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 topped many lists with the famous 128.54-carat Tiffany Yellow Diamond – the same gem last worn by Audrey Hepburn in publicity photos for Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
My vote goes to Amy Adams, whose more-tempered version of old-fashioned Hollywood glamour was just stunning. And her fabulous Cartier jewelry prompted me to write this post, to give you ideas on how to achieve this star-worthy look with vintage jewels for day and evening wear.
What She Wore
Adams’ figure-hugging, strapless, white Atelier Versace gown shimmered with a silver-beaded zig-zag pattern. Her stylist had traveled to the Cartier archives in Geneva to find the right adornments for this Art Deco-inspired design. There she found the perfect piece: the platinum-and-diamond Pyramid dress clip from the Cartier Collection (the Maison’s own assemblage of its historic and exceptional pieces). She paired the clip with a 37.46 diamond necklace.
I loved the actor’s ensemble because of its elegant and classic Art Deco theme. And I love combining old and new jewels – the diamond rivière she wore was contemporary, while the dress clip was commissioned in 1935. And because she used it as a pendant, she inspired me to show you how to get her look with vintage pieces mixed with contemporary ones from your own jewelry box. But let’s start with a definition of the jewel itself.
What Is a Dress Clip?
A dress clip is a type of brooch that attaches in one of two ways. In the first style, on the left, the back has a has a hinged, flat, triangular-shaped fastener with teeth to grip fabric. The other kind, shown on the right, has a hinged, double-prong fastener with sharp tips to pass through fabric.
Some dress clips came in pairs. And some pairs were fitted onto a frame with a pin that enabled them to be worn together as a brooch or as separate clips. The generic name for this type of jewel is double clip brooch. Coro named theirs Duette, and Trifari had Clip-Mates.
Now let’s look at some examples of clips as pendants. I’ve organized them by decade.
If Art Deco is your favorite style, you’ll like this Diamanté French Double Clip Brooch from the mid- to late-1930s. Its geometric shape lends itself well to forming a pendant. The photo on the right shows one clip on a sterling silver chain. A white-gold chain would also look lovely.
These Gemstone Fruit Salad & Diamanté Dress Clips are also Art Deco pieces from the 1930s. They feature colored glass molded to resemble the Indian-carved gemstones introduced by Cartier at the 1925 Paris Exposition. I’ve hung one clip on the same sterling chain doubled.
This Chalcedony & Moonstone Clip by Trifari, in the romantic style of the 1940s, features fruit salads within a diamanté-outlined maple leaf. It’s a single piece that’s larger than the others (2 ½” x 2”), so it forms a more prominent pendant.
While I was planning this post, I wanted to come up with a combination of jewels I had never considered before. I thought of marrying this 1940s Diamanté Baguette & Pavé Ribbon Dress Clip by Marcel Boucher with this Sterling 1940s Flexible Choker by Walter Lampl. When I saw them together, I nearly swooned. Although this look is not for everyone or for day wear, I think it is sensational! The dress clip is very three-dimensional, in sharp contrast to the tailored and sleek necklace. At 3/8” in width, this piece is substantial enough to support the 2 ¼” x 1 ¾” clip. The choker is 14 ½” long, so the pendant would sit right at your throat. This perfect adornment for a round, slightly-scooped, or v-neckline would certainly start a conversation.
Some costume jewelry makers continued to produce double clip brooches into the 1950s. Ralph DeRosa created this one in Black Enamel, Diamanté & Sterling. I think one clip looks lovely on this triple, white-gold chain. You could also wear it on a sterling chain or a diamond station necklace in white gold or platinum.
This Emerald, Ruby, Pearl & Diamanté Double Clip Brooch in a gold-tone setting was made by Hattie Carnegie in the late-1950s. Its colorful components suggest to me a number of necklace possibilities.
Here are two. The photo on the left shows one dress clip on a simple yellow-gold chain. The one on the right is on my pearl stationed necklace in yellow gold. I think this type of necklace with a weightier chain would work better, but I had this piece in my jewelry box.
More About Dress Clips
Dress clips were the most popular jeweled accessory in the 1930s-1940s because of their versatility. This feature makes them just as desirable today once you know what to do with them. At the height of their popularity, a single clip was worn at the bottom of a v-neckline; a pair anchored each end of a square neckline (which was particularly popular at that time). They were fastened onto pockets or the cuffs of short sleeves. They adorned belts, hats, and purses. Wear this multipurpose jewel as women did in the past, as well as on your lapel(s), on your trouser cuffs or shoes, or to fasten a scarf or shawl. And don’t forget to put one on a chain or cord to wear as a necklace.
For more flexibility of placement, you can convert a dress clip to a regular brooch. Simply fasten a safety pin inside your garment, passing the pin bar through the fabric and letting it show on the outside. Then drop the clip mechanism over the bar. And voilà!