The very first thing I thought of was the of Pearly Kings and Queens from London. I was fortunate to see a group of these colorful characters in Covent Garden on my first of many trips to England many years ago. They left quite an impression on me.
A Pearly is a person dressed in a traditional cockney costume covered in mother-of-pearl buttons. These costumes were treasured heirlooms, hand made and sometime representing much of a family's material worth.
They were originally elected by costermongers, street traders, to safeguard their rights from rivals. Costermongers have been an important part of London life for more than 1000 years. The "costers" would sew lines of pearl buttons down the sides of hand-me-down trousers, waistcoats, and caps to show their pride of place.
The history of the Pearly Society is quite an interesting one beginning with one small boy in 1875, Henry Croft. History here ... Pearly Society.
The Societies & Organisations that The Pearlies have helped reads like a role call of many famous Charitable institutions – with sums raised running into millions.
The PEARLY KING OF CAMBERWELL states " ... it is not just the direct fundraising that Pearlies are famous for – their unique and honourable traditions which have been built up over many centuries have enabled them to act as ambassadors at home and abroad – adding to both tourism and trade – visitors to our shores still expect to see something of our heritage, pageantry, and costume".
A "Pearly" ring from etsy ....
Vintage Mother of Pearl Pin Shank Buttons from etsy seller.
All photos of Pearly Kings & Queens via Flickr pool