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, it 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.
Napier had extremely diverse jewelry designs? It designed metals, color (rhinestone), pearls, and use multiple manufacturing techniques. It had its own modelmakers, toolmakers, and design department. Everything was in-house so that it could be responsive to the market and its customers’ needs. Napier often made small runs of designs, and hence it can be challenging to recognize the depth and scope of the company as a design house.
Choosing the right piece of jewelry for your sweetheart can be a fun and rewarding experience, both for you choosing that special piece and for your sweetheart to receive it. There are 5 things to keep in mind when looking for that special piece.
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.
By Melinda Lewis -July 30, 2014
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