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Chunky Bead Necklaces

Updated on December 16, 2011

One of the defining features of iconic cartoon housewives Marge Simpson and Wilma Flintstone is their chunky bead necklaces - this is because that kind of jewelry was very popular from the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, when the housewife reached an iconic zenith. Think housewife...think 1950s.

Chunky necklaces are again popular and as fashion accessories, they reflect funky sophistication with the retro whiff of 1950s womanhood. A great 50s look for a 21st century woman is a figure hugging pencil skirt, a close fitting twinset or sweater and a string of chunky beads. Or alternatively a waisted, full skirted, sleeveless floral pint dress with chunky beads.

1950s sophistication. Gloria Graham
1950s sophistication. Gloria Graham


As jewelry goes, chunky beads have a lot going for them. Big beads can enliven an otherwise subdued outfit and they make a woman's neck seem longer and slimmer.

They also look great either with shoulder length sweeping 50s hairdos or short pert styles and are best worn without earrings or other distractions. Similarly, the clothes should be kept as simple and clean lined as possible. When you go chunky - it's all that's needed.

These necklaces are attention getters - definitely hard to ignore as they make an instant impact.Take away the necklace frrom Gloria Graham in the photograph at right and her outfit would drop several levels on the dazzle meter.

Zandra Rhodes black and gold chunky bead necklace
Zandra Rhodes black and gold chunky bead necklace
Lauren Bacall in rows of beads
Lauren Bacall in rows of beads

The Bold and the Beautiful

The bold necklace look can be achieved with a single row of giant beads or several rows of beads layered together, such as Lauren Bacall's striking look in the picture at right. The effect is a collar of uplifting shiny baubles.

Notice Bacall keeps the rest of the outfit plain and simple, with no ruffles, frills or competing jewelry, bar a slim bangle.

In the 50s, mass production meant more affordable jewelry and non-traditional, cheaper materials ( eg; plastic, glass and metals) in innovative designs appeared on the market.

A new era of plane travel and television meant greater exposure to a variety of cultures and the chunky look was also influenced by African and Asian jewelry - some necklaces were made using interesting textures such as seedpods, coral, wood and bamboo.


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