Playing with Boho-chic

For months now, I’ve been wanting to try some necklace-layering techniques that I learned in this post by the lovely Debbi at She Accessorizes Well. I’ve noticed that fashion bloggers layer jewelry just as artfully as they layer clothing, and I want to play, too!

To me, layered jewelry embodies that seemingly effortless, Boho-chic look that I just love. The idea is to look like you just casually threw on a handful of necklaces on your way out the door. Everything blends perfectly, and you are now dripping with glittery fabulousness. You know the look I mean, right?

Now, I’ve never quite pulled this look off, but it could just be for lack of trying. My own personal style, though certainly far from conservative, can be a bit low-key. I tend to shy away from “too much” — whatever that means.  I tried wearing a pair of necklaces once last year, and the look was just OK — nothing special. (On the bright side, none of my co-workers averted their eyes in pity, pretending not to notice my absent-minded inability to dress myself).

But then I read Debbi’s post, and a few things fell into place. She has some really great tips, so I strongly recommend that you read her post and look at her beautiful examples.  The three main ideas that I took away were: 1) Use necklaces of different lengths; 2) look for some unifying element between all of them, and (most intriguingly) 3) try using odd numbers of necklaces, because they mix more easily than even numbers.

It took me awhile, but today presented the perfect opportunity to give it a try.  This is the time of year when I experience the winter wardrobe blues: Everything bores me, I can’t find anything to wear, and I’m looking for ways to shake things up. Plus, it’s Mardi Gras! What better time to try on lots of beads? (You’ll be relieved to hear that no alcohol was involved, and I didn’t have to take my shirt off to “earn” my beads!)

So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of my efforts.

Almost immediately, I realized that I was faced with a challenge: I have very few necklaces of medium length. They just aren’t as versatile as my very short necklaces, which can be easily worn with a variety of open-necked tops , or my super long strands, which work well with sweaters and higher necklines. The medium-length strand, I realize, is one that I often avoid because it tends to be too long for some necklines and too short for others. Nevertheless, I found a couple of possibilities to work with.

Here’s my first attempt, using three necklaces.

I think this follows the “similar elements” rule.  All three are bead necklaces in earth tones, made from natural-looking materials.

What I like about this grouping is that it breathes new life into the top necklace — a gorgeous strand of intertwined pink and silver beads that I never wear because, for some reason, it disappears into my neck. When joined with the other two, this suddenly doesn’t seem like so much of a problem.

In fact, I’m noticing that, when combining necklaces, it’s good if at least one of them is willing to blend into the background a little bit. If all three necklaces were divas, competing for attention, the results could be rather jarring!

Here’s the next group:

I’m on the fence about this one. On the one hand, I like how the color of the turquoise beads is echoed in the jade-colored beads in both of the other necklaces.

All three strands, again, have natural-looking materials. (Come to think of it, I think all my jewelry is made of these kinds of materials!)

But even though the rustic, rough-hewn materials and shapes are all compatible, part of me feels that the overall look is a little too “chunky.” It’s like the chunky elements are fighting with each other, or something. But I’ll probably have to wear this combination out of the house a few times before I’ll know for sure.

So I made another attempt:


I felt more comfortable with this one, which just seems more harmonious to me.

I thought I was going to do a lot more 3-necklace combos, but with the shortage of mid-length strands, I found it difficult. Furthermore, I was having trouble getting my necklines right. It was hard to figure out which tops to wear because, if the neck was open enough for a short necklace to be visible, it was sometimes too open for the longer strands to be shown to their best advantage. Do you understand what I’m saying? It can be hard enough to find one necklace that fits with the neckline of a particular top. Now I’m trying for three?

It’s like anything else — if you start paying too much attention to this stuff, there are a lot of minutiae to obsess about. Do the beads show best against bare skin, or against fabric? Should clothing and jewelry be in complementary colors or contrasting ones? So much for casually throwing on a few necklaces on the way out the door!

But Debbi threw me a lifeline. As one of her “rules,” she said that rules are made to be broken, and that we should feel free to experiment on our own.  Whew! So although I really did like the 3-strand looks, I decided to simple things up a bit and try some necklace pairs, too.

