Everything You Need To Know About Wearing Pins and Brooches

by Nancy Plante October 03, 2018

Everything You Need To Know About Wearing Pins and Brooches

Pins and brooches are always in fashion. They bring elegance and style to any ensemble, and are incredibly stylish and versatile. In addition to adding an interesting accent to your outfit, they are also serve as great conversation starters. Exquisite works of art, these pieces boast elegant or playful designs that get you noticed.

Modern pins, antique pins, and vintage brooches add sparkle, making an otherwise lackluster outfit stand out. Featuring gem flower designs, whimsical animals, or classic cameos, older pieces can be worn on hats, jackets, collars, and even in your hair. Brooches and pins are used to express moods and opinions—former secretary of state Madeleine Albright famously used pins from antique shops and flea markets to express herself. Her collection of over 200 brooches was featured in a Smithsonian exhibition in 2010.

A Short History of Wearing Pins

Brooches and pins were not originally created as jewelry. In fact, they were made to be utilitarian and functional. Initially made out of flint and thorns, they secured clothing such as loincloths. Metal pins became popular in the Bronze Age, and the Celts wore pins as cloak fasteners. In Viking times, brooches were worn every day by both men and women, and were available with a diverse level of detailing.

Today, pins and brooches are enjoying a fashion revival. High-end designers such as Chanel and Boucheron are including them in their collections. Antique brooches and vintage pins are also being sought by collectors. Wearing pins on the red carpet and runway is becoming increasingly popular. Movies and TV shows serve as inspiration for wearing pins and brooches, as seen in examples like The Crown. An infamous piece is the Schlumberger dolphin brooch that Richard Burton bought for Elizabeth Taylor for the opening of Night of the Iguana.

How Are Pins and Brooches Different?

So, what is the difference between a brooch and a pin? The truth is that there really isn’t much of a difference! Both terms are interchangeable in today’s fashion world. Perhaps it's more the estate-and-antique-jewelry lovers who call them brooches, while most other people call them pins. Although we have to admit, brooch sounds a little more traditional.

Technically speaking, pins and brooches are both decorative pieces of jewelry that attach to clothing with a sharpened metal wire on the back. However, pins are the general category for such pieces of jewelry, and brooches are a specific type of pin. So, all brooches are pins, but all pins are not brooches.

Tips on How to Wear a Brooch or Pin

  • You can wear your brooch in your hair if you wish to add sparkle and style. Simply attach a brooch to a plain ponytail holder and tie up your hair as you normally would. If you put your hair up in a bun or French twist, secure the brooch or pin to a hair comb or a large clip.
  • If your garment fabric is thin or delicate, put a piece of felt behind it and pin through both layers to give the pin stability. Avoid wearing a heavy pin on a delicate or antique fabric that might be damaged.
  • Consider an “exit pin" on the back of your shoulder or waist that is visible when you are walking away.
  • Many pins are also made to wear as pendants. Even if yours is not made that way, sometimes you can get it to hang on a chain or ribbon.
  • Combine vintage, heirloom, or modern pins and brooches to create a unique, personalized look.
  • If you are not sure the clasp will hold, use a small rubber stopper from earrings. Push the pin through the fabric, put the stopper on, and then fasten the pin's clasp. If the clasp opens, the pin will not fall off.
  • Be sure to remove your pins from your clothing before putting the clothing through the wash.
  • Combine three  or more small pins at your shoulder. Wear the same metal, or a similar style or color to tie the group together.
  • Liven up a plain dress or top with a pin at the neckline, shoulder, or waistline. Larger, heavier pins look great on a coat, thicker jacket, belt, hat, or handbag.
  • When wearing a brooch on a business jacket or blouse, be sure it is on the left side—that’s where the eye goes when shaking hands.

You can find pins and brooches in your grandmother's jewelry box or on her pincushion, at estate sales, or at craft fairs. And of course, you can always find them at jewelry stores. Our custom jewelry designers in Swansea can help you create a brooch or pin that is fashionable, fun, and unique.

Nancy Plante
Nancy Plante


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