Posts Categorized: jewelry

Stealth Personality

By Cassie, Already Pretty Contributor

Wearing an outfit that I think expresses something about who I am and what I like can make an enormous difference to my mood and self esteem. But on weekdays, I’ve long been confined to an office environment, and offices equal my least favourite dress code of all time – the dreaded “smart casual.”

Maybe “smart casual” works for you, but I’m not a “smart casual” kind of person. I’m a little bit weird, and I like geeky things, and I’m a relatively unfashionable shape – to quote Tori Amos, I’m anchovies and “smart casual” is tuna. Unfortunately, looking like tuna when you’re really anchovies is one of the things you get paid for in an office job.

Apart from the limitations my employer’s expectations put on my wardrobe, I’ve also long had a little problem with money – as in, not nearly enough of it. A bright skirt or bold patterned dress are an awesome way to spruce up your office wardrobe, but the thing about attention-grabbing pieces is that people notice if you wear them all the time. My budget for clothes often doesn’t extend beyond a couple of skirts and an assortment of shirts, so I tend to pick things I can wear over and over without it being completely obvious. Which is to say my work wardrobe has ended up very functional, but ultimately very, very dull.  I’m sure I’m not the only one to end up backed into this bland little corner of affordable plain skirts and interchangeable tops; not only is it boring, it’s actually kind of depressing after a while.

Lucky for you guys, I’ve decided to share my two favourite ways to inject some personality into my workday wardrobe easily and economically.

Indie Eye Shadow

I’m sure you’ve seen a million other places that a pop of colour in your eye shadow is a great way to lift an outfit, and I entirely agree. However, it took me a long time to figure out how to incorporate a pop of colour without making it look like I’d been popped in the eye. I’m currently nursing a deep obsession with indie loose eye shadows, a formerly tiny market that has really exploded over the last couple of years. The colours available are just incredible, and there is almost endless variety on the market. These are a very small sample of my exponentially expanding collection.

Indie Swatches

Indies in Pots

Clockwise from top right, these are Shiro Cosmetics in Nic Cage Raking Leaves on a Brisk October Afternoon; Femme Fatale Cosmetics in Wavemender; Femme Fatale Cosmetics in Dreamstate and Shiro Cosmetics in Lingered in Twilight

I’ve also found indie eye shadows to be much more pigmented than your average mainstream offerings. There are similar products available from companies like MAC, but I just don’t have the budget to throw down for a full tub of an eye shadow I might not even like in the end. Almost all the indie eye shadow makers I’ve come across offer sample sizes (Spectrum Cosmetics, Shiro Cosmetics and Femme Fatale Cosmetics all offer three different sizes), so you can try them out before you commit to a full size container. Heck, you might not ever even NEED a full size container, considering how far these products go. Because they’re so pigmented, they’re not only quite economical but also really versatile. You can use a heavy hand and create a really attention getting look, or just the merest whisper and it will still make your eyes sparkle. If you mix them with foiling medium, you can also use them as liquid eyeliner.

Blue Eye

Brown Eye

But the colours are only part of why I’m so obsessed with indie eye shadows at the moment. Companies like Geek Chic Cosmetics and Shiro Cosmetics have discovered an even more direct route to my wallet; by making beautiful products that are also inspired by some of my favourite books, TV shows, and movies. Maybe I’m a sucker, but if you make a series of eyeshadows inspired by The Neverending Story, or The Hobbit, or the infamous Windows error BSOD I AM going to buy them. I get such an illicit, childish thrill out of wearing Gollum green eyeshadow to work, where I’m supposed to be professional and bland and boring.

Handmade jewelry

If you’ve spent any time at all on Etsy, you’ll already know handmade jewellery can be a real crapshoot. For every stunning piece, there is something that looks like my cat coughed it up being sold for a ludicrous amount of money. But if you can find the good stuff, it’s so very VERY good. You would be surprised at how unusual a necklace you can get away with in the average office – people will notice that you’re wearing jewellery, but not necessarily that, for example, your pretty silver locket actually has an anatomical model of a heart on it. I get the same illicit thrill out of “getting away” with pieces like this at work as I do with fandom-inspired eye shadow. It feels like I’m sneaking a little bit of me into an environment where I’m supposed to be totally interchangeable, and that feels fantastic.

If you’re as amused by anatomical illustrations as I am, The Spangled Maker might be just your style. Their work is very heavily influenced by Victorian illustrations and surrealism, and while some of the larger pieces would probably be pushing it, I think you could get away with the brain cuff links just about anywhere.




There is also an Australian artist who trades under the name Jubly-Umph, who does some incredible rockabilly, tattoo inspired jewellery. They’re all resin on stainless steel, so while they look fragile they’re actually very durable and totally waterproof.




