The defining characteristic of a brooch is that it pins or clips to the outside of a garment. The French en tremblant style of brooch moves as the wearer moves, attracting attention to chandelier-style beads or gems or a moving centerpiece. In Victorian England, people wore mourning brooches made of or containing a lock of hair from the dearly departed.
There used to be a protocol for brooches: wear them above the left breast only. However, modern styling tips for antique brooches discard old rules. The only constraint is to avoid overwhelming a small brooch or underemphasizing a dramatic one.
Be sure the fabric you pin a brooch on supports the bauble’s weight. Also, be mindful of the background for your brooch: statement pieces look great on monochrome outfits. Light goes with dark. Wear florals or colorful enamels with solid colors—don’t lose them on a fussy printed top.
At the Neck
Small brooches work well pinned at the top button of a shirt or blouse. Wear a brooch alone or secure a scarf with a brooch to add a punch of color or sparkle.
Pin a small brooch to a ribbon and make a choker out of it. You could also fasten two small matching brooches to the collar points of a button-down shirt. Adorn a turtleneck with an off-center lightweight brooch that won’t cause the neck to sag.
On the Lapel
Lapels are natural backgrounds for vintage jewelry or antique brooches. A jacket or blazer can support a large brooch on the lapel or breast pocket, standing on its own without additional adornment. Some people wear brooches that include the brooch equivalent of a watchchain through the boutonniere hole.
At the Waist
Brooches don’t always have to go on the upper torso. Modern styling tips for wearing antique brooches allow you to use a brooch to secure a belt or emphasize the waistline of a dress or skirt. Be sure that you can sit down comfortably without poking yourself!
Like a Roman
Brooches began as a decorative yet practical way to hold clothing to the body. The Romans wore them at the shoulder to hold togas or draped gowns in place. The Scots and Norse use them to secure warm outer garments. Follow the historical lead by attaching a brooch at the shoulder to hold a large, wrap-around shawl.
While large, sculptural brooches deserve all the solo attention they attract, smaller brooches can be worn in clusters on jackets, sweaters, and dresses. Bunch brooches of similar size together, or mix it up with a few larger pins among a spray of smaller ones.
On a Hat or in Your Hair
When the weather or your outfit calls for a hat, add a brooch to bring a little showmanship to your chapeau. A plain beanie becomes a fashion statement with the right brooch.
Solvang Antique’s curates an eclectic collection of antique, vintage, and estate jewelry, including brooches. Browse our selection and choose a few brooches that express your individual style.