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GEMS FROM THE JEWELRY COUNSELOR
by cynthia sliwa


gems

Vol. 2, No. 3 April 2005

OSCARS, OSCARS 2005 – A STUDY IN REPETITION

Repetition can be a good thing, a useful tool. Repetition adds emphasis. It helps others remember something you are communicating.

In fashion, repetition can bring attention to the shape, motif or color repeated.

But repetition is not always a good thing. If you launch into your favorite joke for the umpteenth time and the people around you are groaning, you’ve learned this lesson.

The competing coverage of the red carpet arrivals before the Academy Awards this year – were there four or more channels doing simultaneous broadcasts? – it did not add to the amount of information conveyed. Although E! and TV Guide Channel tried to one-up each other (Star Jones Reynolds for E! repeating ad nauseum that she was positioned to have the first crack at arriving celebrities; Joan and Melissa Rivers for TV Guide Channel topping E!’s pearl-studded microphone with a microphone covered in rubies), the quality of information conveyed was decidedly sub-par. Hearing the same questions repeated (again and again) by multiple interviewers on multiple channels was perhaps only a bit more boring for the audience than it was for the celebrities who gallantly tried to keep things fresh with each new interview.

We heard the commentators gush (and deservedly so) over Cate Blanchett’s star-worthy yellow silk taffeta gown by Valentino, with its elegant lines and lavish train. Although Ms. Blanchett was standing directly in front of them, the commentators couldn’t agree as to whether the waist of her dress was the color chocolate brown (as stated by the E! Fashion Police) or maroon (as offered by the team on the TV Guide Channel). And despite the fact that the dress was set off by the most exquisite brooch of pastel colored gemstones, we had to hunt through numerous post-Oscar reports to find any mention of the fact that the brooch was designed by Lorraine Schwartz in emeralds and diamonds. People magazine reported that Valentino designed the dress and specifically instructed Ms. Blanchett to adorn it with a large brooch – and, by the way, People never got around to telling us what that mystery color is!

Brooches continued in a starring role at this year’s Oscars, often used creatively to accent the back of a gown or the hair. Drew Barrymore accented the back of her black halter-style gown with a large diamond brooch by Lorraine Schwartz. A pair of diamond dress clips added dazzle to Kate Winslet’s elegant periwinkle Badgley Mischka gown. Ms. Winslet also wore diamond clips in her hair and lovely diamond drop earrings, all by Neil Lane.

Scarlett Johansson looking lovely in a structured black dress by Roland Mouret with three vintage Fred Leighton starburst brooches sewn into a ribbon and pinned in her hair. She has grown into one of the most poised and lovely movie stars of our time, her impeccable posture and composure belying the fact that the dress was so tight she confessed she could hardly breathe, and that the blonde hair so beautifully adorned was looking a bit fried – perhaps too much repetition of bleach?

Sophie Okonedo was lovely with a long strand of spaced pearls worn around her up-do, but was seriously in need of some additional jewelry to add star power to her strapless white gown. Here’s one case where repetition definitely would have finished the look.

One dress that needed almost no jewelry to make a splash was that of Hilary Swank. She gets kudos for wearing a backless navy blue dress with a seriously demure front sure to raise controversy. Unfortunately, for many people, it reminded of Celine Dion’s disaster a few years ago of a backwards white suit. And only a body trained to the peak of perfect, as Hilary’s has been since her last movie, could wear this Guy Laroche creation. For most women, my advice is don’t try this at home!

Other relative newcomers on the red carpet channeled looks from celebrities who preceded them, sometimes by years and sometimes by mere weeks. Most notable for this fashion faux pas was Natalie Portman, who looked lovely in her Grecian putty-colored gown by Lanvin, but was the spittin’ image of Winona Ryder with a crystal headband in her tightly controlled hairdo.
Shame on the stylist of Catalina Sandino Moreno for not knowing that the Roberto Cavalli dress trimmed with sparkling metallic strips had been done and done again at the Grammy’s a couple of weeks ago. Nonetheless, the dress was perfection on Catalina.

Contrast the youthful loveliness of Ms. Sandino Moreno with the overblown pretentiousness of the get-up of Emmy Rossum. She must have bought her strapless Ralph Lauren column dresses in bulk. We saw white at the Emmy’s, pink at another function written up in Elle magazine, and now red, each time worn with demi-parures of gemstones fit for a dowager and provided by Harry Winston. This 18-year-old has the figure and the large facial features to enable her to take some chances and loosen up. Her inappropriate choice of jewelry makes her look old beyond her years.

Halle Berry was another celebrity who wore a style we’ve seen on her before, and it didn’t look much better the second time around. Once again she chose a single-strap gown, this one in taupe from Versace. As one of my male friends noted, it made it look as though one of her breasts was larger than the other. Here repetition of the strap on the other side might have made all the difference.

