Using Fashion to Find, Design, and Express Your Character and Style
Costume design is a fun but demanding profession. The job of the costume designer is to make sure that the attire of each actor portrays the story of the actor’s character through a visual medium. Color, texture, and style are all important factors of each garment. The costumes not only become a prop, they help the actor embody the character. Costuming synthesizes together the words, the message and the stage.
In the field of performing arts and costume design, most costume designers have a degree in fashion design and have studied art history at length. The great masterpieces displaying costumes and jewelry from the past five hundred centuries are wonderful resources and references used to recreate the mode on stage or set. However, jewelry from the 20th century that is neither fine nor estate jewelry seems to slip through the cracks and often get misrepresented in motion pictures, plays and T.V.
Working with vintage costume dealers, or jewelry historians are an excellent resource to ameliorate that challenge. However slight, the mismatch between the era and the costuming of the jewelry can subtly confuse the audience.
The book titled, The Napier Co. by author Melinda L. Lewis with Henry Swen, has proven to be a valuable resource for jewelry designers, jewelry history students, and costume designers. It provides a decade-by-decade evolution of jewelry styles from one company through both the 19th and 20th century. It gives an encapsulation of the jewelry industry through each decade that is relative to all costume jewelry and not just Napier.
Costume or fashion jewelry through the decades has obviously evolved, and some pieces speak volumes toward the social, political and economic implications of the time. Victory jewelry was commonplace during wartime as was wood, sterling, or even jewelry made from macaroni. Styles of the ‘30s reflected the big Hollywood ideals despite the hardships of the great depression. Jewelry from the 1960s wasn’t all Op-art jewelry, but it did have subtle differences from jewelry of the 1950s. Knowing what was produced when can help tell the story of the playwright more effectively.
A dealer or jewelry historian such as Lewis can help a costume designer ensure that his or her selection of jewelry is period appropriate. Jewelry also differed in style, construction or materials, depending on the price points. A socialite may have had access to a different type of costume jewelry manufactured during the same period. Some pieces, which were mass produced wouldn’t be suitable for certain characters. But to have a character wear a piece that is clearly 1940s or 1950s in a 1930s scene can be unsettling and misleading in a historical context.
Melinda L. Lewis is a jewelry historian, the author of The Napier Co.: Defining 20th Century American Costume Jewelry, and co-founder of Costume Jewelry Collectors International.
Costuming – period appropriate (credibility “nothing worse than…” – see the development through time – styles, actual pieces, construction, materials.
There is great debate and discussion regarding the proper care of rhinestone and costume jewelry. However, experience has demonstrated that the most damaging elements to costume jewelry and rhinestone pieces in particular are moisture, food, or hairspray.
Rhinestone jewelry should never be immersed in water or cleaning fluids. The moisture gets trapped behind the stone and gradually degrades the foil, causing the stone to “turn” or discolor. The foil backing is what gives the stones their brilliance. Replacing stones can often be difficult if an exact match isn’t available.
In order to properly clean your jewelry there are some necessary tools one needs to have handy:
3. Baby toothbrush
4. Soft cloth (i.e. old tee-shirt)
5. Drying towel
7. Jewelers loop
8. Alcohol or soap solution of 5mls to 240mls.
With the loop carefully examine the piece prior to cleaning. Take note of any loose stones or prongs and fasten them securely before commencing. With the piece upside-down (stones facing down) gently begin the cleaning process with a Q-tip or toothbrush dipped sparingly into either solution. Do not over saturate either implement. As you begin to clean the piece, any loose debris can be gently dabbed away with another cleaning cloth or another Q-tip. Blot dry and place on drying towel upside-down to allow to thoroughly dry.
Note it may take several times of repeating this method to fully remove all of the dirt. Alcohol will dry faster, but will not cut the debris to the same degree as the soap solution. I prefer to initially to use the alcohol method and finish with one round of soap-solution.
Some collectors will also gently use a blow-dryer on the cool setting to remove any residual moisture.
Article re posted from The Jewelry Stylist. Sellers of fine vintage costume jewelry. From signed pieces to unsigned beauties they provide a wonderful resource of vintage jewels for the collector, covering 110 years of fashion adornment.
FIVE WAYS TO DAZZLE YOUR LOVER WITH VINTAGE JEWELRY FOR VALENTINE’S!
AND LEARN ABOUT THE 125 YEAR HISTORY OF
The Napier Co.
Friday, February 7, 2013
Melinda L. Lewis is the author of The Napier Co.: Defining 20th Century American Costume Jewelry, Life By Design Publishing, 2013. As a jewelry historian, she has been involved with the online vintage costume jewelry community for the last 14 years, with a focus on The Napier Co. over the past 11 years. She is co-founder of Costume Jewelry Collectors Int’l (CJCI), an organization for collectors and dealers dedicated to the study of vintage costume jewelry which hosts an online venue for its members. She served as co-editor for CJCI’s quarterly magazine in 2010 and cohosts annual jewelry conventions held in bi-annually in Providence, RI, alternating in even years in locations around the country.
- Choose a Gift She will Feel Confident to Wear Often
Selecting a piece that piece that represents her style isn’t as difficult as you may think when it comes to vintage jewelry. Most dealers have an inventory which spans about 110 of years fashion adornment. Dealers often offer a wide variety of basic-style considerations with even more sub-genres within style groups from which to choose.
- Buy a Piece in Her Favorite Color
Vintage jewelry offers the biggest selection of color and texture ever imaginable. Stones, crystals, cabochons and beads were often imported from Europe using sophisticated manufacturing and cutting techniques. Today’s jewelry is frequently adorned with plastic and hard resin stones simulating the old rhinestones and more expensive glass used in vintage jewelry. However, the durability and sparkle cannot match the old-world components. Note: many sophisticated couture designers with a connection to vintage jewelry do understand this and use only vintage components in their designs.
- Purchase a Glitzy Rhinestone Stone Suite
With a gift of a glitzy rhinestone suite, your lover will always be ready for an evening out wearing her “little black dress.” Besides making her feel sexy, a well-designed glitzy rhinestone set is an instant conversation piece—a perfect segue for unexpected introductions.
- Decide on a Vintage Novelty Piece if She’s Playful
If your lover isn’t the glitzy type or isn’t into bold jewelry, a playful “novelty” piece can be a fun gift. Vintage jewelry from the 1930s and 1940s offers many fun and wacky pieces from silly figural pieces to “motto” jewelry from the war. Pieces are often constructed in unusual or unexpected materials, such as wood, nuts, plastic, cork, raffia and more. Jewelry selected from this era offers great insight into America during some of its most challenging industrial times. The cleverness of manufacturers to fulfill a woman’s need for adornment and expression have never been as ingenious as this period of time.
- The Gift that Keeps on Giving
To impress a lover, one can also share about organizations that study vintage jewelry and its history. Everything from the period of manufacture, to the designer and components used in manufacturing is studied by jewelry enthusiasts, jewelry historians, collectors, and dealers. Since the gift can represent a favorite decade or era, theme, or color, collectors groups can provide a continued meaning and history to the special gift. Costume Jewelry Collectors Int’l (CJCI) is one such group co-founded by Bay Area jewelry historian and author, Melinda Lewis Melinda L. Lewis.
By Melinda Lewis – July 30, 2014
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