Jewelry: Remembering Carmen

Her name was Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha and she lived in Rio. She would soon be known as Carmen Miranda. First she opened a milliner’s shop and performed in cabarets to make a little extra money, but she soon left the hat shop to dedicate herself to being a singer and a showgirl. She was only about 5 feet tall, but she was all curves. She had a beautiful expressive face and ironclad confidence. She wore decorative turbans topped with exotic fruits, flowers and other objects in the style of the dresses of women from Bahia.

This was topped with heaps of costume jewelry, handfuls of bangles, colorful necklaces and ‘tutti frutti’ pendants. This overabundance of ornamentation became a hallmark of her samba, a style that was in vogue in North and South America. Carmencita sold out Broadway nightly and her films were blockbusters. Her cachet was so high in Hollywood that in 1946 she was considered one of the richest women in the United States. Today the Carmen Miranda trend is all about extreme ornamentation with Caribbean colors and large stripes from Prada and fruity prints from Stella McCartney, sweaters with parrot prints from Missoni and the fruit and vegetables that decorate the hats of Anna Dello Russo, inspired a bit by Isabella Blow.

The spirit of the Brazilian singer lives on mostly in the jewels, which ripen like exotic fruits in the workshops of the big maisons. Today, however, they are precious. The times in which divas had to decorate themselves in brass alloys and colored Bakelite are in the past.