The Age of the Hatpin (ie. that which secures a lady’s hat to her head, not a badge that is worn on a hat) lasted from approx. 1850-1930. Its invention during the Victorian years revolutionised women’s fashion which previously had revolved around the bonnet style of headgear; relying on ribbons to keep it secure. Remember that up until the First World War no lady would dream of being seen out of doors without a hat on. The hat was as compulsory a piece of clothing as shoes.
The extravagant design of hats in the last half of the 19th century combined with the hairstyles, which often involved extra rolls of padding with the hair combed over them, resulted in many hatpins from this era being up to 12″ in length. A formidable weapon in the hands of an angry suffragette! There were even laws enacted which governed the length of hatpins, how they could be worn and restrictions covering wearing them on public transport.
Hatpins were an important accessory in a woman’s wardrobe, so naturally they were designed as beautiful pieces of jewelery. These early hatpins are eagerly sought after by collectors and are hideously expensive. Unfortunately I don’t have any of these gems in my collection.
I started collecting hatpins so I could have something relatively inexpensive to buy when I went cruising Antique Centres if I wasn’t going to buy a piece of porcelain or a perfume bottle for one of my other collections. I didn’t realise that, just like every other collectable, hatpins have a top end of the market side too for the older, fancier ones. So my collection is all early 20th Century examples extending to the 1930s. I try to avoid the modern reproductions that are quite popular at the moment, made with beads, although in the early days I did inadvertently buy a couple.
Hatpin holders are also very collectable and are usually made of porcelain or silver and beautifully decorated. I only have the hand painted Nippon one shown here. But I do love the intricate gold painting on it, which the photo doesn’t really do justice to..
For anyone who is interested in finding out more about vintage hatpins I suggest getting hold of any books on the subject by Lillian Baker.