One area where repetition was a good thing was in longevity. The young starlets might do well to look at some of the women who have demonstrated staying power in the movies. Imelda Staunton chose a dress that suited her petite frame perfectly, created for her by costume designer John Bright. Her fitted dress in teal taffeta with a skirt that was tea-length at the front and dipped to formal length in the back, three-quarters length sleeves, and a collar high in the back but providing flattering décolletage, was spectacular. Ms. Staunton wore an interesting diamond squiggle brooch to emphasize the décolletage and added the perfect size diamond circlet earrings at her ears. Another stand-out was Helen Mirren, whose Badgley Mischka gown was designed with elaborate patterns of lacey grey that set off every curve of her figure. She wore a stunning princess-length diamond necklace but then – perhaps repeating the current trend toward multiple necklaces – inexplicably added two extra-long strands of diamonds that cascaded over her chest and added nothing to her ensemble.

Oprah Winfrey positively dazzled in her golden Vera Wang gown featuring a flattering portrait neckline, her hair in loose curls. She seemed to be having the time of her life, and we enjoyed every moment right along with her.

Other stand-outs included Salma Hayek, who was sheer perfection in her custom-made Prada dress of midnight blue accented with black bows and tasteful beading, and makeup and hairstyle reminiscent of Brigitte Bardot. Her diamond and sapphire drop earrings were the perfect finishing touch.

Ziyi Zhang also was a model of perfection, wearing one of the most spectacular diamond necklaces of the night, which was custom made for her by Bulgari to complement her perfectly cut black dress of lace and tulle by Monique Lhuillier. The necklace had two strands of diamonds, each one accented with a starburst design at front center, and the lower strand featuring two dangling starbursts.

Gwyneth Paltrow once again chose a dress with an ill-fitting bodice – this time in pastel pink by Stella McCartney. However, her large multi-loop diamond earrings and bracelet of diamonds in a cut-out design by Damiani, an Italian line for whom she is a spokesmodel, were lovely.

I find it remarkable how many of the celebrities fail to take the time to make certain that their fashion choices are flattering. Usually this is due to poor fit. Often this is due to a lack of good foundations underpinning the dresses.

Star Jones Reynolds continues to be desperately in need of a good stylist to guide her. First, Star’s sleeveless dress of a gold material by Richard Tyler did not fit her properly front or back. Star had this problem before, with last year’s Oscar dresses being similarly ill-fitting. Here’s one area where repetition is key: You MUST make the time for repeated dress fittings, especially when your weight is changing. Second, Star chose once again to overload on a mismatched collection of big jewelry – an enormous necklace with big earrings, two bangle bracelets and a mismatched lattice-motif necklace adorning the false curls pinned to the back of her head in an elaborate updo. While going matchy-matchy with jewelry (a la Emmy Rossum) is considered overly conservative, jewelry worn together MUST have some consistency in design and materials to give an ensemble some finesse.

Melanie Griffith presented another important lesson. Her lavender-grey Versace dress, which appeared to come straight from the 1980’s, had a deep décolletage accentuated by drapes of fabric on her arms. The effect: Her lack of good foundations made her breasts look saggy and the swoops of fabric on the sleeves repeated that line and made the sagginess even more pronounced.

Another actress in dire need of a better-fitting dress and/or better foundations is Regina King, whose dress of warm taupe with cascading flowers was pretty enough, but didn’t hide the problems with fit. Satin is notoriously unforgiving. She chose long drop earrings that added too much fussiness near the elaborate neckline, which could easily have stood on its own. Add to that her choice of wearing this year’s million-dollar diamond Stuart Weitzman shoes, and if I were that sponsor, I would not be happy. When you wear million dollar shoes, you’d better look like a million bucks.

Finally, I was disappointed with the fashion choices of Laura Linney, who wore a gown of tattered ruffles of grey that fit her well enough but washed out her complexion, a hairstyle approaching the look of a bad mullet, and a long-necklace of pearls culminating in diamond yin/yang symbols wrapped twice around her neck and tied in front in a slipknot that kept slipping. At an important event, do NOT wear accessories that require your attention, no matter how beautiful they look in the store.

Learn from the celebrities’ mistakes and from their successes. Wear the correct foundations. Particularly for special occasions, and optimally all the time, make sure that your apparel fits properly. Choose jewelry that flatters and doesn’t require you to fuss over it. Learn what colors and styles work for you, and then be confident in the repetition of your delightfully flattering choices.


about cynthia sliwa

Cynthia, a Yale and University of Chicago-educated lawyer, is the founder of Apprecia Fine Jewelry, fine jewelry with presence specially designed to flatter the generous curves of the full-figured woman"(TM). After receiving her diploma from the Gemological Institute of America's Graduate Retail Management program, Sliwa left her position as a corporate lawyer to pursue her jewelry passion full-time.

Apprecia has been featured in InStyle magazine, Glamour magazine, ABC-TV's "The View" and WNBC's "Today in New York" show in a segment about jewelry for New Year's Eve. Recently, Apprecia's ruby and sapphire Paisley Pears Earrings were featured in Good Housekeeping magazine.  

As The Jewelry Counselor(TM), Sliwa regularly writes and speaks to the jewelry industry about the previously unmet jewelry needs of curvy women. Her article "How to Sell to the Plus-Size Market" appeared in two parts in the October and November 2003 issues of Professional Jeweler magazine, and Sliwa spoke at the American Gem Trade Association's Gem Fair on the subject "Fashion and the Full-Figured Woman" in February, 2004.

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