Stick a pin in it

The humble pin. It’s back in the news this fall in a big way — both as a political statement and as a fashion statement that harks back to a political statement of the 70s. 

Here’s a sample of pins used in runway jewellery as part of the fall collections. 

As we are all very aware, after Brexit and now the US election, safety pins are being donned by those who want to indicate they are friendly and a safe haven for anyone experiencing hate crimes and to show solidarity against xenophobia. 
But today’s blog is about this oldest and humblest hardworking closure for garments that more than likely dates back to Neolithic times and became elevated from a workhorse to a work of art. There is some archaeological evidence that pre-modern man used bone and horn to hold their garments together in a pin-like fashion but it wasn’t until the Bronze Age that humans started created beautifully wrought fibulae to fasten cloaks and robes. These pins could identify clans (Celts), rank (soldiers) and wealth. There are gorgeous examples in many museums around the world.

Once buttons appeared on the scene, pins became a decorative accessory, and in the 1700s it was very fashionable to wear brooches that had miniature portraits of loved ones or even their watchful eye (just a bit creepy…)

By Victorian times, there was a huge fad to take the hair of a loved one (alive or dead — that’s called a memento mori), weave the hair into elegant patterns and wear it under glass in a brooch. 

I’m sure we all remember our mothers and grandmothers in the 1950s and ‘60s wearing brooches made from cast base metals and sparkling with crystals and freshwater pearls. They were as essential to a woman’s outfit as her hat, gloves and pocketbook. Sarah Coventry pieces thick with faux jewels were crammed into my mother’s jewellery box. 

In the ‘80s I donned tons of pins and brooches on my lapels: big brooches that had chains hanging down from them. Madonna seemed to have set the style tone for that brooch revival. But it has taken 30 years for the brooch to slip back into fashion’s radar — Vogue recently ran an article about the return of the brooch. 
So I say dig through your jewellery box, scour the thrift stores and upcycle your old brooches. Here’s a jumble of a few I dug up. Now what to do with them…

Your thoughts on this, pictures of your favourite brooch, or of a new brooch project are welcome in the comments. Let’s share our creativity in this brooch and pin fashion revival!

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