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Fab Four: Things Shaped Like Elephants

Hoo, okay, this went up without any text a while ago, but I might as well introduce our brand new featurette for the month of October: The Fab Four.

As all of you doubtlessly know (though equally doubtlessly, weren’t alive to remember) Beatlemania began in earnest on October 13, 1963 so to commemorate everybody’s favorite Liverpudlians –I’m a Ringo girl myself– I thought I’d offer a fun little featurette with four hand-picked items that are Plumcake Approved.

Some of them are goofy, some are serious, but I hope they amuse, delight and occasionally titillate. Not by an elephant teapot though. Freak.


clicky-click for links!

How To Wear: Statement Rings

Oof, it’s Friday, and yet somehow it just feels like Thursday-and-a-half.

This might be because the dog from the house east of me was serenading the moon into the wee hours, or it could be that the western neighbor’s toddler recently discovered the therapeutic benefits of primal screaming and has dedicated his young life to the perfection of same.

Either way, I need some sparklies to cheer me up, so today’s ring feature comes not a moment too soon.

To conclude our foray into Big Jewelry I’ve picked out ten fun pieces of hand candy, just click on the pictures for linkylinks.

I just love a good cocktail ring –a cocktail ring a large bauble worn to look elegant while one gesticulates, glass in hand, at cocktail parties– and cocktail rings love me.

I mean, it’s pretty much my two favorite things –booze and jewelry– combined in  one delicious art form, with the bonus of being easily converted into a weapon in case someone needs to be corrected of wrong-thinking ideas.

There aren’t very many dos and don’ts about how to wear a ring (other than one ring per hand, not counting a wedding band) so I thought I’d just chat a little bit about costume jewelry in general.

There are essentially two schools of thought when it comes to costume jewelry in general and rings in particular: Those folks who want their gems to look like fine jewelry and those who don’t.

I can understand both sides.

Jewelry is a status symbol and while it’s a mark of status to own some serious mined gems, I think it’s infinitely more chic to wear high-end costume jewelry (I’m not talking Claire’s here) either alone or with your fine pieces that almost mocks fine jewelry because you’re secure enough in yourself (and possibly your vaults) to show you don’t care whether “they” believe it’s “real” or not.

Oh, and may I please express my disdain for the phrase “real jewelry”?

As a collector of vintage and antiquarian jewelry, both costume and fine, the line dividing the two is often blurred.

Take, for example, the Napoleonic Cut Steel Tiara, one of the literal crown jewels of Sweden.

Given to Queen Hortense by her mother, Napoleon’s beloved (and then not-so-beloved) Empress Josephine, there are no gems to be found anywhere on the tiara.

It’s made only of brass and steel but are you going to be the one to tell two hundred and fifty years of Swedish royalty it’s not “real jewelry” because there are no diamonds or precious metal?

Nope, me either.

My people have not  fared well historically against the vikings and I’m not enthusiastic about my chances to buck the trend.

Anyhoodle.

I’ve been fortunate in that my father was a very well-regarded jeweler who specialized in magnificent baubles, my grandmother’s collection of gems would make Liz Taylor sit up and take notice (though probably not now) and I have personally had the (mis)fortune to date many many men with more money than sense.

I’m pretty well-stocked for fine jewelry, so I spend my time on novel designs, particularly figural rings.

Funny story:

Yesterday while I was poking through HSN.com for the bracelet recommendations I saw Jean Dousset actually had a line for their simulated diamond line Absolute.

Once upon a time, I received a honking big canary diamond ring from Jean Dousset –well techincally it was BY Jean Dousset and FROM someone I later discovered had more wives than I find personally ideal, i.e., one– so I clicked through and saw a ring that was shockingly similar to mine.

The mind reeled.

Frankly I would’ve rather had the $90 ring and gotten the difference in cash.

Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend but a woman needs liquidity.

Which brings me to the subject of engagement rings: I kind of think they’re dumb.

