Tuesday, December 15, 2009



By Polly Guerin
The Fashion Historian

Genuine pearls are truly nature’s gift from the sea and as such have been valued throughout the ages not only by royalty, but as accessories in important works of art. However, before the 20th century, the hunt for genuine pearls was more or less by chance. Pearl divers dove into the depths of the sea to manually pull oysters from the ocean bottom. It was a laborious and difficult process, and it could take nearly one ton of oysters to produce only three or four perfect round pearls. Pearls were traded as a valuable commodity and people paid astonishing prices for a pearl necklace. Morton Freeman Plant (son of railroad tycoon Henry B. Plant) knew the value of a pearl necklace and in 1917 he traded the Plant’s Neo-Renaissance mansion in exchange for $100 in cash and a double-strand natural pearl necklace valued at the time at $1 million dollars. This mansion is the site of the New York branch of Cartier at 653 Fifth Avenue.
Like Venus rising from the sea a natural pearl can take many years to achieve near-perfect condition and for them to grow in size. The birth of a natural pearl begins when an oyster is invaded by a foreign object. An oyster’s natural defense to the intrusion of this small foreign object, lodged in its mantle tissue, (a grain of sand or parasite) is to encase the object in layers of ‘Nacre’ (nay’ker), which forms a smooth, iridescent mother-of-pearl protective coating. It can take from two to five years for a quality pearl to fully develop in the oyster. Many are not perfectly round and their odd shape has given rise to a style called ‘Baroque.”
In ancient times it was not uncommon for slaves to be anchored with a rock tied around their leg and thrown into the sea to collect precious pearls from oysters. It was a treacherous business. However, traditionally in Japan pearl the process was more civilized and diving was done by women who were called “Ama,” a word which literally meant “sea woman.” This Japanese tradition dates back 2000 years and as recently as the 1960s, Ama divers wore only a lioncloth. They are known to have incredible “free-diving” and “breath-hold” skills. Even today, Ama dive without scuba gear, using these free-diving techniques and can descend to depths of over 100 feet on a single breath. Today, a bit of modesty prevails and divers at tourist attractions wear, white, partially transparent suits to dive in. The harvesting of natural pearls continues to be a costly process. The difference between “Natural” and “cultured pearls” is man’s intervention or to put it more simply, by artificial insemination.
If you own a pearl necklace today you are wearing ‘cultured pearls,” a result of pearl farming. Modern-day cultured pearls are primarily the result of discovers made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Japanese researchers. They discovered a specific technique for inducing the creation of a round pearl within the gonad of an oyster. They simply inserted a foreign object into the farmed oysters and waited for their production to increase. The first harvest of rounds was produced in 1916, but the technique was patented by Kokichi Mikimoto in the 1930s. Pearl farmers cultivated large numbers of quality pearls in the Akoya oysters under controlled facilities in the shallow ocean waters of Japan. It takes two to three years for pearls to develop in pearl farming. You could say that cultured pearls were designed from the start to be round and flawless. Most importantly by producing thousands of pearls in farming facilities, it brought their cost down to a point where pearls became accessible to large numbers of women throughout the world. Only an X-ray can tell the difference between a cultured and natural pearl. Pearl variety includes Mabe pearls, Tahitian Black pearls, South Sea pearls, and small Biwa and seed-like Keshi pearls.
Many legends surround the value of owning pearls as they contain the power of love, money, protection and luck. Ancient legend says that pearls were thought to be the tears of the gods and Greeks believed that wearing pearls would promoted marital bliss and prevent newlywed women from crying. The pearl is the official birthstone for the month of June. It is also the birthstone for the Sun signs of Gemini and Cancer. Freshwater pearls are given on the 1st wedding anniversary and also on the 3rd, 12th and 30th anniversaries. Pearls seem to have a beauty and a versatility all their own. They can be worn with equal ease with daytime business fashions right into evening with a jeweled clasp, and even compliment casual sportswear. Their luminous light compliments most every woman’s complexion and they have that special quality of quiet elegance as personified by celebrities and royals as their signature accessory.
Bio: Polly Guerin taught Product Knowledge at the Fashion Institute of Technology and pearls were a favorite topic. Earlier as an accessories editor, she wrote about cultured pearl jewelry for the venerable trade newspaper, Women’s Wear Daily and also for Art & Antiques magazine. Her tenure as a vice president of RWA/NYC ends in 2009, but she will continue to regale you with fashion history. Visit Polly at www.pollytalk.com and her other blog http://www.amazingartdecodivas.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


