A Tale of 12 Victorian Pins

Thrifty Threads recently received a bag of donations that had, at the very bottom, an assortment of jewelry, among which were 12 small thin “bar pins.” The pins were turned over to Thrifty Threads volunteer and jewelry donations curator, Abby Sorrell. Abby thought maybe they were special, and began an online investigation. She discovered that they were Victorian era lingerie pins, used by 19th Century women to pin their undergarments to their bodices. Lingerie pins were also used to pin a woman’s collar closed; and sometimes even as baby diaper pins.

Figure 1. The Lingerie Pins

Abby shared the results of her research with the Thrifty Threads volunteers before putting the pins up for online sale. One of the volunteers, Adele Pike, knew of two historic clothing collections: Smith College and the Bangor Maine Historical Society; she thought one or the other might be interested. She bought the pins (at online estimated price) and reached out first to the Smith College Historic Clothing Collection.

The curator of the Smith Collection, Kiki Smith, responded almost immediately, saying that she would love the pins for their collection. There was only one such pin currently in the collection, and since the collection focuses on the clothing of every day women, Kiki said the Thrifty Threads pins were a real treasure. The collection is used to teach students about costume design, the history of women’s clothing, curating skills; pieces are also used in history, language and literature courses to enhance students understanding of eras and characters and women’s history.

And so, in the Smith College Historic Clothing Collection there are now 12 tiny lovely lingerie pins, identified as “A gift from Thrifty Threads Thrift Store of United Parish, Brookline.”

Figure 2. Smith College Professor and Curator, Kiki Smith. with the Thrifty Threads pins