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Five Great: Fabulous Baubles Under $50

There are few purchasable pleasures as exquisite in this world as good costume jewelry. In fact, just as directional fashion is happening at the ready-to-wear (Prada, etc) level and not the couture, the ornamentation revolution is happening not in fine jewelry, but in costume.

Some people have an automatic bias on “real” vs “fake” jewelry and to them I will say this: Get over yourselves.

I grew up with  jeweler as a father. I have seen rocks that would make Elizabeth Taylor blush and some of them might even come into my possession someday and for that I am very very grateful.


Most mere mortals –myself included– can’t afford Bulgari emeralds or pigeons’ blood rubies. And the hard truth is most of the stones you can buy at chain jewelers are so heat treated and processed you might as well be buying costume jewelry anyway, because a good set of faux pearls will last you longer than a cheap strand of the “real” thing, where the nacre is whisper thin and unevenly colored, and if you’re paying for supposed rarity of the stone, you can just save yourself the cash because 90% of what they pull out of the ground looks nothing like anything you’d recognize as a gem.

Another rookie mistake folks new to quality costume jewelry –as opposed to “fashion jewelry” which is the cheap throwaway stuff you get at Claire’s or similar– is that it’s cheap. It’s not, in either sense of the word.  Most of my costume jewelry is made as well or better than my fine jewelry and as for value, a necklace less extravagant and in worse condition than the early KJL necklace I bought for a (comparative) song this winter recently sold at auction for over $2,000 and it’s not remotely unheard of to see meticulously-made contemporary costume piecesthat will set you back over a grand at Nieman’s and Saks.

BUT none of that today.

Today I’m featuring five pieces I really love and would wear myself and they’re all on sale for under, mostly well under, fifty bucks.

The earrings are from Priya Kakkar and the rings –which are all adjustable and thus able to fit even my man hands– are from Kenneth Jay Lane, costume jeweler to the stars.

So pretty. So SO pretty. I know not everyone wears long dangly earrings, but for a special occasion where the glamor needs to go up to 11 but your budget only goes up to three, toss on last season’s LBD, pin up your hair, slap on some red lipstick and these raina-ready fan earrings.

How to do flowers without being twee? Just like this. Sophisticated, powerful, glam but slightly whimsical and it won’t get lost on a big hand.

If the long danglies aren’t for you, try these turquoise enamel darlings on for size. Perfect for bringing motion and light to your face in a way that’s more subtle than big shoulder dusters and infinitely less boring than plain diamond studs.

There are statement rings and there are statement rings. Not for the faint of heart, I love every single thing about this  yellow enamel pansy ring. The color is dead on for both fall AND spring and will be a go-to piece when you want something special but not stuffy to add a little sophisticated whimsy to an outfit.

Finally, if you want to go Eighties Etruscan, you can’t do much better than this deep set faceted cocktail ring (hey Bluefly, you might want to consider not touching the stone with your fingerprints and then photographing it at 300 times its natural size. Just sayin’) It’s got the hand-hewn artisan setting and like all KJL rings,  is plated in 22k gold, which will age beautifully.

Shoe Month! The Ones That Got Away

Okay, so PERHAPS I got a little worked up about yesterday’s shoe and the snake-related family trauma it evoked (although how cute was it that my little brother made a guest appearance in defense of the snakes?). It’s time for a palate cleanser, taking the best of Monday’s disco inferno and combining it with the old school elegance of exotic skins.


These? These are the Ones That Got Away.

I mean, this is pretty much everything I love in a shoe for me me me. Solid heel, crocodile –technically it’s calf, but it’s a really good treatment– a platform, a heel cup, ankle strap, pretty pretty jewelry and emeralds! (almost!)

I would buy them just for the ornament.

I know I make fun of Giuseppe Zanotti for making some really bad shoes, but these are right up my alley, in my wheelhouse and singing me lullabies.

they’re not inexpensive, but I’d sell a kidney (well, not my OWN kidney, but how much can a roofie and sixteen bags of ice cost, anyway?) to even have the chance to buy them at retail, much less at 43%  off.

Your Weekly Humpletter: The Plumcake Costume

Hello my little butternuts, how’s every little thing? Yes, it’s time for your weekly humpletter featuring ten new Plumcake-approved tidbits of deliciousness, mostly on sale!

It’s actually a fairly slow week for sales thanks to the swing back from Memorial Day, so we’re doing something a little different.   One of the things I hate hate HATE is when people I know copy my personal style –which is pretty specific– just a little too closely. It’s awkward for everyone involved. I’ll never forget that day years ago when I walked into church to find some sweet but terribly misguided Young Thing wearing what can only be described as a Plumcake costume.

In the parlance of my people, “I liketa died.”

That being said, I thought it might be fun –and I invite you all to play along in the comments– to actually CREATE a Plumcake costume using the sales this week.  Create your own costume in the comments field, just don’t worry if it takes a few minutes to post. It might get caught in the pending filter.