Well, I don’t really think they’re dumb, but I’ve seen so many people go into debt to buy the biggest diamond their credit rating will allow and THAT’S dumb. I mean, a big fancy ring is nice but I can’t help but think marrying someone who doesn’t buy stuff they can’t afford is much, much nicer.

Okay enough waxing stentorian about costume jewelry, let’s talk guidelines:

Bracelets with Rings:

Fun if you’re going for Overdone On Purpose, otherwise a risky proposition.

If you want to do Overdone on Purpose, try to consider the bracelet and ring as one look. I’ve often wrapped a rope of pearls halfway up my arm and added an enormous pearl and gold cocktail ring to complete the look.

Brooches as Rings:

Sometimes I inherit brooches that have broken pins not worth repairing and/or are too small to wear in the traditional brooch style or elsewhere on my person, so I’ll glue them on to a ring blank.
Viola, fabulous cocktail ring.

You can do the same thing with broken old earrings.

Look in the mirror, are you Joe Pesci?

If yes, how shocked were you when Marisa Tomei won the Oscar? If no, take off the pinky ring.

Look in the mirror again, are you Anthony Bourdain?

If no, take off the thumb ring. If yes, take off the thumb ring anyway, it looks stupid on you too and you’re too old for that nonsense. If you’re not Lou Reed by now you’re never going to be. Sorry.

Buy Quality.

Finally, remember there is costume jewelry and then there is costume jewelry.

Don’t buy the wrong kind.

You want to look for prong-set stones, attention to detail and everything else you’d want in a piece of fine jewelry. In fact, in most of the pieces I buy today, the process of making the ring is the same, only the materials are different. You’ll also pay accordingly.

I’ve kept all but one of these rings under $100, a nice cocktail ring can easily set you back a few hundred dollars but the difference in quality will be visible.

Remember, style icons from Coco Chanel to Jackie Kennedy wore costume jewelry as part of their signature looks and looked amazing doing it. You can bet they didn’t get their stuff from Claire’s.

Okay lambkins that’s all I’ve got for jewelry for a while, if you have specific questions I didn’t answer, let me know, otherwise, I hope you enjoyed it!

How To Wear: Statement Bracelets

Hello my little buttermilk biscuits, how’s every little thing?

have I responded to everyone’s questions from the Monday Post? If not, ask again and I’ll do my best to get to it today.

Now back to the second-to-last installation of the statement jewelry series: Bracelets.

As far as jewelry wickets go, bracelets are among the stickiest.

Still, I’ve picked out ten Plumcake-approved baubles from punk to prissy all advertised to fit a larger wrist and pictured here for your delectation and delight.

Just click the photos for shopping links.

First we’ve got to find one that fits, which requires an act of Congress, THEN we’ve got to make sure it doesn’t give us stump-arm, which requires an act of God. You know what I’m talking about when I say stump-arm right?

It’s the way a bad bracelet visually shortens your arms until you look like the star in an all-Tyrannosaurus Rex production of Auntie Mame. Sure, it makes a statement, but “transvestite thunder lizard” probably isn’t the direction we want to go quite yet.

I’ve only started wearing bracelets within the past few months. Historically I’d avoided them because:

a) It was difficult to find arm candy that was big enough to circumnavigate my 7.75″ wrist (not to mention slide over my giant mitts, made only from the finest of Virginia hams)

b) I don’t really like most stretch bracelets and non-stretch ones bothered me while I earned my crust of bread at the newspaper

c) My torso is long so it gives the appearance of having short arms. See stump-arm and drag queen dinosaur reference above

But somehow the stars aligned to make me A few months ago Hot Latin Boy bestowed unto me a custom parure of  a necklace, earrings and bracelet he designed and commissioned just for yours truly.

Well I couldn’t NOT wear the bracelet so I slipped it over my wrist and was surprised by how pretty it looked with my white dress and tan (okay, you know what, I can hear you laughing and you all can just quit it right now, I totally had a tan. I was practically bronze, assuming the word bronze means “slightly darker than alabaster”) skin.

A month or so later I came into possession of a ridiculous stack of unadorned silver bangles that fit me perfectly and now I wear them at least once a week.

