What not to buy in early '11

For fun and edification, I cruised the January sale racks at the better shops, not to buy, but to see what has been relegated there.

The waterfall or cascade cardigan is the single item conspicuous by its presence, in cashmere or cotton, on sale racks.  If you love yours, wear it but don't buy a new one for spring.

Also taking up rack real-estate were cropped biker or moto jackets, as the style suits only a tiny (pun intended) percentage of women.

Women prefer jackets that do not demand a tucked or cropped top, and have discovered that the high, tight armhole, so flattering in the dressing room when it's over your lingerie, looks sausagey when worn over even the thinnest sweater.


Danier's classic lamb trench, below, (now on sale on their web site, $299) offers infinitely more mileage, and thinsulate insulation keeps you warm. (Kisses to Danier for making it in XXS to XXXL!)

The recession has affected fabric quality, noticeably eroded in all price points, from the elegant heights of Holt Renfrew, where everything was marked down drastically in the Armani boutique but just didn't have that luxury plushness, to a favourite local designer's offerings, once refined, now limp.

In a recent New Yorker profile of Bottega Veneta's designer, Tomas Maier, suggested that a woman buy less in order to afford one luxe piece like BV's ombre cashmere and silk scarf, $470 at net-a-porter

For some of us that's still serious dosh, but I endorse his point.

In 2011, my wish list includes:
- straight-leg cotton pants; finer than khakis or jeans, but washable
- doubleknit wool 3/4 coat in an opulent spring colour, with real pearl buttons (even if I have to sew them on myself)
- knit linen twin set with details, not too conventional; I could use this for work and also 'real life'. (No longer want separate wardrobes.)

Where might we find pleasing pieces to fit real women, on a realistic budget? 

Eileen Fisher cropped trench
Talbot's teases with their retro-tinged Spring Lookbook, but in store some styles turn up less sharply-tailored. Maybe the newly body-conscious Eileen Fisher?  See the back detail on this cropped cotton trench, $338.

What's on your list? Where will you look?

At sixteen: Boys, launching into life

As part of the never-ending sorting and packing, I came across a box of my diaries from high school.

I paused to dip into my sixteen year-old self, formed (I thought then) yet so naive. My interests were absolute clichés: school, boys, friendships.

Occasional world and family events were noted, but the parents who loved and reared me took a backseat to young men whose names I'd long forgotten.

The summer I was sixteen, though, I dated a boy whose gifts brought renown. Of course, no one knew at the time. His family had a summer place in the area; he was the golf buddy of a friend at my school. We met, went out, had fun, then summer ended and he returned to Kansas City. We wrote each other a few times (I was impressed that he had personalized stationery), then soon pursued different lives.

I missed him, though. When his friend said, "Tell your boyfriend to give me back my club", I wrote his command in a September entry, but can't remember if I ever passed the message along.

By Christmas I was crazy about a pale, anguished guy who dumped me for my girlfriend Julie on, I see, April 7. The next true love appeared in several months, confirming my mother's assurance that "Men are like streetcars, one along every five minutes."

What intensity (did I ever merely like somebody?), yet what innocence. Kisses were all I was willing to document; I well remember there was not much more. Some of the entries had me laughing and scolding my teenaged self: "Wake up, dummy, he's not interested", or "Twenty-two is way too old, run!"

The boy who took the club was named Tom, as was the friend who wanted it back. Both Toms grew up to become golf pros, not a surprise; my mother remembered how the thump of his bag hauled up the steps announced the slight, polite, strawberry blond boy, even before he rang the doorbell.

Last summer, I happened to see Tom Watson kiss the bridge at St. Andrews in fond farewell to the course where he played his last British Open. I thought, "Oh! There's Tom!" and the years fell away, his ebullience and easy grin unchanged.

Still smiling
Emmet County Fair Ferris Wheel

In my diary, I read that I too had been kissed–"practically in public!"– on the Ferris Wheel at the Emmet County Fair, by the young man he'd been on a starry August evening in northern Michigan, 1964. 

