Monday, 07 May 2018
The Dressing Well Blog
Elizabeth Fragala

5 Tips to Be on Point with Pins

By Dressing Well Stylist Elizabeth Fragala

With historical dramas more popular than ever in movies, television and online, pins and brooches have made a fashion comeback. 

If you follow these types of shows, you've probably noticed stunning pins and brooches, particularly those set in the early and mid 1900s. From The Crown (a British drama about the reign of Queen Elizabeth) to The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (which focuses on a Jewish housewife in NYC in the 1950s and her unusual gift for comedy), brooches and pins are prominently displayed and given beautiful historical context by the show’s producers.

Whether wearing a pin for sentimental value or using this key accessory to punch up your style quotient, here are five fresh ideas for being on point with pins this season:

#1 As they say in real estate, it's all about location, location, location.
Your dress, top or jacket has limited area to showcase a pin, but don't let that stop you from being inventive. A sparkly brooch draws attention to cleavage when placed at the point of a deep v-neck or emphasizes an hourglass figure when pinned at the center of a nipped in waist. Try a standout pin on the neckline or shoulder of a simple dress, à la the character of 1960s advertising secretary Joan Holloway on the series Mad Men, to make a particularly bold statement with your pin.

#2 Consider your point of view.
If you're unable to make your point with just one small pin, try arranging multiple pins on the shoulder or lapel of a suit. Three small pins can make a bigger impact than just one.  Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, famously known for wearing pins to communicate her point of view and celebrate many events in her life, once squeezed an entire set of jazz band instruments on her shoulder before attending a public concert. The look worked because she was able to keep all the pins the same scale, color and theme which connected them well. To learn more about Madeline’s unique use of pins, I highly recommend Read My Pins, her 2009 memoir that showcases her breathtaking pin collection and the subtle (and not so subtle!) political messages behind them.

#3 Search outside the mall.
While an heirloom pin can be purchased at an expensive jewelry store and passed on for generations, reasonably-priced costume jewelry can make just as much of a statement as high-end versions. Vintage pins are often available in every type of metal and embellished with gemstones or formed in unique shapes such as Scotty dogs, beetles or handbags. Scouring secondhand or vintage shops is a fun and inexpensive way to start a collection of brooches and express your identity and interests.

#4 Fabric matters. 
On a practical note, consider the fabric of your garment that will serve as the backing for your jewelry.  A tweed or brocade can withstand the weight of a heavier pin, while thinner weight fabrics, like polyester or silk, will show holes more easily.  A large pin with colorful rhinestones or a metallic finish can brighten a wool winter coat on the dreariest days. Smaller pins add color and interest to the lapel of a serious suit, while a medium size beauty is perfect on a solid shift or A-line dress or even pinned to a handbag or tote.

#5 Quick change artist.
If wearing pins on your clothing is not of interest to you, consider wearing pins as pendants instead. Vintage pins often have a small opening on the back that allows it to be worn on a metal chain. Your local jeweler can easily add such a loop to modern pieces, or you can purchase an inexpensive brooch converter, creating a more versatile piece for your jewelry collection.

Last word
To ensure its legacy, be sure to examine the clasp on your pin before wearing, no matter its age or price tag. I have had many clients report that they have lost a special pin or had it fly off at the least opportune time and often break because they did not take the time to properly secure it. If you need to replace the clasp to wear it well, do so. Dressing Well often requires some preparation. Jewelry repair and maintenance should be part of your plan!

Editor’s Note: We’d love to hear the stories of your pins and how you wear them well. Please share in the comment section below. We welcome your pin inspirations!

Click to Share:
Elizabeth Fragala

Elizabeth Fragala joined the Dressing Well team as a stylist in 2004 after living abroad in such fashion-rich cities as London and Tokyo. Following in the steps of her two grandmothers (and a grandfather!), Elizabeth learned to sew as a child. She honed her fashion sense while working at the renowned Issey Miyake boutique and Liberty of London. Elizabeth gained an insider’s knowledge of the industry as an assistant designer at the womenswear manufacturer, Briggs NY.

Learn more about Elizabeth »

Related items

  • Walking On Sunshine: 5 Ways to Wear Yellow Summer Accessories Well Walking On Sunshine: 5 Ways to Wear Yellow Summer Accessories Well

    To feel like you are truly "walking" on sunshine as we embrace the glorious summer season, grab a pair of bright yellow sandals (or even sneakers!) and then add just enough other "sunny" accents to give your entire warm weather wardrobe an undeniably happy vibe.

  • Five Fresh Ideas for Starting 2017 in Style Five Fresh Ideas for Starting 2017 in Style

    Time to pack away the holiday sweaters and push the refresh button on your winter wardrobe. Below are 5 fresh ideas to help you get started.

