When this beautiful piece arrived from my vintage fairy grandmother, I had no idea what it was. It lacked the traditional pin-back in order to be an ornate brooch. It didn’t have a mate, or I would have thought they were shoe clips. I might have tried to clip it into my hair like a big barette. It almost worked.
But lo and behold, this here is a dress clip. A little research tells me that these were popular from the 1920s through the 1950s, and were used to dress up any ol’ garment you please.
Take a look at the back:
Those little teeth on the clip are the kicker—how I know it’s a dress clip. If this were a shoe clip, the prongs would be sharper. If this was a fur clip, specifically for accentuating voluminous fur coats, there would be no clip on the back—just two long (and sharp!) metal rods.
When dress clips were popular, you could wear one to show off a plunging neckline, or to make your coat or blazer lapel stand out from the crowd. If you were really fancy, you had a set. Some dress clips came in pairs and could be worn together or separately. The Love of Vintage shows a few examples of “duette” dress clips. If you wore the two clips on each lapel, on a dress collar, etc., you could really dress up a piece that had been hanging out in your wardrobe for a while. And think about the 1930s—maybe you couldn’t afford a new dress, but you might have a few dress clips from the roaring 1920s that you could put on to make a dress or coat look new again. Even in the Great Depression, people still had reasons to dress up and look (and feel!) their best.
You can still wear dress clips in these traditional ways, but don’t be afraid to branch out, either. 52nd Street Vintage has a few ideas, although I wouldn’t recommend sticking a vintage dress clip on the pocket of your jeans. I would love to see this clip worn in someone’s hair, maybe with the aid of a thin headband.