By Polly Guerin, the Fashion Historian

Hermes wasn’t always a kingpin of scarf makers. This global purveyor of luxury good’s first customer was the horse. When the company was founded in 1837 by Tierry Hermes it was a saddle and harness workshop in the Paris neighborhood known as the Grand Boulevards, in close proximity to the wealthy clientele whose majestic carriage teams frequented the Champs-Elysees. Soon he provided aristocratic stables all over the work with saddles and harnesses. However, as the 20th century got underway and with the advent of the automobile, Emile-Maurice, who succeeded his father, perceived that the demand for saddlery was bound to diminish, and wisely steered the firm into “saddle stitched” leather goods and trunks for the growing number of customers traveling by car, train, ship and eventually airplanes.
The silk used for jockey’s jackets gave rise to the first scarf, “Jeu des Omnibus et Dames blanches,” which debuted in 1937. The design was inspired by a parlor game similar to the “Game of Goose” from the 19th century, with the “Dames blanches” in the center of the scarf surrounded by two circles of the first horse-drawn buses. Today this silk twill scarf is a mainstay of the product line. Originals of the Omnibus scarf fetch high stakes at the auction block, however, the first Omnibus is housed in the Hermes museum at their flagship store in Paris, 24 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore. This petite museum is only open to Hermes’ design staff and by special permission. Passionately interested in everything equine, Emile-Maurice attend sales at the Paris auction house Drouot and eventually acquired a collection of exceptional pieces that serve as inspiration for Hermes’ craftsmen and designers: antique saddles, rare paintings (such as an equestrian portrait of Louis XIV, one of seven replicas ordered by the king for his foreign ambassadors), 16th- to 18th century equestrian books, toys and objets d’art. Menehould de Bazelaire, the curator of the Hermes private collection says, “It is still being added to with exceptional finds brought in by members of the Hermes family.” On a rare occasion and with special permission, which I acquired, several years ago I took a group of fashion students from the Fashion Institute of Technology to visit Hermes and we had a brief visit to the famed museum.
Every year, approximately 20 new designs are added to the silk twill scarf collection, and earlier models are frequently reinterpreted in fresh styles and colors. Ever wonder why a Hermes scarf is so expensive. Well, just consider this--each scarf is crafted using a multi-step process that can require up to 800 hours of engraving and thousands of colors in a single scarf. Since 1987 Hermes conceived an annual theme for each calendar year. The highly collectible silk scarves include “Year of the River” (2005), a river theme of blues and greens; “Paris in the Air” (2006), a celebration of Paris that included a historical map; and “Shall We Dance…?” (2007). In creating new scarf designs Hermes often partners with independent artists. At an art fair in Waco, Texas Jean-Louis Dumas-Hermes, who took over the reins of management in 1978, discovered Texas painter Kermit Oliver and commissioned him to create printed scarf designs, including “Les Mythologies des Hommes Rouges,” which reflects the spirit of the American Indians, their culture and the horse. Special-edition scarves have commemorated many events in American life. In 1986, the centennial of the Statue of liberty was marked by the production of a “Liberty” scarf. “Envol,” issued in 1995, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. Le Salon Dore was issued in 1996 for the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Responding to popular demand, in 2007 Le Salon Dore was reissued, with proceeds benefiting the rebuilding of the New Orleans’ historic City Park carousel, which had been demanded by Hurricane Katrina, which was yet another Hermes nod to its equine roots.
There’s something “je n’est ce pas” special about how Parisian women seem to instinctively know how to wear a scarf, and there is no doubt that a quality silk scarf is easily recognizable on the wearer. Replicas of the famed Hermes and other couture makers have been made to mimic their celebrity, but their quality is never up to the standards of a luxury brand. When you invest in a quality silk scarf it can become a collectible, so much so, that some people even put an especially beautiful design in a large glass protected frame and exhibit it on their wall. Far from being limited to wear a scarf on your head, one can also belt it around the waist, tie it onto a quality handbag, buy two and make a blouse or a skirt, buy one and tie it around your neck halter style. If your imagination fails, books are available that give directions how to extend your scarf into a fashion item. A BIT OF SCARF TRIVIA The evolvement of the silk scarf into a fashion item also had its incarnation when the dancer Isadora Duncan captivated audiences with her long white silk scarves floating on the air of breathtaking movement. However, when she wore one of these long scarves around her neck whilst driving her convertible, long flowing scarf flew in the wind and caught in one of the wheels of her car and “yes” it strangled her. Let not forget those “Rosie the Riveter,” women who during World War II worked in the munitions factories to aid the war effort. They made practical application of the scarf and wrapped it around their heads to protect their hair, and prevent their hair getting caught in machines. Movie stars, models, women of rank also did their bit to promote the scarf. Who can forget Jackie ‘O’s iconic look wearing a quality silk scarf or when Sophie Loren covered her locks with a scarf, Grace Kelly called it her own and Brigitte Bardot knotted a small scarf under her chin it became the rage. If you like to wear silk scarves may you find the perfect quality silk to build a collectible collection.

