July 8, 2015
Just in case you missed the ropes of pearls on the Chanel runway – pearls are definitely back for the long haul. As Coco Chanel once said, “a woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls.” Chanel could not have been more right. tThe pearl has come to signify for many women independence and desire to be free and modern. For a brief history of how Coco Chanel made the pearl a symbol of modernism and a part of the flapper movement, I have cited a brief paragraph from my honors thesis – Undressing the Power of Fashion: The Semiotic Evolution of Gender Identity by Coco Chanel and Alexander McQueen:
“Chanel reflected on the cultural shift of the time claiming that woman could do or say whatever she wanted as long as she was wearing pearls (Karbo, 169). Any woman could buy herself a string of pearls and flirt with men, not only the elite. The white vertical-beaded imitation pearls found on top of Chanel’s little black dress reflect the Art Deco style that was widespread at the time and signified a desire to be free and modern from society’s impositions. The light color of the pearls placed on top of the harsh black of the dress, on the other hand, are a signified of sisterly chastity, an influence of the nuns once again. The word signified of the word modern changes according to the sociohistorical context it is being referred to or used for. In the context of the 1920s, modern was a woman who was beginning to enter the job market and political arena and who redefined marriage, motherhood, and “womanliness” for a new era (America in Class).” (p. 39)
This season in the Chanel Fall 2015 RTW collection, not only did we see the usual layered pearled necklaces, but we saw the comeback of an old trend once worn by Princess Diana – the “backlace.” For those of you who do not know, a backlace is a necklace worn backwards to emphasize the androgynous yet sexual parts of ones body – the shoulders and back. However, to pull off this look one needs to know two essential rules about wearing a backlace.
First off, not every necklace or dress can work for this look. The flappers wore the look best with a lariat necklace. A lariat necklace is a diamond, gold or bead necklace that does not have a clasp or hook at the back of the neck like most necklace style. The lariat can then be knotted or looped at just the right spot, leaving the remaining length to hang dramatically down the spine!
The second and the most crucial rule is that you need to give the necklace room to breathe. It should not clash with the straps of a dress, the back of a corset, or long, loose hair. Hair must always be worn up in order to emphasize the strength of backlace. The backlace should drape elegantly into the space created by a deep-cut back unimpeded by straps or corsetry. That is when the blacklace hanging between the shoulders gives off a sign of strength and independence.
These are just a couple of the most basic and essential rules to wearing a backlace. But of course, if you want to get a bit more creative and daring and play around with the necklace, you can definitely endeavor to pull off a Chanel look by placing a full on backlace over a patterned jacket or thick solid color tank top..!