Wearing Pearl Necklaces in Forensics: A Not Quite Solicited Guide
Thank you for the question! Unfortunately, I’ve been having some difficulties answering with pictures in question-answer format - so this will have plenty of pictures, and have to be a text post.
Pearls work with whatever image you’re constructing for yourself - they should either add to the persona you’re building or serve not to actively diminish it. That means something different between classifications of events. I can be sort of helpful with both.
The thing to remember is that the congressperson, the debater, the orator, the interper - it is all a construction. This doesn’t have to necessarily reflect who you are. You reflect your judge’s expectations for you, and you win because you are the best - at meeting those unspoken expectations. There are a lot more invisible stumbling blocks for a competitor the judge perceives as female. Be aware of those, but likewise be aware that your persona within forensics doesn’t have to compromise your identity extrinsic to forensics.
I might dress up as Wonder Woman for Halloween, but no one expects me to whip out my invisible jet for a trip to the theater - I am not Wonder Woman. It is a costume I wear for Halloween. Disassociate yourself with your forensics self as much or as little as you feel comfortable.
Disclaimer: I am actually Wonder Woman. The above statement in which I profess not to be is misleading.
But with that said, here are some ways to pair pearls with suits, based on my individual views and not necessarily reflective of anything beyond one person’s experience with societal perceptions of what they’re wearing.
This is my favorite suit. I met this suit and I bought three of them. I own three of this suit. It’s understated, fits properly, and settles well around a collared blouse. I love this suit.
That said, I pair it - a dark blue pinstriped suit - with any number of things, but this is a general starting point. A blouse that buttons all the way up, with a button-down collar, in a color traditionally associated with power.
This is modulated by the completely modest, don’t-look-at-me white round uniformly shaped pearls. It comes off professional, ish.
This is the sort of conservative jewelry-suit-blouse combination you’re gonna want to go with in a debate event where you’re likely to be judged against the standard ideal of a professional businesslady, if the judge is looking at you as a lady.
In Congress, for example, I absolutely never diverge from this formula and top it off with opaque black tights. Sometimes it’s more useful to have a lighter colored blouse underneath. Heck yeah, do it.
With a white blouse, there’s a bit more leeway with necklace style. You’re no longer 100% bound to ‘uniform white pearls’ - from here, so long as it’s understated enough to be in keeping with the formality of your objective self-presentation, you can go with any number of different necklaces.
Here, there’s a nice seed pearl necklace interspersed with little gold beads. Subtlety and nothing too shiny.
Because the white is a more baseline color, you have a little more room to mess around with jewelry and stay within a judge’s comfort zone. Also, pairing a white blouse and plain white pearls is a little basic.
From there, though, there’s nothing to stop you from having a little fun with the style of the blouse itself - provided you end up looking and feeling professional, there’s room to adjust according to what you like or already own, or what is affordable.
Case in point: fun secretary-neck blouse, back to straight up nondescript pearls that don’t make much of a statement beyond 'I’m trying really hard not to make a statement with these’.
I’m personally a really big fan of secretary-neck blouses. A lot of more traditional judges like them - it registers 'feminine’ but without some of the negative socialized views of femininity you sometimes get with judges who lived through Mad Men before Mad Men was a thing.
But there are other ways to wear bows - though the next two examples are more what I’d wear for speech events, they’re about as fashionably sound as anything else I’d wear. Which is to say not very. I dress like my clothes were picked out for me by a ten-year-old deep in their Barbie phase.
While my tournament suits are usually an exception, not always!
Here, for example, is something I absolutely would wear the heck out of during Original Oratory. You’ve got a nice cream blouse layered with a kinda moss-green tweed that’s nicer-looking in person. Couple with a pink pearl necklace because it’s a little offbeat and balances well enough with the suit to not be overwhelmed by the other elements you’ve got going on.
Similarly, on a high-necked blouse - just a style observation in general - you want a shorter-strand necklace. Think more like 12-16 inches rather than 18-20.
But the main point being, pieces working well and professionally together doesn’t necessarily mean color-matching - shade is often enough (pastel, for example) to keep an outfit looking cohesive.
Finally, for a nontraditionally colored suit, particularly one that buttons fairly high in the collar like most of what Le Suit does, you’ll need something lower cut to wear under since button-down collars tend to fit poorly.
Not necessarily lower cut like 'low cut’, unless that’s what you’re about, in which case you’ll get no negative judgement from me! What you want is for your collar to sit flat against your clavicle area without bunching, which is uncomfortable. however you choose to accomplish that is great.
The thing about lower-cut necklines on blouses/dresses is it takes some of the interest away from your face. You lose the neat lines that point straight to your expression like 'hey check out what’s going on up here’ and that spreads the interest of the judge/observer elsewhere when you could be focusing it up.
That’s why I like to wear a more statement-y pearly necklace here - pink again, but in the right shade to work with the white-pale brown and with a neat geometric pattern that provides an observer something to rest their gaze on so they don’t feel awkward about staring you full in the face for ten minutes.
You could also do this with an off-white double strand or something larger in size, but be careful about keeping the collar flat. Suits with collars close to your neck can get super uncomfortable if there’s any friction going on with a chunky necklace and literally the last thing you want is to be uncomfortable!
Conclusion here: ultimately, wear what you want, and don’t let anyone who isn’t you make the final call on what is or is not the right way to wear a pearl necklace. In fact, I heartily endorse wearing as many pearl necklaces as possible - a suggestion which is not limited by a gender binary or heteronormative assumptions about wardrobe choice.
Have fun with pearls and have fun with tournament attire and just have fun, period. Ultimately, while image counts for a lot in debate, there is always room for trailblazers and challenges to the norm!
I’m not kidding, wear all of the pearl necklaces.
A L L O F T H E M
And you’ll win at debate because you’ll be winning at life.