  • Dressing Well Gift Guide: 5 Stylish Accessories to Give in 2016 Dressing Well Gift Guide: 5 Stylish Accessories to Give in 2016

    Accessories are a fun and easy way to give the gift of style. One size truly fits most, making them a much less complicated choice than some other fashion-themed options. From the mall to the web to local artisan shops and craft fairs, accessories are available everywhere this time of year, making them easy to hunt (and, quite often, to afford!)

  • Get a Handle on Your Totes Get a Handle on Your Totes

    Does the thought of organizing your closets for spring seem overwhelming? Consider starting your seasonal wardrobe cleanse by getting your pocketbooks, totes and briefcases under control. By tackling this more manageable project first, you’re likely to be more motivated to take on your closets next.

    Here are 5 fresh tips to get you started:

  • Five Fresh Ideas for Starting 2016 in Style Five Fresh Ideas for Starting 2016 in Style

    2016 is off to a great start here at Dressing Well. Our consultants are busy helping their clients look their personal best and our first blog post for 2016 aims to help you start the New Year with some fresh style too. Enjoy!


Laurie Schloff 2018-05-10 10:26

This is a fantastic and enlightening blog. I just wish I didn’t give away so many pins!
in the past, I found I lost them a lot less frequently then I lose earrings !
Thanks Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Fragala 2018-05-10 12:12

So glad you enjoyed the blog, Laurie! Have you considered investing in a new pin or restarting your collection? There are so many beautiful and fun pins available in a range of price points. While researching for the blog I visited a few secondhand stores and mall stores and saw many pretty and inexpensive pins.

Barbara Heathcote 2018-05-10 10:52

Great blog post! Another VERY unique way to wear a pin is called an "Exit Pin". Pin a gorgeous brooch to the BACK shoulder (or where ever it would look best) on an evening gown . . . As you "exit" the room, guests gets to enjoy your gorgeous pin. : - )

Elizabeth Fragala 2018-05-10 12:14

Thank you, Barbara! I love the idea of an "exit pin!" I will be on the lookout for this trend online and in magazines. So glad you shared this unique idea.

Laurie Harden 2018-05-10 11:35

I love reading these blogs and always look forward to reading them! What a great reminder of how to wear pins.. I especially love the idea of wearing them at the point of a deep v-neck or center of a nipped in waist. I have also seen people use pins as barrettes.

Elizabeth Fragala 2018-05-10 12:18

We appreciate your being a loyal reader, Laurie! Wearing a pin as a barrette is a fantastic way to wear your brooches more often. There may be a trick to securing them; will have to look into it! Thanks for the tip.

Paula 2018-05-10 14:00

I just love the Dressing Well Blog, I look forward to receiving it in my email.

Keep up the great work ladies.

Elizabeth Fragala 2018-05-10 19:00

Thank you for the encouragement, Paula! We are so glad you enjoy the blog.

Mary McCormick 2018-05-10 15:04

If the fabric of your garment is too thin to hold a brooch, simply cut a small piece of felt to put behind the pin inside your dress or blouse. I learned this from my Mom who learned it from her Mom, apparently an idea that's been around for a really long time.

Elizabeth Fragala 2018-05-10 19:02

Thank you for sharing words of wisdom passed down from your mom and grandmother, especially right before Mother's Day, Mary. My mother taught me this as well, but I had forgotten! I appreciate the reminder.

Anne Andrea 2018-05-10 19:00

My mom and I used to buy each other pins from museum shops, reflecting a piece or collection or destination that particularly appealed to us. We loved the thought of wearing fine art. Now that she has passed on, I can wear treasured memories. Museum shops are still a good place to pick up some attractive pieces - especially when it goes on sale after the big holidays.

Elizabeth Fragala 2018-05-10 21:29

What a lovely tradition! And how wonderful that you have these treasured pieces to wear and remember her by. My mother and I enjoy buying jewelry for each other at museum gift shops but have yet to include pins. Next time!

Dianne Webster 2018-05-10 19:50

I have always liked pins and wondered why they had fallen out of fashion! I’m so glad I can start wearing pins again. Thank you for the ideas on interesting ways to wear them.

Elizabeth Fragala 2018-05-10 21:31

Yes, Dianne, they are definitely back in style. Enjoy wearing your pins in new ways, and let us know how it goes!

Andrea Durham 2018-05-10 22:35

I have always loved pins, and never really stopped wearing them. I have some very contemporary ones that I've bought at museums or from artists over the years and enjoy wearing them (and often get compliments, many times women say they love pins but don't think to wear them). Wish I could attach a picture of some of the more unusual ones. Thanks for more ideas about how to wear my antique ones. I inherited some from both my grandmother and mom and love them all! Thanks, as always for your blogs. I read them all!