Always CoolFirst up are these Original Ray Ban Wayfarers in dark tortoise shell, on sale at Lord and Taylor using code FRIENDS to take 25% off your entire purchase. I never leave my house without my torties, which are just as cool as the traditional black ones but a bit more sophisticated.

These are timeless timeless timeless and perfect for either sex, so if your father is still wearing those tragiculous Blu-Blockers, why not buy him a pair of Wayfarers?  He’ll look like  an Italian movie star (white loafers not included.)

And if I’m never without my Wayfarers I’m never ever without my Hermes scarf. In fact, you could probably execute a fairly reputable Plumcake costume with just the scarf and the sunnies, plus a pair of vintage clip ons.

Pictured here is my absolute favorite foulard from my not-inconsiderable collection. pc babel scarfIt’s called Les Rivieres de Babel and although I have it in the aqua, there is precisely ONE of these available for purchase  from Potero (on sale too, it is to weep), so get it quick. It’s the only scarf I’ve ever paid a premium for and the photos simply do NOT do it justice. So pretty. So SO pretty.  When a woman d’une certain age showed up fresh off the plane from Paris with it wrapped around her neck, I fell in love and proceeded to hairlip hell until I located one and purchased it with much whimpering of bank account and a month of meal planning that involved the phrase “beans and toast” more often that I typically find ideal.  And you know what? Worth. Every. Penny.

And of course one good turn of Hermes deserves another: the Hermes Bolide in brown box calf.  Again, there’s only one of them, but it’s at 63% off retail and in great condition. Of course as with all Hermes bags, it is entitled to the legendary spa, where loved bags are buffed, primped and polished back to new. Now in the spirit of full disclosure: I don’t own a Bolide, I have a Birkin which I received as a break up gift (sorta) and have used exactly once, but for all the folderol over the Birkin being il handbag di tutti handbags, I’d kinda rather have the Bolide.

pc bolide

Moving from the screamingly expensive to the cheap and cheerful, I mentioned earlier you could compose a pretty decent Plumcake costume with just the scarf, sunglasses and a pair of vintage clip on earrings.

I couldn’t tell you how many pairs of vintage earbobs I own. Hundreds probably. I might even know where a few of them are (I always carry some sparklies in my purse in case I need to put them on in a flash, and usually a few pair at the office, in the car…wherever)

It is a shameful truth that, like snails leave slime and skunks leave stink, I leave a trail of  earrings wherever I roam.  I’ve tried to fix it, but to no avail. I almost always find them again eventually, but in case I don’t, I really hate to invest too much.

cute earrings!

I’m a sucker for figural earrings, or something with a little hint of whimsy, like these floral ear clips on clearance from La Vintage, which will set you back a measly 17 smackaroos.

These little darlings measure about 3/4″ and are just about exactly what I go for in an earring. Casual but still a little sparkly, charming but not cutesy and pretty enough to draw light but not so spectacular as to draw attention away from my face.

If you’re not in the habit of wearing earrings, give it a shot.  I have pierced ears but only wear clip-ons, so I can pull them off or put them on at a moment’s notice.  Also, you should always ALWAYS wear earrings when trying on clothing  (nothing dangly, please). You’ll be amazed on how much more put together you’ll look, just with a simple pair of bobs.

More fabulousness after the jump, clicky click!

From Francesca’s Inbox: Weekend Special

Francesca here, popping in on the weekend to tell you (or remind you) about some sales that end today or soon. Here, in alphabetical order:

One of many spectacular hats of fabulosity from WomenSuits.

One of many spectacular hats of fabulosity from WomenSuits.

Alight is having a big holiday sale, and will take $8 off your order of $40 if you enter code alight878 at checkout.

Ashley Stewart will take 30% off your entire online purchase (excluding sale, clearance and Diva Deal items) “for a limited time.” Also, get a free upgrade to 2-day shipping on purchases of $50 or more.

Avenue will take 35% off your online purchase with code AV91167. This ends today.

JC Penney will give you free shipping through Tuesday with code SHINE25, or click here to print a coupon for use in-store. If instead of the free shipping code you wish to receive 15% off beauty products, use code JCPFF2009, also through Tuesday. Plus-size clothing is here.

Jessica London is having a tremendous, site-wide sale. Ending today, take 30% off your highest-priced item (if you order three or more) with  code JLE4484.

J. Jill will take 25% off any online outlet purchase, or 40% off full-priced jewelry (online or  in stores) through Tuesday.

Junonia has taken 30% off fleece and flannel items, and will give you free mittens and a hat with orders of $75 or more. Both offers end today.

Swimsuits for All will take 25% off your order with code 25NEW. This ends today.

