Coco Chanel? Gracie Allen? Joan Rivers? The McGuire Sisters? Polly Bergen? Nancy Abraham? Maggie Daly? Helen Hennessy? John Robert Powers? Beatrice Molinsky? George Burns? Anonymous?
Question for Quote Investigator: Fashion sense is always subjective, but many agree that wearing too much jewelry looks gaudy and ostentatious. The style maven Coco Chanel supposedly gave the following advice about adornments. Here are two versions:
(1) Always remove one piece of jewelry before you go out.
(2) Before you leave the house, look at yourself in the mirror and take one thing off.
Thus, this difficult choice requires second-guessing yourself. This adage has also been attributed to two comedians: Gracie Allen and Joan Rivers. I have been unable to find solid evidence. Would you please explore this saying’s provenance?
Reply from Quote Investigator: This saying is difficult to trace because it can be expressed in many ways. The earliest match known to QI appeared in “The American University Eagle” newspaper of Washington D.C. in 1949 which reprinted fashion advice from the “Daily Lass-o” of the Texas State College for Women. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:1949 February 16, The American University Eagle, Texas Tips For Ladies, Quote Page 4, Column 3, Washington D.C. (Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections at idnc.library.illinois.edu; accessed February … Continue reading
“Lastly, never wear too much jewelry, no matter how well it all matches. An old policy, but still a very good one, is after you have completely finished dressing, step away from the mirror and get a good full length view of yourself, then remove one piece of jewelry and you will look much smarter.”
The phrase “old policy” signaled that this advice was a preexisting adage. The originator remains anonymous. Several famous people have referenced this saying, but QI has found no substantive support for the ascription to Coco Chanel. Comedian George Burns stated that his wife, Gracie Allen, adhered to the adage. Also, Joan Rivers referred to the saying, but she attributed it to her mother.
Additional detailed information about this fashion proverb is available on the Medium website which is available here.
Image Notes: Picture of jewelry from unknown maker circa A.D. 250-400. Public domain image from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California. Image has been resized and cropped.
Acknowledgements: Great thanks to Noah Brier, Craig Good, and Flip Phillips whose inquiries and comments led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Many thanks to Simon Koppel who located the important 1949 citation and shared it with QI.
|↑1||1949 February 16, The American University Eagle, Texas Tips For Ladies, Quote Page 4, Column 3, Washington D.C. (Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections at idnc.library.illinois.edu; accessed February 2, 2023)|