Funny, isn't it, that if he had not become one of the true sports greats, I might be just now be reminded, forty-seven years later, of his name, too, along with Dave and Robbie, Dick and Don.

Each of us had taken our seat on the big wheel of life, lifting to the stars. The future spread before us, glowing like the midway, expansive and exciting. A few years later, some boys would serve in Vietnam; several did not return.

I'd see others at reunions or hear of their milestones from my parents. "None of your friends are in jail at the moment", Dad loved to tease.

I wish each of us, as we edge into our sixties, several more glorious turns before the wheel begins its last return toward earth.

Cashmere: EB's best buys

I promised to show what better be one of the very few items I buy this year, with a big move to a small space coming.

Eric Bompard's sale offers 25-30% off on most things; the 100% cashmere mariniere was a more enticing -40%, now €141. I chose black/white.  (Note: links go to site, not item.)
Fine stripes

Fine, single-colour stripes work on me if the piece is not oversized. This has the quiet quality confirmed by the twelve-item Wardrobe Challenge and the versatility I'll need when I have a clothes closet formerly called "broom".

Hand it to her
If you're looking for a gift to please most any woman, pick up these warm, light, washable 100% cashmere gloves now, on sale for €33, and pack away for a birthday or other occasion. The commenter who said she'd like to wear cocktail rings but they don't fit under gloves? Here's a solution that comes in scores of delectable colours.

Great jacket for travel
The 70% cashmere/30% silk army jacket is a chic choice for smaller-busted women, and is 35% off, €136. Versatile, softer than a jacket, and equally polished with jeans or a skirt. Limited sizes.

The 16-ply ribbed cashmere ribbed jacket with leather buckles is substantial, with price to match. If if one hankers for a cashmere coccoon for apres ski, travel or staying warm in serious drafts, this is it, and it's one of the relatively few -40% items. Sale price, €322.

If that's too much length for you, the 100% cashmere bolero provides 8-ply delight and the charm of semi-circular ribs. Another of the -40% pieces, €228.

I'm still wearing my Bompard cashmeres a dozen or more years later, so you will get the value out of your purchase.

One of their standout items is the reversible (actually double-sided) cashmere scarf, on sale now at -25%, €65, in striking combinations such as new camel/flame orange, shown. Plenty of time to enjoy if you're in frigid temps now!

Sale continues to Feb. 15, colours and sizes grow more limited as the days pass. Delivery can take up to three weeks for sale items.

Recommended: Pranzo di Ferragosto (Mid-August Lunch)

How can I entice you to see this film, available on DVD (from Amazon, $22)?

A calmly cowed, bit of a drinker middle-aged son (played by the writer and director, Gianni di Giorgio) lives with his 93 year-old faded-aristocratic mother (Valeria di Franciscis). The money is gone, but her virtuoso ability to manipulate endures.

He is inveighed upon to lodge several other very senior signoras over the long August holiday weekend, and the games begin.

Like a Campari and soda, you will taste the bitter with the sweet. The unsentimental yet tender film is set in the Trastevere neighbourhood of Rome, mostly within the director's own apartment.

"I live in my memories", one woman says, "Old age offers so little." Yet each finds her way around the strictures of 'caregiving' and control. The sense of rebellion is more luscious than cannoli; each woman, in her way, sticks it to The Man, or should I say, I Bambini.

"Don't bother me", the ringleader says when caught AWOL, "I'm smoking, I'm drinking, I feel good here."

There is no dramatic denouement. It's just life on a hot August weekend when everyone who can travel on his or her own steam is out of town. If you recognize the immutable desire to wrest joy from the moment even if it nearly kills you (at least according to your hovering doctor son), you will eat up the kindly but pointed subversion.

Consider it a training film for becoming a feisty, authentic elder–or the child who loves her.

Moving house and heart

We are moving in June, to a new city, Montreal, and new kind of housing, a condo about half the size of the house we've had for 25 years.

In less than a week I've experienced the euphoric thrill phase, the buyer's remorse phase (oh no, the table will not fit!) and, after five days, what I hope is the final state: reckoning with reality, which means timetables, checklists and enlistment of all the people who will help us.