Bio: Polly Guerin indulged and purchased a Hermes silk scarf in Paris and still wears it decades later. As a fashion historian and former professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology she taught “Product Knowledge,” and accessories were a major topic. Early on she was an accessories editor at trade newspaper, the bible of the fashion industry, Women’s Wear Daily.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009



By Polly Guerin, The Fashion Historian

Fashion has had an awakening and the search is on for vintage jewelry pieces, imitators of fine jewelry, that covet high prices at retail counters and at antique dealers. After all the blitz and glitz on the runways costume jewelry has come full circle with the luster of pearls, the gleam of crystals, diamond-like rhinestones and brilliant colored stones.
One of the most alluring aspects of collecting vintage costume jewelry is the thrill of acquiring pieces of incredible beauty and unprecedented workmanship. Early pieces from the 1930s to the 1950’s were made by craftsmen, high- end jewelers from the fine jewelry trade who applied their handicraft to costume jewelry. Imitating fine jewelry, the handcrafted prong-set designs used faux pearls, colored enamels, simulated precious gemstones and Swarovski crystals in necklaces, brooches, earrings and bracelets that defied anyone calling them “fake.” So painstaking to detail was the work of the artists that the incised name of a designer or a manufacturer’s mark makes a significant difference in value. Signed pieces by Boucher, Ciner, Miriam Haskell, Panetta and Eisenberg command steep prices, as are pieces incised with a manufacturer’s marks such as Coro, Monet, Napier, Trifari and Vendome.
It is curious that along this glittering path was Chanel, who invented ‘costume jewelry.’ She turned the jewelry rules upside down in the 1920s, making fabulous faux jewels a high fashion essential. Other couture houses followed her example including Elsa Schiaparelli, Christian Dior and Yes Saint Laurent. These high-end showstopper, costume jewelry pieces were designed to complement the designer’s haute couture and prĂȘt a porter (ready-to-wear) runway fashion collections. However, many of the extravagant costume jewelry pieces attributed to haute couture designers actually were designed by legendary French fine jewelry designers including Gripoix, Robert Goossens and Roger Jean-Pierre. The distinctive quality of vintage costume jewelry pieces from the 1930s also focuses on the work of Parisian designer, Marcel Boucher. He came to New York and worked for Cartier, but left in the 30s to set up his own firm, explains jewelry historian Joyce Jonas. “His first collection of three-dimensional pins was made with colored rhinestones and unusual translucent enamels. Nothing like it had ever been done before. Each piece was beautifully crafted and prong-set. Originally priced from $40 to $60, in today’s market these same pins go for $800 and better, and at the high-end sell for $1,500 to $l, 600.”
“Chanel was a visionary and the high quality of her costume jewelry was made and prong-set like fine jewelry,” says Pauline Ginnane-Gasbarro, a New York dealer who specializes in Chanel pieces that sell from $4000 and up. Chanel gave master jeweler Fulco Santostefano della Cerda, Duke of Verdura, his start as a costume jewelry designer and he later created the house of VERDURA. He first introduced the combination of multi-colored stones and pearls in necklaces, cuff bracelets and brooches. Chanel was often photographed wearing her favorite Maltese cross cuff bracelets and other signature pieces by Verdura. Today Verdura has transformed itself into a high-end fine jewelry house using real precious stones in just the same Maltese cuff. For costume jewelry buffs look for Kenneth Jay Lane’s version. He revived this design in the 60s.
New plastic materials originating at the turn of the 20th century introduced Bakelite, a plastic material that was worked in vivid, bold colors and often incised with hand-carved geometric or floral motifs. Bakelite was also fashioned into a type of whimsical costume jewelry that became popular in the 30s. Today Bakelite is having a renaissance and most fashionable is the staking of bangle bracelets in multi colors, or wearing whimsical figurative brooches—bunnies, dogs, and clowns, some with moveable parts. Carmen Miranda’s Bakelite fruity jewelry was also popular. Bakelite pieces that may have sold for $50 in the 1930’s today might sell in the hundreds and thousands depending upon the rarity of the piece. “A French Bakelite design, signed by Auguste Bonaz would bring much more money than unsigned pieces,” says Ginny Redington Dawes, co-author with Corinne Davidov of the ‘Bakelite Jewelry Book.’ One world of caution, I’ve heard that some fakes have penetrated the seller’s market, so be sure you know what you are purchasing when it comes to Bakelite.
