Beyond Words

Words, Wit and Wisdom for Today's Style and Decision Makers

Heavenly Pearls April 21, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:55 pm


Today heaven officially gets a new angel. And she’ll be wearing pearls.


Former First Lady Barbara Bush will be buried in Houston today and then taken by motorcade for her final resting place at the Bush Presidential Library in College Station. Following her death on Tuesday at the age of 92, tributes endlessly streamed. Mrs. Bush, the only women to see both her husband and son sworn in as President of the United States, was special in many ways. Known for her quick wit, being tough as nails, and undying loyalty, she was a class act that held her own and held her family together. The family matriarch was also known for something else: a nearly constant strand of pearls.



She wore them for her husband’s inauguration (and can we just stop and pay tribute also to how stunning her black and cobalt blue dress by Arnold Scaasi was?) and she wore them to baseball games. They were her signature and her trademark.




All week I’ve seen social media posts suggesting the wearing of pearls in her honor and the above Houston billboard was perfection in outdoor media. Barbara Bush will forever be remembered for her strands of pearls, as will many other stars like Jackie Kennedy and Princess Diana.




I loved Barbara Bush and I love pearls. I always have. I love their simplicity, uniformity, and level of old school tradition.  I wore them in my wedding, I wear them with pajamas I have that have pearls on them, and I made sure our daughter was given a strand for graduation. They are my “logo” for this blog and for my Instagram account.




The name Chanel conjures up visions of conservative and traditional clothing and accessories, but the woman behind the name, Coco Chanel, was actually a bit of a rebel. Yes, she used pearls in her fashion, but she went just a step further by layering multiple strands of pearls in a way that raised eyebrows but years later the look endures on edgy stars like Rihanna.




I agree. Pearls are so distinct in their simplicity. They’re not gaudy and not flashy. They are always in style and enhance any outfit, whether it be black tie or boyfriend jeans. They are a staple in most women’s jewelry boxes and the world of pearls is fascinating.


In the fine jewelry world, few names are as influential as Cartier and the namesake behind the legendary red box gems is interestingly tied to pearls. In 1917, Pierre Cartier  traded a double-strand pearl necklace for his landmark Fifth Avenue flagship store in New York. Today, there are many types of pearls and it’s worth knowing what’s what.


Most of us have heard the term “cultured pearl,” but what exactly does that mean and are they really the best? In some ways, yes, but in many ways a “natural” pearl is really the best of the best. Both cultured and natural pearls are formed when a foreign object is inserted into an oyster and over time, layers of nacre form what becomes a pearl. The big difference is that with natural pearls, nature causes it all while with cultured pearls, the object is injected by man.


Natural pearls are very, very hard to come by and are super expensive so I’d venture to say that with the exception of the Jackie O’s and Princess Di’s of the world, most pearls you and I see are either cultured or fake.



We can thank Japanese entrepreneur Mikimoto Kokichi for giving the world the cultured pearl and all those pageant crowns. There are also a few reputable manufactured and man-made pearl companies, including Spain’s Majorica. But don’t for a minute think all man-made pearls are cheap in quality or cheap in price. A strand of Majorica pearls can cost in the thousands but are well-made and should last a lifetime or more.


Like the “4 Cs” of diamonds, there are “5 Factors” used to evaluate a pearl: luster, surface, perfection, color, shape, and size with luster and surface being the two most important in the grading process. The surface shine and depth of a pearl’s glow is called its “luster” and the higher the luster, the better. In addition, a “smooth” surface is ideal, meaning the pearl is free of cracks and holes. Finally there’s a pearl’s shape. Perfectly round ones are rare and considered the cream of the crop. Many consider the exceptionally large cultured South Sea pearl the ideal pearl, with a Tiffany triple-strand version costing just under $2 million.


Freshwater pearls are also very popular and are less pricey because they are more abundant and easier to grow. The irregular shaped pearls are grown in mussels in lakes, ponds, or rivers and are very durable and a bit more casual.



