Some say pearls are drops of moonlight that fell in to the ocean only to be swallowed by oysters. Some say pearls are tears of the gods. Some say are just lovely little balls of beauty that we women get to hang from our ears, neck or wrists when we want to look elegant, classy and glamorous!
No matter how they were formed, be it naturally or cultured by man, pearls have long symbolized class, status and wealth. Once considered the rarest and most coveted jewel, they were generally only worn by royalty and the very wealthy upper-class – because only they could afford them!
Today, pearls are much easier to come by, but because of their long history many still feel that to wear them well requires a degree of etiquette; that they should be reserved for only special occasions. Because of their historic rarity, and the symbolism attached to the way a natural pearl is formed, pearls will always be considered appropriate choices as gifts for graduations, religious sacraments, or any occasion where one may want to congratulate the receiver for hard work, determination or accomplishment.
Today (as is the case with most fashions) there really are no strict rules for wearing pearls. However there are certain outfits and ways to wear them that will bring out their beauty (and yours) without making you look like a granny or a try-hard wanna-be. Here are some of my styling tips which should remove any confusion if you’re unsure of when/where or how to wear them!
Firstly, consider how you think of or describe a pearl. Words like simple, elegant, sophisticated, polished and timeless, classic, romantic, feminine spring to mind for me. Then think about what best matches your description, and you will know exactly what outfits to team them with.
Always elegant, pears are perfect for evening. BUT beware. It again depends on what you wear them with. You want to look elegant and classy, not dowdy or matronly. And beware the old-fashioned pearl earrings, necklace and bracelet combo. In general, it’s best to break it up a little, unless you’re really going for that old-world movie-star glamour and your hair, makeup, dress etc are screaming out for the classic three-piece set.
Pearls are perfect for the office because of their simplicity and understated elegance. Don’t wear multiple long strands though – remember, if your colleagues can hear you before they see you, your jewellery is not corporate-appropriate!
Don’t wear long-dangling pearl earrings. A simple stud is plenty for the office.
It’s not what you wear – it’s how you wear it!
Pearls can be worn casually/everyday but always show some respect for how hard that little mollusk worked to create that precious little gem. Think of he symbolic nature and always remember the key words – special, elegant, sophisticated, feminine, polished, classic, timeless.
Don’t cheapen them by wearing them with shorts and thongs, sneakers and tees. You get the picture!
- Pearl-Friendly Fabrics & clothing: Silk, wool, cashmere, fine knits, evening wear, satin, fine lace, suiting, simple sheath-dresses, twin-sets
- Not Pearl-Friendly: Cotton tees, linen, chunky cable-knits, broderie anglaise, casual shorts, tracksuits! You get the picture, I’m sure!
- Beware wearing pearls all over – studded on headbands, pearl-encrusted tops, long dangly earrings etc. You can wear a few strands at once, but don’t go overboard with a dozen pearl necklaces all at once. Less is by far more. Multiple strands of pearls CAN be worn (ala Chanel) and teamed with other strands of beads or chains, but be very careful your look doesn’t get too busy, too tacky or just plain too much.
- Pearls worn with a simple, round-necked knit (wool, cotton, or cashmere if budget allows) and a matching cardie – yes, the classic twin-set – will never go out of style. Deconstruct the formality of this classic look by wearing with slim-fitting jeans, cuffed at the ankle, and classic ballet flats or loafers.
- If you can remember Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” film-clip, then you probably clearly remember the 80’s and how the precious pearl suddenly went from elegant to trendy, tacky and cool. Pearls could be seen everywhere, worn in multiple layers, teamed with crucifixes, black lace, fingerless gloves and permed hair. Yikes.
If you did this look back then, please do not revisit it again. You’ve had your time in the sun. Let’s leave the next tacky pearl trend to Lady Gaga while we channel some of the more classic looks, shall we ladies? After all, isn’t that the ways pearls were really MEANT to be worn?
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth was in Brisbane Australia this week. She wore her much-loved 3 strand pearl necklace with matching earrings. Here she is viewing parts of the Brisbane river that had been flooded in January (2011)
She was given a warm and truly Queensland welcome, especially by the children; she seemed to really enjoy her time here.
© Alison Triffett
I love pearls and love that they can be worn in so many different ways. Just recently I was out with a friend who wore a simple black t-shirt with jeans AND her pearls. I never would have thought to wear pearls with a t-shirt and jeans but it looked lovely.
I enjoyed this article…love, love, love my pearls and doubt I could ever have too many of them. I once remarked to a friend that I hoped I’d someday own some pink pearls…a Christmas or two after that she went to a jewelry show and had some strung for me. They are beautiful and always remind me of my special friend. I don’t think a woman can ever be too old to wear pearls…they bring out a lady’s complexion.
The photo of Queen Elizabeth visiting Queensland was lovely and elegant…just like her, no matter what her age gets to be.
Marsha, what a lovely thing for a friend to do. I’m glad you enjoy the article and yes Her Majesty does look wonderful in pearls. Today marks the Diamond Jubilee of being in the throne. She does it all looking so elegant and majestic.