What to purchase can be perplexing. “Costume jewelry is getting hot,” says Harrice Simons Miller, a New York dealer and author of ‘The Official Price Guide to Costume Jewelry.’ Now is a great time to collect Eisenberg enamels, Trifari, Panetta, Ciner, Chanel, Dior and YSL pieces.” Knowledge of buying and selling trends can best be acquired by keeping close tabs on vintage costume jewelry auctions and estate sales held at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Doyle in New York and Skinner’s in Boston. A mint condition Chanel sautoir and oblong pendant, circa 1935, in silver-plated metal set with rhinestones and imitation emeralds was auctioned at $1,500 at Doyle. In the 30’s the same sautoir may have sold for just two hundred dollars. Miller says, “As for the future of collectibles you should consider purchasing contemporary jewelry by top designers now and put it away for 20 years to age its intrinsic value.” It is interesting to note that Providence, Rhode Island from the 1920s to the ‘50’s was the center of the American manufacturing of the handcrafted and prong-set costume jewelry and much of the costume jewelry is still manufactured there, albeit mass produced and not with the same vintage characteristics. Costume jewelry reproductions are filtering the market from China so it is best to take a magnifying glass with you and examine the incised maker before making a purchase. Today some of the most collectible costume jewelry includes Kenneth Jay Lane’s oversized earrings, large necklaces, animal bracelets and bold pins. In 2005 a KJL tiger bracelet sold for $540. Today the price would be considerably higher.
Recently I attended the Antiques Show at the Pier and the vendors of jewelry, both real and imitators, was quite overwhelming. However, I found an adorable artistic bracelet watch under $50, so there are still ‘finds’ out there, but you have to look very carefully to authenticate a piece’s origin by examining the incised signature.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Since Coco Chanel introduced the “Little Black Dress” in 1926, it has become the epitome of chic and the one classic that every woman covets for her wardrobe. Intended by Chanel to be a long-lasting, versatile, affordable and accessible to the widest market possible the “Little Black Dress, which many refer to by the abbreviation LBD, has outlasted fashion frivolity as the essential wardrobe basic. Be it for daytime wear or cocktail occasions the simple but elegant black dress can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion: for example, worn with a jacket and Chanel pumps for daytime business attire, the LBD can reappear for evening without the jacket and accessorized with jewelry and stilettos, perhaps adding a little Minaudiere purse. Vogue called it “Chanel’s Ford,” and like the Model T, the little black dress would become “a sort of uniform for all women of taste.”
Birth of the Little Black Dress As early as 1915, Coco Chanel envisioned the LBD as the new uniform for women for afternoon and evening wear. However, one may also surmise that Chanel’s early life educated by the nuns in a convent orphanage may well have influenced her affinity for the black uniform (the nun’s habit influence). She rejected the accusation that she was trying to impose the style of the working girl on haute couture by creating the “deluxe poor look.” Chanel’s silhouette, staying close to the uncorseted figure, began to make the skirts of Lanvin’s hobbled-skirt look old-fashioned and Poiret’s Orientalism too theatrical. Sadly, Poiret spent his final years in decline and debt. Chanel and Poiret had a chance encounter on a Paris street in 1928. Noticing that Chanel was wearing all black, Poiret inquired, “For whom, Madame, do you mourn?” To which Chanel replied, “For you, Monsieur.”
Black, The Essential Color of Fashion Black as we know has traditionally been associated with mourning but it has also had a sinister relationship with magic, wizardry, Halloween and a dark, moody scenarios. However, painting played a major role in the rediscovery of black as an essential color of fashion. In the 1881 the American painter, John Singer Sargent met Madame Gautreau in Paris society. She agreed to sit for a portrait, which he titled “Madame X.” To his shock and consternation, the painting became an instant scandal, viewed as salacious because of the sexual suggestiveness of her pose and revealing nature of the black gown. Likewise theLBD also partakes of a chameleon character changing as it does from day to night depending how it is accessorized and who wears it.
Black, The Color of Stability While Coco Chanel’s “Little Black Dress,” became the archetype of black as the color of high fashion, we must give black much of the credit for the timeless quality of the LBD. Black has a certain dignity about it. It can be called aristocratic, sophisticated or chic. Its economy and elegance has brought it forward into the Twentieth Century unscathed and always a reliable staple to pull us through any occasion. Many women aspire to own a simple, sleeveless black sheath similar to the one designed by Hubert de Givenchy and worn by Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but sadly vintage styles like this are difficult to find and when you do it is at an auction house. The LBD Audrey wore in the film was sold at auction for over $800,000. Other celebs include the “little black sparrow,” Edith Piaf, the French folk icon, who performed in a black sheath dress throughout her career.
Alas when all else fails and we have a wardrobe dilemma, the Little Black Dress can always pull us through most any occasion.
Bio: Polly Guerin is still searching for the ideal Little Black Dress. As a fashion historian and former professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology she produced the video “The Story of Color,” delving into the psychology of color, its influence on fashion, home furnishings, products and advertising. Her book, “The Message is in the Rainbow,” is being peddled around to publishers by an agent.