When shopping for pearls, always ask for an authenticity receipt and if in doubt, do the tried and true tooth test. Slowly and gently rub the pearl against your teeth. If it has a gritty feel, it’s real. If it’s smooth and slippery, it’s probably fake. The best pearl strands are strung on silk, not nylon, and a knot should separate each pearl to keep them from rubbing against each other.


Once you’re the proud owner of a string of real pearls, taking care of them is vital. Keep them away from products like hairspray and perfume, don’t get them wet, and never use commercial jewelry cleaners like paste on them.


As we say goodbye to America’s Grandma today, wear a strand of pearls with pride and in honor of her and her legacy. Be they real or fake, her pearly whites are sure to be smiling.


My pearl Bucket List:





How to wear your pearls or any other necklace? Here are some tips on necklace lengths and necklines.

Common pearl necklace lengths:

A “collar” is 10-13” and rests against the throat.

A “choker” measures 14-16” and nestles just above the base of the neck.

“Princess length” refers to strands that are 17-19” long and come down to just above the collarbone.

A “matinee” length measure 20-24” and falls just above the breasts.

An “opera” length is 28-35” and is long enough to reach the sternum or breastbone.





A Blast from the Past I’m Not Sold On April 15, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:54 pm


I’ve tried it, given it a shot, but I’m just not on board and I’m not sure why. I’m talking about the new “Trading Spaces” TV show. It pains me to say this because in its heyday between 2000-2008, I really liked the show. It was fun, it was different, and it was entertaining. I find today’s version none of the above, but why? I love nesting, I love design and decor, and I love mindless TV. I have some possible answers.


First let’s look back. “Trading Spaces” debuted on TLC in 2000 and hired two designers to redo two rooms in two different homes. The twist was sets of neighbors actually traded spaces in that they decorated each other’s room per the designers “visions.” Homeowners had no say in the design and often times those visions were visons of horror. Hay, CDs, and fake flowers  were glued onto entire walls, furniture was epoxied onto the ceiling, and a host of other awfulness made sure the meager $1000 budget per room proved you get what you pay for.



Somehow it all worked though. Maybe it was because the show is considered by many to be the first home makeover series of its kind that has since spawned everything from “Property Brothers” to the beloved “Fixer Upper.” Another attraction was its cast, almost all of whom have returned for the new version. I always loved host Paige Davis and her hip-hugger jeans and hairstyle and we all loved carpenter Ty Pennington who became an even bigger household name as host of the critically-acclaimed ABC “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition series that promoted volunteerism and helping others. Ty and Paige are both back (but I’m not a fan of Paige’s new hairstyle) as are Vern, Frank, Genevieve, Doug, Laurie, and Hildi who, in my opinion, tries her hardest and maybe too hard to create obnoxious and unlikable spaces.


Maybe that’s it: it’s all too silly and in a word: dumb. In a world where Chip and Joanna create livable and likable spaces maybe the time has passed on the idea of creating craziness. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take shiplap any day over burlap walls. Maybe it’s just me but I’m thinking it’s more than just the passing of time and trends, as I also remember loving Lynette Jennings, Candice Olson, “While You Were Out,” “Design on a Dime,” and Matt and Shari from “Room By Room.” The latter was the first show to air on HGTV back in 1994 and is still the longest running decorating show in TV history, boasting a whopping 14 year run. For some reason I think I would still like a 2018 version of it, as well as anything Jennings or Olson might offer. “Trading Spaces?” Not so much.



But why Carla, why? Maybe it’s just because I’ve grown up and my tastes have changed. I’ve been there done that, have moved and moved again, and am now happy in a one-story home that I feel is homey, simple, and just good. I don’t have any desire to paint walls to replicate a Gucci scarf (like one recent “Trading Spaces” episode did) and would much rather own a Gucci scarf to wear.  For me right now, the more simple, the better.


But, I am apparently in the minority as McMansions are everywhere and ratings for “Trading Spaces” have been good. The premiere was seen by nearly 3 million people, ranking it the number one show that night.  High Nielsen numbers are something the original regularly enjoyed, but what they had no idea would matter just as much down the road are social media numbers. The new show thrived there too and was the number one social primetime TV program on Facebook and its hashtag trended on Twitter and Instagram. Trading Spaces-1. Carla-0.


