Wear Your Pearls, Girls | A Memoir

My mother Susanne had infallible taste in fashion and jewelry. I never saw her put a foot wrong. Ever. On a rather modest budget she stood out in any crowd, with her signature pageboy hairstyle, a strand of good cultured pearls, and gold bangles and charm bracelets which jangled as she smoked her Kent Ultra Lights. Sue wore suede trench coats in the ‘70s, power shoulders in the ‘80s, and doorknocker earrings in the ‘90s; she’d be right at home today. Though she’s been gone for two decades, I think of her every time I get dressed up and ask myself, “What would Susie do?”

I often accused my mother of graduating from the More Is More Fashion Academy. Contrary to Coco Chanel, who famously said, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off,” Sue would say, “Let’s try it here, or here, or HERE!”, until she found the perfect spot for a bunch of silk violets, a rhinestone circle pin, or another gold chain. She was invariably right.

Sue loved giving fashion advice to my sister and me (while simultaneously laying out clothes for my father and brother). She was a natural-born stylist, way ahead of her time. I can remember her calling up the stairs, “Wear your pearls, girls!”, as if we were dressing for battle instead of a college go-see, a job interview, or a big date. If I asked her to help me decide between my gold hoops or simple pearl studs, she would inevitably choose the pearls, saying: “They light up your eyes, trust me on this.” 

My fashionable mother intrinsically knew then what new generations of women are learning today—the power of pearls to bring out our best. We are all our mothers’ daughters…and we stand on their shoulders as we dress for success. In this long-overdue age of female empowerment, statement pearls are more popular than they have been in decades—signifiers of strong and confident women. 

I rarely go out without mine…but, then again, I always add one more piece before I walk out the door.

Top, Clockwise from Upper Left: Vivienne Westwood Red Label; Assael South Sea Pearl and Diamond Earrings; Assael Triple-Row Akoya Pearl Necklace; Oscar de la Renta for Balmain featuring Assael Pearls. Bottom, L to R: Assael South Sea Baroque Pearl Earrings; Assael South Sea Baroque Pearl Opera Length Necklace; B Michael America Runway.