The thing I really love about Jubly-Umph’s pieces is that they’re all created from her own original drawings. She sells prints of these drawings, as well as cardigan clips, handbags, and earrings all based on her artworks. I have the anatomical heart and the Dia Dos Muertos fox head pendant, and I get compliments every single time I wear them.

If your taste runs a little more conservative, there is another Australian creator I like a lot who sells from a shop called Planet Pickle. They do hand-crafted sterling silver and gold jewellery, and their designs are small and simple enough to pass unnoticed most of the time. While less bold than some of the larger pieces from The Spangled Maker or Jubly-Umph,  they are definitely unique and have a lot of personality. There are also pieces available in silver plated versions, for those of us not on a sterling silver budget.




 What’s your favourite way of sneaking a little personality into your work wardrobe? Are you a scarf person, or the one with the cool hair clips? Are you allowed to wear whatever you want? Are you entirely confined within a strict uniform? I’d love to hear how you express yourselves in the workplace.

Image credits: Author’s own photos of Femme Fatale Cosmetics and Shiro Cosmetics loose eyeshadows, promotional product images courtesy of The Spangled Maker Etsy Store, promotional product images sourced from the Jubly-Umph website, promotional product images sourced from the Planet Pickle Etsy store

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The author of Reluctant Femme, Cassie is a queer thirty something Australian who thinks too much, reads too much, talks too much, and has way too many pretty things. Her writing revolves around an exploration of femme concepts, beauty products, feminism, and how they intersect with being a queer, poly, cisgender woman with fantastic nails. You can catch up with her in shorter bursts on Twitter as @anwyn, and see endless pictures of her nails on Instagram as @anwynincognito. She lives for comments, so if you’re reading by all means speak up! Even if you think she’s full of crap, she always likes to hear feedback.

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Accessory Scale and Personal Style

accessory_scale_with text

Accessorization is challenging. I know it is. And adding yet another consideration to the outfit-construction pile might make you want to say, “Forget it. I shall wear the same stud earrings until they become one with my lobes, refuse to swap out my necklace, and ignore the existence of belts and scarves.” But I’m hoping this particular discussion will be more intuitively helpful than irritatingly overwhelming.

So we’ve talked about belting, and the practice of determining which belt width will work for your height, figure, and torso length. (Links below.) But accessory scale goes beyond belts, and understanding it will help your outfit accents work harmoniously with your overall look.

There are two ways in which scale affects accessory balance:

Within an outfit

In an ideal world, the sizes and shapes of your accessories will mirror the sizes and shapes of your garments and shoes. If you’re wearing bright colors in broad swaths, big chunky shoes, or other bold elements, adding tiny, delicate jewelry might feel wrong. And, on the flip side, if you’re doing a floaty slip dress and heels, gobs of heavy metal jewelry and a huge belt might not work. There is always juxtaposition to be considered, and sometimes throwing huge accessories into a delicate mix works beautifully. But generally speaking, the scale of your accessories should complement the overall feel and look of your outfit.

Relating to your figure

Over the summer I worked with a client who is nearly six feet tall. Almost everything in her jewelry box was lightweight, light-colored, and delicate. Her only scarves were tiny silk squares, and her belts were all skinny. When I touched base with her after our consult, I brought up the concept of accessory scale. A woman of her stature could quite easily wear large, chunky jewelry, big belts, and gigantic scarves and have it work harmoniously with her figure and proportions. In fact, some of her truly tiny pieces were virtually invisible in the context of an entire outfit. I’ve also worked with clients who are extremely petite but drawn to wide belts and chunky bangles, and I have the same conversation but in reverse. Small women can look engulfed by giant accessories, while the more lightweight and delicate stuff looks absolutely smashing on them.

If you’re somewhere in the middle like me, many of your decisions will be more outfit-based than figure-based but you may find that some of your accessories just feel too big or small once you’ve examined them more closely.

And, of course, this is NOT meant to be interpreted as a hard-and-fast rule! None of my figure flattery advice posts should be considered gospel, including this one, and I fully expect you to read them with a grain of salt. Style “rules” are merely guidelines, no matter who is dispensing them. I trust you to use your judgment. And I trust you to take what applies to you, discard the rest, and assume positive intent. In this case, that means that if you’re petite and love enormous jewelry, enjoy it. If you’re tall or plus-sized and wear nothing but skinny belts and delicate chains, that is absolutely your prerogative. And everyone should feel free to mix things up on an outfit-by-outfit basis. But if you’ve noticed that the jewelry and accessories you’re choosing aren’t quite working within the context of your outfits, consider scale. It might be the factor that’s throwing off your looks.

