Dior to Playboy; Popular Trends in Jewellery through the Decades

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The 1920's marked a historic time of change for the western world. Fittingly the era was fixed with the term "The roaring 20's" Often over shadowed by revolutions during future decades, we can't neglect the incredible and bountiful leap culture took from the 1910's to 1920's. Jewellery which said nothing more about the wearer then the weight of their purse was no longer held in such high regard, people began to take a more concentrated interest in jewellery for a similar value which people consider when buying vintage, that being for the story behind the item. Worldwide travel was more accessible than ever and women had fallen in love with the exotic. The power of the foreign was enchanting and the importation and replication of these new exciting items took over the world of women's jewellery. New, rich colours never before seen in jewellery entered fashion along with exciting geometric shapes and stones. Western society as a whole widely embraced the changes these new innovations created, bringing on the rise of the historical visual arts style of Art Deco which celebrated the influence of technology and coming together of cultures with an ease never before available.



By the mid-1930s art deco style was flittering out making a new space for the coming of modernist influence. A leading innovator in women's fashion, Iconic fashion and jewellery designer Elsa Schiaparelli took centre stage. A force to be reckoned with, Schiaparelli challenged leading designer Coco Chanel by popularising designs which breached the principles which Chanel's design aesthetic preached. Fantasy and whimsical adornment where celebrated, Schiaparelli dared to face the strange and even went as far as to put it on a runway season after season. In the 21st century we are well accustomed to the bond between art and fashion, design relates more closely to inspiration than to the wearable desirability of the piece than ever, however Schiaparelli was one of the first designers to bridge this divide and in no subtle way too. By collaborating with Artist Salvador Dali and direct influence from modernist society, the resulting designs rocked the 1930's and even continue to turn heads today, with artists such as Lady Gaga often donning inspired jewellery from this period. The aim to design wearable pieces as a means to enlighten civilisation in the same way as art, captivated a society eager for ever advancing changes.



The 2nd world war which sparked in 1939 had a powerful influence on the style and availability's of fashion through the first half of the 1940s. The war effort meant there was an extensive ration on the materials available for jewellery production, with metal becoming a highly sought after material to form most adornment, specifically brooches which held a special place in the hearts of the women of the era. A DIY culture was established as women were forced to make do in order to stay decorated in the manner they were accustomed to, fabric brooches became more frequently wore and hand stitched embroidery decked these self-made trinkets. For those who had the availability swirled earrings where the fashion, something which made a lasting impression (Ask your nan what her favourite earrings are). Decorative pieces which appealed to the feminine ideal of the period were a craze, brooches and earrings depicted flower baskets, foods and cute animals. After several tough years of war effort, advancement in fashion came and never before styles flooded the streets. In 1947 large multi-coloured and glistening stones where used in every charm, Christian Dior became established as a designer that readily offered women what they had craved and that is extensive amounts of extravagant adornment and a hyper feminine style, celebrating the end of restricted fashions for women.



The celebrations from the end of war continued and civilisation for the most part encouraged the consumerism. The efforts of the men and women throughout the long, unchanging seven years felt the want to be rewarded, so beautiful new jewellery was the pat on the back they felt was deserved. While the American economy grew, the market for ornamentation from designers such as Christian Dior expanded, meanwhile in Britain more affordable replicas where produced making them much more accessible to the general public. This "New look" as it was coined, was not celebrated by all as materials were still in low supply. While the sensible continued to ration the fanciful continued to spend. Unfortunately for the protesters, this trend of excess continued to dominate the 1950s.



Previous eras had hinted at the abolishment of old fashioned regimes and expectancies when it came to jewellery, the end of snobbery, value on expense, and reservation with colour and shape. The swinging 60's cast these outdated traditions away to make room for a more expressive style. The sexual revolution was blooming and as the skirts got shorter the women of the 60's made up for the lack of clothing on their bodies with a surplus of plastic adornment. The use of extremely affordable materials meant layering four or five rows of necklaces became a popular trend amongst baby boomers. The 1920's style of hanging beads came back in trend with new hippy intent along with flower power style motifs and black and white pop art influenced design. London was leading this change and acting as a cultural melting pot for all forms of innovate creation, music, dance, clothing and adornment all showed how drastically things had changed since the restrictions of the 1950s.



The influence of a sexual and cultural revolution was still a sweeping force through the 1970s with a new influence being found in rock music. Musicians such as Jimi Hendrix were Idolised and imitated for their style, the bold use of jewellery inclined a generation of free thinking young adults to experiment with their statement pieces. The freedom of expression at the time encouraged differing styles, meaning that no two pieces of 70's decoration will look the same. Materials ranged from rope used for woven bracelets to sterling silver produced to form arm cuffs, Gold and silver coated metals where popular as where the beads which resurfaced through the 1960s. The freedom in jewellery trends at this time allowed the pieces to look uneven and manmade without criticism, flaws in the metal and outlandish shapes were welcomed and intertwined with the atmosphere of the time.



The 1980s saw a changing realm for women in Britain, history was made with the pronouncement of the first female UK Prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Historic in her controversial and widely unpopular views, surprisingly what this iron lady is particularly well remembered for is her fashions. Roles in professional positions opened up for women and with it brought new trends. A strong silhouette was essential amour for a women in the work place, with sexist attitudes still firmly in place women such as Thatcher used the freedom in women's dress to her advantage. With a fondness for haberdashery and a sewing box full of buttons and trinkets she was well aware of the power a small piece of adornment could have. To create a classic and conservative look she used lines of gobstopper style pearls, simple stone rings and a decorative brooch in no overly feminine style. She delighted in her ability to influence with her choice of decoration, once even writing fondly to her sister, "I felt absolutely smashing and when we walked in everybody looked up and stared". We can see Thatcher's influence reflected in the styling of today's politicians, she set the trend for a commanding look paired with a feminine undertone and reliable sameness.

People magazine in 1990


Continuing on from the growing fluidity of styles in the 1980 the freedom in clothing continued into the 90's. Women who had dreamed of an opportunity to defy their socialized genders roles where given chance with the uprising of grunge. The rising of grunge music in America, specifically with the growing popularity of Nirvana, made a sweeping impression across the pond and hit London like a ton of combat boots. The style of 1990 rejected the flashy, constructed image of 1980 by taking value in ethical fashions, second hand became trendy and removed the stigma. With the wave of grunge popularity came an abundant use of what is undoubtedly the most prolific piece to come out of the decade, the plastic choker. Beginning with a gothic twist - a different one for every breed, (Spiked dog collar if you think you're hard enough). Along with the fad of alternative trends also came the popularity of mood rings, ankle brackets and trinkets which nodded towards a spiritual following such as astrology themes and aliens.



The Noughties lead way for brash, in your face labels to measure social class. Branding was everything and with an advancing focus on celebrity culture the iconography for this trend was plastered everywhere. Pop had taken centre stage and replaced the rebellious musicians, outspoken models and brooding alternatives of previous decades. Name necklaces became the fashion for everyone and there dog, with the trend setter of this piece being the ever treasured fashionista, Carrie Bradshaw. Commercialism had become more popular than ever with brands developing an unapologetic manner in which to sell, plaster their names all over the piece and throw it on the celebrity of the time. Forget diamonds and pearls, Tiffanys and Playboy ruled this decade.