The Brooch: a Genderless Detail

The contemporary decorative language of brooch: A jewel that, from a jacket collar, knows how to strike at the heart regardless of gender


  • Keith Richard with a malta cross brooch on a sheperd jacket. Photo by Keystone France

    Keith Richard with a malta cross brooch on a sheperd jacket. Photo by Keystone France

Whether ornament or honorary decoration, amusement or talisman, useful or futile, the brooch, compared to other items of jewelry, enjoys its own free and autonomous personality. It escapes from the bonds imposed by sets, it touches on the fashionable territory of accessories, it (often) accompanies aesthetic value with a useful function. It has an extremely long history that began when it was simply an item that held two edges of fabric or leather together and arrives at when it became an authentic and pure ornament. An evolution that has punctuated the centuries with alternating golden and dark periods, marked, not only by the testimonies of jewelers and their jewelry, but also by archeological findings, sacred and profane paintings, sketches and drawings, vintage photographs and the memories of impassioned collectors. A story that, on the female side, winds among ‘devant de corsage’ and large hatpins, among strategic ‘positioning’ on evening dress shoulders and severe presences on coat collars. It even enters into the grapevine of gossip. As happened with the love scandal between the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, still recalled today due to a brooch that the Duke gave her. It was Cartier who designed the famous ‘Pink Flamingo’ in 1940, with its ornate sapphire, ruby and emerald plumage of inestimable symbolic as well as commercial value. For the male part, the brooch reached its highest point with the boutonnière, an evolution of the so-called buttonhole, a distinctive ornament of the British royal household. It is said, in fact, that, on her wedding day, Queen Victoria approached Prince Albert, her future husband, with a small bunch of owers in her hand and it was he who, with a penknife, cut a small hole in the lapel of his jacket to thread the stem of one of his bride’s owers into as a sign of kindness. Later he ordered his tailor to make holes in all of his jackets. Without thinking, he had started a custom that went on to become a fashion. Over the years, the owers were replaced by brooches and pins of all sizes to be fixed onto the hole of the jacket’s left lapel, as a precise rule of specifically created etiquette. Nowadays, the lapel pin is making a comeback as a ‘no-genderdecoration floating on both men’s and women’s jackets. Accomplices to the fact are the musician and record producer, Pharrell Williams, who sported one on his tuxedo at the 2017 Oscar ceremony and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, who wears one on the blazer of her suit on o cial outings; or the eccentric Elton John who wears sparkling ower-shaped brooches on his black jackets during Hollywood parties or actress, Sarah Jessica Parker, who makes a brooch part of the bouclé jacket. But there are also those who have worn one too lightly, coming up against errors that have not escaped the eyes of bon ton purists, as in the case of ex soccer player, David Beckham who, at William and Kate’s royal wedding, wore an Order of the British Empire brooch on the wrong side of his suit jacket. On the right instead of on the left. Unforgivable.

  • Kong Collection, Marco Dal Maso

    Kong Collection, Marco Dal Maso

  • Buccellati's spider brooch

    Buccellati's spider brooch

  • Luca Guadagnino at the Oscar's night 2018

    Luca Guadagnino at the Oscar's night 2018

  • Black Cloud set with rain drops brooch by Cora Sheibani

    Black Cloud set with rain drops brooch by Cora Sheibani

  • Protective brooch, L'Esprit du Lion collection, by Chanel

    Protective brooch, L'Esprit du Lion collection, by Chanel

  • Tilda Swinton wearing Chanel's brooch

    Tilda Swinton wearing Chanel's brooch

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