Gillian Anderson’s jewellery caused a sensation at this year’s Golden Globes. But rather than a phenomenally expensive diamond or brand new shape, this was all about the way she wore her jewels. She accessorised a simple, asymmetric white dress with a diamond ‘backlace’ draped across her shoulder blades. It was a surprisingly sexy way to accessorise, but not entirely new.
The look was first seen in the 1920s, when flappers wore lariats – diamond, gold or beaded necklaces with no clasps or loops – down their spines. This drew attention to their shockingly daring backless frocks. This was an era of innovation in fashion and accessories, with bold new looks jostling for attention. The backlace emphasised the androgynous nature of these liberated women, it highlighted shoulders rather than breasts, but was still deeply sexy.
Down the years, the look has been adopted and twisted; Princess Diana wore pearls knotted down her back with a burgundy velvet Catherine Walker dress at a film premiere in 1985. But it was in the late noughties that the trend was fully embraced by Hollywood; by Nicole Kidman at the 2008 Academy Awards and Sienna Miller at the Bafta awards in the same year, Cate Blanchett is a fan of the look, sporting dramatic, spine-emphasising accessories at awards ceremonies including the Academy Awards, and Jennifer Lawrence has repeatedly draped jewels down her back.
It tends to be these edgier, more androgynous actresses who carry off the look to greatest effect, and best of all might have been Cara Delevingne’s 2014 fashion moment, when she teamed a Roberto Cavalli dress with a pendant dangling down her back, emphasising her brand new tattoo. In that year, Leanne Bayley described the look as ‘the trend that crept up from behind’.
You may not want to go fully backless – after all, we don’t all have brand new skin art to flash to the paparazzi or an exquisitely muscled model back like Cara – but it’s still a trend that’s relatively easy to play with. Keep things pared back with a simple chain resting along your shoulder blades, or a small pendant with enough weight to keep it in place. You may need to adapt your outfit a little; no straps, hair cropped short or tied up, and – if you dare – a cut-away back, but this dramatic, boyish look will have others trailing in your wake. Do you have the backbone to dare to try it?