Pearls are one of the most timeless and sophisticated elements in fashion, but some may consider them a bit old-fashioned (“clutching your pearls,” anyone?). But this gem is getting a 2022 refresh with the newly coined aesthetic, “pearlcore,” which is predicted by Pinterest in their 2022 Trend Report to be one of the biggest style trends of this year.
So first of all, what is pearlcore?
According to Pinterest, “In 2022, people of all ages will embrace iridescent accents in their homes, in their jewelry boxes and even as nail art. Pearl-themed parties will be on the rise, too, as people opt for pearly gowns and wedding decor.” They noted growth in searches for pearl gowns, necklaces, simple rings, bracelets, nails, chokers, and more.
The fun thing about pearls is that while they may have once been seen as somewhat plain, the classic jewelry is a unique refresh fit for a new generation. Pearl fringe, pearl-decorated cutouts, and more casual pearl crowns made appearances all over 2021/2022 fashion weeks.
But where did this trend even come from? And how can you pull it off if you don’t have the budget to buy huge quantities of real gems? Glad you asked. Here’s everything you need to know about pearlcore, and how to try out this new trend for yourself.
Pearls have a ton of historical significance.
Pearls have been sought-after, high-priced gems since before written history. Known as “the queen of gems,” according to PBS, they were often associated with wealth, patience, peace, femininity, and wisdom. Ancient Greeks believed them to be the tears of their gods.
Ancient Romans kickstarted pearls’ sophisticated reputation by associating them with wealth and status. This influence extended to the Renaissance, during which typically only those of nobility status wore pearls because of their rarity and steep price. Pearls also have significance in Asia: Japanese jeweler Kokichi Mikimoto created the first cultured pearl in 1893 by manually stimulating an oyster, and his pearls are still popular today.
It wasn’t until the early 20th century, however, that pearls became accessible to people other than the rich and famous. In 1916, French jeweler Jacques Cartier opened New York’s iconic Fifth Avenue Cartier store. According to Business Insider, he traded two pearl necklaces for the Manhattan property. Today, pearls are accessible and more affordable (with the ability to create dupes for pretty cheap), hence why pearl accessories have seen a rise in popularity in recent years.
Major pop culture icons popularized pearl accessories.
Though pearls aren’t exclusive to the rich anymore, they’re still associated with elegant celebrity style icons. Gen Z’s most recent memory of pearl fashion would likely be Barbie Ferreria’s 2021 Met Gala look. The Euphoria actress wore a Jonathan Simakhai gown dripping in pearls with a slight art-deco vibe. But pearlcore is a timeless and versatile aesthetic, stretching back to Audrey Hepburn. One of the most famous figures to be associated with pearls, Audrey was best known for wearing pearls as the iconic Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Zillennials also got major pearl inspiration from one of the most fashionable TV characters of all time, Gossip Girl’s Blair Waldorf. Eric Daman, Gossip Girl’s costume designer, said in a 2013 interview with College Fashionista that he believes that Blair’s style is a vintage inspiration with a modern twist, which makes Blair the perfect girl for all your pearl-spiration. From her signature headbands to necklaces to bracelets, Blair knows how to rock pearls in a modern and timeless way that still reflects her personal style.
But it was Coco Chanel who truly cemented pearls’ and costume jewelry’s place in the fashion industry. Any Chanel darling, from Margot Robbie to Cara Delevingne, has donned pearls at some point. The timeless gems have become nearly synonymous with the brand by the 21st century, appearing not only as jewelry, but also on belts, shoes, and sunglasses. With models wearing layered pearl necklaces varying in choker lengths to almost knee-length chains in almost every runway show, pearls remain one of the fashion house’s most iconic items.
And while pearls are strongly associated with femininity and the women who made them iconic, men like Harry Styles and Machine Gun Kelly have proven that pearls are quite gender-neutral. Harry Styles wore pearls to the Met Gala in 2019 and also wears a simple pearl necklace pretty consistently in interviews and through street style. Machine Gun Kelly took it a step further and wore pearls all over his face at the 2021 VMAs. Pinterest noted a rise in searches for pearls for men specifically, so Harry and MGK probably aren’t the only men interested in these gems.
You can try out the pearlcore aesthetic without breaking the bank.
If you’re drawn to pearlcore but don’t know where to start, don’t worry — there are a million ways to wear pearls. If you’re not the jewelry type, pearls can be sewn on anything from socks to shirts to shoes to handbags, so you can incorporate them into your regular everyday style without having to make any huge wardrobe changes. Depending on your comfort level, you can opt for Barbie Ferreira’s maximalist approach of covering your whole outfit in pearls or Express’ minimalist approach by just having a few pearl details. Here are a few pearlcore options to test out this year.
You can keep it simple with a few pearls here and there, like these earrings from Mejuri (they’re a bit pricier, but can match with any outfit and are higher-quality than cheaper jewelry).
If you want something bolder, you can channel Chanel’s signature abundance through clutches featuring the iridescent gem, like this sweet marble box clutch with pearl accents from Lulus.
You can also take inspiration from Audrey and Blair by wearing pearl headbands in your hair, like this one from Forever 21.
This mesh shirt from Forever 21 is one example of a more subtle nod to pearlcore: It’s dotted with pearls, matching elegance with edge.
Pearls can also be seen on glasses, from the chain around your neck to the lenses themselves, providing an elegant touch. Try out these ones from Etsy; their round shape gives them a retro vibe.
Pearls add a classic touch to any outfit, but you can also get experimental with how you incorporate them into your look. Use your creativity and have fun with it! The world is your oyster, as they say — was there ever a more applicable proverb?