RE-ADRESSING DRESS CLIPS FOR MODERN TIMES
Over the past few seasons, antique and retro brooches have returned on the red carpet, and on both the ready-to-wear and Couture runway shows. Renowned jewelry houses such as Chaumet, Cartier, Chanel and Van Cleef & Arpels have lent their archival pieces to A-list celebrities, while debuting new styles from naturalistic flora and fauna and whimsical animal motifs. Independent designers such as Lydia Courtielle and Suzanne Syz are creating larger than life, daring and imaginative styles.
The dramatic revival of the long dormant category is a welcome addition to to jewelry, when versatility—and interchangeability is part of the current mood. But the return of the brooch also begs us to broach the question, will dress clips be next ? And how will designers interpret them for today’s fashion?
The dress clip was a savvy design that was worn with the new fashions during the 1920s and 1930s. Styles were easy with a loosening up of the restrictive clothes from just a few years earlier. These clips would often appear as one large brooch that could worn in multiple ways. Often it would be designed with a mechanism in the back that would allow it to be detached and worn as two separate clips. Other pieces in were fashioned as two completely separate pieces. They could be pinned to the straps of slip dresses and gowns, the two sides of necklines of a dress and on each collar and cuff of a shirt or jacket. They could also be fixed to accessories such as shoes and when split up, attached to a handbag. Many of the early Deco clips were designed in white diamonds and platinum, but as demand for them grew, they were often set with other precious gems, particularly during their comeback during the retro 40s in yellow and rose gold.
Throughout the Golden Age of Hollywood, when women looked to actresses on the silver screen for trends and how to wear them—they could find inspiration in the those who collected and wore their own pieces in the movies in which they starred: Joan Crawford, Paulette Goddard, Jean Harlow, Norma Shearer to name a few.
According to Greg Kwiat, CEO of Fred Leighton, “we always carry a range of beautifully crafted Art Deco platinum and diamond clips as well as those from the retro period which has more color and graceful swirls rather than geometric lines. But we find that with all of their attributes—they still only appeal to a very specific audience—the collector of Art Deco or Retro jewels or signed pieces that are indicative of the time period in which they were made.”
Although Kwiat and his chief creative officer, Rebecca Selva believe in maintaining the integrity and original condition or rare and exceptional pieces, they have also created Fred Leighton Signature, “in which we breath new life into pieces that are no longer being worn.” Both Kwiat and Selva have an affinity for rejuvenating pieces that have been out of favor for years into ultra-fashionable jewels for today’s woman.
While many designer and do-it-yourself-ers have tried their hand at conversion jewelry –there are only a select few such as Fred Leighton that can re-invent a piece from the past into one that is as exceptional and thoughtfully executed, bursting with creativity and relevant in present times.
Kwiat and Selva saw an opportunity in modernizing dress clips into styles that lent themselves to a completely different category of jewelry. Earrings.
“We don’t believe in jewelry sitting in a safe or a jewelry box. Instead we take pieces that we can alter into pieces that can be worn and enjoyed,” says Kwiat.
The proportions of the clips turned into earrings in white on white platinum and diamond styles begin to take on the lines of the Deco period. They are designed to be streamlined, architectural on top and then dip down to fringe bottoms that recall the hemlines of the dresses that swung with the movement of dancing the night away during the Jazz Age. Retro styles appear in yellow gold and sapphires and also have softer fringe bottoms. The designs are seamless and have the flow of a pair of earrings that were designed from scratch rather than using components of jewelry’s history. Yet it is in this artful melding of old and new that imbue these earrings with beauty and a contemporary sense of style.
When asked if these earrings could be designed so that the clips could be left in their original condition, detach and pop out to be worn in multiple ways—on the ear or on clothes or accessories, Kwiat explained, “We have tried and were successful with a few pairs but the weight of the back and where the mechanisms are positioned often will make it too heavy on the ear.”
The ingenuity of the Fred Leighton Signature group of converted clip earrings and the intricacy in which they were so elegantly crafted immediately caught my eye when I first saw them during the spring of 2016.
But as a purist, collector and proponent of any jewel that is designed to transform into multiple and interchangeable pieces—I am still hoping that the clips that Kwiat and Selva have left in original condition -as well as those which have been reappearing in antique shops, shows and fairs as well as on the runway- will take their place alongside the brooch and find their way back into the modern woman’s wardrobe.