Pie Guy, missed every day
Just two days before the purchase, our sweet, reserved 15 year-old tabby had two days of sudden, irremediable decline, and we put him down after tender goodbyes and a last snack of his adored roast chicken.

Many of you know how it is: animals are full family members. We are bereft but grateful for his years of love.

The house, the cat: deep attachments divest; new experiences wink from around the corner. Heady excitement one moment, shaky the next.

Was the heart of the house
Leaving friends shreds my heart, as does leaving our kitchen (especially our AGA!), garden and the features of the house that were gifts from my parents. I feel as if I'm leaving part of them behind.

But Le Duc and I wanted to make a change, and, empty-nested and able-bodied, it's time. There are bolder moves for couples to risk, though this 500km hop to the northeast with a noticeably different culture, will stretch me plenty. 

Moving here in spring
We'll live in a vast, graceful (deconsecrated) church converted to condos, close to commenter lagatta's home; she has already provided me with neighbourhood tips.

My brain refuses to acknowledge letting go of the treasured and familiar, but it will get there. Might take extra chocolate. 

And yes, cats are allowed.

When the spark sputters

Sexless marriage: sounds like an oymoron, isn't. The estimate: 15-20% of couples. Highest in the 45-50 crowd. Defined as sex ten times per year or less.

I met Dee, whose husband lost interest six years ago, when a group of women gathered for drinks after a day of business process improvement (BPI) presentations. The subject came up when someone joked, "I would rather go without sex for the rest of my life than sit through another day like this."

Dee said, "No, you wouldn't."

She deeply missed intimacy with her husband, and was considering various options. She thought it unlikely that he'd recover his mojo. She said he was healthy, but sex was "like a job he'd quit and never looked back at."

One of us asked if there was any affection; Dee said, "I can get a quick kiss sometimes" and admitted she no longer touched him, to avoid the inevitable sense of rejection.

I wondered about the root cause. (Eight hours of BPI does that.) Maybe he's depressed; maybe they both are. Perhaps there are issues that Dee did not discuss. I looked at her baggy shirt, baggier khakis, clogs and no-style hair, and wondered, Chicken or egg?

Dee's current strategy was distraction: she taught computer skills to elders, rowed with a club and was writing a mystery novel. She asked if anyone had other ideas.

She received the suggestion that she take a lover (substitution) with an I've-thought-of-that sigh. Anyone else must be a secret from her husband, difficult in her small town. Someone mentioned the 'open marriage' route, but Dee was certain that he would not tolerate it.

She could try sublimation, diverting her sensuality to other activities: tango dancing (pretty much the same thing if you ask me) chocolate-tasting parties or massages. (A friend who is a registered massage therapist told me, "I can tell within one minute whether a person is here for treatment or just needs to be touched.")

She could forget about sex–rather like I've forgotten about distance running–by invoking a similar mantra: I did it, it was great, it's over.

For some couples, acceptance is the chosen road, one that gets far less respect than it deserves. Due to health issues or aging, many of us will eventually deal with unequal desire between partners.

Acceptance frees couples to tend and treasure the elements that remain: companionship, shared purpose and mutual support.

But given her longing (and their apparent good health), I hope they search for a more mutually satisfying modus vivendi. As we parted, we hugged; her loneliness flowed over me.

I don't know what happened to Dee, but I often think of the last thing she said: "I miss touch, but even more, I miss the connection. It's called 'making love' for a reason."

Dated or dowdy? Skirting the issue

My blogfriend Mardel of restingmotion recently asked of a coat she's owned for awhile: is it dowdy? Commenters replied that it fit her beautifully, and advised her to wear what she likes. One said, "If I feel confident and good about it, then it works."

Oh, could I relate to her doubt!

I recently discarded a number of lower calf-length skirts after an Uh-Oh Moment: What once looked current had morphed into dated and dowdy, from one season to the next. I thought I looked like a woman who feeds pigeons out of her handbag, and no amount of self-talk changed that.

