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How to Wear Vintage Jewelry

  • Brighten your mood with this dazzling brooch.

    Brighten Your Mood with this Glittering Jewel

    As the months of near-quarantine drag on, the idea of dressing up to stay at home may seem like an oxymoron. You may be surprised to learn that psychologists are encouraging us to do just that. Studies have shown that how we dress affects how we feel about ourselves. So whether you’re dressing for another work-from-home day, a Zoom conference meeting, or an intimate get-together, consider putting aside your sweats and tees. Instead, why not brighten your mood with an outfit that expresses your personality and accessorize with a sparkly jewel? I have just the piece for you.

    Have you ever seen a starfish as dazzling as this one? The “star of the sea” is a popular theme in jewelry and has many meanings associated with it. My favorite is its symbolism of renewal and rejuvenation, which is just what jewelry is expected to do – bring new life to an outfit. From the New York company Alice Caviness, this whimsical, yet sophisticated 1950s starfish brooch can be worn in many ways. Let me describe the piece, offer some styling tips, and tell you a bit about the maker.

    The Brooch

    This bold and glittering jewel is three inches in diameter. Five “arms” with raised edges and a cluster of stones in the center make this piece three-dimensional. The shimmer results from the iridescent coating of the round diamantés. Known as Aurora Borealis, this treatment of the surface of faceted glass beads and stones was invented in 1955 by Manfred Swarovski, the grandson of the founder of the Swarovski Company. Costume jewelry designers everywhere immediately began to use this finish, which reflects light and adds movement to jewelry. As a result, stones appear to change color under different lighting. Dior was among the first to feature Aurora Borealis stones in his winter 1956 collection.

    This brooch comes with matching ear clips, each shaped like an arm of a starfish. Although women in the 1950s typically wore matching sets of jewelry, you don’t have to do that. If you wear earrings, I would suggest simple gold studs or hoops.

    Styling Tips

    If you associate brooches with your grandmother or Queen Elizabeth II, think again. Runway models, red carpet stars, and members of Instagram’s #bringbackthebrooch movement have embraced this forgotten accessory and infused it with a contemporary spirit. Let me show you how to wear this shimmering jewel, to inspire you to express your personal style with vintage jewelry.

    The first example in this group is my favorite. This luxurious brown silk blouse has an intricately-detailed stand-up collar. You could simply pin the brooch at your throat. Or for even more glamour, use the jewel to attach a faux fur scarf around your neck on a blouse like this or another garment. The brooch really stands out against the deep, warm tones of the fabrics and their contrasting textures.


    In these two outfits, the placement of the brooch is more traditional. The simple blue, boiled-wool jacket on the left needs some oomph. The covered buttons provide a single-tone background for the sparkling pin instead of competing with it. Because this jacket has no lapels, the brooch sits well on the shoulder. The lapel of a jacket or coat is an excellent alternative as a backdrop for this glorious piece. And imagine it on the pocket of a denim jacket – it’s big enough to cover the button on the flap. On the right, the brooch is pinned to the shoulder of a sleeveless hot-pink dress. The gold setting compliments the gold-metal trim on the dress. Notice how the stones reflect the color of the fabric.


    I’ll bet you’ve never thought of wearing jewelry in your hair. All you need is a few bobby pins to secure it to an elegant or casual hairdo that’s styled up, as seen on the left. Did you know that hair accessories have become a popular alternative to bridal veils? On the right is another idea – embellish a hat band with a scarf and this glitzy brooch.

    For more tips on how to wear brooches, see this article by Beth Bernstein, jewelry historian, collector and writer.

    The Maker

    Details about American costume jewelry makers long out-of-business are often hard to document, and Alice Caviness’ company is no exception. Both the opening and closing dates are difficult to determine. What I can tell you is that by 1949 she was established as a designer, manufacturer, and importer of costume jewelry in New York City. Operations continued until at least 1980, when Caviness retired.