So, maybe I’ll give it another shot. I am DVRing it just in case there’s nothing else on and I’m in the mood for mindless viewing but then again I also record “Fixer Upper,” “Say Yes to the Dress,” and “Southern Charm.” Pretty sure I’ll opt for either Waco, New York, or Charleston but what about you? Are you a fan of the new “Trading Spaces?” Please share your thoughts!


Spring Fashion Trends April 9, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 3:52 pm

This has been an unseasonably cold winter even in Texas. Over the weekend we went from 88 one day to 48 the next. Up north, as they say, winter has been nothing short of horrendous and yet somehow calendars are still saying it’s spring. So, whether you’re digging out from yet another snow storm and are dreaming of warmer weather or if you’re smack dab in the middle of beautiful sunny spring days, how about some spring fashion?!


I’m pretty much a black, white, and camel girl with an occasional splash of color or pattern thrown in, but a few trends are standing out to me and most of them I can raise my hand to. Everyone from Prada to Target are on board with offerings from clothing to accessories. So let’s all say bye-bye to winter and say hello to these fun trends hitting runways and stores:


Cat Women

A cat person I am not. Kittens, maybe. Kitten heels though, yes! And guess what fashion fans, the kitten heel is back and in a big way. Can I get an Amen?


The low-heeled but sleek pump popularized by Audrey Hepburn and Jackie O is the current shoe of the moment. Princess Di liked the style (until she divorced Charles, at which time she could wear stilettos for days) is customarily a comfortable two-inch heel in solid colors but this season’s versions are coming in all sorts of florals, textures, patterns, in your basic pump as well as sling-back versions and even a few lace-ups. And don’t for a minute think this trend is reserved for the Talbots set as proven by H&M’s versions. Yippee!

Dior  H&M1 MKors  Prada

Above From left: Dior, H&M, Michael Kors, Prada




We’re not talking Daisy Duke or picnic tablecloth here, we’re talking a fun and classic way to perk up your wardrobe. Typically checked in white and a bold color, this year’s version is both fun and flirty. Designers are on board and are offering a variety of styles and silhouettes. I die for the Carolina Herrera gown below.

Valentino  Target1  Chicos1Carolina Herrera

Above From left: Valentino, Target, Chicos, Carolina Herrera

Michael Kors    Henri Bendel    Kate Spade

Above From left: Michael Kors, Henri Bendel, Kate Spade

Express  JCrew1  Christian Louboutin1  Keds

Above From left: Express, JCrew, Christian Louboutin, Keds



In Full Bloom

Always a spring favorite, florals are blooming everywhere. I’ve never been a big floral girl myself, but I do love the Lover shirt below I first spotted on Kyle on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (yes, I watch it!)  Standard florals are still in, but this season’s versions are also characterized by dramatic colors and big buds. The tropics are especially hot (excuse the pun) with palm leaves and hibiscus flowers favored by designers. If you go the floral route, just be sure to keep the rest of your outfit subtle and solid.

Valentino  Simply Darling  Lover  H&M  Ann Taylor

Above From left: Valentino, Simply Darling, Lover, H&M, Ann Taylor

Steve Madden  One Faith Boutique  Mia   Balenciaga1

Above From left: Steve Madden, One Faith Boutique, Mia, Balenciaga



Line Them Up

I love me a good stripe and this season’s offerings have me lined up for a few pieces. You’ll find everything from sporty stripes to sophisticated ones just be sure to take note of the horizontal stripes in all the wrong places rule. Thankfully with shoes, anything goes! How cute are the sporty but tailored Sheln crops below?

Caycee  Sheln  Ann Taylor  Alyson Haley

Above From left: Caycee, Sheln, Ann Taylor, Alyson Haley

Asos  Zara1  No. 21 2  Loeffler Randall1  Franco Sarto1

Above From left: Asos, Zara, No 21, Loeffler Randall, Franco Sarto



As with any trend, don’t go overboard on any of these “of the moment” offerings, and unless you have the money to do so, don’t spend a ton on them. Consider them simple additions to your current wardrobe and consider it done!