Six things to keep in mind for wearing bracelets:

Think about movement.

The key to wearing statement bracelets is to make sure they’re not too tight, and have a little movement on the arm.

It’s strange, but one big thick bangle or cuff looks clunkier than that same bangle plus another slightly more delicate piece.

Don’t believe me? Go try it.

Getting a bracelet with dangling ornamentation is a fantastic way to get movement without bulk. I’m a huge fan.

Be careful with cuffs. I’ve got to be honest, I don’t just love big cuffs on big girls.

I love big cuffs in and of themselves, I even have a gorgeous 1970’s Pierre Cardin figural rams head cuff that probably weighs a pound and a half, but it’s very hit and miss as to when and how successfully I can wear it. The downside is, of course, that cuffs are the bracelets more likely to actually FIT a larger wrist.

If you want to do the cuff thing, look for something that tapers, the ones that are uniformly thick can look uniformly clunky. Not a fan.

Charm bracelets, when done right, are fantastic on a big girl.

The key is to keep from being cutesy.

Way back in the misty days of yore, from about the 1930’s to the 1960’s it wasn’t at all unusual for a woman to collect tiny little charms in the shape of shields as souvenirs from the places she’d visited.

They’re usually silver with an enameled crest with the place name and some local flora, fauna or site.

I have a travel bracelet full of little travel shield charms –although admittedly I buy them on eBay or Ruby Lane after I get back– to mark my favorite towns and cities.

I also get antique silver three-dimensional charms of every mode of transportation I’ve used.

Not only is a great piece of jewelry, it’s an heirloom in the making and a conversation piece.

You can point to the little horse and carriage and tell the grandkids about the time you took a surrey ride around Ensenada with a cute Mexican fella (extra bonus points if they’re HIS grandkids too) or the time you went to Wales on a ferry and had to throw yourself on the mercy of a stranger, which is how you spent the night in a place called “The Spider Cottage”.

Bangles: More is (sometimes) more. Up to a point that is, but usually five coordinating bangles are better than one and ten are better than five.

You’re generally safe taking a stack of bracelets 1/3rd of the way up your forearm.

Up to a half is doable with big stacks of chunky bracelets, but anything longer than that is seriously Advanced Fashion, so think it through.

Think about sleeve length. Easy rule of thumb:You want at least as much bare arm as you have bracelet-covered arm. If you are wearing bracelets that climb 5″ up the wrist, your sleeve should end no lower than five inches from the top of your northernmost bracelet.

Think outside the bracelet box. I’ve used bow ties, long necklaces, dog collars with vintage earrings attached, silk scarves, and just bits of ribbon onto which I’ve pinned a large antique brooch or fur clip.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for today.  Stay tuned tomorrow for rings and various other ornamentation and if you have something to say, put it in the comments!

How To Wear It: Statement Earrings

I absolutely depend on my vast collection of mid-century earbobs to achieve the signature Miss Plumcake look.

Weekdays I pair them with simple cotton or knit dresses and during Proper Football season I traipse myself down to the local ex-pat bar in jeans, well-fitted jersey of my preferred team, with my hair pulled back babushka-style in a coordinating Hermes scarf and always always always, eye-catching earrings.

Astute readers will spot this immediately as a high-low look. When it comes to accessorizing, especially with jewelry, you’ll have the most success with capital F Fashion if you pair high –something more appropriate for evening or more formal occasions– with pieces that clock in on the casual side.

The problem with pretty day shoes and pretty day earrings and pretty day dress is it’s like talking in monotone.

Not bad, but boring and rarely chic.

 

A good pair of earrings is the easiest –and often least expensive– way to glam up an outfit.

First let’s talk about why earrings are great.

My love for big jewelry is as well-documented as my affection for muscular Latin thighs and easily concealed hip flasks but earrings are my favorite.

They act as spotlights, drawing the attention to where I want it to be; my eyes and face. It’s easy for people, particularly of the male persuasion, to get lost in the visual Bermuda Triangle that is my chestal area so great earring work as lighthouses to rescue those potentially lost at sea (or double D).