    The company created bold and imaginative pieces, such as this amazing starfish brooch and earrings, using high-quality materials in often unexpected combinations. For more examples, see the Alice Caviness Jewelry collection.

    Read more about the company here.

  • Red Carpet Looks -- Amy Adams

    Red Carpet Looks for You

    Whether you watched the stars arrive at the 2019 Oscars in real time or waited for the reporting afterwards, you probably have a favorite red carpet look. Hot pink dresses, romantic ball gowns, and capes were among the spotted trends. And, of course, we saw loads of sparkle. Lady Gaga…

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  • What to wear with a tweed blazer

    Blaze Up Your Tweed with a Vintage Brooch

    As soon as I saw the cover of the October 2018 issue of Vanity Fair, I knew what I wanted to do for this month’s styling tips. Felicity Jones is pictured wearing a black-and-white herringbone jacket with a simple white shirt, open at the collar. Her lapel is adorned with…

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  • How to accessorize smart casual outfits

    From the Runway to Every Day

    If you think vintage costume jewelry is just for dressing up, think again! Yes, TruFaux Jewels walked the runway during Toronto Fashion Week for Spring 2019. But the same pieces can add a touch of glamour to your everyday attire. This month’s styling tips show you how to accessorize smart…

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  • Jewelry on the Runway at Christopher Paunil's show

    Jewelry On the Runway: A Modern Take on Vintage

    Even though the record-breaking heat and humidity altered my planned attire for the evening, the weather didn’t dampen my excitement. On September 5, I attended my first fashion show. But that’s not the exciting part. From my front row seat, I was thrilled to see my jewelry on the runway,…

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  • Summer bracelets for casual, office and evening wear

    Summer Bracelets to Adorn You

    From ancient civilizations to the present day, bracelets have been one of the most popular forms of adornment. In addition to their role as decorative ornaments throughout history, they have served as protection, objects of religious significance, and expressions of wealth and power. I like to wear this type of…

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  • Summer necklaces

    Summer Necklaces: Colorful, Chic & Cool Jewels

    I love to play with color when I dress and when I prepare styling tips to share with you. Now that summer is here, I particularly enjoy putting together colorful outfits accessorized with equally colorful, yet lightweight jewels. Last month’s styling tips focused on earrings with these qualities, so this…

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  • Summer earrings

    Summer Earrings to Stay Cool, Look Chic

    The summer season is nearly upon those of us who live in the northern hemisphere. To keep me cool and comfortable while temperatures rise, I dress in mainly cottons and linens. Although I tend to wear the same colors all year-round, I do have some summer-only clothes, shoes, and handbags.…

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  • Green costume jewelry for spring

    Go Green for Spring with Vintage Jewels!

    Spring is here! So, let’s look at green, the color that symbolizes the growth and renewal of this season. Green is between yellow and blue on the color wheel, which means you’ll find many hues, from blue-based (cool) forest and emerald to yellow-based (warm) mint and sea foam. This article…

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  • Bridal styling with Art Deco jewels

    How She Wore It: Jillian’s Story

    I always love helping brides select jewelry to wear on their wedding day. Their excitement is infectious. And when I get to style a bride who’s a friend, the experience is even more special for me. My latest bridal styling experience involved Jillian, whom I’ve known since she was a…

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  • Hobe brooches add romance to an outfit

    Find Romance with Hobé Brooches

    With Valentine’s Day less than a week away, romance is in the air. Everyone is thinking about roses and the color red. But I’ve decided to offer a different take on romance, with Hobé brooches. Pieces from the late 1930s through the 1940s by the incredible jewelry designer William Hobé…

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  • How to Wear a Double Clip Brooch

    Last month I introduced you to the double clip brooch – a two-in-one jeweled accessory that made its debut in the 1930s. Because you can wear this type of jewelry as a brooch or as separate clips, it is as versatile today as it was decades ago. Now that autumn’s…

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