While in recent years actresses and other famous female figures have condemned the media for constantly bombarding them with questions about their outfits, there’s no doubt that history tells a captivating story when it comes to fashion and its uses in politics, cinema, music and other forms of media designed to grab your attention. And that’s just it, fashion is supposed to grab your attention, making it impossible to ignore. An outfit tends to reveal as much as it hides (and I don’t mean literally), making it a cause for speculation and discussion.
To say that we live in a visual society is an understatement with social networks, like Instagram and Snapchat, decreasing our attention spans in favour of quick and easy communication that can be bottled up into one snappy video or one glorified image. For this reason, female celebrities, from fashion icons to CEOs, tend to create a bit of a stir when it comes to their wardrobes.
But even before technology pushed fashion to the forefront, prominent women have understood the effect a dress or a piece of jewellery can have on people. For centuries, these women have used fashion to create the image they wish to present to the world, from Queen Elizabeth I’s heavy gowns and elaborate headdresses to Coco Chanel’s layered pearls and small hats.
It’s no wonder then that these three First Ladies have used jewellery and clothing in exactly the same way.
3. Michelle Obama’s St Erasmus Necklace
To many, Michelle Obama upped the ante when it came to a first lady’s role in the White House. Renowned for her warm nature, inspirational speeches, and proactive stance against racism and other often ignored issues, the former First Lady was an assertive presence during her husband’s two terms as president.
Michelle’s outfits tended to have a lasting impact also with bold prints and colour merged with heavily embellished jewellery, showing individuality in a political world that was overrun with drab colours and safe formal wear.
She wore the St Erasmus necklace with a magenta dress to the annual White House Correspondents Association Dinner in 2009 (less than a year after her husband was elected president), propelling the jewel’s South African designer, Pieter Erasmus, to a whole new level of success.
Erasmus’s costume jewellery designs are (unfortunately) not what you’d typically see on a political figure such as Michelle. His necklaces come adorned with crocheted Swarovski crystals and pearls which give them a range of vibrant textures and colours - so, even if you’re not married to the President of the United States, these necklaces will certainly get you noticed.
His designs also have a unique story and are influenced by the countries he’s lived in, including India, where he reacquainted himself with the art of crochet and became fascinated with the intricate jewels sold there, and South Africa, where he grew up and got the inspiration to incorporate an array of materials into his work.
2. Jackie Kennedy’s Triple Strand Simulated Pearl Necklace
Jackie’s iconic looks consisted of pastel headbands, high-waisted shorts and bright knotted shirts for everyday affairs and coordinated tailored suits with pillbox hats for formal events. At home, she was portrayed as a caring ‘nothing out of the ordinary’ American wife, elsewhere she was a poised and calm-natured woman with a strict dress code (she rarely forgot her gloves). Whatever the occasion, her demeanour remained intact as did her immaculate dress sense which could best be described as classic and comfortable.
Jackie’s three strand necklace, made of faux cream-coloured pearls, is believed to have been passed on to her by her mother. The jewel looks remarkably like a Coco Chanel piece, which is unsurprising as Jackie was often photographed wearing vintage jewellery and boucle suits from the designer’s collections (including the pink suit worn the day her husband was assassinated).
In 1996, the iconic pearls were sold at a Sotheby's auction for $211,500, a price that goes above and beyond its original value. Indeed, it was quite common for the upper class to sport Czechoslovakian hand-painted pearls made of glass because at the time it was difficult to obtain genuine ones that looked as meticulous in shape and colour.
Like a Chanel necklace, the layered pearls do not overlap but fall in neat rows around the neck, and the clasp, adorned with Swarovski crystals, is as attention-grabbing as the strands It holds together.
Despite appearing natural and happy in this photograph, there is something a little too flawless about the way it captures Mrs Kennedy and this intimate moment. The photo intends to reveal her private self, but as with many things that document the Kennedys' home life, it doesn’t give us much to decipher in regards to who she really was. Open to the public and at the same time incredibly controlled and reserved, perhaps she was admired because of the mystery she oozed above anything else.
2. Hillary Clinton’s Gold Charm Bracelet
Clinton’s reputation is by no means untainted (Trump supporters aren’t the only ones who distrust her values), but there’s no denying her huge influence within US politics. Hillary has been a topic of mainstream media for over 25 years, which is perhaps one reason for her contradictory political stances over the decades. The former lawyer was the first First Lady to be given her own office within the White House during her husband's presidency in the 1990s, the first First Lady to gain a place in the US Senate and, of course, the first First Lady to run for president.
Despite its simplicity, Hillary's wardrobe has not gone unnoticed. In her book What Happened, Hillary goes into detail about her notorious pantsuits and uber professional appearance. In it, she mentions how she didn't want her outfits to distract from her words and therefore opted for a plainer look. The practicality of wearing trousers also meant that she was less likely to be photographed from any revealing angles - sadly this happened to her during her First Lady years. Hillary also writes that she thought “it would be good to do what male politicians do and wear more or less the same thing every day." This attempt to blend in with male colleagues is a battle that many regular working women face on a daily basis, so her words speak for many.
Throughout Hillary Clinton’s second presidential campaign in 2016, she was often pictured wearing a chunky gold link bracelet with a photo charm of her first grandchild hanging from it - it stood out against her coordinated pantsuits and long-sleeved jackets and consequently garnered a whole lot of attention.
This sentimental charm bracelet was custom designed by an Israeli woman named Varda Singer and was a gift from Bill to Hillary after the birth of their granddaughter. In addition to creating personalised jewellery, Varda collects antique treasures which she likes to display in her store in New Castle, New York (the Clintons' hometown). And as a well-travelled collector, Varda gets many of her ideas from ancient jewellery making techniques across the globe.
During an interview for People Magazine, Hillary speaks about the talisman and its significance and even goes on to list a number of other objects that she has held on to for good luck, including items that have been given to her by loyal supporters.
Having received much unjust criticism over the years concerning her family values, it’s possible that this bracelet was Clinton’s way of exhibiting her maternal side to the American public, as well as a personal source of comfort throughout her candidacy.
Want a piece of Hillary? Get the actual bracelet here, or save your money with this 18ct gold plated sterling silver bracelet by K by Kelly Hoppen or this Love charm vermeil bracelet by Cabbage White London.
Author: Tara Diaz
Hillary Clinton photo credit - Lorie Shaull on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-SA
Jacqueline Kennedy photo credit - trialsanderrors on Visual hunt / CC BY
Michelle Obama photo credit - USDAgov on Visual Hunt / CC BY