You’ve got a few basic shapes when it comes to big earrings.

Clip earrings –not to be confused with clip-ons — are like larger versions of studs, they sit on the earlobe.

Pendant earrings, or dangles, may have a clip element to them, but are usually en tremblant (not like I need to explain to you what dangle earrings are.)

Hoops are well, hoops. Still hate ’em.

Cuffs are clip earrings that hug the earlobe and ascend past the lobe onto the rim of your ear.

I know we mostly think of cuff earrings as something one buys at the head shop that grips the rim of the ear like a hoop, but since presumably none of you  just got back from the Phish concert in 1995, we’ll skip that usage.

Clip Earrings:

Far and away my most often used style, partially because it was the mid-century trend but also because they’re almost universally flattering. Round faces, square faces, long necks, short necks, a clip always works. It’s like champagne and potato chips. There’s never a bad time for champagne and potato chips.

Well, possibly DURING a funeral, but maybe you could just chew quietly.

Oval and heart-shaped faces can pretty much wear whatever sort of clip their hearts desire, while round faces might do well to avoid button earrings. Not that buttons earrings are bad, but it’s just the least flattering shape.

You won’t have to worry about people gasping in horror if you’re of the spheroid persuasion and decide to don some perfectly round earbobs. Go for a figural –maybe flower shaped– instead. They’re more fun anyway.

Pendant Earrings:

I like a good pendant earring, and usually wear them with more casual outfits.

Here you want to be a little more thoughtful about the shape and the length of the earring as it pertains to your face shape and neck length.

My face is heart-shaped so I try to avoid earrings that are wider on top than at the bottom for the sake of balance. An elongated teardrop shape looks especially nice and balances out my pointy pointy chin.

Reese Witherspoon, honey? You should listen to me on this.

Extremely round faces should look for pieces significantly longer than they are wide, and you gals with the strong jaws but not so strong foreheads take the advice I gave about heart-shaped faces and flip it.

I generally recommend earrings end no longer than the middle of the neck.

All others are to be approached with fear and trembling.  It can be done, but it requires a good deal of Advanced Fashion know-how. (Aha, you think I’m totally going to complain about my short neck here, aren’t you? Well I’m NOT. So there!)

Cuffs Earrings:

I LOVE cuff earrings like the House of Harlow 1960 ones I’ve featured on this page. 

You get the ease of a clip, the drama of a pendant and it’s so unexpected and fresh. These are often clip-ons.

Speaking of clip-ons. I highly recommend converting your big earrings from pierced to clip. If you’re the handy sort you can do it yourself, but if not get a jeweler to do it. Worth every penny on earhole wear and tear.

Obviously it’s most important to have your hair away from the face when rocking the cuffs. There’s no point in wearing fabulous earrings if they’re going to be obscured by your silken tresses and since these climb up the ear, there’s a higher chance of them being hidden.

Hoop Earrings:

Nope, still hate ’em. I’m not going to show you how to shoot up heroin either. It’s just socially irresponsible. I know that’ll get a bunch of you to start grabbing your shouty pitchforks. Don’t care. Put it on your own blog. I don’t often deploy the Orson Welles method of group management but since this will be our third or fourth go ’round on the hoops thing, I am putting my stompy foot down in the I’m-the-editor-and-I-said-so position from whence it shall not be moved.

Okay lambkins, remember to clicky click on the images for links to the earrings. You can also see how big they are in proportion to an “average” face and neck. Enjoy and be sure to tell me about your favorite earrings. Either from this group or your private collection. If you’ve got a question on how to deploy a particular pair, put it in the comments and I’ll do my darndest to answer.

 

How To Wear It: Statement Necklaces

Good afternoon my little pumpkin mellowcremes, how’s every precious thing?

I’m dandy and am bringing, as promised, a more detailed post on the successful deployment of costume jewelry, including 10 Plumcake’s Picks (clicky click on the images for links).

So let’s talk about necklaces.

