The Jewels of Sunset Boulevard

“I am big. It’s the pictures that got small”….Sunset Boulevard (1950), remains an iconic film Noir classic and winner of three Academy Awards.  If you haven’t seen Gloria Swanson’s epic portrayal of Norma Desmond, an aging silent film star you must, you really must!  There are parallels of course for Swanson age 50 in the film, as she was indeed a major star with Paramount in the 20s having worked with DeMille before.  She, in her denial of her faded popularity, sucks the viewer into her delusional world with the power of great acting, and yes… a chic wardrobe filled with intensely stunning accessories.  The costume design and accessorizing done by Edith Head of course! Having completed my doctorate degree in visual anthropology and taught a course on it, the importance of what media reveals about cultures through images and material culture is vast.

Joe, the struggling writer, played by William Holden is certainly sucked into her gilded cage from the time he pulls into her mansion’s driveway.  While the once lux home is showing signs of its age outside, underneath it all Norma still has lots of cash-so to speak. However; its the camera and love that she still craves.   While there have been various articles about the famous film… I mean her devoted butler is a whole other story analysis….

However; I would argue that the inside house decor and her wardrobe are important characters as well!  The home provides a decadent Noir visual feast as does Norma herself, in one dramaticly and well accessorized old hollywood outfit after another. She seemingly comes out accessorized one way, but then slowly reveals more as the camera pans to other layers of jewels that the viewer just didn’t see at first glance. While it is all a bit over the top, there are some inspiring pieces to behold.

There really is a whole complex article to be written about what this film says about our culture, but let’s stick to the jewelry facts!

I give you my favorite accessorizes from Norma’s Noir closet-



Norma as she pulls Joe into her private New Year’s party. Notice the stack of amazing deco arm candy and that brooch which appears as the camera pans wider. Sarara Couture, screen shot.

NormaNewYears Eve

One of my favorite shots from the film: the New Year’s Eve party as it ends. The jewels could be a mix of fine and paste, but either way they are stunning. Sarara Couture, screen shot.



Earlier scene between Joe and Norma as she lounges in this interesting scarf necklace. Screen shot, Sarara Couture.

And then she finally completely looses it in the final scene, but not before she adds an amazing serpent arm cuff–


The final bow for Norma, as she descends the stairs amongst the police. She is ready for the final closeup. Notice the glam long Egyptian Assuit shawl, popular int he 1920s. As she comes down the stairs we see how long it is and what is attached. Screen Shot, Sarara Couture.



Again another, fab glam brooch and the most fantastic Egyptian revival Snake armband. Again, drawing on her image as a silent film star during the golden age. The importance of these accessories in setting the mood is fundamental. Screen shot, Sarara Couture.

*Some of her iconic jewels and accessories used in this film were auctioned off in 1983 by William Doyle Auction House.




About the Author

Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *