While there is some debate over the date of the original hatpin (vs straight pin),we do know that women have been using pins to secure veils, wimples, hats and bonnets for hundreds of years. Until 1820 hatpin making in England was a cottage industry in which demand far exceeded supply. One solution was to import crafted pins from France. In order to support Britain’s crafters, in 1820 a law was passed allowing pins to be imported ONLY on January 1 and 2! Some suggest the phrase “pin money” was so called because it was spent by the lady of the house on her hatpins, dress pins and brooch pins!
All pins were still handmade at this point, and remained so until 1832 when a machine was invented in the United States, which could mass-produce the pins. After this prices dropped considerably as machines made pins were crafted England and France, soon after.
When styles began favoring the hat over the bonnet in the 1880’s, hatpins became both more fashionable and more elaborate. They remained as essential accessory until the age of flapper style bobs and cloche hats made them unnecessary. Still the Edwardian hatpin was regarded as a thing of fear among lawmakers of the day, who passed legislation in 1908 (in the United States) mandating that pins not exceed 10 inches in length (lest Suffragettes use them as weapons) and later ordering that the ends be capped lest someone be injured by a sharp tip.
Pictures of Regency style pins are in short supply, but I do love this image from Atelier de Modistes Le Bon Genre 28, c.1807, showing a group of young ladies trying on hats and bonnets (Lydia Bennet, anyone?) A look at the woman on the far right shows what appears to be a beaded hatpin stuck safely in place waiting for the next hat or bonnet.
From the above illustrations, it appears that Georgian/Regency era pins were less elaborate than their Victorian cousins, featuring one or two beads, instead of the elaborate trimmings and jewels that were to come.
To create your own hatpins, you’ll need:
- A long, straight pin or hatpin (20 cm is average.) These can be purchased from Austentation on Etsy. Custom Pins are also available.
- Metal glue (I like E6000)
- An assortment of beads and bead caps.
To make your pin, first add a bead cap, then line up your beads in your chosen order and end with a small bead or cap. Once you have decided on your perfect combination, slide the beads down the pin and add some glue to the pin, where the beads will sit. Slide all but the last the bead back in place, being sure that each one is adhered. Add a small drop of glue to the bottom hole of the second to last bead, slide your final piece into place and allow the pin to dry.
Congratulations! A custom piece to complement your period ensemble!
Laura Boyle creates the hatpins available in the Jane Austen Centre shop as well as providing her customers with custom hatpins and supplies along with various other hats, bonnets, reticules and accessories from her shop Austentation: Regency Accessories.