Women who are well-dressed know how to keep track of several fashion elements at once. To look fashionable, an ensemble must be well matched in terms of styles, patterns, and colors, but it must also look appropriate for the social context. The most elegant and lovely evening gown in the world, after all, would hardly be fashionable if worn at an occasion calling for casual dress.
A final consideration, however, must be the accessories a woman chooses to wear with a given outfit. These need to be given special attention in order to create the right impression, since fashion jewelry trends change with the times just like clothing does.
What is fashion jewelry?
Perhaps the best way to understand fashion jewelry is to recognize that this category until recently was often referred to as "costume jewelry." That term is highly inaccurate on its face, however; pieces in the category had nothing to do with dressing up in costume. Rather, fashion jewelry encompasses a wide range of relatively inexpensive jewelry pieces including not just bracelets, necklaces, and hoop earrings but also anklets, rings and toe rings, and even hair jewelry.
Fashion jewelry is often composed of natural materials such as bleached bone, authentic ram's horn, wood, and various metals including copper, steel, and aluminum. The use of these abundant source materials is one reason why fashion jewelry can be quite affordable, but of course there is no requirement that these pieces be composed entirely of natural elements. Fashion jewelry also makes abundant use of man-made materials including glass, plastic, and various types of durable resins. What all fashion jewelry has in common is its use of affordable materials and modes of manufacture as opposed to fine jewelry, which includes precious stones, valuable metals including silver and gold, and at times, the skills of a jewelry-maker experienced in hand-crafting unique and valuable pieces.
Trends in fashion jewelry
What counts as fashionable jewelry these days can actually vary depending on the group of people involved, but some large trends manage to transcend barriers of social class, geography, and ethnicity. In the United States right now, two of the most significant trends are toward "mixed media" and asymmetry.
Mixed media pieces are ones that include components from a wide range of different groups. Necklaces that combine ribbons, chain, and feathers would qualify as mixed media, as would a bracelet that mixes chunky wooden beads with satin stringing cord. The "steampunk" jewelry movement, which actually uses machinery parts such as gears and watch faces scattered amid traditional chains is an example of the extreme edge of the mixed media approach to jewelry.
Another dominant jewelry trend at the moment is the application of asymmetry, particularly to necklaces. Traditionally, necklaces have been symmetrical, featuring identical elements on the left and right sides so that when worn, each side is a mirror image of the other. With this approach, the focal piece or pendant is always worn at the low point of the necklace. Asymmetry is a radical reimagining of the traditional necklace in which the focal piece is worn off-center and the left side may be completely different from the right. A typical asymmetrical necklace may actually feature dozens of tiny silver-toned chains along one side and a single chunky gunmetal chain along the other. Such a necklace would usually be decorated with vastly different beads along the two sides, or might even have beads on the left while the right remains bare of ornamentation.
What works best in the realm of fashion jewelry is largely a matter of opinion, but this is true of all issues connected with style. This is probably the best explanation for the huge diversity of fashion jewelry available at any one time. Because each woman is a unique creation with her own sense of flair and polish, makers of both fashion jewelry and fine jewelry produce a wide range of styles. In the final analysis, this is as it should be.