Monday, October 26, 2009


by Polly Guerin, Fashion Historian

Cloaked in mystery and romance Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel is one of the most fascinating women in history and so is the Chanel suit that has outlasted her legendary life of rags to riches and high society. Her extraordinary influence on the way women dressed in the 1920s and 1930s evokes an image of elegant simplicity and a modernist approach to fashion. No wonder, the Chanel suit reappears today as an all-time classic. Honors are pouring in across the country and with the opening of the film, "Coco, Before Chanel" at the Paris Theater, moviegoers learned the truth behind the Coco legend. But don't expect this movie to be all about the celebrated designer's famous Haute Couture days of wine and roses and high society. It focuses on her early days singing at cabarets, plying her dressmaking skills and finding romance with the wealthy male benefactors who provided financial aid and abetted her meteroric rise to stardom and high society. All aboard, Saks Fifth Avenue's windows paid homage to Chanel and invited viewers to take a vicarious trip on the Chanel train with the CC logo, pulling out all the stops with Chanel suits and accessories. Attention to detail made the Haute Couture Chanel jacket quite a different breed of garment from the traditional tailored styles. The Haute Couture version was hand-made in exquisite tweeds and boucle fabrics and the lining, printed or plain, matched the coorinating blouse, collar and cuffs. A delicate gilt chain sewn to the hem of the jacked added just a bit of weight so the jacket did not ride up. Now that is a classy suit, par excellence and it is said that if Chanel was not satisified she would rip off the sleeve of the Chanel suit time and again to get the perfect fit. The end result was that despite fashion's frivolity this was a suit that would last for years and still look chic.
Notorious as a born romantic, her name was linked with celebrated men of the era. Idle hours on the Duke of Westminster's yacht did not stop Chanel's imagination and from the crew's uniforms she developed jersey yachting fashions and sportswear. Polly dishes the dirt that so many biographers have tended to hide about this amazing woman. After her romantic attachment to a German officer during WWII she fled to Switzerland and only returned to Paris to open her Couture House after the largesse of the French population forgave her dalliance.
Chanel is the trademark for fashion, accessories, perfume, cosmetics and all sorts of lovely things. If it isn't an authentic Chanel suit, do not use terms in your writing such as Chanel-ed, Chanel--issim or Chanel-ized. Lawyers positively detest them.
Bio: Polly was a fashion reporter when she was sent to cover the House of Chanel collection for the trade publication, bible of the fashion industry, Women's Wear Daily and had the great pleasure of meeting Madame herself. As a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology she became a recognized fashion historianon on the subject of the Chanel suit. Visit Polly at www.pollytalk.com.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


By Polly Guerin, Fashion Historian

