A few weeks ago I received a link from Nicole at Tiaras and Trianon, who was blogging about royal jewellery. The post she linked was about brooches and ended with the question – “Does anyone wear brooches anymore?”
Since I make and sell brooches on a regular basis the answer must be yes, at least for some people, but this does seem to be a question that a lot of women are concerned about. Certainly my daughter is not convinced that wearing a brooch is an acceptable fashion statement, though of course she is at an age where most people think fitting in is much more important than standing out. This concern does seem to be more widespread, as it only took me a few seconds to find a string of blogs and forum threads discussing the subject.
The big fear expressed again and again is (whisper it) the “granny look” and I sort of understand what is meant. (Please note that this is not an attack on grannies. I am already well into the age range where I could be one myself!) I suppose we are talking about a sort of genteel and conservative look that seeks to avoid any strong personal statement.
I have a beautiful little gold brooch that I inherited from my mother-in-law, but I could only wear it with an outfit that somehow changed its context, or was “knowingly” retro. I do wear gold or silver brooches on occasion, though I think precious metals and gems tend to look best against my skin. If you want precious jewellery that makes a statement when pinned to clothing, it really needs to be a bold bit of bling, but this can easily slip into tastelessness.
(Mind you I took a wander through the precious jewellery department of Harrods recently and it’s clear that many people have no worries about tastelessness at all!)
I wear brooches all the time, and while nowadays these are mostly my own creations, I also wear other pieces I have bought or received as gifts. Most brooches I wear are either colourful or quirky, or are made from unconventional materials. Few are small and they are generally selected to make a bold contrast when worn on a jacket or top.
I believe a brooch is as valid a weapon in creating a personal fashion statement as any other accessory. A dull, conservative “granny look” results from dull, conservative choices in creating your outfit, not from the category of any individual element. Dressing up well is all about self-confidence and conviction, not following a rule book.
I have a friend who went through much of her life dressed in a quiet, restrained and very conventional way, then around the time when her son had grown up and left home, she transformed herself. She swapped her long straight hair for a fiercely short crop (which looks stunning in her steely grey) and began wearing the boldest, most colourful clothes she could find. This was not a desperate attempt to recapture lost youth, but instead a form of liberation. Clearly, there had always been someone with a personal style sense hidden away inside her and she just reached the point where she had the confidence to let that secret person out. The transformation from camouflaged moth to colourful butterfly was a shock at first but she is now much admired, by young people as well as those in her own age group.
What I am trying to say is that when deciding to wear a brooch, or any other item, fashion can be a trap. I am referring to fashion in the homogenised, high street, mass market sense, which is not about dancing out on the edge (what fashion used to mean) but about giving people a safe set of rules to hide behind. Far from helping you to stand out, the fashion industry today is all too often about giving people a new conservative place to hide.
This post is probably me letting my “grumpy old woman” out for fresh air, aided and abetted by my “grumpy old man” husband. If you have any thoughts on this subject, whether agreeing or disagreeing with my viewpoint, I would love to hear them.