The Folklore of Fashion (& Also 5 Fairy-Tale Jewelers We Adore!)
February 21, 2023
Today’s missive is by special request. (And hey, if there’s something you’d really like us to cover, or you have a burning folklore-related question, shoot us an email – we might answer it here in the future!)
If you’ve ever watched one of our videos or lectures, you may have picked up on the fact that we are fairy-tale fashion geeks. (We’re actually working on a video about fairy-tale fashion right now!) And one of our favorite ways to express this is through fairy-tale and folklorically-inspired jewelry.
This can strike some people as superficial, but actually dress and costume are part of folklore. They belong to the very broad “material culture” category of folklore – we mostly hang out in verbal folklore, which encompasses fairy tales, legends, etc. but there’s SO MUCH MORE out there. Foodways, or the study of food culture (basically how we make meaning out of food and how we eat it.) Rituals, or how repetition and creating a marked-off, special space and time add significance to our daily life and big occasions. And dress and the way that we clothe and decorate ourselves can express identity and signal our belonging in different kinds of folk groups. We’ve taught all these different kinds of folklore before, but it’s been a while since we talked about fashion specifically!
There are so many different ways that fashion and dress can intersect with folklore. Lucky hats and socks are part superstition, part identification in a folk group. (Sara has “voting socks.”) Wedding dresses or saris or robes connect to tradition and signal participation in a specific ritual or festival – and deliberate deviations like black wedding dresses show the tug of war between continuity and change (the dynamic that Barre Toelken saw as the heart of folklore.)
For us, wearing fairy-tale or folklorically-inspired jewelry is an aesthetic choice that taps into personal identity and is a marker of our belonging to a series of folk groups, ranging from the Carterhaugh community, to fairy-tale scholars, to our own friendship. Dressing deliberately makes us feel most like ourselves and also is one way of showing what we value – the folklore, fairy tales, and stories that we teach and write about.
When we taught Introduction to Folklore in a university classroom, asking people about what they wear and why they wear it was one of the best ways to help them see that everyone has folklore. That and foodways.
So, knowing that dress can be an avenue into folklore, we thought we’d share some of the places we find our most beloved fairy-tale jewelry. These makers are incredible artists, and we want to show you how flipping cool they are!
Parrish Relics – This might sound a little wild, but we’ve been die-hard fans of Parrish Relics for over 14 years. Seriously, Brittany just checked and she made her first order in January of 2009 (and had been obsessed with Jen’s jewelry for even longer than that!)
Parrish Relics are usually folklore-inspired and medieval, or perhaps the pre-raphaelite ideal of medieval – an ideal based in romance, fantasy, and really REALLY lush, beautiful clothes.
They often come in the form of a pictorial amulet – for example, Brittany’s all time favorite is a custom design she had made that features John William Waterhouse’s “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” and Sara’s is an Edmund Dulac fairy-tale illustration of the fairy from “Beauty and the Beast” (which also has a gorgeous piece of labradorite!) that she got to commemorate her MA thesis on Beauty and the Beast tales.
Jen’s pieces are harder to come by nowadays (they always get snatched up almost instantly!) so we recommend signing up for the newsletter on her site and following her on social media so that you don’t miss when a new collection comes out! (That said, she does have a few molded pieces available all the time too!)
Bloodmilk Jewels – Every poetic, vaguely Goth(ic) person on the Internet has probably, at some time or another, admired the jewelry created at Bloodmilk Jewels.
JL Schnabel creates her “own kind of mourning jewelry, to serve as ‘psychic armor’” and, “[d]ue to [her] academic background in literature and writing,” often “ imbue[s her] jewels with personal tales, historical contexts such as the Victorian Spiritualist movement and mythological references, mostly all of which surround the dark romanticism that the question of death often carries with it.”
Everything she creates has an aura of the mystical, the unknown, the ethereal. Also? The bookish. Bloodmilk’s most recent collection featured a necklace inspired by the “cup of stars” from Shirley Jackson’s iconic novel The Haunting of Hill House, which absolutely killed us.
Weird Sister Strands – We swear, these strands are like fairy tales on a thread.
They’re always inspired by myth, legend, or some sort of weird Victorian craze, so they’re basically catnip to us.
One of our favorite designs is “Harpy Song,” and here’s what Leila, the designer behind WSS has to say about it: “Inspired by Waterhouse’s, ‘Ulysses and the Sirens,’ and by a desire to reclaim the term harpy as a term of empowerment, this strand is meant to be a kind of talisman for those who have been told, at one time or another, that they are ‘too much’ of this or that.” Sara bought this for herself after doing something she really didn’t want to do but had to, and it’s now her go-to piece when there’s a challenge ahead.
Minou Bazaar – Our own amazing Meenoo – fairy virtual assistant extraordinaire – makes “Indian and fairy tale inspired handmade jewelry” that absolutely sparkles with intention and beauty.
She writes that she “make[s] jewelry for women who are curious, romantic, and have a passion for other cultures, beauty, history, and art,” and that definitely seems to reflect her customer base! She loves to do custom work, so if you’ve had something special in mind for a while, she’s definitely the person to bring it to life!
Vintage & Antique Stores – We couldn’t finish this list without adding this – we adore finding weird and gorgeous and wonderful jewelry at vintage and antique shops! If you’ve never stopped to take a look at the jewelry in those big glass cases before, do yourself a favor and look – you might find a completely unique piece that will get you compliments everywhere you go. Yes, you’ll probably have to dig through a lot of hideous stuff first, but when you find something amazing, all of the struggle is more than worth it. Think of it a little like a treasure hunt… and prepare to be astounded at what you discover!
Where are your favorite places to find enchanting jewelry? How do you think your own dress might intersect with folklore? Let us know in the comments!
So much labradorite! It’s one of my favorite stones and it made me so happy to see so much gorgeous jewelry made with it
Love it! So glad to learn am not the only one who wears “folklore” jewelry.