The world's most legendary fragrance and the House of Chanel's most famous perfume, Chanel No. 5, is not the first perfume to ever have emerged on the fashion scene. Poiret, the fashion designer who freed women from the corset and created slim hip sheaths that were all the rage in the Jazz age, was also the first fashion designer to create a perfume. He worked with chemists to concoct mysterious, Oriental scents. In the l920s/1930s he created the "Poiret" woman with Le Fruit Defendu, Nuit de Chine, L'Etrange Fleur, even Borgia.
However, perfume has a prolific history because women have been known to douse themselves with aromatic scents throughout the ages. The Egyptian women knew a thing or two about beauty as did women of the French court who used perfume to dispel unpleasant body odor. Amazing these noble women did not all bath. Then Victorian women had their fainting spells and scented vials of aromatic arousal came to their rescue.
However, the legend still holds Chanel No. 5 up as the number one perfume that has been on sale since its introduction in 1921. The House of Chanel claims that a bottle is sold worldwide every 30 seconds.
Parisian couturier Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel commissioned Ernest Beaux, one of the most celebrated perfumers of the era, and as we know today these men are called the "Nose" of the industry. Well, Beaux' nose was inspired by his military sojourn above the Arctic Circle during World War in which the perfume attemps to capture the scent of extreme freshness of the northern lakes under the midnight sun. At that time the most expensive perfume oil was jasmine and Chanel wanted to create the most costly perfume in the word, and as a result No. 5 relies heavily on jasmine. There was not one but several formulas presented by Beaux and No. 5 was the one chosen out of a series of ten perfumes presented by Beaux. Cocurrently Chanel was presenting her couture collection on May 5 of that year and the iconic No. 5 was born to a destiny of unrivaled success.
Chanel No. 5 did not take off immediately. Being a woman of unprecedented marketing vision Chanel introduced it first to her friends on May 5, 1921 and it was given to preferred clients free at her salon. Making the scent more recognizable, the fitting rooms of her establishment were scented with No. 5, which as you know, is a tactic imitated by retailers today. Although not the first fragrance to use snythetic floral aldehydes as a top note, it was Chanel's theory saying "I want to give women an artificial perfume. Yes, i do mean artificial, like a dress, something that has been made so that it would make a woman's natural beauty more precise."
Famous spokesmodels for the fragrance have included movie start, Marilyn Monroe, whose mystic boosted its popularity. In 1953 when asked what she wore to bed, Monroe famously replied, "Why, Chanel No. 5., of course." Chanel herself declared, "A woman should wear fragrance wherever she expects to be kissed."
French film sensation, Catherine Deneuve also became the iconic image of the Chanel No. 5 woman as were Nicole Kidman and actress Audrey Tautou who also appeared in the short firm for the fragrance introduced on May 5th, 2009 in honor of the creation of Chanel No. 5. introduced on May 5, 1921.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


