I love antique hat pins, I truly do, I suppose that is why hundreds of them adorn my offices. They rest in boxes, stand at attention in beautiful china hat pin holders.  They pierce half china lady hat pin skirts stuffed with straw and hay.  I have sterling silver shoes, well, just about every vessel there is to display a hat pin.

Such magical little objects d’art and I, such a fan had no idea the strength of weaponry they wielded. 

What are Hat Pins Used For?

Hat pins are long, ornamental pins used to fasten a hat to a person’s head, often through the hair.  While antique hat pins were used for this purpose, they were often ornate and decorative, and a popular, important clothing accessory.  They are still collected and admired for their beauty and craftsmanship, and some people use antique hat pins as a decorative item worn on clothing or as a brooch. 

Hat Pin History & the Battle of the Hatpins

My beautiful Art gallery, Galerie 240 in Ottawa Ontario was witness to the Battle of the Hatpins on January 7th, 1916.  Nestled at the end of Gigues Street, my Galerie 240, 240 Gigues had a front row seat to a battle like no other.

During a Vernissage at my gallery as I was greeting guests, one very exuberant fellow shared a tidbit of information that forever changed the once gentile hatpin and gave it a whole new meaning for me  I tried to picture myself on my covered verandah on that January afternoon in 1916 witnessing, or perhaps even taking part in the Glorious Battle of the Hatpins.  Regulation 17, first passed in 1912 and more strictly enforced beginning in 1915-1916, the regulation restricted French-language education in the Province of Ontario. Over 70 women used common household objects such as hatpins and frying pans to fight off over 30 police officers intent on arresting two sisters, Beatrice and Diane Dislodges for teaching in French in an Ottawa School. The battle was part of a cultural resistance movement that led to bilingual education being officially reinstated in 1927.  Believe it or not Regulation 17 was apologized for by the Ontario government over 100 years later. 

Imagine, perhaps one of my lovelies took part in that glorious battle in a fight for freedom to teach the French language in schools to children!

Only a woman could have utilized an object de toilette as a defensive weapon, as the Victorian lady employed her hatpin.  Only a woman could enjoy transfixing butterflies on a sharp pin to anchor her hat from the wings of the wind as the Edwardian damsels did. Only a woman such as myself become so mesmerized by a piece of jewellery, so unique, that she spent every penny of her pay at a part-time job while going to college on a long sharp pin with a magic jewel on the tippy top of it!

Hat Pin Styles

Let’s talk a little about the beautiful styles of antique hat pins.  Some are simple balls of glass, black or white, some are large polished orbs of obsidian.  A pearl or an elaborate piece of red coral made stunning adornments for the sometime 18” long pins. 

One of my favourites is the Vanity Hat Pin Head.  An ornament which contains items associated with a moans vanity, ie. mirrors, perfume, small pins, a watch, powder puff etc.  Vanity compact hatpins are engraved with initials and open. Up to hold a small puff that could be soaked in perfume. 

My collection is comprised of over 300 different hat pins. 

I have beautiful roses, that appear to be natural buds dipped in gold,  Some of my pins are large and decorated with rhinestones,.  One of my favourites resembles the Queen Anne’s Lace flower.  Red coral cabochons are a favourite a well as turquoise and pearls,  All are laid out on my website for the world to see!

Along with hat pins, we explore a word of glorious lapel pins.  They are usually more delicate and often 10, 12 and 14k with seed pearls and delicate mine-cut diamonds. 

The wonderful world of days gone by.  I’m sure one day, somehow, there will be a new more glorious kin to the hat and lapel pins of the past, but I don’t know how they could ever match the beauty of my first loves. 

Brenda Pye 



  1. this content says:

    Superb posts. Thanks a lot!

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