Safe to Smokin' with frankly fake retro

Retro rhinestone, resin and crystal jewelry has flounced onto the fall scene. These are probably not pieces you will wear for decades, but like a summer boyfriend, they can be terrific fun while they last.
Too much retro frou-frou jewelry plus a short skirt plus cats' eye makeup is probably overkill for those of us who remember this style from the '60s, but a touch of it really kicks up neutrals. Our fabulous Déjà Pseu shows how to wear a necklace in full possession of one's serene grown-up-ness:

Qu'elle est belle!

Now, just put the tip of your pinky over the necklace, being careful not to be fresh with the poitrine, there. See the difference? Her ensemble would be pleasing and current– but safe. She's added so much punch with her standout jewelry.

Even if you think you'd "would never wear this kind of thing", try one with your beloved basics. It's just the twist that moves Safe to Smokin'. 

Choose a corsage-wearing, full-crinoline piece of costume (or as it's often called "fashion") jewelry, deliberately busier and more opulent than if it were real, and pair with a denim or oxford shirt, jean jacket, solid-colour sweater or LBD; it's the contrast you're after.

Source: BaubleBar

Source: J. Crew

Photo: Lulu Frost

Even, chez J. Crew, a marinière:

Source: J. Crew Lookbook

I'd scout sales and flea markets, though pieces that once went for a few dollars are now anointed with trendiness.  

Look closely at construction, because if these necklaces break, they are tricky to impossible to repair. The lower-end examples have more glued-in than prong-set stones, but if the design is pleasing, two figures versus three is just fine!

Becker Minty vintage rhinestone flowers on adjustable chain, about $165:

J. Crew mixed crystal and resin, $150:

 BCBGMaxAzria drape leaf-stone necklace, $138:

From Aldo, the "Christie", $35! Heck, why not?

Amethyst Archipelego bib from BaubleBar, $36:

Badly-designed costume is a tatty mess; great costume, a joy in its own right but harder to find. 

When shopping, research the genuine-gem and precious metal versions first to build your eye. Proportion, balance, colourway and even an intangible zest can be, if not copied, at least echoed. The real deal, a lemon quartz and blue topaz necklace below, by Deborah Liebman is $5,400 at 1st Dibs.

Will I buy one of the costume charmers? Maybe. They're terrific for travel, to completely change the look of the sweater worn yesterday with a scarf, or to take a day outfit into evening.

Also, there's the Smile Factor: a cheeky, chunky necklace would give me a lift when it's shivery, and by February we need all the help we can get.


Susan said…
Great post. I especially like the chambray/denim shirt with the faux jewels. I'm going to remember to do that.

I have a couple of lovely pieces that lay in my jewelry drawer waiting to be worn. One is fanciful pewter and pearls and I think it is delightful, but I never wear it. Now, I am more motivated.
I don't wear these necklaces as often as I used to, but I still love to pop an outfit now and then with a fun one. You are right, you have to be picky about the quality and how they look.
Susan B said…
Thanks, Duchesse! I'm loving the mix of denim and sparkle too...either that necklace with a chambray shirt or a sparkly brooch (or three) on a denim jacket. I think the one standout piece is a great way for us to wear costume jewelry. J.Crew has some fun options. Quality can be inconsistent, but I've worn that necklace quite a bit with no issues.
materfamilias said…
I have a fashion retail expedition in my very near future (mother-daughter, maybe a sister or two) --- I think I'll keep an eye out for something fun and affordable. Thanks!
Beth said…
I have just discovered your blog and spent the last happy hour reading through some of your posts. I recently bought a sparkly necklace - it's a bit more understated than some of the pieces you show here - and though I haven't had an opportunity to wear it yet, I'm very much looking forward to doing so. I'm also planning to wear it with denim/chambray; I do like that look. I unearthed a few pieces from my jewelry drawer like Susan did, and I'm also looking forward to wearing them as well. Such fun!
Tamera Beardsley makes these out of vintage brooches and they are gorgeous! I think it would be a fun project to collect and assemble one of these.
If you do buy one please show us how you wear it.
This look feels young and energetic and pure fun.
Anonymous said…
Hmm, yes I do see it, now that I have felt up Pseu's décolleté! I dress very safely a lot of the time and really see the difference that something like this could make.
Anonymous said…
Another consideration of this type of jewelry is that it is pretty well worry free . You can have fun without thinking about burglers , muggers , loss or damage . So more peace of mind - back to that simpler life again
LPC said…
Great look, not mine at all, but wonderful on Deja.
Cornelia said…
I have never liked that style at all for myself. Maybe I do not like to call that much attention to myself. Believe me I tried, but I always look decorated.
Unknown said…
There's nothing like a bit of sparkle to liven up an outfit. When I have a little sparkle, people notice and seem to like it.
Duchesse said…
Susan; Oooh I would like to see the pewter and pearl piece!

Pam: It's a mood, playful and eye-catching.

Une femme: J. Crew often research old pieces by the greats like Ciner, They do that look well. Thank you for being a model!

mater: Eager to see your picks- for either your or les filles.