The Legend of the Minaudiere: by Polly Guerin, Fashion Historian

Everybody knows that accessories make an outfit, and it seems you can never have too many evening bags, especially a Minaudiere. The French word describes an elegant but small, highly jeweled hard metal case that one can nestle in their hand. These charming little handfuls are more an art form than anything else and placed on the dinner table or worn at a gala event these minaudieres look like portable art. "Bubbles," the late Beverly Sills had hundreds of them and mostly as gifts or bought from Judith Leiber the famed handbag designer who produced animal, avant-garde and whimsical shapes all jeweled and emblazoned with eye popping colorful Sahworski crystals. Among Bubbles' collection, auctioned at Doyle, were a Doctor's Bag Minaudiere, A Shell Minaudiere, an Elephant Deity Minaudiere and a wide assortment of Faberge Egg Minaudieres. Minaudiere in its original sense was a charming way to describe a coquette, a person with affected manners.
Contemporary minaudieres are just that coquettish but their incarnation is ascribed by Deborah Chase, in her book, "Terms of Adornment," The Ultimate Guide to Accessories (HarperCollins), as having been created by Van Cleef and Arpels in 1930 when Charles Arpels noticed that one of his clients was using a metal Lucky Strike box as a purse. He adapted the look and named it after the wife of his partner, Estelle Van Cleef, who was "minaudiere" (charming). At first minaudieres were made of gold plated or silver metal and encrusted with genuine gems, but the look was too delicious to remain exclusive. Within a decade you could find the dainty purse on female arms throughout America. Imitatators of the iconic jewled minaudere cover designs with colored rhinestones, which is how Judith Leiber's minauderes started in the first place. In a Women's Wear Daily, trade newspaper interview Leiber said,"I was making metal bags, but they were getting tarnished. To cover it, we put each rhinestone on with a flat back and a little glue." However, if one wants to have the 'real thing,' Deborah Chase recommends that "You look for vintage mother-of-pearl, petit point, or beaded minaudieres in flea markets and antique stores and to modernize the minaudiere change the short wrist strap for a long chain so that you can hang the small bag from your shoulder."
Mad about a certain book cover? Your own, of course! Have it immortalized on a square-shaped minaudiere. That's the concept behind a magical new line of limited edition minaudieres by Paris-based, Olympia Le-Tan, evoking first-edition covers of 21 classics. The collection is handmade in France, using canvas, embroidered flet applique and silk thread, with a brass strictire. Each minaudiere book retails for $l,500 and the boutique Colette is the exclusive Paris distributor for the collection. 213 Rue Saint-Honore, 7500l; +33-1-55-35-33-90.
Terry Mayer, jewelry designer, takes it one step further and creates book miniatures in silver or another alloy, and imprints the title of a book on the cover so you can wear the little jewelry book on a chain, front and center. www.terrymayerbells@aol.com.
At age 88, Judith Leiber is still enthralled about handbags. She reflects on her life and career in accessories in a new self-published book by Jeffrey Sussman, "No Mere Bagatelles," Telling the Story of Handbag Genius Judith Leiber & her Modernist Artist husband, Gerson Leiber.

Bio: Polly Guerin's first job in journalism was as Accessories Editor at the fashion bible, the trade newspaper Women's Wear Daily where she honed her skills on writing about accessories and later as professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology she lectured on Product Knowledge explained how accessories were made and manufactured. Polly is also a vice-president of Romance Writers of America/New York Chapter. Visit her at www.pollytalk.com with links to her Internet PollyTalk column and blog www.amazingartdecodivas.blogspot.com.