A Tomboy Femme’s Dream Come True: Jewelry You’ll Actually Want To Wear

I grew up in a family of very feminine women. My grandmother wears as much bling as possible at all times, day or night. My mother wears jewelry flawlessly, her hoop earrings and hands full of rings fitting into every situation from barbecuing in the backyard to going out to a fancy dinner. My sister prefers matching sets of things to keep it simple – her earrings and necklaces coordinate to pull her entire outfit together in two seconds.

Me? I once made a necklace out of fishing line with plastic lizards and snakes and I also used to wear eight watches at a time. I’m what we call the eccentric one of the family.

Granted, this was for a Halloween costume but please be impressed with my plastic bugs necklace.

Granted, this was for a Halloween costume (I was “Awkward”) but please be impressed with my plastic bugs and reptiles necklace.

Thankfully, I’ve grown up a bit (bug necklace forever) in my taste and style, and as I’ve kind of come into my own as a tomboy femme with short hair, and if there’s one thing to realize with short hair, it’s that every piece of jewelry is three-thousand times more obvious, so less becomes more. Like, way more.

I like to keep it simple when it comes to fashion but also jewelry in particular. I have a personal rule in which I only wear a maximum of two pieces of jewelry at a time and never on touching body parts – if I wear earrings, I do not wear a necklace. If I wear a necklace, I do not wear a bracelet or watch. If I wear a bracelet, I do not wear rings. Make sense? Earrings + rings = good; necklace + rings = good; bracelet + rings = no go. My body feels cluttered easily and this simplification has kept me from being extremely overwhelmed by the femme of it all.

My other rule when I’m picking out jewelry is to make sure I can envision myself wearing said necklace/earrings/ring with a button-down shirt and a more feminine kind of blouse and a white v-neck, because I’m not made of money and jewelry has to translate into many different styles to be worth my money. This keeps my jewelry pretty androgynous, never straying too far from center of center, just like me!

To me, tomboy femme means playing with ideas of presentation, and blurring the lines between what it is to be purely on one side of the feminine to masculine spectrum, and pairing traditionally masculine designs with traditionally feminine designs and having fun with it all. Tomboy femme means I’m more comfortable pairing a casual dress with chucks than heels, and if I’m going to wear heels, I’m most likely pairing them with an androgynous normcore sweater. This isn’t an exact science, because sometimes I wake up and just want to go super femme and curl the fuck out of my hair and sometimes I want to be mistaken for a twelve-year-old boy with breasts (there’s just no hiding these suckers). If jewelry isn’t convenient, why bother?

Here are some of my own tips and ideas for accessorizing with jewelry for all of those cute humans wearing Tomboy Femme shirts out there.

Geometric

Geometric feels like a breath of relief for me. I like the hardness of the lines mixed with the simplicity of the clean lines. Geometric is very androgynous, even in dangly earrings, so you can get away with pairing it with more of your outfits.

 Matte Stones

Sometimes I do like a pop of color in my jewelry, though, and my favorite way to incorporate a little color is through matte stones. Shiny Swarovski crystals do not work for me, because they look fussy and out of place on my body. Matte stones (okay, and occasionally druzy stones for a little sparkle because glitter is fun sometimes!) add a new level of interest to your jewelry without being so femme they change your outfit. One of my favorite places to find these pieces is Etsy, and lately I’ve been really feeling Jess Westlake‘s From The Coast shop.

Simple but Unique

My mother and sister rock jewelry because they stick with their own styles — for example, my mom owns probably three hundred pairs of gold hoop earrings. The best thing to developing a jewelry style is to experiment, find something you like and run with it. For me, I like pieces with unique but inherently simple design. Simple is key here: if you’re wearing a big necklace, make that your only piece of jewelry. Because I don’t wear a lot of jewelry at one time, having my jewelry be more of a statement piece feels fresh and exciting, like an addition to my outfit I’ve thought out without having to actually think about.