Here are four examples that I liked:

The “echoes of amber” pair:

The  “touch of faux turquoise” pair:

and the “blues & browns” pair:

What do you think? Do you think two strands work as well as three? On the one hand, it seems like things are simpler with fewer elements because there aren’t so many colors, textures, and other variables in play. At the same time, it seems like it might be more difficult for two items to blend — it could look more like a mistake. But I thought these worked OK.

Finally, as the afternoon wore on and my hands started cramping up from those teeny-tiny, too-hard-to-fasten clasps, it was time to wind down.  I decided to try several combinations with the same simple strand of rosy-brown beads.

Here’s brown with green:

Brown with patterned shell:

And last but not least, brown with crazy, hypnotic, orange swirl:

I love how the purple in the swirl necklace brings out the hint of purple in the brown beads.

What I like about these last groupings is that they revive my plain brown beads. I have loved this simple yet elegant strand for years, but I often find it to be a little too plain, a little too conservative, for my more creative outfits. Blended with other necklaces, though, I think it helps ground the look and keep it from being “too much” (whatever that means).

So there you have it. It may be hard to tell from the photos how these looks come across when you can see the whole outfit, and I’ll need to wear these out of the house before I know for sure how well I like them.  But I think these layering techniques might help me to get more use out of lesser-worn items, while also jazzing things up a bit.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite? What are your own experiences with layering? Do you think this Boho-chic thing has potential?

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About Anne @ The Frump Factor

Reflections on beauty and style, for women who weren't born yesterday. Bring your sense of humor and "Fight the Frump" with me!
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35 Responses to Playing with Boho-chic

  1. Terri says:

    Like you, I tend to prefer jewelry or necklaces with “natural” qualities, however that may be defined. I’m really excited about this post–as just today, for the first time, I wore two necklaces together. I’m not sure I could pull off three either as I really don’t like the short ones too close to my neck. My favorites would be the last two and the first one!

  2. Louise says:

    I’m impressed that you have so many pretty necklaces that play so well together. Not a bad choice in the bunch. Brava!

  3. I’ve wanted to try combining my necklaces more as well — you’ve done a great job with these. I’m surprised how well the combos with only 2 work as I generally like that rule of odd numbers — I think that what makes it work for me is that the necklines of the shirts created that 3rd contributing line. . . my favourites are the blue-and-browns combo and the very top photo.

  4. Beryl says:

    That first combination is really neat. I like your diagonal necklace a lot. You’re done a lot of work trying on all these combinations – Thanks!

  5. I’ve been experimenting with this as well. You have done other posts about mixing and matching clothes you wouldn’t think of putting together and it works with jewelry as well! I wasn’t so sure about using necklaces with extreme differences in length but you have some examples that look really well together. I really like the “echos of amber” pairing. Both necklaces ‘echo’ the v-neck of the shirt. It’s as if the neckline is the third element. Great post!

  6. Well done, dear Anne – what a lot of hard work you put into these combos! They are all pleasing to the eye, IMHO, and they all flatter you, but my personal favorites are #3 for Wow factor, and the last one, for simple harmony. Very inspiring!

  7. tamerakitten says:

    First–love all the necklaces!! i love natural elements, too. And vintage!
    i may have to try this–although all of my necklaces tend to be short. ! find longer ones hit the boobage funny or are always side ways “hooking” a boob–not the look I’m going for!

  8. Vesta Vayne says:

    Oh I love this look, but I always feel like I can’t pull it off. As you pointed out, I get caught up in minutiae…

    And I adore the necklace with the orange swirly medallion thing – so pretty!

  9. Wow this is the first time I’ve read your blog (found it under 40+ bloggers) and I to have loved this look and sorry to say cheat by buying them together. I really liked all of them, it amazes me that all your necklaces match so well. Thanks for the tips and pictures.

  10. gracefully50 says:

    I love it Anne! You did a fantastic job of pairing them. I’m also shy when it comes to bold jewelry…
    I’m trying to use them when my outfit is simple…still learning the art of layering. My favorites are #1, #3 and the last one.

  11. notquiteold says:

    First pic is fabulous.