Twinset by Brora
Dowdy connotes limp, ill-fitting, often sexless and certainly uninspiring pieces. The older meaning of the word is "shabby". Who was the unfortunate Ms. Dowd, anyway?

Dowdiness is in the eye of the beholder. Cashmere twinsets: dowdy to some, chic to others. For me, dowdy summons piecrust-collar blouses and white leather heels.

Dated is a related issue. The style arc moves inexorably from an edgy start, traverses widely-worn and ends at fizzled: the party's over and your outfit is the crumpled napkin clinging to an empty glass.

And sister, is there anything worse than double D's: dated and dowdy?

Clues to dated clothes:
So out they're in?
1. The item is conspicuously absent in better stores. You'll always find a blanket-wrap skirt somewhere, but not at Bergdorf's. My long skirts are offered as summer vacation wear, but the winter version is rare as a nun in stilettos. Three to six inches shorter–depending on one's height– is the 'new long'.

The odd piece might appear in ironic reissue, like these Vanessa Bruno Athé pegged pants, deeply on sale on Net-a-porter. If you can find it only with difficulty, via prowling consignment or eBay, time to move on. 
Cutie in mink stole

2. The item is worn by a generation younger, to the opposite effect.  

Knee socks, charming under a jeune fille's short skirt, look dated on a 55 year old. Mink stoles: snapped up in friperies by 20-somethings, not stylish on their grans. 

Maybe clothes should come with expiry dates, like your passport. Whether it's appliqued denim, dirndls, severe power suits or any number of jean effects, there comes a time–as it had with my skirts.

Brooks Brothers classic
 3. You feel defensive about your "timeless", "classic" wardrobe.

"Timeless" is a myth. One could try, living in Brooks Brothers, never much different as the decades roll by. But even classics need refreshing; cuts are updated, details tweaked. (Shown, Brooks Brothers blazer, $348.) 

Amanda Wakeley's silk crepe shirt dress has classic references but is totally of the moment, ideal for a spring wedding; price $695 from Net-a-porter.
Amanda Wakeley rose silk dress

When I admire women in their 70s and 80s, I'm impressed by how good they look in a current coat.

Not the wool with the little mink collar of twenty-five years ago, not the nylon with tapestry inserts from the '90s. If they choose a modern piece, like the MaxMara example below, they look energetic and appealing.

From MaxMara's 2010 collection

So that I don't care if it's not in style, I'll wear it anyway attitude? I respect that stance and raise you one: Those of us 50+ look even better in clothes that are current within a half-decade or less, excepting fine vintage pieces, ever-trickier to pull off.

Ever had that Uh-Oh Moment? What's past its best-by date for you?

Care for a cocktail?

Ring, that is?

I find as women grow into their full characters (and sometimes fuller bodies), they can carry larger rings. You don't need to be statuesque, merely, as Oprah–no stranger to the jewelry department–once said, "able to inhabit your space in the world".

Carved lapis and enamel
Nor do you have to enjoy cocktails, or wear the ring solely for that purpose. (The alternative terms "big ring" or "dinner ring" attempt to dispel the notion.) The cocktail ring is uncompromisingly present, but asserts that presence discreetly or with full symphonic accompaniment.

(Shown, Isharya "Jaisel" carved lapis ring with mirrored centre and enameled sides; price, $210 from net-a-porter.) 

Many women avoid big rings thinking size is proportional to cost. I've selected choices below the stratospheric pricetags of haute joillerie–even some faux–because you don't want your cocktail ring to drive you to drink!

You don't need to wear a cocktail dress with your ring; each would look chic with your favourite black turtleneck and jeans.  

Though all jewelry pleases if it's well chosen, a big ring delights you as well as your admirers. (With earrings, I can go for a day not even remembering what I have on.)
Glowing fire opal

A big juicy Mexican fire opal in an 18k branch setting, by Annette Ferdinandsen. The opal flashes orange, pink and rust, and is 1 1/8 inches long. Fire opals are magnificent gems, and you get a lot of stone for your jewelry dollar. This one is $1,590 from Twist. 

