Let’s go ahead and dump this whole thing out. This whole velvet-lined-with-little-drawers box of things you can’t wear without showing your coordinates on the axes of gender and power.
I should note that this is a personal coordinate system. I’m not looking up any other lists, I’m not flipping through Lean In or The Beauty Myth. I’m just thinking about my own closet and my schedule and what I truly would/would not wear for, say, a board meeting tonight. I’m thinking about how if I were to go, say, sleeveless, IF, I’m right now considering what other things I’d need to wear to make clear that while my arms may be exposed, you can trust me to make prudent fiscal decisions.
[For the record, probably the counterpoint would be pants. Long wide-legged pants with some kind of subtle pattern and really big cuffs. I don’t have any. Meeting is at 6 p.m. Could shop over lunch.]
But, the pearls.
As stated, they’re potent, they’re imbued with meaning whether you’re personally attached to your real-or-faux strand or not. You’re stuck with what they imply and it either contrasts or amps up whatever else you’re doing, wearing, signifying. Germaine Greer bothered to write a whole thing about this and wound up calling them “tears.”
Pearls are tears; Diana Spencer wore her jewelled ligatures as signifiers of subjection. Condie Rice is George Bush’s creature, and when he steps down he will take her with him. The consensus is that she will not find another job in politics. Hillary has taken to wearing pearls in defeat, which leaves only Michelle.
[Germaine Greer, “This is the age of power pearls – and no one exploits their potency better than Condie Rice,” The Guardian, Aug. 24, 2008]
Ok. Well. That helps explain why attempts to redefine pearls by contrasting them with something else — pearls with leather! pearls with sweatshirt! — might have visual appeal but fail to actually change the meaning of the things. The contrast just kind of intensifies and makes clear that the pearls mean a certain thing, a set of things, and the sweatshirt doesn’t alter those things, it just says “oh, what, these?”
While I appreciate this equation for what it is, personally I’d like to know how to plot a totally different point on the axes. And for that I think we have to look at complement instead of contrast. Complement to the extreme, like total saturation of a wardrobe, saturation with the vibe that is “pearls,” in a way that neutralizes. Dilutes. This might actually be more effective, I’m thinking, than contrast. A more joyful and therefore more powerful kind of “oh, what, these?”
Shown here by the unstoppably adorable Karla.
And by Karla and Anna.
Also by a woman I’d not met until she walked into the Coffee Hag on Monday. Abree Royce. She let me shoot after I blabbed on about how her whole look knocked me out. Never mind the absence of pearls. Pearls implied. Very clearly implied.
So I’m saying, I’m sorry, but the answer is not what I thought it was back on day six. This is not AT ALL about contrast. It’s about — I think, possibly — total saturation. It’s about over-the-top adornment with stuff that’s supposed to say “demure” and “hopeful” and “completely lacking agency” and “I wish someone would give me an allowance to buy some matching earrings,” so much so that none of it says anything at all. So much so that they are simply, just, pearls.
Tomorrow: Unless they mean love.