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Fascinating and Fashionable: Karin the Jewelry Designer

karin jacobson jewelry designer

Award-winning jewelry designer Karin Jacobson has been creating covetable cocktail rings and gorgeous gem-encrusted necklaces, bracelets, and earrings for over almost 15 years, and I’ve been an admirer of her work from the moment I clapped eyes upon it. Karin’s sleek, bold aesthetic hits me right where I live, and I’ve even had her redesign and re-set my engagement ring, as well as custom design my crown ring, both of which get daily wear.

Karin is as smart and kind as she is talented, and has worked her hiney off to create a successful business entirely on her own. Let’s hear from Karin!

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How did you decide to become a jewelry designer?
My decision to become a jewelry designer was part choice and part luck. When I was in high school at the Perpich Center for Arts Education (Minnesota’s public, state-funded arts high school), I took a couple of jewelry classes and very much enjoyed them, but by no means knew “instantly” that I wanted to be a jewelry designer – I just knew that I loved art and design. The jewelry teacher my senior year was a visiting artist who had a studio in Minneapolis, and since we got along well, I wrote her a letter asking her if I could be her apprentice. I actually had no idea if this was how it was supposed to work or if she even wanted an apprentice, but she decided to take a chance with me and hired me to be her apprentice for the summer. It worked out so well that she said I could continue the next school year and in the end, I worked for her for about 6 years, attending college at the University of Minnesota in the meantime. (I graduated with a BA in History.)

Despite these 6 years, I still wasn’t convinced I wanted to be a jewelry designer – it was only after taking a break from working in the shop that I realized how much I missed it and that I wanted to keep doing it. My former boss had moved away to New York state, but a mutual friend of ours took over her old studio here and mentioned to me that if I wanted to pop by and use the studio now and then, I was welcome to do so. I was happy to have the opportunity and thought I’d work on a portfolio of pieces that I could use to apply for jobs with other designers.

In the meantime, I was still in touch with a former coworker at the jewelry design studio who had moved on to the Walker Art Center Shop. I wanted to get her opinion on the new work I was making. We met for lunch at the Walker and she liked the work so much that she said, “I think we should show the buyer – is that okay?” And of course it was okay! Much to my surprise, they picked up my collection and that was the start of it all. I had known that I eventually wanted to have my own design business, but hadn’t thought it would actually start then. I thought I’d be working for someone else for awhile longer first.

As I am collapsing those years into these paragraphs, it all sounds like it went smoothly and flawlessly, but of course, that was not the case. I still had to work as a waitress at first, and then after quitting waitressing, worked as a clerical temp here and there to make ends meet when months were slow. I also learned a lot of things the hard way, by trial and error, because I hadn’t spent more time in the industry working for other designers. But ultimately, it did finally turn into a bona fide full time job – and now it feels like a job and a half!!

What were some of the obstacles you faced when you struck out on your own? How long did it take for you to feel like launching your own line was the right choice?
I’d say the biggest obstacle was just plain not knowing what I was doing and feeling too intimidated to admit that to the people who might have been able to help me. I didn’t know all that many people in my industry and I was nervous to admit to most of them that I felt so clueless about industry-specific issues. (For example – what trade shows to do, how many, what to expect in terms of sales, how to work with galleries, etc.,) I did have one mentor who was very helpful and who I could ask these questions, but he was so successful and so far ahead of where I was that I kept trying to follow his lead without realizing that there were about 100 intermediate steps between where I was and where he was.

The thing is, I guess no one ever knows what they don’t know, and the only way to find out is to stick your neck out and fail a whole bunch of times. One thing that I have learned in the years since I started is that almost anyone who looks like they were a success overnight were probably doing what they were doing for about 10 years before anyone noticed, and that anyone at all who is successful most likely had a string of failures in their past that they were able to learn from. I think that it is a shame that in our culture where entrepreneurship and individual risk taking are so lauded, that we very rarely say out loud not only that it isn’t bad to fail, but that it is important to fail. Especially when starting a business, we should be looking at the things we do and the choices that we make and expecting 9 out of 10 of them not to work. We should expect it and therefore be able to plan for it. I think that the worst thing we can do to ourselves and others who are starting businesses are to create the expectation that every risky thing we try should work out, or that if we fail at any one thing, that we are “failures.” The people who ultimately succeed in business are not the ones who never fail, but the ones who learn from their failures and keep trying new things – they’re the ones who don’t feel like failures but are able to say, “Well, that didn’t work. Moving on. Next idea!”

