What to Wear When How
Many knew there were rules and guidelines for women executives that extended beyond the roles of leaders and managers. We may have been aware of the rules but preferred to ignore them because the protocols encroach on very personal space and focus not on what we do but on what we wear. So how do we know what to wear, when and how?
Enter The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Rather than concentrate on the incredible career journey of Congresswoman Pelosi, and the amazingly complex and world-altering decisions she has orchestrated, a large amount of media attention has been directed to her wardrobe.
I have been unable to locate any copy about the ties worn by US Senate Majority Leader (R) Mitch McConnell or the hairstylist for Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman (D) Jerry Nadler, or the designer of the suit worn by US Senator and Senate Minority Leader (D) Chuck Schumer.
However, my Google searches have been rewarded with thousands of words about The Honorable Speaker of the House, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, with queries and information that range from where she has her hair styled to the emporiums where she shops and her favorite designers.
Although Pelosi is one of the most powerful women on the planet and holds the number two slot for moving into the Office of President, because she is a woman, what she wears headlines stories and not what she has accomplished during historically important events.
Pelosi is the first woman in US history to hold the position of Speaker of the House (January 2019). Most recently, Pelosi was able to organize the Democratic dominated House of Representatives to bring an impeachment indictment against a sitting President of the United States.
Rather than focus on the skill-sets needed to bring a group of politicians with competing interests, loyalties, proclivities, cultures, experiences and education to agree on anything, let alone an impeachment decision, the focus has been on the designer of her red coat (2013, Max Mara, Ian Griffiths/Designer) and the significance of the sizeable gold pin she wore (Retail price, $125). The pin was designed by Ann Hand (Washington, DC) and is a Mace of the US House of Representatives and sometimes referred to as the Mace of the Republic. The design features an eagle with spread wings, balanced on a bundled shaft of 13 rods. History finds that this is symbolic of the Sergeant at Arms – Pelosi’s role. It is also a statement of strength and unity.
The Max Mara designer, Ian Griffiths, noted that Pelosi was his muse for his fall 2019 collection, “a thorough analysis of how clothes empower.” Other notable political women with designers include Senator Elizabeth Warren, former Federal Reserve Chair, Janet Yellen, former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan who are styled by Nina McLemore. McLemore advises women on what to consider when power dressing: solid, bright colors (patterns are distracting); well – fitted pants (neither baggy nor snug); sleeves at or above the wrist bone (too long and you look insignificant) and high-quality fabrics.
Hilary Clinton’s apparel has been chronicled with her jackets and pantsuits from Susanna Beverly Hills and her charm bracelet was designed by Monica Rich Kosann (retails @ $12,900) or Varda Singer (this is a debated issue). Clinton has been criticized for wearing a $12,495 Giorgio Armani jacket while giving a speech where she reviewed income inequality. Vogue Magazine editor, Anna Wintour, has noted as serving as a fashion consultant to Clinton.
The favorite jewelry designer for First Lady Barbara Bush was Kenneth Jay Lane and is recognized as a mainstream influencer in re-popularizing pearl jewelry. Alfred Philippe of Trifari designed jewelry for First Lady Mamie Eisenhower and was the first to wear a set of costume jewelry to the inaugural ball.
Royal women have jewelry rules that are determined by the time of the day and the day of the week as well as the occasion. According to Myka Meir, a Royal expert, each duchess has a team of aids to help her dress and make her jewelry selection. Royal women cannot wear diamonds in the daytime (aside from a wedding ring or religious jewelry) because they are seen as flashy. Diamonds are reserved for evening wear. Before 6 PM the royals can wear metallics, gemstones, pearls and sapphires.
Shoe selections are also governed by rules. During the day, when a duchess is working, she is permitted to wear closed-toe shoes with rounded points. At night, small platforms are permitted as are open-toed shoes; however, these are usually reserved for red-carpet events.
Does Jewelry Belong on the Executive?
Based on trends being set by women in power positions (think Madeline Albright, Jill Wine-Banks, Esq.) what a woman wears, when she wears it and the message(s) being sent – are important considerations for women in (or seeking) power.
In reality, men and women have been wearing jewelry for centuries. In some instances, jewelry has covered every part of their bodies…sometimes for religious reasons, other times for visible statements of wealth, and in other instances, for making social/political commentary. It is also correct to note that sometimes jewelry is worn to enhance appearance (or an outfit) and/or as touchstones for personal security.
What to wear and when to wear jewelry trends may ebb and flow with the decades; however, there are basic style elements that should be considered that are situation- based.
Who Made the Rules?
I have absolutely no idea who made the rules about who, what, and when to wear jewelry, but the reality is that they have become embedded in our lifestyles and deserve a moment, (at least) for consideration.
