Wednesday, June 24, 2009
How They Wore It: Ankle Bracelets
Or as they're more daintily known, anklets.
They're loaded with connotations, these encircling bands, beads, and bells, and no wonder, given that they're as ancient as adornment itself. The very first versions were arguably of gut or vine or twisted stems of flowers, decoratively braided, hung with shell, drawing attention to the grace and articulation of the ankles, in particular as they dance.
A girl could make one out of the simplest of materials, and no doubt did since the earliest days. Which is why it's odd that today, for many of us, ankle bracelets still hold associations with a femme fatale, and a trashy one at that, especially as worn with a pointy-toed stiletto.
For this we can blame Barbara Stanwyck, who, in the film Double Indemnity, hooked poor dumb Fred MacMurray with a flash of goldplate chain making its slow, seductive way down a set of stairs.
Despite its associations with femininity, anklets have of course also long been worn by men, particularly warriors. One especially astonishing example is this rattling dog's tooth version from Hawaii, whose making doesn't bear much contemplation, but must have been magnificent to see on the chief that wore it.
Likewise this brass anklet from Nigeria. This is a wonderful example of jewelry that displays rank not only by its material magnificence, but by the fact that it so hobbled the noblewoman that wore it that she couldn't possibly work.
This example, made of beads, feathers and porcupine quills, from a tribe on the Canadian High Plains, would have left its wearer far more nimble.
If you're disposed to try one on for yourself, consider these historical versions as the outer edge of inspiration. But be bold! If you choose well, and you might inspire an epic, as one young lady did 1,700 years ago.