Victorian women in delicate German lace
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    Auction Finds

    Victorian lingerie pins? Never heard of them

    The cute little pins looked like hair barrettes to decorate a little girl’s braids or ponytails. The pair were made of a soft pink enamel with a faux pearl encased in a diamond-shaped casing.

    When I read the handwritten description on the auction-house tag, I was surprised to learn what they actually were: lingerie pins, gold filled, about 1 to 1 ½” long.

    Lingerie pins? I had never come across any before (or I did and thought they were something else). How were they used?

    lingerie pins

    Pink enamel and gold-filled lingerie pins with faux pearls.

    I Googled, and found bits and pieces about lingerie pins. Seemingly, they were first worn by Victorian women (probably those of means) to hide errant bra and underwear straps under clothing. They were usually made of 14k gold with pearls or gemstones, and were worn either on top of the garments or underneath.

    The pins were used to attach the strap of the garment to the strap of the slip or bra underneath. A site selling a French pin noted that they were also used to hold slips together so they would stay in place and not move around. Victorian women wore layers of lingerie (corsets, bloomers, petticoats and more) under their dresses.

    Lingerie pins were said to have been around until the 1920s with the advent of newer dress styles (and when women began to wear merely a slip, teddy and bra). Their reign coincided with that of the “lingerie dress” with its abundance of lace, ruffles and ribbons. These were “the” summer beachwear and garden-party wear during the turn of the 20th century.

    lingerie pins

    The back of the two lingerie pins. The fold-over clasps are at the right ends.

    This was a time of modesty for women, and revealing their lingerie strap would be considered oh-so-gauche. That’s not the case today when some women find it fashionable to reveal straps, whether they’re wearing Victoria Secret lace or a Walmart brand. At work some years ago, a friend whose age was past 40 walked up to my desk with her bra strap showing – in an obvious attempt to make a fashion statement. I was appalled because it was inappropriate for work and she was too old to be doing it (her 15-year-old daughter could have gotten away with it).

    There’s plenty of debate on whether or not it is appropriate. Some say yes, others say no, and still others offer suggestions on how to make it work.

    At auction, the enamel pins were among four for sale. The two others included a monogrammed gold-filled pin and another with three sapphire stones. Here are several for sale in shops on the Ruby Lane website and another selection here.

    Since lingerie pins are not necessarily used to hide lingerie anymore, how would you re-purpose them? As brooches? I like the idea of barrettes.


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