Kate Winslet looks stunning on the cover of V magazine this month. A shot of her beautiful face and a string of pearls in all that is needed to create a wonderful image. But the pictures also evokes the movie queens of days past, and speaks volumes about the eternal lure of pearls.
The Daily Telegraph says that Winslet is paying some kind of tribute to Elizabeth Taylor, the last of the immortal love goddesses, who dies earlier this year. A famous still of Taylor from the film Ash Wednesday was used to illustrate the similarity of the pose. But the image of Kate reminds me of those Bert Stern ‘Last Sitting‘ poses by Marilyn Monroe, the ones where she was photographed with pearls and rhinestones just a month before her death. These were almost a last hurrah for Marilyn, and ensured she pushed Elizabeth Taylor from all the world’s front pages. Marilyn had also posed with pearls in the publicity shots for ‘Some like it Hot’ in 1958.
So the picture of Kate celebrates screen goddesses of the past, but it is also as much a celebration of pearls as it is of the females who wear them. I think pearls are the most mysterious of jewels…what do they actually symbolise? They are often seen as presenting a real lady, sometimes in the form of conservative dressing, the twinset and pearls brigade for instance. Debutantes and Duchesses wear pearls, old ladies wear pearls, Ladies on the cover of ‘Country Life’ and ‘The Lady’ wore pearls. And yet…
One of the most famous courtesans of the 19th century, Cora Pearl, is said to have appeared before Edward VII wearing a long string of pearls…and nothing else. One of the most notorious rock paramours of the 1960s, Marianne Faithfull, was photographed wearing a conservative pearl choker at the height of her heroin addiction, subverting the image of the necklace as something for good girls. And Madonna added pearls to her Boytoy bride look in the 1980s.
So, what is the truth about pearls, good girl accessories, or ultimate bad girl attire? Maybe the truth is a little bit of both. Good girls love the prettiness and the glossy sheen or pearls, whilst bad girls like to subvert the jewel that is considered a sign of class, breeding and landed gentry. While all this is true, pearls will be continue to fascinate.