Elizabeth Fragala 2018-05-11 07:04

Happy to hear you have continued to wear your pins, Andrea! It sounds like you have a fascinating collection of antique and modern pins. I am sure the people you meet on a daily basis take pleasure in viewing them. Thank you for being a loyal DressingWell fan!

Anne Shuman 2018-05-10 22:51

I love pins and have a variety of them, some acquired from grandmothers and aunts! I love to put them on my outerwear. Every jacket I own, from jean jacket to fancier ones have at least one pin on them. Sometimes I forget about a pin I have, then I pull out a jacket I haven’t worn for awhile and happily come across an old friend. I also am a hat person, and love to put a pin on my hats!

Elizabeth Fragala 2018-05-11 07:07

Such a great idea to leave a pin on each coat, Anne! What a nice surprise it must be the rediscover your collection as you dress. I love the way you describe it as coming across an old friend. Yes, putting a pin on a hat was very popular in the 1940s and 1950s; my mother would pin one on her toque. Another great tip, thank you!

Jayne Mattson 2018-05-11 07:54

Hi Elizabeth,
I am thrilled to hear pins are making an acceptable comeback. I really never stopped wearing them. They add that extra touch to your attire to look "as cute as you can be!"

I hope you and your family are well. Please give my best to Mary Lou.


Elizabeth Fragala 2018-05-11 13:04

I am sure you wear your pins with great style, Jayne! It's fun to wear pins year 'round and I often wear one with a holiday theme, from Valentine's to Christmas. I even have a handmade Halloween pin I received from a dear client ;-. That one always elicits wonderful compliments and I wear it with pride.

Alexandra Taussig 2018-05-11 19:07

Elizabeth what a great post! Thank you!

I also highly recommend the book by Madeline Albright. Read my pins. It is such a nice read. My mom gave the book to me and then one of my dearest friends had it inscribed for me by Madeline. I treasure it for both reasons.

I also so admire the pins on the show The Crown. I usually wear just a pin without a necklace but the queen always wears pearls and a pin. I will have to try that.

I had so much fun building my pin collection and once people know you like them my mom started handing down hers and my grandmother’s to me.

Elizabeth Fragala 2018-05-12 19:46

I agree, Alexandra, pulling off a pin and a necklace is not as easy as it looks. I suggest laying out your favorite pins and necklaces and look for elements that connect them, such as a similar metal finish or design. Then try them out in different combinations. Check your copy of Read My Pins for inspiration for pairings as well. A review of her book, along with photos of her pins, including the instruments that made up the jazz band on her jacket shoulder is below.

Lesley 2018-05-11 21:54

Great article! I’m a big fan of brooches and pins. Quick question: I just relocated from MA to FL. No more scarves or woolen hats on which to display the bling. Any suggestions for warmer climates?

Elizabeth Fragala 2018-05-12 19:40

Tip # 5 is for you, Lesley! An inexpensive pin converter can turn your brooch into a necklace that you can wear in any climate. In addition, consider placing your pin on a handbag, raffia tote or even your fabric beach bag.

Nancy Plante 2018-07-17 16:46

What a fun post about pins! I love pins, and had never tried the tip about using felt to stabilize thin fabric. That's a great idea!
Here's a safety tip to avoid losing your pins: if you are not sure that the clasp is secure, use a rubber stopper like you use for earrings. Push the pin through your garment, then through the stopper, then clasp it. If your clasp opens, you won't lose your pin.

Elizabeth Fragala 2018-07-18 19:27

What a wonderful tip, Nancy! Thank you for taking the time to post. I hadn't thought of your quick and clever way to secure a pin. I will definitely try this!

christina b. 2018-07-31 13:41

This is great pin-spiration!

Over the years I've bought a number of pins.

My mother has given me a tiny aqua enamel pocketbook pin.

One pin I have is a couple of decades old yet still in good condition.

Wondered though if it matters what side of your shoulder you wear your pin on.

I've heard that when you wear a name badge at a conference you're supposed to pin it to the right side.

Does it matter which side you wear your pin on?

Thank you and love the blogs.

Elizabeth Fragala 2018-08-01 15:50

So glad that you found some "pin-spiration" in my blog post, Christina! How wonderful that you have treasured your vintage pins, To answer your questio;, usually name badges go on the right shoulder and brooches on the left. It is not a faux-pas, however, to wear your pin on the right shoulder. It's up to you whether you choose to follow tradition.Thanks for taking the time to comment!


Add comment