While all women can pull off a serious statement necklace given sufficient attitude and force of personality, big girls have a leg up on our more slender competition because huge gobstopper gems that can overwhelm a delicate swan-like thing look fabulous and proportionate on our bigger frames.

You gotta have a big canvas if you want to paint a masterpiece.

And before I get all you art history majors waggling your invisible fingers at me, I know that’s not technically correct.

But you know the deal: you don’t split hairs with my turns of phrase and I don’t roll my eyes and cough *shouldagonefortheMBA* whenever you complain in genuine surprise at the shocking lack of high-paying jobs requiring an advanced degree in upside down toilets.

Moving on.

Big necklaces can be tricky for the big girl.

We’ve got the bulk to carry it off, but we don’t necessarily have the neck. I know, I know. Just as I’m convinced my church exists solely as a place for me to lose my sunglasses, you might think this blog exists solely as a place for me to bemoan my lack of giraffe-like qualities.

That is a damnable misconception. It’s also a place for me to post pictures of Spanish footballers in compromising and slightly homoerotic positions. Whee.

Generally speaking, the shorter your neck, the longer you want your necklaces to be.

I’m not saying go for all lavaliers all the time, but chokers or extremely busy bibs close to the throat run a higher risk of making you look a little squatter than necessarily desirable, you want the necklace to enhance the beauty of your face. A too-short necklace is like a photograph that’s been too tightly cropped.

Also there’s the dreaded disappearing necklace, where the front vanishes entirely under my double chin when I talk with any degree of animation.

This is a Very Bad Look for me. It’s like, acid wash and mullet bad.

*shudder*

When you’re tall you can fudge a bit on length, but the sweet spot for short necklaces is juuuust below the hollow of the throat. It’s the prettiest length on almost anyone, and you can still get a lot of drama without the Campbell’s Soup Kid effect.

Now let’s talk about body shape.

Apparently we’re either apples or pears. While I slightly object to being described as any part of Cockney rhyming slang, let’s have a butcher’s at what suits the various fruits among us.

I’m pretty much an hourglass pear, but there’s definitely more time at the bottom than the top.

For me, most necklaces extending longer than the middle of my decollete (I’d say cleavage but my gals have a wide stance so there’s no actual cleave involved unless coaxed via specialty equipment and possibly the Army Corps of Engineers) get lost and are more distracting than anything else.

For apples however, especially short ones (crabapples?), the opposite holds true.

While pears are best served with chunky but clean bib-style ornamentation, those lucky apples can rock the long ropes, pendants and lavaliers like nobody’s business. They make short girls look taller and encourage the eye to travel all the way down the body instead of just hitting the rack or belly and stopping.

Basic styling advice for a statement necklace: Minimize distractions.

Wear your hair up or back if it’s long and you’re wearing a big piece close to the face and keep the neckline clean.

You can have an orgiastic explosion of ruffles OR an orgiastic explosion of jewels, but please, one orgy per outfit.

The last thing you want is to have a visual competition between Big Necklace, Big Hair and Big Neckline.

Go High/Low for day.

It’s really the most chic way for day.

Yesterday I tossed on a dead simple and cheap black t-shirt jersey dress, flat gold sandals and an enormous Bollywood-style necklace.

I added an understated but substantial ring to continue the look of casual glam and it was enormously successful.

For some reason people seem to think every article of clothing has to have the same formality level.

For evening okay, I’ll buy that, but for day and early cocktail, splashy jewelry with understated clothes (jeans, a little cute knit top) is the most fun combination since Ovaltine and compound opiates, and that my friends, is a lot of fun.

Okay ducklings, it’s time for Miss Plumcake to hit the showers. Okay, really it’s time for Miss Plumcake to swim in her pool of costume jewelry like Scrooge McDuck (but in a tiara) but either way, have a fantastic day and tell me all about your favorite necklace in the comments!

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.

What Miss Plumcake is…

Greetings my little rock and roll hoochie koos (ha, you’re welcome for THAT earworm) how’s every little thing? Me, I’m great. Just living it up south of the border, which is technically north of where I actually live. Anyway, it’s Tuesday and time to find out
What Miss Plumcake is…


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