Organic malachite
Malachite is another fabulous material for a cocktail ring; it has drama and intense colour; I admire the undulating curve of Kara Ross's malachite and 14k-plated piece. On sale for $210 at Netaporter.

Vintage sapphire and pearl

Now here is a cocktail ring that says martini, with its mid-century vibe and sophisticated sapphire and pearl dome design. With 1.80 cts of sparkling sapphires and a 7mm pearl, a lot of ring-a-ding-ding, baby girl. Price, $695 from BeladoraII.

Faux coral and diamond

The story goes that Lauren Bacall grabbed Liz Taylor's hand to admire her huge ring. "Richard Burton?" Bacall asked. "Ken Lane!" replied Taylor, and they both collapsed in laughter. You can wave your hand around in Kenneth Lane's faux coral and diamond ring, on sale at Netaporter for $50.
The precious version

For your jewelry edification, here's the real deal, a ca. 1960 coral and diamond stunner by Van Cleef & Arpels; price, $16,000 from 1st Dibs seller erstwhile jewelry company.

Casual cocktails: Set in silver

Because cocktail rings set in silver are more casual, might we call them beer rings? They will take you from day into informal evening wear.

Pearl and Balinese silver
I'd wear this silver Cloud Princess pearl cocktail ring from Balinese designer Kadek Wijanegara, just $48 (plus shipping) from Novica. Very John Hardy at a much lower price.

Sparkles and enamel

Etsy seller figistanbul's Tamildu ring is a fantasy creation of enamel, jade and cz set in gold-washed bronze set on an ornate silver shank, drama galore for $99.

A big faceted aquamarine (13mm x 14.5mm) set in an 18k bezel on a silver band is a best-of-both worlds ring, simple yet substantial.

A good choice for the woman who, like many of my friends, favours simplicity but now wants pieces with more strength, less sweetness. Price, $205 from Etsy seller JanishJewels.

Go ahead, try some on!

A big ring puts pink in your cheeks, a sparkle in your eye. Whether you wear yours for cocktails or chicken wings, here's looking at you, kid!

Clothing costs: 2010 report card

Sale alert: Eric Bompard's cashmere and silk/cashmere pieces go on sale January 12. Brora's sale begins the same day.

As longtime readers might recall, last January I vowed to spend more wisely on clothes. I analyzed each purchase for perceived value: worn often and enjoyed? Or was it the ever-hopeful understudy, never called to perform?

In '09, a ghastly 50% of my spending was unproductive, because of duplicates and pedestrian sale stuff. I graded myself D, and resolved to do better in 2010.

And I did. Over 2010, only 15% was judged unproductive. (Total spent was the same.) So much better, mostly thanks to using a shopping list and not getting my head turned by sales. Grade: B.

For 2011, I'm aiming for an A, reducing unproductive spending to 3% or less.

Here's how:

1. Replace or add, never duplicate.
Obvious, but I still get pulled toward more of what I like; beautiful scarves and shawls were the 15%. Not mistakes, but not worn much.

2.  If I can't see myself wearing it within a week, I won't buy it. When you find something great, you can't wait to rock it, right? 

If not, you're getting a powerful signal from the shopping goddess to let it go. (OK, weather exemption if the perfect summer dress surprises you in March, but you get the idea.) (Shown, from Comrags spring 2011 Look Book, Poppy dress in vintage crepe.)

3. Hide the money!
Each month, I'll move any surplus from my chequing account into savings. Otherwise, it smolders seductively and I get into a "treat myself" mindset.  
Talbot's v-cardi
4. Keep the closet spare.
The "Express Wardrobe Challenge" reinforced my respect for restraint and the almighty power of accessories.  

Besides essential neutrals, I seek cross-season colour, like this blue that lifts darks in December, greets spring in April. (Shown, Talbot's lambswool cropped-v cardi in Bayou Blue; price, $69.50.)

5. Spend consciously.

Bloggers wonder whether the recession is over and ask if they "should start spending again". I prefer more fundamental question: What does this specific act of spending do for me?  Is my urge to buy really about power, mood or self-soothing? Giving or saving can offer more.