Beth: These shots show us how to take pieces like that into casual territory, where most of us live these days. Welcome to the Passage.

hostess: Perhaps you could just pin one on a velvet ribbon and tie it around your neck like a choker?

Tabitha: Once is enough. I.said.once.

Wendy: I laughed b/c I had a friend who was mugged for her costume necklace- in Central Park. It had big "gold" links so I guess it looked real.

LPC: Isn't it great on her? Just shows how some women can work it and others look on and admire. I have one, I'm going to bend it by trying it with a black longsleeved tee and jeans.

Cornelia: I know what you mean. I am much more low key usually. But I met with a banker the other day who was wearing this look and I thought, wow- broad daylight and she looks incredible. A lot is in the confidence.

Susan: Yes, it's a conversation starter. I saw an interview once w/ Madeline Albright and she said that's why she started wearing big brooches- people talked to her.
Anonymous said…
I love this look, but I need to work a bit harder on adopting it myself. I've bought a neclace similar to Pseu's , but haven't worn it yet; partly, that's because until last weekend it was still 95 degrees every day here. That necklace doesn't work as well with dead-of-summer clothes.

I am the proud owner of a number of sparkly, vintage costume brooches inherited from my Mom & Granny. I love them, but seldom wear them, & need to figure out how they work with my predominately casual wardrobe. Funny thing, I would probably be MORE heartbroken if those were stolen, rather than most of my "real" jewelry.

---Jill Ann
Duchesse said…
Jill-Ann: I posted a two-part series on wearing brooches here:;postID=8611955558031190668;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=3;src=link

What an alluring and touching inheritance!
Philippa said…
I love these necklaces. I have one: three strands of lilac-blue cut glass, mostly rectangles (emerald cut!) at least an inch long, with the odd square or oval apparently at random. I tend to wear quite boring, classic clothes, and it brightens them up beautifully, while staying demure enough with its one colour to pass quietly. I bought it on the spur of the moment - late to meet my sister at the theatre, I stopped and hesitated as it winked and sparkled at me from a shop window. The store was open late, full of people drinking champagne and eating macaroons; they were having a pop-up sale! Irresistable. I put it on right away, adding it to my outfit of jeans, pumps, white T-shirt, grey cardigan and black trench. I felt instantly glamorous and my sister didn't even comment, which I know means she must think I'd had it for ages. Perfect

It's from Les Néréides, who call themselves "Designers of luxury costume jewellery." Most of their stuff is too gaudy for me, but when they get it right, they do it well. I have had many admiring compliments on the necklace since, and its sparkliness is continually cheering.
Duchesse said…
Phillippa: Thank you for this little gem of a comment, a snapshot of discovery and delight; illustrates perfectly how finding such a piece changes and charms what one is wearing.

How could anyone resist a shop, glowing in the evening with champagne and macarons and such an enchanting necklace?
This reminds me that I have to try to make it to the Sainte-Madeleine d'Outremont church bazar later this month. Missed the spring one: working.

I had some vintage "junk" jewellery like that in the 1980s, a bit punkish, a bit Madonna... I eventually gave it away as I didn't wear it anymore, and it was swept up by younger lasses as Le Chaînon (a charity shop here that helps women in crisis).

It doesn't seem to suit me now, except perhaps a brooch on a coat, though my favourite is a silver rose. I do have to find some silver chain to restore a cute but not very valuable Native silver and turquoise necklace (it is made by Indigenous people, but semi-mass-produced). It would produce an effect similar to Pseu's great costume piece, but the chain has to be longer than it is now.
rb said…
I used to collect rhinestone jewelry at thrift shops in the late 70s early 80s. Wish I had kept it! My sister has kept up with the habit and sent me some rhinestone clip-on earrings for my last birthday. But they hurt my ears. I wonder if it's worth it to get them converted?
Duchesse said…
lagatta: '
Few women past 50 can pull off an '80s version of Madonna's accessories unless she is Cyndi Lauper, maybe. The effect usually reads as "I have dated accessories".

rb: I think of rhinestone jewelry like I do red lipstick: a woman is the type or not. Both of those things I •love• when worn well by others and don't do it myself. I am more drawn to the coloured glass and "stone" pieces.

Anonymous said…
This post must have sent many of us to our jewelry boxes in search of sparkles! Like other readers, I have some of my mother's great 1950s costume brooches and clip earrings, but no chunky J.Crew-style necklaces. Playing around with what I had, I tried on a boyish striped blue button-down shirt, clipped a pair of vintage sunburst earrings (beautiful sapphire, emerald, and aquamarine colored stones) through the collar buttonholes, pinned a large oval blue rhinestone brooch over the top shirt button, and voila--a jewel-encrusted necklace look, not half bad. The three pieces all had blackened silver settings, so they worked together, and with a black v-neck cashmere and some (almost) skinny dark jeans, it made an outfit with more panache than I usually muster. Thanks for the inspiration!


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