Pearls, Fashion, and Empowerment
Pearls in the whitehouse
Before the presidential inauguration on January 20th, 2021, women in the United States were rallying around the newfound meaning that Kamala Harris brought to pearls. Our previous blog post, Kamala Harris’ Love for Pearls, explored why she loves pearls. As #PearlsAndChucks started to trend, we asked ourselves: “Why are women feeling empowered by the vice president’s pearls?” We got curious at Pearls.jp and decided to go on an online adventure to find answers. What we found about the U.S. and pearls was quite interesting. Let’s go back in time and start from the beginning.
Credit: Elana Rubin & Evelyn Yallin
13 European colonies in the “new” world successfully rebelled against the European empires that controlled them. The 13 territories formed the United States and declared their independence on July 4th, 1776. What does this have to do with pearls, you ask? Well, as another form of rebellion, the elites in the United States wore pearls because diamonds and gemstones reminded them of Europe. George Washington, the first president, gifted his wife, Martha Washington, a pearl brooch. As the first lady of the United States, FLOTUS, Mrs. Washington wore her pearl brooch often. Mrs. Washington was unknowingly setting a new fashion trend for women in the United States, which her successors continued. The office of the first lady represented fashion then, and now it includes leadership and humanitarianism.
Credit: DB King
So far, on our adventure, we found that pearls were a form of dissociation. But, as the United States established itself, pearls’ meaning also changed. Let’s jump in the time machine and go to 1908. The first Black sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, is founded at Howard University. 4 years later, in 1912, the sorority was incorporated with a membership of 20 students. Howard University is an HBCU, a Historically Black College and University, located in the U.S. capital. After the initiation process, Alpha Kappa Alpha gives badges to their new members. The badges have 20 pearls representing the founding members, unity, and sisterhood. Alpha Kappa Alpha would go on to change pearls’ meaning in the Black community. In the community, very conservative at the time, women wearing pearls were not so much for fashion but conformity.
As times changed and women entered the male-dominated office environment, pearls became their go-to jewelry. Pearls were not “flashy”; they were simple and elegant, a way for women to conform while still being “appealing.” Katherine Goble, a black mathematician at NASA, was told to wear a simple pearl necklace because she worked with males at NASA’s Langley research center for the moon landing. Wearing pearls meant fitting in and presenting the “right image.”
Credit: Sgt. Charlotte Carulli
Let’s fast-forward to Inauguration day 2021, where the internet is abuzz with Pearls, Converses, and Women Empowerment. But, what about the other women who held influential positions in the United States government? Well, women celebrated these pioneers when they broke down their respective barriers. Vice president Harris, an Alpha Kappa Alpha member, was a new pioneer, hence the celebration. As a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the vice president wore her pearls as a sign of reverence to her sorority sisters. The women and the young girls watching her break new ground decided to show their support by wearing pearls such as; necklaces, earrings, bracelets, or brooches. You can recreate the vice president’s looks by visiting our online store. The vice president is a powerful office, second only to the president. By obtaining the second highest seat in the United States, vice president Harris inspired women, specifically young girls, to continue trying their best and striving for greatness.
Thanks to Kamala Harris, pearls represent a new era of empowerment for women. Elegance, love, and luster, amongst many other meanings, defined pearls throughout the centuries. Now empowerment is one of the meanings, and we, at Pearls.jp, hope that this inspires women worldwide. Amongst the many celebrations to come, at Pearls.jp, we hope to see the first woman president of the United States within this decade.