To develop the 2011 shopping list, I'll ask the 50+ Question: Is what I have out of date?

More about that matter on Thursday.

As we age–especially those of us no longer in the workplace–we tend to wear things gently, and they last and last and last and then one day we look like certain elders, properly and carefully dressed, but in a time-warp.

Lauren Hutton, back at J. Crew and just turned 68, reminds me that classic is current if the tailoring's top-notch, the proportions perfect and the accessories fresh. 

Safe or smokin': Put some lead in your pencil (skirt)

For 2011, I resolve to buy three pieces that add snap or sizzle, to choose the spirit-elevating instead of the stalwart. Only three, not counting staples.

My first item: I'm looking for a skirt, and dadgummit, will not permit myself the stultifying sameness of another black pencil. (I had five, all black.)
Talbot's wool pencil

Safe: A nice, well-cut pencil: most of us own one, or its gored or A-line cousins. Here's Talbot's seasonless wool blend version, charming enough thanks to two little pleats at the hem. Price, $99.

if you, like me are resolved to break the safe skirt habit, I've found some break-the-mold examples at various price points. (If pencil's not your shape, the same ideas apply for A-line or gored styles.)

Smokin' pencils 

Try lace by day, worn with a simple cashmere or fine cotton knit tee. You are grown up enough to carry it with distinction. 

Talbot's version is on sale this week on the web site for $90, in misses, petites and womens' sizes. I might change the lining from bronze to charcoal, so it's more day-wearable, not a complicated alteration. Or I'd leave the bronze and wear it with a black tights.

Talbot's lace pencil
Lafayette 148's sexy lace skirt, shown with a silk charmeuse blouse, is also offered in misses and women's sizes. Dressier than Talbot's but also wearable beyond evening; price, $328. 
Lafayette 148 lace

Live a little! Swap your hardworking neutral for a cheeky colour, like this Malene Birger Marly satin pencil skirt, $265 from net-a-porter. If red's not your fave, have one made in steel blue, leaf green, dreamy wisteria.
Red satin pencil skirt

Rock it in leather. This one is from Danier, on sale (sizes 2-14) on their web site for $129. Superb for kicking it up a notch, and the supple lambskin is a three-season weight. Would look fab with booties; shoe on model is not what I'd suggest.

Lambskin from Danier
Print with that pencil!

Jean Paul Gaultier's ruched rose print is eminently wearable but hardly dull. The indistinct print does not add bulk and keeps the eye moving, rather like those strategic swimsuits. The open braid detail means I'd wear it with tights, or add a barely opaque lining to that section.

Priced well for JPG: $430 from Bergdorf Goodman. Worth a click to see this one in zoom view.

Talbot's crysanthemum print also needs a hipper shoe, caramel boot now, pink pump for spring. Price, $89 from Talbot's. (Their skirts shown are too short for me, but right for you average-to-petite lovelies.)

Crysanthemum brocade from Talbot's

I don't know where I'll find the skirt (or the other idiosyncratic items), but am looking forward buying with more focus–and to enjoying what I have.

May 2011 be a healthy, happy, peaceful year for you... and may our closets be free of just-okay clothes!

Holiday debrief: Now, that was fun!

This past holiday season, did you notice the barrage of articles about coping with stress and fatigue? Even my usually sunny yoga teacher started prefacing classes with advice about avoiding "Christmas illness".

On Dec. 24, The Globe and Mail headlines read, "Last-Minute Holiday Survival Guide" and "Unassailable Advice for All Your Holiday Crises".

The holidays were so often presented as an ordeal. Where's the joy?

Here are stories from two friends who asked that question; each changed the game so that her holiday brought peace and good times.

Mar M. struggled with a family tradition (usually code for "the women do even more work"). The M.'s Christmas Eve smorgasbord–a dozen complicated Scandinavian dishes, once her mother's masterpiece–had fallen on her shoulders for the past four years because of her sister's travel schedule.

Mar spent two to three days cooking, after the shopping.