Historically, it was bad taste to mix metals; fortunately, this rule is locked in fashion history textbooks. Today it is more than ok to wear combinations of gold, silver, pewter, copper, whatever makes you feel good and enhances your appearance and personal style. It is even ok to mix real gemstones with faux stones.
There was a time when a woman could not wear a ring on her left ring finger unless it was an engagement ring or a wedding band. This is another rule that has been locked away in textbooks. Want to wear a ring (or two) on each hand? No problem – just remember that “less is more.”
It may be hard to believe when matching sets were fashion statements – the good news is that they are no longer in vogue.
What to Wear When
Some pieces can be worn all the time. For married couples, a wedding band is always acceptable. Another all – the – time jewelry is a wristwatch as is a keepsake necklace.
Wearing jewelry in the office is absolutely fine as long as it is not distracting or noisy. Of course, making a personal individual statement is acceptable as long as it is not offensive to clients or the boss. It is a wise manager who saves her sequins, flash and large amounts of bling for after-hours. Another fashion trend – skulls and skeletons – are best saved for after-work.
Formal events are perfect opportunities to be elegant. This is the correct time to wear your very best jewelry. A note of caution – jewelry is best used as an accessory to an outfit as too much can be distracting. What works: pearls, diamonds, and other precious stones. It may be a challenge, but it is best to limit the fashion statement to one oversized piece with other selections playing supportive roles.
After work party? The perfect time for clanging bangles and lots of bling.
What not to wear. When traveling abroad, never wear flashy jewelry, unless you want to be tagged for a crime scene. While it might be wonderful to have favorite pieces of jewelry during your travels, there are reasons why it can present a challenge:
1. Damage. Throwing pieces haphazardly into luggage or handbag can cause breakage.
2. Keeping track. Packing/unpacking; putting luggage through security machines, leaving bags unattended – all could lead to loss.
3. Insurance. Home policies may (or may not) cover jewelry losses outside the USA.
4. Spotlight. Wearing jewelry can attract unwanted attention.
Still determined to bring the good stuff:
1. Inventory the jewelry, take photos, and know where the receipts are located if the jewels are lost/stolen and you want to make an insurance claim.
2. Where will you keep your jewelry when you are at the beach or on the slopes? It is easy to open hotel-room safes…so – what will you do?
The Future for Jewelry
The jewelry industry is poised for growth. Annual global sales of US$165 billion (148 billion Euros) are expected to grow 5-6 percent reaching US$279 billion (250 billion Euros) in 2020. The hunger for jewelry is voracious. Research suggests that there will be internationalization and consolidation in the industry, along with branded products, reconfigured channels of distribution, and fast fashion. In addition, women are purchasing jewelry for a variety of reasons that run from sparkling manifestations of female confidence, to visible signs of financial independence and professional success.
Earrings (with diamonds) are best-sellers. Townsend Group’s Robin Davis (Neil Lane Couture) and Randy Soto (Harry Winston in Beverly Hills), report that women are buying jewels because they add dimension to their wardrobe. Popular purchases include tailored pieces that can transition from conference to cocktails. Earrings from Cartier collections meet this demand and are designed for the “feminine, sophisticated, sensual and most importantly, independent woman” (Regional Director, Maryam Saghatelian) – Cartier’s target consumer.
Women are wearing classic watches and bracelets. At Neil Lane the stacked bracelets of platinum, onyx and diamonds are popular, and Gucci’s purple-and-green jewel encrusted floral bracelets are fashion favorites according to Elizabeth Kanfer, Saks Fifth Avenue’s Accessories Director. Solo (Winston) finds that women want a watch that is not trendy but timeless. The popular watch at Cartier is Tank Francaise and at Chopard, the classic floating-diamond style is popular. Branded jewelry accounts for 60 percent of sales in the watch industry while branded jewelry accounts for only 20 percent of overall jewelry but expected to increase
The jewelry industry continues to be primarily local. The ten top groups hold 12 percent of the worldwide market. Only two companies, Cartier and Tiffany & Co., are in Interbrand’s ranking of the top 100 global brands. The remainder – Christ in Germany, Chow Tai Fook, China, and small or midsize enterprises operate single branch offices.
Why Be Concerned: First Impressions are always the lasting impressions. Fifty – five percent of another person’s perception of you is based on your appearance. Seventy-five percent of recruiters believe that how a person dresses for work affects their job performance, salary, and possible promotions. So
Curated Jewelry from the JA New York Show. Executives: What to Wear/When
The JA Show at Javits in Manhattan is an important trade show and it should not be missed. For over 100 years JA New York has brought members of the jewelry industry together for three days of buying, trendspotting, treasure-hunting and business-building interactions. The event features a curated collection of the season’s best jewelry, presenting buying opportunities that run from diamonds and gold to costume and custom. The event is packed with OMGs and WOWs.
© Dr. Elinor Garely. This copyright article, including photos, may not be reproduced without written permission from the author.