When I was little I received a pearl necklace from my mom.
I grew up in a region of China where freshwater pearls were a big thing, and as new arrivals to the country, my family went on tours to visit pearl factories that cultivated them, extracted them, and turned them into pieces of jewelry and other wearables. I had a single purple pearl necklace that I wore often, and a white seed pearl necklace that I never wore.
Pearl strings remind me of my grandmother, naturally because she owns one. My memory of her often involves that string of pearls on the dresser, or around her neck; tiny little white orbs flashing in her ears, or on her hands.
Pearls fascinated me, but I was always in two minds about them. Their iridescent sheen and natural ability to glow always attracted me, but pearls were not for young girls, they had a sophisticated old age to them – the product of time and process.
I abandoned wearing even the single pearl necklace in my teenage years, always opting for silver, gold and sparkle.
This year, when getting ready to go to a formal event however, that little seed pearl necklace sitting in my jewelry box for over 10 years fit perfectly into the space around my neck, almost like it belonged there.
I like to think about what I wear in a similar way.
I do pay attention to trends, peruse lookbooks for leisure, and try new silhouettes that are emerging.
Yet I think my personal fashion is something I grow into at the right time, in the right place.
The right dress is only the right dress because it speaks to something I might be chasing at the moment, something I believe or want to nurture.
That dress will no longer be right the moment it all changes: this could be next month, this could be tomorrow.
Similarly, sometimes holding on to something in storage is just a way to come back to it later, and find that all the time it was waiting for me to turn 23, hold my grandmother’s hand while walking, and understand the sheen of life around her neck.
Pearls – I’ve come to discover – are strongly tied to the maternal in Chinese culture. They are gifts from children to their mothers, and mothers to their daughters.
Pearls in literature have also meant many things for me: tears, wisdom, loss, eternity.
This look is homage to what is classic and timeless, and a mishmash of reused fashion pieces from other moments in my life. Tidbits of other moments when i was coming into something new. I wear pearls now because my life has grown to reflect what they mean.
Growing into something doesn’t mean a new creation, nor does it necessarily mean reinvention. It could just be a quiet and solid addition to an array of things already at my fingertips. Each milestone is just a tiny little seed pearl, created through years of formation, now exuding its own natural light next to all the others for the journey ahead.
Dress: Love & Bravery
Cardigan: Thrifted from Little Italy