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Are you familiar with the term “chatelaine”? It might sound antiquey today, but strangely, we see vintage chatelaines more frequently than you may imagine.
During the Victorian era, when most women’s attire lacked pockets, a chatelaine was an exquisite belt clip or clasp worn at the waist. Numerous chains were hanging from each chatelaine, each holding useful goods. Examples include keys, pencils, thimbles, a tiny velvet pouch with a coin or two, watches, scissors, and other necessities.
A woman’s rank, position, or status within the home could be displayed by wearing a chatelaine in the 19th century. The “Lady of the House,” who typically held the most keys to doors, chests, and cabinets, wore an extravagant sterling silver chatelaine, while the cooks, and cleaners wore smaller pot metal or wood chatelaines for their keys.
If you plan on getting your chatelaine accessory, this blog is for you.
What is a Chatelaine
A chatelaine resembles an inside-out pocketbook that is a cross between a charm bracelet and a Swiss army knife. Chatelaines were designed to be both ornamental and useful, typically made of gold, silver, or cut steel. The nobility wore some as statement jewelry, while others were adorned with diamonds and other precious stones.
Most chatelaines are shaped like tool belts and feature a medallion at the top. Behind it is a metal tongue hovering over a woman’s waistline on top of her dress. The hook hangs from several chains, cords, or ribbons that can be used to connect a range of practical objects and amusing trinkets that represent a woman’s everyday activities and interests.
Fully customizable, a woman could connect the precise tools she needed to have nearby, including magnifying glasses, mirrors, scent flasks, salts for all that fainting, keys, whistles, small nut-shaped cases, and lucky charms. Other items that could be connected include notebooks, watches, and sewing supplies like thimbles and other sewing tools.
Types of Chatelaines
Women from all types of social strata, including nurses and ladies of the court, utilized chatelaines. Noblewomen enjoyed spending much time at home engaging in leisure activities and frequently relished the freedom from constantly returning to their apartments for necessities.
Chatelaines were largely used in the home. Therefore, women weren’t frequently photographed wearing them, so we don’t consider them an essential Georgian or Victorian accessory.
Here are some of the ways women wore this intricately carved accessory:
High Society Chatelaine
The “high society” form of chatelaine is the most prevalent one to be found online today. This is because they were constructed from high-quality, long-lasting materials and were used less frequently. These chatelaine accessories were preserved, well-maintained, and were more likely to have been handed down through families.
When spending time at home, upper-class women kept essential goods in a high society chatelaine. There were other tools and accessories like spectacle cases, little notebooks, perfume bottles, a tiny pocket for a coin handkerchief, and a vial for smelling salts attached.
Niche chatelaines will certainly excite you. In a culture that prized conformity, it allowed women to showcase their personalities.
Chatelaines designated as “hobby” or “niche” were worn to support individual interests and pursuits. You can find chatelaines for pipe smoking, dog breeding, art, needlework, and sports!
Whenever a family had domestic help, the senior woman—often referred to as the “housekeeper”—would, out of need and as a sign of prestige, dress with a chatelaine that was elaborately embellished. The chatelaine would mostly be used for the numerous keys needed to operate the household and possibly a modest number of sewing supplies.
Get Your Own Vintage Chatelaine Accessory
Jan Marie Larson’s handcrafted, heirloom-quality sterling silver chatelaines are available from Thimbles For You. You can pick the most appropriate accessory for your needs, whether small enough to store a pair of scissors or big enough to contain your entire sewing basket.