  12. gingerR says:

    I like the ones where the multiples are graduated lengths better. You have excellent material to work with!

  13. What a fun post. My favorites are number 3 and 6. I love that color blue and that short necklace!

  14. Grace says:

    I like the blue and brown pairing and the last one. But seriously, don’t ask me. I have a necklace I never take off and a pair of earrings I wear 24/7. I don’t change, mostly because I’m lazy.

    On another note, I have a big-ass amber cross that I absolutely adore because of who made it for me. Several years ago, we hosted a boy from Lithuania in our home for his last two years of high school. Lithuania, of course, is one of the few places in the world where amber can be found on the beaches. Petras’s dad, a retired pro basketball player who is now a jeweler, made me that huge cross. I love that piece of jewelry. Now if I could just learn how to wear it.

  15. Thank you so much for your kind words about my blog post on layering. I think you did a great job on all the pairings. I think all are equally pretty and I am so glad you took a chance and played around with the different looks.
    Here is a hint if you want to change the length of a shorter necklace. You can use a necklace extender, or even a small chain bracelet to extend the length. If you are aren’t wearing something to cover that up, you can use a piece of ribbon to thread through the loops by the fasteners. Just be sure to tie it securely. Nowadays there are so many necklaces that tie with ribbons that no one would know it wasn’t purchased that way. I often use some extension method to change lengths. Sometimes I want to wear something over my shirt collar and extenders make that work.
    Beautiful layering!

    • Thanks, Debbi! I’ve heard about those extenders — the closest I’ve gotten is moving different sized clasps, hooks and loops from one necklace to another. (I’ve also been known to tie knots in leather cord, to shorten it. These techniques tend to be somewhat permanent, though). I never would have considered ribbon as a lengthener! And I may look for a few extenders. (Where do you buy yours?)

  16. I just now read this post, Anne and I think you did a fabulous job!! Debbie’s tips are good ones and you really took her info to heart and styled some looks really well. I Have been attempting to simplify which is hard for me since I love accessories…but I might have to give this a try sometime.

  17. Katrina says:

    Wow! Between your examples and Debbi’s, which I’ve just reviewed as well, I’ve decided this is my new favorite thing. I spent a happy hour playing with my necklaces and came up with some fantastic combos that I’d nver considered before.

  18. Gail says:

    Several of your pairings look great! I’ve never thought of trying this —- I usually only buy fairly short necklaces with chunky beads, so I don’t have any long ones. But it’s made me think about trying this technique.

  19. You’ve done a great job on layering your necklaces, Anne! Another trick you can do with a longer length necklace is to double it up and let it be both the short and mid-length with another long one. If you’re short on mid-length necklaces, that’s an easy fix.

    Thank you for your comment about purple and brown – with colour, my rule of thumb is if you could see it in nature, it will work in fashion. For purple tones and brown, I just look at all the Japanese plum and cherry trees – they have deep brown trunks and limbs, and their leaves are anywhere from a very deep purple to a vibrant cerise!

  20. yearstricken says:

    You have some nice looking combinations.

  21. WendyB says:

    You’re a natural!

  22. Anne — I love the one with the turquoise necklace (the one you weren’t sure about?). That’s my favorite one! Great job and great post. I’m one of those people who just keep trying and I end up looking like a jumbled mess. .

  23. Serene says:

    Amazing how much versatility we have in our jewelry boxes, no? I LOVE the layered necklaces look! I prefer longer necklaces, as I feel like with my long hair and then earrings, it just feels like there’s too much going on too high up (if that makes sense). You’ve done GREAT with these and I think that two look just as good as 3, but I do understand Debbi’s advice…odd numbers seem to fall into place more easily. I ALWAYS enjoy your posts so much! Hugs! ~Serene

  24. Angie says:

    It seems you have a real talent in layering jewelery.And you own some great pieces,too.Although I love layering clothes I never gave jewelery a chance. Thanks for bringing this up.

  25. Lorena says:

    Nice job.
    I am having a hard time layering bracelets…. i put them on. I take them off. I feel like a gypsy but I LOVE seeing them on everyone else-

  26. Thanks for sharing so many great looks! You’ve inspired me :)

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