Thinking of new and fun ways to pair your jewelry with your outfits is the best part of trying it on. Here are a couple of my favorite looks at the moment:

Tucking that thick gold chain inside the bulky collar of a sweater pulls together a look way better than you’d imagine.

Layering your necklace outside of your button-down collar instantly polishes a look, as well, and downplays a large necklace to be more wearable if you’re not used to wearing statement jewelry.

Most importantly: These aren’t rules. There are no rules. Tomboy femme is its own collage of styles, which gives us the most freedom when it comes to presenting and dressing however we damn well please. Go experiment.

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Hansen is the DIY & Food Editor of Autostraddle.com and likes to spend most days making and cooking and writing. She is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Colorado State University in her free time.

Hansen has written 186 articles for us.

42 Comments

  1. Thumb up 10

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    I love this!! Lately I’ve been wearing a thumb ring, which is more jewelry than usual for me. Sometimes I go crazy and wear earrings too. I love all of the jewelry that’s here though. Especially the geometric shapes!

    Sort of off topic, but I finally found a bathing suit I like this summer, and I think because it’s more TOMBOY FEMME. I’ve spent the past few years feeling the most uncomfortable in tiny bikinis with flowers on them, etc. Now I have these boyshort bottoms, a top with thick straps, and a zig zag pattern. I actually want to go to the beach and take off my tank top and shorts covering the swimsuit now. I love being a tomboy femme. :)

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    I love Tomboy Femme. I spent a lot of time worrying about whether my dresses looked alright with my short hair or if my button ups were acceptable with my lipstick and I always struggled with being somewhere outside of the butch/femme scale, but the concept of Tomboy Femme has really helped.

    Lately, I’ve been trying to be more conscious of my jewelry, which means I’m trying to wear something other than the rings I never take off. I think simply, but unique is a lot of what I’ve been trying for too.

    I just love the AS fashion posts.

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    Ugh one more reason why I could never live without AS fashion posts! I only just got back into wearing earrings, realising my sense of style and my queerness could actually be expressed through jewelry. It’s made me a lot happier. I love the “tomboy femme” name and aesthetic. Yay!

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    i suffer from a ton of internet shyness and so never post comments on the sites i read, but my desire to be a part of this particular discussion is trumping that! i super feel the whole “tomboy femme” thing, and have been loving these style columns for a while but this one really rang true with me for a lot of reasons.

    jewelry has been a huge part of my life forever – my father is actually a jeweler and has been teaching me aspects of the craft since i was definitely way too young to be using a torch. so when i finally settled into my adult queer identity/aesthetic (at least this iteration of it) and had trouble finding things with which to decorate myself that didn’t make me feel like i was wearing a costume, it was SO weird. so i started making my own! reading this article was like reading everything that was in my head when i started that project. anyway i have a website but totally do not click through if you think that is self-serving!

    as for things i didn’t make, i love utilitarian jewelry (i have a pocketknife necklace that i wear the shit out of, and am still searching for the perfect non-twee compass). someone upthread mentioned a bird skull necklace; i totally have one too and it turns every outfit i wear with it up to eleven.

    sorry for the book-length comment i just obviously have a lot of wacky feels about jewelry.

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      @elisabethfuchsia OMG your jewellery is ***BEAUTIFUL***

      Oh god I wish I had known about this a few weeks ago – I just today (as in about two hours ago) ordered my partner and I’s civil partnership rings and I would have LOVED to get these!

      Wow. So glad you overcame your shyness and shared these! Consider your website bookmarked :D

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        holy crap i just realized you are the same person that posted their jewelry right above! internet fail. i was admiring your work so hard earlier! awesome.

        you have way better/more profound reasons for liking triangles than i do haha. i think i just like them because they are the sturdiest shapes i.e. a shelf with a triangular bracket holds more than a shelf just nailed into the wall so it’s kind of like an obstinate “well if i have to look at these all the time i might as well like them.”