As for how long it took for me to feel like launching my own line was a good idea … I don’t know! Was it a good idea? I have no idea what I’d be doing now if I hadn’t launched my own line, so maybe it would have been better or maybe worse. There are lots of right decisions and I do think that I made one because I’ve been happy doing it, even as it has been hard and sometimes very stressful. So maybe the answer is that it always felt like the right choice … and also sometimes, like other “right” choices might have been easier!

What are the forces that inspire or influence your work the most often?
As much as I enjoy looking at fashion and other jewelry, I kind of try to avoid it when designing a new collection. It is so easy to spin off on whatever trends are fashionable at the moment, even if you are trying hard not to, and I am trying to make work that isn’t stuck in a time period or a trend. When I am designing new work, I like to be inspired by things other than jewelry, so I often visit an art museum or the public library or even go to a movie. It depends on the basic idea that I have. But, for example, I saw a beautiful Chinese painting of a lotus flower and wanted to create a collection which had that feel. I ultimately ended up finding a book filled with vintage Chinese textile designs and lots of them featured variations of lotus flowers. After sketching and drawing the shapes over and over in my notebook, I came up with some pieces that are recognizable as lotus flowers (lots of people make this observation, so I feel I can safely say that they read as lotus flowers), but which don’t look like either the painting or any of the specific textiles. I just played with them and kept some of the basic shapes and they still have that Chinese style lotus flower feeling, while looking modern and also looking like Karin Jacobson designed jewelry.


You use traditional metals and gems when you design, but also utilize lab-grown gems and materials like recycled gold and palladium. Do you have a favorite medium, gem, or metal?
Favorite gems and metals. Ah! It is so hard to say – they are all so pretty! My favorites are always ones that are ethically sourced, so recycled metals and fair trade or synthetic gems. I currently am very into yellow gold – it is so warm! (And although I’ve been saying for awhile that it is making a comeback, I’m still not seeing lots of it around, which maybe makes it even more appealing to me.) And for stones…sapphires! The jeweler in me loves them because they are so durable that they can be used for anything and the artist in me loves them because they come in so many colors. People generally think of blue when they think of sapphires, but they come in pink, yellow, orange, green, white, purple, red … almost every color and tons of shades of blue. I made my own engagement ring and chose a “fancy color” (meaning pretty much anything but basic blue) sapphire, which is from a fair-trade mine in Malawi and set it in recycled 18 karat yellow gold. The color of the stone, depending on the light, ranges from blue-green to blue-grey and for that reason reminds me of the ocean every time I look at it. I just love it!

What is jewelry’s role in personal style?
The thing that I love about jewelry’s role in personal style is that I think people feel pretty free to try anything when it comes to accessories. I occasionally have clients who love or hate earrings that big or dangly or whatever, or people who think they look better in yellow or white metal, but it does seem like an area where people are comfortable experimenting. I can’t tell you how often people say, “I never thought I’d buy a ring in (whatever color) because I can’t wear that color, but now that I try it on, I just love it!” Personally, I look pretty terrible in bright kelly green and generally don’t wear it next to my face, but a ring, necklace or earrings that color work just fine. I also think that pretty much any body type works well with most styles of jewelry, so people really feel free to experiment. I love that anyone who comes into my studio can try on pretty much any style of jewelry and they look and feel great in it. And no one ever says, “Does this ring make me look fat?”

What advice would you offer to anyone interested in becoming a professional jewelry designer?
In addition to what I mentioned above about embracing failures and trying to learn from them, I would also recommend embracing other people’s failures and successes by talking to other people in the industry and trying to find out what has worked and hasn’t worked for them. And this is not so that you can follow in the footsteps of other businesses and copy their models, because this rarely works. It is to just get more ideas of the multitude of ways that things can be done. There is no one business model that works for everyone so you have to see what things work for you, integrate those things into your business, and discard the things that don’t work for you. (And sometimes, you can let yourself discard things that don’t work for you just because you don’t like doing them. This is okay!)

The other single best piece of advice that I was once given regarding the actual designing of jewelry is to make sure that your work looks like your work. Meaning that it is great to experiment and try different styles, but you still want someone looking at any single piece of jewelry to say, “Hey, that looks like Karin Jacobson Design jewelry.” (Or, obviously, whatever designer.) If you try to follow all of the trends and make whatever people are into at the moment, not only will you not cultivate your own “designer look,” you will also not be making anything interesting or memorable. I have tried (and hopefully to some degree am succeeding) to make a collection consisting of lines that are different from each other, but still look like my work. And I sometimes have clients tell me that a stranger saw their one-of-a-kind custom ring and asked if it is a “Karin Jacobson piece,” and I just love to hear that! Its the best compliment!!

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