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Why it’s time to bring your pearls out of hibernation

Image via Reliquia Jewellery
Words by Hannah Cole

Pearls of wisdom.

Grandma can breathe a sigh of relief: our sartorial selection is finally up to scratch. The modest pearl has *leaned into* the era of modern fashion and planted itself firmly as a non-negotiable staple.

I’ve always been drawn to the magic and grace of old family photos – black and white, astute posture, perfectly puffed hair. And the pearls: a refined string highlighting impeccable clavicles, a delicate sphere clipped onto the ear. In many of these, the subject is far younger than I, yet she beams with a timeless beauty and age beyond her years. She seems grown up and elegant, unveiling the true power of the pearl. Suffice to say, as an admirer of the old-timey, I was pleased as punch when these jewels rolled back into fashion.

The pearl has been making demure appearances for a few seasons now, popping up on runways the world over. Alessandro Michele is known to drape models in layered pearls as the ultimate ode to our favourite octogenarians. Simone Rocha pairs her ladylike silhouettes with pearled hairpins. And (old) Celine embellished ears with imperfect baroque pearls.

In the wise words of Jackie Kennedy: “Pearls are always appropriate.” As with most ‘trends’, the resurgence of the pearl may have some truths to tell about the state of now. (Please never try to convince me that fashion is a solely fickle, external thing).

Truth one: We’re obsessed with nostalgia

One second, we’re dressing like our kid selves again – all bows and overalls and hair clips. The next, we are emulating the women of centuries past. We’ve done away with the restriction of corsets but kept the beauty of their accessorising. These women lived through gendered oppression and fought some hard-won battles for our rights.

Without these pearl-rocking ladies who knows where our voting status would stand today?

And now we pay homage, in our 2018 way. Instead of well-rounded pearls, reflecting an image of perfection and homogeneity, today’s pearls are unique. They’re misshapen, lumpy and varied; a bit like us, I suppose.

Truth two: We’re getting older

No one is more afraid of ageing than me, but I have learnt that some good things do come with age. Like becoming comfortable in your own skin. Like knowing what shapes work on your beautiful body. Like wearing whatever you want because you have bigger fish to fry. The Gucci Effect is making dressing like a nanna – with a more-is-more approach – delectably appealing. And while I dream of becoming an Advanced Style guru, I’ve got a long way to go before the layers and colours call me home.

In the meantime, pearls seem the logical first step into this adventure in ageing.

We appear a little more put-together (even though we aren’t) but not without a bit of fun. This isn’t just a ‘trend’ – in one day and out the next. So, maybe it’s a movement instead. As we age and look to the past, we’re also changing the way we view fashion. Not only did Nanna wear pearls, but she also had a cleverly limited, 100 per cent purpose-built wardrobe. It’s only fitting that we collectively regroup and naysay the typical trend cycle, ditching hauls and cheap mess in the process. Buy your pearls and keep them forever; pass them down as memory-holders.

If you haven’t caught on yet, what are you waiting for? You might have all the time in your precious little life to make a start but don’t let procrastination become your fashion enemy. There are pearls for everyone – from delicate mini keshis to bulbous statement necklaces. The internet is your oyster.

But nothing beats frequenting an unknowing op shop and coming across a set of pre-loved pearls. Imagine the places they’ve been, the faces they’ve seen and the powerful woman who wore them before. Maybe through that set of pearls, we will also become a bit more put-together – life imitating fashion, or something like that.

This article was originally published in Fashion Journal 185. You can read it here.

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