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        ahhhh thank you <3 <3 <3! i'm so glad you like it!

        triangle love is real and has followed me through every artistic medium i've tried (saying that i had to stop being a knitting pattern designer when i ran out of triangle-inspired motifs is only like 25% a joke). there's a "seinfeld" background character who is an artist that only paints triangles and dates elaine benes so basically he is my fictional alter-ego.

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          Triangles, YES. For me because three is the magic number and because of the alchemical symbols for the four elements. I’ve ended up making those four triangles the logos for both of my businesses.

          I can’t wait to get my ring!! x

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        ah what a huge compliment coming from the creator of the lizard necklace! i might actually be updating my website in the near future so maybe waiting will be a good thing :)

        also i was so bummed when i realized in hindsight i should have posted about people i WANT to buy from in addition to just saying cool shit i already wear! so here’s some: nervous system is kind of too fancy for me sometimes but i let it slide since it is science and therefore objectively cool. i also loooooooooooove hero king but haven’t purchased anything from that guy yet.

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    So my thing in jr. high and high school was to wear these super colorful, loud earrings — I’m talking about dangling things, huge turquoise stars, shiny purple metallic things etc. Then in college I bought all this cheap ass jewelry (mostly long necklaces) from H&M and Forever 21 to go out. Now that I’m past all that and have developed a style I’m definitely comfortable with, I wear only two pairs of earrings that my partner gave me — a pair of silver unicorn studs and a pair of actual turquoise studs. They are earrings I can trust and I love and it’s like I can’t go on with my life unless I have one pair on. (I lost one of the turquoise studs in the pool last summer and I didn’t leave until I found it because I loved it that much, thankfully I did find it!) And I’ve been meaning to get rid of all the jewelry I don’t use anymore and pare it down to only things I truly love and will wear over and over again. I think these are some excellent choices and I think I will invest in some pretty necklaces because I can’t stand rings or bracelets!

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    It kind of only recently occurred to me that jewellery could be part of getting dressed instead of the things I can basically sleep in, uniform style, but I am still very bad at actually experimenting and anyway this is great/encouraging.

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    I love this article! Usually my jewelry ends up missing as soon as I’ve worn it outside of the house, but I have two rings (one that my dad once gave my mom, and one from my adorable girlfriend) that have stuck with me. Also, yesterday I bought this excellent necklace that is sort of tomboy-witchy-femme:

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    Yes! I feel like I could have written this (though not as well, obviously!). I had no idea what I was really doing with jewelry until I got short hair and realized the impact of “less is more”. I have the exact same rule about what pieces of jewelry I can wear at the same time (like no necklace if I’m already wearing earrings, etc.).

    I definitely agree with you about simplification making it easier to deal with the “femme” aspects of how you want to present. I didn’t know how to incorporate femme-ness without going ALL THE WAY for a long time, and b/c that was so unappealing to me, I just stayed butch and jewelry-free for years. It was like a goddamn awakening when I finally started playing around with a tomboy femme look and realized I could wear jewelry without going overboard.

    A friend of mine thinks having “rules” like the no necklace w/ earrings thing is dumb and really restrictive, but I’ve tried to explain that having personal guidelines like that enables me to wear jewelry instead of restricting me. If I didn’t have my own little rules, I’d end up feeling uncomfortable and just taking it all off halfway through my day.

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    “To me, tomboy femme means playing with ideas of presentation, and blurring the lines between what it is to be purely on one side of the feminine to masculine spectrum, and pairing traditionally masculine designs with traditionally feminine designs and having fun with it all.”

    THIS!!! I’m so glad AS introduced me to the phrase “tomboy femme.” I love pairing things that aren’t gendered alike. I’ve also fallen out of the habit of wearing jewelry altogether and feel like my style could benefit from adding some in, so I appreciate this advice. Especially the part about envisioning it with different types of outfits.

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    Thank you for including my jewelry styling in your post! I, too, have been playing with the “right” combination of necklaces, rings, and bracelets, and have even ventured into statement necklace territory lately. It’s fun to see how jewelry can enhance (or take away) from different looks. Keep playing, and stop by jackietara.com for more ideas! – Jackie from http://www.jackietara.com

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