The Age of Costume Jewelry
Accessories were all the rage in the 1950’s. The end of World War II paved way for the age of consumerism. A healthy middle class enabled average Americans to get their hands on goods that seemed out of reach at one time. Simply put, the 1950’s developed a boom time. Businesses enjoyed healthy revenue, as families had money to take vacations and buy new goods. For middle class Americans, having a nice home, car and some fashion accessories —were the norm.
Clothing and accessories were manufactured at an affordable price that enabled a large population to enjoy the fruits of their labors. Magazines, films and advertisements rallied such an appeal, that actors were often used to sell products. Women in particular, became enamored with fashion icons such as Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe. Women watched the starlet’s’ latest trends and followed suite; sleek wavy hairstyles, silk scarves, sparkling brooches, shades of red lipsticks and a string of pearls were common practice.
The 1950’s girthed a sort of glamour epoch that unfixed purse strings of average working class. Women were seen on the streets, collected, clothed in fine apparel, legging their way toward department stores. Within the confines of well-established shops, the trend of the 50’s consisted of a well-orchestrated outfit. The dress, shoes, scarf, handbag and jewelry must complement one another. Even more, the jewelry often came in sets.
Jewelry sets commonly consisted of a pair of earrings, bracelet and necklace. Fine jewelers and department stores sent stacks of ads blooming of color and fashion icons, across pages of newspapers, magazine and catalogs to catch a would be shoppers’ eye. Noticeable pieces, that stood out to shine, sparkle and lay flat on ones chest were popular. The sets of jewelry would then be carefully fitted to accent a dress, with matching pumps and a scarf or pleasant hat. The end result would create women of class, whether she was simply shopping for groceries or merely posting a letter. Jewelry sets were the matching ensemble that gave women a sense of wealth.
The sets of course, often referred to as costume jewelry were very affordable. Vintage sets of the 1950’s have lasted in style, and quality that sells to this day. Costume jewelry sets were not necessary poorly made; it was simply the components that made sets affordable. Each piece was well crafted, materials commonly included, plastics, glass, rhodium plating, copper and fine plated metals to resemble high-end jewelry. Designs used textured or brushed metals, braided and mesh wires to create a thick necklace or bracelet. To the untrained eye, the finished set appeared just as shiny and fitting, as any set sold from highest priced collection.
Average women could now match timeless icons like Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly in accessory trends. Who could forget Marilyn Monroe singing, “Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend”? Or images of Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco, defining the very word class on her wedding day. Both Monroe and Kelly flaunted red lipstick, gloves, and jewelry such as the pearl necklace. It isn’t any wonder a string of pearls were a common accessory trend. The white luster of pearls elegantly contrasted against any color scheme and made every look classic.
Trends of the 1950’s defined the decade as an era of modern elegance. The postwar economy created a new outlook that enabled attainable wealth and consumer spending power by the majority of working Americans. In turn, a thriving fashion industry full of jewelry sets and accessories was implemented. Certainly, having the ability to spend contributed to the success of jewelry sets and fine apparel, however it’s clearly the desire to dress the part that created a need for such trends. Today’s collections of vintage jewelry sets and apparel from the 1950’s continue to draw a strong market, making it clear, trends from the 1950’s give a timeless appearance that women still want.