The shock of the old | Bleader

Friday, March 16, 2012

The shock of the old

Posted By on 03.16.12 at 03:15 PM

1980s tassel earrings, $129
  • 1980s tassel earrings, $129
For most of her life, Terri Davis Stafford was indifferent about jewelry. "I feel it wears me instead of me wearing it," she says. "I don’t have a long swanlike neck or any of that." That changed dramatically a few summers ago when Stafford caught the vintage costume jewelry bug from fellow interior designer Anne Coyle, whom she worked with for a while. "She had some lovely vintage pieces hanging in her closet," says Stafford. "She has an amazing eye." Coyle encouraged her to wear it out, and soon Stafford was buying her own pieces at vintage stores. She immediately experienced the power of bold jewelry. "Everywhere I went, everyone said, 'Where did you get that? I want it.' I ended up actually selling pieces off my body," she says.

Now Stafford runs a Chicago-based business, Costumier Vintage Jewelry, featuring pieces she's picked up at antique and vintage stores, bought at a discount from photographers and stylists she knew from a previous career in advertising, and culled from consignment clients. Self-taught, she describes herself as a jewelry enthusiast rather than an expert, although she talks knowledgeably about classic designers such as Trifari, Hattie Carnegie, Butler & Wilson, and Schiaparelli.

While Stafford carries a few pieces from the 20s and 30s, she's mainly drawn to creations from the middle of the last century. "The older things are, the less I’m drawn to them," she says. "The majority of the stuff I find goes with today’s fashions, 60s and 70s jewelry, which oddly enough was all over the runways in the fall. That's helped my cause a lot." Finds include a pair of articulated rhinestone earrings from the 40s easily envisioned gracing the earlobes of Elizabeth Taylor and a 60s beaded waterfall necklace that would work with either an evening dress or a white T-shirt.

The best part is that her statement-making jewelry doesn’t have to result in a gulp-inducing credit card statement. Items range from about $39 for earrings to more than $200 for a necklace. They’re available on her website,, and Stafford is also available for private events and trunk shows. Next month she'lll be at Modern Vintage Chicago, which takes place April 21 and 22 at Plumbers Hall, 1340 W. Chicago.

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