Her young-adult nieces and nephews protested when she suggested simpler fare this fall. "I'm exhausted just thinking about it", she told me over coffee in mid-December. I suggested, Ask them to come over and cook with you, learn to make the recipes.

She tried it. One nephew said, "But Mar, it's work." The niece was booked both days: spa visit, meeting friends–but could come a half-hour early to set the table, "probably".

All right, Mar replied pleasantly. She made two of Mum's star recipes and filled the rest of the buffet with carriage-trade takeout. She reported, "We had so much fun, I wasn't a wreck, and there were still tons of leftovers for Christmas lunch!"

My poker buddy Jane discontinued individual Christmas gifts for her large family and instead told everyone she'd bring a turkey and a Berkshire ham to their dinner.

Everyone was delighted except her eight year old nephew, who said "What? Aunt Janie gave me meat?"

The last story is mine, as an example that sometimes life changes the game for you. We had no tree! We waited till son Etienne was home; when "the men" went out on Dec. 22, trees were sold out everywhere in our part of town.

So we hung origami ornaments on a four-foot Sharry Baby orchid. Christmas orchid: could be a new tradition.

Without obligation, of course.

Heavenly pearl earrings

 Happy New Pearl Year!

Kojima Company are offering an 11% discount on all pearls, through January 11. Use the discount code ilovepearls, and believe me, you will love yours!

Years ago, I noticed that pearl earrings were the ones I wore most. They lit the face, glowed in any light, and were a way to enjoy the gem for less expense than a necklace.

But let's be choosy; too many earrings depend on the label "genuine pearl", but they're pedestrian. Some stellar examples below, chosen for daily wear– and to make every day a delight.

Witty pearl cherries
Annette Ferdinandsen's pearl "cherries" on 18k stems are playful everyday earrings. Abut 3/4 in. long; price, $330 from Twist.

Beladora II offer a sprightly version, pearls on 14k twigs, a mid-century piece, for $395. These have clip backs.
Beladora II pearls on twigs

Often, I just want the pearl, for a pearl so presented displays essence. Even pearl studs from very high end jewelers can disappoint, with no discernable life.

Stonking pink studs
Gumps make impeccable studs, and I'd choose a luscious baroque or off-round over a perfect sphere. Yes, you pay a premium for the name, but the quality is there, too.

At left, 15mm pink buttons glow on your ear like opalescent spotlights. Price, $450.

White pearl snowdrift

If you prefer white, they also offer e-normous (13.5 x18mm) baroque freshwater pearl earrings in pierced or clip versions, $1,259 (on sale). Romantic as a snowdrift lit by the moon.

If you prefer drops, swoon over the exceptional luster and overtones on this pair of 10mm Sea of Cortez pearls on 22k gold earwires, from eBay seller Ehret Design Gallery (Carolyn Ehret). The rainbow overglow will shift and change with what you wear. Price, $479 on BIN.

Sea of Cortez rainbow dangles

When shopping in antique and vintage shops, inspect the pearls to make sure the surface (or "skin") is uncracked.

Edwardian pearl and diamond earrings
Pearls can last for generations when not abraded or damaged by poor care. This pair of Edwardian pearl and rose-cut diamond dangles is beautifully set and, though made around 1910, the pearls look luminous. Set in rose gold. Price, $525 from Isadora's.

Graceful pearl and shell drops
A modern pair by Sandra Dini in an unusual combination, pearl and shell:12k gold double drop earrings set with palest grey pearl and soft pink natural shell. 1 1/4 inch drop. Wire back. Price, $650 from Barneys.

A pair of keishi earrings from Kojima Company reminds me of clouds over the sea; the play of blue, silver and mauve is accented by a small green diamond. Just over 2 inches long; set with 18k wires. Price, $280.

Keishi with green diamond
Beladora II's pearl hoops wash out a bit in the photo but I'm certain they're lovely. 14k medium-sized hoops with 4mm pearls; price, $495.

Beladora II 14k pearl hoops

Whatever your style, look for the glow and shimmery overtones that evoke memories of the sea, the pearl's first home.

Its second home is on your ears.