History of how vintage hatpins worked
Ranging from a single, elegant pearl to an ornate collection of beads and jewels, antique hat pins once served the practical purpose of securing women's hats to their hair. Today, collectors show off these little jeweled treasures in displays or wear them on the lapels of jackets.
Because they were so ubiquitous during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, there are still many hat pins available for new and established collectors to purchase. Whether you've been collecting for years or are just beginning this enjoyable hobby, you can find hat pins at a variety of retailers on and offline:. The heyday of hat pins began in the s as the Regency period drew to an end and women began securing their hats to their upswept hair with hat pins. According to the American Hatpin Society , advances in manufacturing contributed to the huge number of pins created in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Each era saw changes in the design of these important fashion items. The large, elaborate hats of the Victorian period required long pins, sometimes up to 14 inches in length. Common hat pins were made for the average person and known as a "working girl" hat pin. The uniquely feminine weapon did not sit too well with men used to submissive ladies, so beginning in , they began passing laws limiting the length of hatpins , usually to no more than inches. Other cities passed regulations requiring safety caps for hatpins rather than outright banning longer ones.
This seemed like a much more practical approach to the problem of accidental stabbings— a naked pin point sticking out of a hat could accidentally injure people around you— though requiring a cap rendered the pin much harder to use for self-defense, too. It is probably not a coincidence that the notice about outlawing hatpins as weapons appears just below an article about militant suffragettes in England.
Women vehemently opposed the laws and some ladies were even arrested for wearing long or uncapped pins in their hats, especially suffragettes. Yes, policemen would actually stop women to inspect their hats for illegal hatpins. At a fierce 13 inches long, my hatpin could have landed me in the slammer if I wore it without a permit after ! You could definitely still defend yourself easily with it!
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Hatpins do require extra attention in order to wear them safely. Truth be told, a properly worn hatpin should not be noticeable at all when worn.
It should hide amid your hat trimmings, showing only the bejeweled end if it has one. If you are like me and have a hatpin a bit too long for your hat, you must be very careful when giving hugs or taking selfies with friends, not to mention being careful not to stab yourself!
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What's interesting, and maybe obvious, is that there was at least some level of social acceptability with regard to a woman's using a hat pin to defend herself from a lech on the street. But now, as evolved as we are, we're just supposed to laugh them off, or roll our eyes, or consider it a compliment. Stabbing the cat-callers is no longer an option.
Strange that it was one back when women were less 'liberated' and had far fewer rights as citizens. My grandmother LOVED to tell stories about how her mother, who used to ride the streetcar by herself as a young woman s, s, round about , would jab her hat pins into grabby guys. My grandmother always approved of hat-pin-requiring hats if one was going to be at a large festival or something, so you had a long stabby pin handy in crowds.
There have definitely been times on public transit in Chicago that I wished I had a nice 4" long hatpin. Not to maim, just to sting. Neat to hear some of the real-world historical context behind the idea! One of my favorite things about Pratchett's books is that reading them gives one a bit of an informal education in folklore and folk history. As is so often the case, the real-world inspiration is at least as interesting as the fantasy story in which it is referenced. Suffragettes gonna make you suffer until there's suffrage.
Also, no groping.
German Alpine Hat Pins – History & Collecting
That Smithsonian magazine story leans just a little too hard on the "OMG we must disarm this monstrous regiment of women! If you look at actual contemporary coverage of the issue from the turn of the century the concern about the long hatpins was that they protruded from the wearers' hats and that in a crowded streetcar they were a menace to the people standing nearby. An ordinance to limit the length of hatpins to no more than nine inches is hardly designed to "disarm" women who want to use their hatpins to discourage "mashers. Sumptuary laws frequently have some sort of "logical" justification, but they always also have an aspect of regulating the conduct of the lawmakers' so-called inferiors.
Emphasis on inferiors. I'm not sure that regulating the carrying of weapons is best defined simply as a "sumptuary law," however; is opposition to concealed-carry laws offensive to you because it is "regulating the conduct of the lawmakers' so-called inferiors"?
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What about a more directly comparable case the many laws around the world regulating the carrying of sword-sticks usually male accoutrements, not female? There are, in fact, perfectly reasonable objections to be made to someone walking around with a inch pin protruding from the brim of their hat. Monster LOVE hatpins!
The antique hatpins blog is bookmarked for much later drooling. The black-beaded one makes me think of Granny Weatherwax, Scientist. For costuming shows, I usually use these 6" nickel-plated, safety-tipped dealies. They do the job, although sometimes you have to use two, especially with a fine-haired actor. They're cheap enough to replace when not if they get lost, and they can be trimmed or not.
If unpinning the hat is part of the action I have to go looking for something more substantial, of course. I remember one production of HMS Pinafore where lost hatpins was such an issue that I had to collect them and reissue them every night. Yes, I could use elastic or other cheats, and I do if I have to. But a lot of the work I do isn't for traditional twenty-feet-away-and-under-special-lighting theater, so I've gotten in the hatpin habit.
That's a fun challenge! As a professional historian, I am curious to see what results. Numbers of serious injuries were caused by these dangerous implements protruding from the huge hats of fashionable ladies. She pulled her hatpin and drove it into her assailant, whereupon he plunged into the bayou and died.
Early 1900s Women Had an Ingenious Method for Fending Off Gropers
Seattle Daily Times, January 10, Successful Women Practitioners in the New York Criminal Courts "The case was that of a woman whose name I have forgotten, but who was known to the police as 'Hatpin Jenny,' because of a playful little trick she had of using a hatpin as a weapon under the influence of alcoholic stimulants. The play deals with three pretty bachelor girls living in a studio in New York, who have taken a hatpin oath to always remain man hater.
It's just five stories from a few days in January, and there certainly is at least one story about hatpins causing accidents, but most of these stories are about hatpins as offensive weapons, so that was obviously a significant concern as well. This sounds like the best play ever. Assuming the play ends with them keeping their and staying man haters, of course. Bunny Ultramod, you might try looking at stories related to attempts to regulate the hatpins. I'm not at all sure what relevance you think a "hatpin oath"--for example--has to anything at all.
The Chicago ordinance, for example, didn't even end up regulating the length of the hatpin a woman could carry on her person. It regulated how far the hatpin's end could protrude from the brim of the hat. It's simply not true to suggest that it was some kind of attempt to "disarm" women. You know, if you're going to tell me to read contemporary accounts about hatpins, I would appreciate if you didn't move the goalposts when I do so. You made a claim, and now you're saying, well, in these specific instances, if you look in this specific place, that claim is true.