pound of fabulous jewelry and have it look amazing and appropriate.

As it is, I am but a boring Anglo chick living in the boring western world and as such am bound by the confines of good taste to limit myself to one major piece of jewelry per outfit.

When I see a woman wearing a blingy bracelet, watch, earrings, a necklace or two and half a dozen rings I don’t think “there is a wealthy, stylish woman” I think “there is a woman who is desperately trying to convince me of her wealth and style.” Otherwise not only is it visually distracting it can smack of Trying Too Hard.

I’m sure there is all manner of longstanding socio-cultural snobbery behind this, but much like the best way to get a loan from a bank is to look like you don’t need one, the best way to look like you’ve got a ton of precious gems in the vault is to keep a tight rein on your inner magpie.

Edie Sedgwick: Short Hair + Long Earrings

Oh, and when I say “a single piece” I really mean “a single look“.
For example, I was fortunate enough to come into possession of of a dozen solid silver bangles that climb well up my arm. Since they combine together to create a look, I count it as one piece of jewelry, just as I’d count several strands of pearls layered Chanel-style as a single piece.

Think About Your Hair

One of the things that makes me CRAZY about Princess Beatrice –she of the famous spaghetti monster hat– is she picks the most fabulous envy-inducing pieces of millinery and then ruins it all to hell with the wrong hair.

Long and/or unruly hair takes up a lot of attention. Big jewelry does the same thing. Unless you want your hair and your jewelry going at it like the Hatfields and McCoys, you’d be wise to pull your hair back from your face and let the sparklies get the attention.

Not the ideal fashion role model


The right hairstyle is even more important for big girls because we rarely suffer from long, swan-like necks so we don’t get the benefit of that much-needed negative visual space.

Plus necklaces often sit higher on the throat which means the eye has less space to rest between your beautiful necklace and your even more beautiful face. I keep my hair in an Eton crop (the 1920’s version of what would eventually evolve into the pixie cut) to show off my jewelry to its best advantage.

I’m not suggesting you go to extremes if you only deploy the major bling on rare occasions, but you want your hair to work for your total look, not against it. Coif accordingly.

A note about face shapes:

Consider the shape of your face when selecting earrings and necklaces.

Heart-shaped faces (with the correctly tamed hair, of course) have the most universal success in carrying off enormous sparklers because they balance out a pointy or narrow chin while those with square jaws generally tend to do better with more understated earbobs.

Lana Turner rocking the hair ornaments

Big girls with especially round faces might want to exercise caution when going for chokers, which can emphasize the roundness and give an undesired essence of Campbells Soup Kid, but are well-served with necklaces that come to a point and/or sit below the hollow of the throat.

Round-faced girls can also have great success with hair ornaments. I often pin a vintage fur clip, clip-on earring or other bit of jewelry into my hair when I want some sparkle. Granted, this trick is more Advanced Fashion and requires the right personality to successfully deploy, but it’s a great way to add some oomph in an elegant but unexpected way.

Have a great weekend gang and stay tuned next week for the next part of the series where I’ll go deeper into the nuts and bolts of wearing costume jewelry and give you some of my favorite Plumcake-approved picks.

8 Responses to “How To Wear It: Costume Jewelry Part I”

  1. Lisa from SoCal September 16, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    As long as we are envying that Indian lady with all the fabulous jewelry, can I just note her fabulous brow job? Dayum.

  2. Jane September 16, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

    I am a tall woman (5’11”) with a relatively small head (and unfortunately fine, flat hair with even the most ardent application of Aquanet) and long neck set on relatively braod shoulders. Any suggestions? I usually get the most compliments on big earrings, but pulling my hair back doesn’t do my face (longish oval) many other favors.

    I lived in India for a good chunk of this year. The sheer amount of beauty there was overwhelming.

  3. JennaB September 16, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

    Hurray!! Thank you for this, can’t wait for part two.

  4. JennaB September 16, 2011 at 11:38 pm #

    But, um, fragrant? :-)

  5. Molly Ren September 17, 2011 at 12:28 am #

    Okay: brooches. I’ve got a ton of vintage brooches I inherited from my grandmother. Some are admittedly wonky (a giant ass flower, cheezy enameled butterflies.) Others are amazing (faux diamond circlet, tiny jeweled swallow.)

    Can I still wear them in fall 2011? If so, how do I keep from looking like my grandmother/someone from Mad Men?

  6. Miss Conduct September 17, 2011 at 1:03 am #

    You know what I’m jealous of? Miss Plumcake’s being able to shake off enough Episcopalianity to wear statement jewelry. I don’t even go to church anymore but I Just Cannot leave the house with big jewelry on. And I’m a tall and curvy woman, not visually overwhelmed by the scale and sparkle. I can’t wear a necklace of beads larger than your average pearls out of the house. This would have gotten a person seriously killed at the high church congregation of my youth. They knew a thing or two about socio-cultural snobbery and how to implant it PERMANENTLY into impressionable young minds. So deep is the conditioning that I actually don’t like the way big jewelry looks on me, no matter how lovely it is on its own or on others.

    Don’t y’all worry, though, I make up for it by being loudly and intensely opinionated.

  7. lali September 18, 2011 at 12:47 am #

    Hi Molly Ren! I too inherited a whole pile of brooches from my grandmother and grandaunts and have had great fun using them in somewhat less traditional ways. I like to pin one (or two or three…) on a fabric bag, whether a denim tote or an evening handbag. A nice brightly colored enamel brooch on a striped boat-necked T-shirt is a pleasant surprise, as is pinning a fancy looking one on a plain T-shirt. Pinning a couple on a denim jacked also works. I also like using the more unusual ones on a more traditional clothing item. Case in point, I have a brood of tiny golden mice with jeweled eyes which I pin on climbing up the lapel of a blazer — always gets a double-take, a smile and a compliment. Also, check your pieces to see if they can do double-duty as pendants — some of those old pieces were designed to work that way.

  8. retna September 21, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    Large necklace, bangles/bracelets- at least 2, large rings – 2, and earrings – I use them everyday. When I don’t have them on, most people notice. Maybe being part Indian helps in piling them on :)