No time to be precious: Great costume jewellery

Move over it-bags – this season, costume jewellery makes the ultimate statement. The bolder the better, says Harriet Walker

It bags and show-stopping shoes were noticeably absent from the catwalks this season, with chunky statement jewellery taking pride of place as the accessory du jour. Good news for those of us whose budgets don't stretch to a diamond necklace – we can make do and pretend.

Costume jewellery is fashion's great joke – it's something that looks sumptuous and enviably expensive, and is in fact a mere smoke-and-mirrors job. What's even better is that, when there's a designer proliferation, high-street brands are quick to follow, producing bold, idiosyncratic pieces that sparkle and shine like the real thing.

There are two main costume-jewellery themes at the moment: quality and quantity. The first, as seen at Lanvin and Louis Vuitton, is more of a de-luxe evening look, with oversized pendant necklaces made from highly glossed metals and glass. These work well with a simple cocktail dress, or to freshen up a smart blouse.

The second theme, quantity, was the order of the day at Givenchy, where thin gold chains and crucifixes were layered to neck-aching extremes to top off Riccardo Tisci's gothic-glam vision. Here, costume jewellery added a darkly baroque edge to an austere collection – and this is worth noting: big jewellery needs a blank canvas, so don't wear it with anything fussy or frilly, and beware of prints.

In this trend, size matters – pick chunky, obvious pieces that you might normally shy away from. The trick is to make your jewellery the focal point, so forget all of your mother's careful tutoring in accessorising twinsets with simple bangles. The most effective pieces are not necessarily the brightest or glitziest. Most designers showed natural metals, such as burnished gold or pewter, and polished glass in neutral tones – clear, opaque or jet-black. Many were adorned with grosgrain ribbon, satin pleats or raw-edged silk trim. Brightly coloured jewels don't fit this trend and risk looking cheap.

Playing with proportion is the way to control just how much of a statement you make. Cuffs, rings and earrings are an easy way to nod to this trend without going over the top; necklaces are more centre-stage, so go as big as you dare. Just be sure that your piece is bold enough and not matchy-matchy – don't let it settle into an outfit as it will backfire into Eighties territory.

Finally, a touch of irony is key. Pat Butcher's is not a look anyone with their finger firmly on fashion's pulse is ever advised to emulate, after all.

Fashion’s revolving door: What’s in & out this week

In...

Socks and Sandals

Don't worry about packing away your summer sandals this winter, make like the fashion crowd, pop on a pair of socks and wear them once again. Burberry, Prada and Vivienne Westwood all experimented with this look for next season, but don't wait until then. Opt for grey wool and chunky sandals.

Out...

Nadia boots by Crocs

They may be ugly, but Crocs are useful – if you like gardening or walking in puddles. Most people wouldn't be seen dead wearing the brightly coloured rubber cloggy things in summer, let alone donning the winter version, the even uglier Nadia boots. Stick to wellies. Gemma Hayward

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