WomenSuits.com will take 20% off your purchase of $100 or more (online or by phone) with code BLESSEDCHRISTMAS. This offer “expires soon.” Can be used more than once. FYI, Francesca has never seen a better offer than this from this vendor, so prices/deals are unlikely to get better. Francesca loves their collection of “church hats,” which remind her of the Ascot scene in My Fair Lady. The Americans are such interesting peoples.

Come back tomorrow for even more sales. xoxo

From Francesca’s Inbox: Shoes, Accessories and Gifts

For information on current clothing sales, go to yesterday’s FFI here.

Designer Shoes adds a new brand, Nota Bene, of whose style and quality Francesca approves. Francesca’s pick: their classic Mary Jane (pictured).

YOOX is having a big sale, including high-end shoes, handbags, and accessories.

Zappos, one of our favorite shoe sources, is offering free shipping both ways as always. Now, additionally, they offer free overnight shipping on clothing. Sizes go up to 40 or 4XL (warning: largest sizes are mostly swimwear). They also sell kitchenware and all sorts of nice gift items like cologne and toys, starting here. Free shipping and return shipping on everything. Francesca says: wow.

Cosmetics Mall is having a big sale on Women’s Fragrances.

Books Online has a menu of book clubs for yourself or someone on your gift list. Francesca loves the gift of the book club!

Smart Bargains has added new items to clearance. This includes home goods, jewelry, women’s apparel (including some plus sizes) and menswear.

Beauty.com will take $20 off your purchase of $100 or more, through December 20. No code necessary. Exceptions: This won’t work for international orders (APO and Territories addresses OK), and won’t apply to gift cards, gift certificates, prescriptions, contact lenses, magazine subscriptions, or the following brands: Aramis, Bare Escentuals, Darphin, Donna Karan/DKNY, Jane Iredale, Lab Series Skincare for Men, Origins, Missoni, Prescriptives, Sean John, Smashbox and Tommy Hilfiger.)

Magazine City provides excellent prices, with no strings attached, on magazine subscriptions. Francesca found some of her favorite fashion magazines for $1 per issue (to US) and under $5 per issue internationally (a very good price, Francesca fears. Living outside the US has its advantages, but certainly not in the realm of access to English-language print media!)

Amazon has set up a page from which you can see their “top holiday deals” FYI, the Gund bear pictured is a free gift if you order $75 or more of toys (also add the bear to your cart).

Sun Jewelry, a vendor of high-end bracelets, earrings, etc, has set up a gift clearance page, with sale items to buy for the special someone (including yourself). Francesca’s pick: Marguise Amethyst and Diamond earrings (pictured).

Happy shopping! xoxo

Review: Gift items from Silhouettes

Silhouettes recently sent Francesca three “Fall Essentials” of their choosing to review on the blog. They were gifts to Francesca, but as always Francesca is 100% honest with her readers about the items’ quality and style — with thanks, of course, to the Silhouettes for thinking of us.

Detailed OxfordIt is difficult for Francesca to have to start with the shoes, because as our readers know, here at Chez Manolo we deal in the highest-quality-materials-and-craftsmanship feetswear, which one cannot possibly get for the retail price of $49, which is what these shoes cost. So Francesca asks herself, If I were one of the many superfantastic girls who, doing the best she could, wanted to spend no more than $50 on the pair of shoes, what would I think about these? And the answer is that, for what they are, these are very attractive shoes. Francesca loves the medium heel and the suede- and Oxfordinspired style, which is “in” right now, and in the brown color they are perfect for the Fall wardrobe. As long as one understands that everything but the sole is constructed of man-made materials, that they will not last for many seasons, and that they are less comfortable than their higher-end counterparts, then, as they say in Yiddish, gezuntahait.  Enjoy them and go forth in style!

Hinge Bangle

They also sent me this faux snakeskin silver “hinge” bangle in purple. It is on sale right now for $19. Francesca does not understand how this is a “Fall Essential.” It is, in her opinion, a “Spring or Summer Option.” If you like the design and the color(s), again, it is perfectly nice for the price-point. Francesca was not “blown away,” but that is a matter of personal taste. If this bracelet tickles your  fancy, then Francesca will not look at you askance.

Clustered Jewel BroochFrancesca has just 3 words for this unfortunate glass-and-acrylic   bauble:

Barbie Dress-up Playset.

Though, if she squints, she can imagine the young girl with the pageboy haircut, jaunty attitude, and vintage clothing pinning this to her cloche to cute effect.

And now, in deference to Silhouettes, who were willing to send a box to Francesca internationally for her to try their wares without any hope of getting them back, she proposes another item from their site which suggests more promise: a classic Mock Wrap Dress in eggplant. She also points out that they have easy-priced, wide-calf boots, which Francesca knows is of utmost importance to  many the Big Girl.

PS From Francesca’s Inbox: Use code S96E2 for free shipping in the continental US on orders of $100 or more. Code is good through November 16.

The Daily Kick: Blue Valentine



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