Drawing Attention Upward: Precedent for Ear Cuffs in Vintage Earring Designs

By Cynthia Sliwa — October 23, 2013

For years, the predominant looks in statement earrings have drawn the eye downward, with chandelier earrings and a wide variety of other drop earring styles, large and small, short and long, bringing attention to the lower portion of the face and the neck of the wearer. Long drop earrings in particular are not a flattering look for anyone who doesn’t particularly like her neck (think Nora Ephron’s hilarious book). The primary style options available have been studs and hoops, which, when chosen well, are universally flattering and perennially popular.

In 2010 came the first sea change, as I wrote in my JCK blog on June 16, 2010:

“One trend I’ve been following received endorsement at the 64th Annual Tony awards this past Sunday by not one but two of the entertainment world’s brightest young stars. Just as short dresses look fresh in a sea of long gowns, so too a change from the stunning yet expected chandelier and drop earrings looks fresh and chic (although I must give a shout-out to the exquisite long pink drop earrings by Stephen Russell so beautifully worn by Lucy Liu). The trend of which I write is that of ear clips or short earrings noticeably larger than studs, in all manner of button, blossom and cluster designs.

1013 Short earrings_ScarlettJohansson 2010 Tony Awards

“Best featured actress award winner Scarlett Johansson looked polished and stunning in a sparkling dark green Elie Saab gown accompanied by an exquisite pair of Harry Winston diamond cluster earrings. Her look was impeccably chic.

“Glee star Lea Michele also opted for short earrings to accompany the Grecian-style dress she wore to perform. The earrings, of which I don’t have a close-up photo, appeared to be diamond earrings with interesting side detail. She wore a smaller diamond design on the red carpet.

“Short earrings not only look fresh, they are also much more universally flattering than long earrings, which draw the eye downward to the jaw and neck. The endorsement of the short earrings look by these rising stars is a testament to a trend that has been receiving notice in the fashion press over the last few months.  . . . ”

The resurgence of this style brings attention back up to the wearer’s earlobes. By mid 2012, buttons and clusters had proven their staying power. I wrote in my JCK blog on May 3, 2012:

“Button and cluster earrings, usually about as long as they are tall, either genuinely vintage or inspired by mid-Century designs, are finding plenty of fans among the fashion-savvy. Easier to wear than long earrings because they keep the focus up on the face rather than down at the neck, these styles are flattering on just about everyone.”

1013 Clusters Miss Manners Elle April clip-ons REV

1013 Clusters Miss Manners Elle April clip-ons CU REV

This year, there is a new category of design emphasis in earrings, with ear cuffs drawing attention upward to portions of the outside edge of the ear. The look is fresh and edgy, yet it does have precedent in vintage designs. Note the earrings pictured above in the April 2012 issue of Elle, which suggests that readers “try the clip-on.” The earrings pictured are a mix of new and vintage designs from Tom Binns Design, Beladora, Jil Sander, Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co., House of Lavande, and CA&Lou. A number of the designs extend up above the earlobe to adorn a portion of the outside edge of the ears.

1013 vintage cuff earrings_Yellow & peach crescent earrings necklace set CU earrings REV


1013 vintage ear cuffs_ Yellow & peach crescent earrings necklace set back 1- backs only REV

There is no consistent terminology for these upward-focused designs that fasten to the earlobes and extend up the edge of the ear. Here’s an example of vintage earrings of this style from an unsigned necklace suite. The shape of the back of the earrings, which provides the structure for the look, prompts some sellers to refer to this style as “kidney-shaped.”  Another somewhat unsatisfactory description refers to this style as “creeper” earrings, utilizing a botanical reference. A simpler description may refer to the curved shape of the earrings.

1013 vintage ear cuffs_Aurora borealis clip earrings side 2 USE REV

Photo:  Vintage Jay Fell Sterling curved clip-style earrings of aurora borealis rhinestones

Browse vintage designs to find gems of design in fine jewelry and costume versions. With a bit of sleuthing, you may find a look that will inspire a new round of cutting edge style.

Price Check:  Pictured items are available on eBay, subject to prior sale.

  • Vintage unsigned yellow and peach beaded earrings, sold with matching 55″ necklace, $39.98
  • Vintage Jay Flex Sterling aurora borealis rhinestone clip earrings, $39.98

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