Obsolete Fashion: Would You Hop on the Chatelaine Train?

Obsolete Fashion, chatelaine, equipage, 18th century, 19th century woman

Photos: Corvus Noir (left) and Crewel Jewels

A chatelaine, also called an “equipage,” was a decorative clip of long chains used to hold important household items. Functioning like pockets or purses, chatelaines were worn by women of the 18th and 19th centuries. The word “chatelaine” derives from the term for the mistress of a castle or mansion, and literally means “keeper of the keys” in French. Chatelaines were worn by both housekeepers and ladies of the manor in the 19th century, and were made of silver, brass, steel, leather, or fabric, depending on the household’s financial status.

Obsolete fashion, chatelaine, equipage, 18th century, 19th century, mansion, castle, lady, woman,

Images: My Museum of London (left) and Corvus Noir

A chatelaine consisted of a pin that attached at the waist of a lady’s dress. This pin was equipped with several chains which, in turn, attached to an assortment of ornamental items, such as decorative plaques, lockets, and tassels, as well as utilitarian items like keys, lorgnettes, smelling salts, pocket watches, magnifying glasses, pocket knives, compasses, thimbles, scissors, bodkins, needle cases, pincushions, and other sewing supplies. I like to imagine chatelaines as a kind of functional charm bracelet or lanyard – for your skirt!

What do you think, ModLovers? Would you love to wear a chatelaine of your own, or do you think there’d be too much jangling for your taste? Cast your vote, and/or leave a comment below!

<br /> <a href=”http://answers.polldaddy.com/poll/3530502/” mce_href=”http://answers.polldaddy.com/poll/3530502/”>Let’s chatelaine.</a><br/><br /> <span style=”font:9px;” mce_style=”font:9px;”>(<a href=”http://www.polldaddy.com” mce_href=”http://www.polldaddy.com”>polls</a>)</span><br />


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  1. Avatar
    Annie (ModCloth) 07/27/2010 at 11:35 am #

    Wow, Jen, this is seriously awesome!!! I can’t stop thinking about how cool of an accessory these chatelaines would be today. A friend of mine used to create necklaces using household items as the main pendant or charm (items such as oversized paper clips, miniature scales, etc) I will have to ask him if he drew inspiration from chatelaines!

  2. Avatar
    BlueMoonDame 07/27/2010 at 12:04 pm #

    I definitely would have a use for one of these!

  3. Avatar
    Keaven Willa 07/27/2010 at 3:07 pm #

    I think shorter chains would be in order, and also maybe a way to equip them to a purse/key chain, instead of just clothing.

  4. Avatar
    Catherine 07/27/2010 at 4:56 pm #

    These are so beautiful, better than my ucky key chain with one of those neon plastic swirly wrist bands on it.

    The Girl in the Paper Dress

  5. Avatar
    Crykit 07/27/2010 at 7:26 pm #

    Want one ♥

  6. Avatar
    Leiah 07/27/2010 at 8:13 pm #

    how interesting, i’ve never seen these before! so cool!

  7. Avatar
    Grace 07/28/2010 at 2:28 am #

    Sounds handy

  8. Avatar
    Richard (ModCloth) 07/28/2010 at 2:22 pm #

    I like wearing necklaces with pendants and lots of trinket-y things, so my vote would be to bring these things back!

  9. Avatar
    Natasha 07/29/2010 at 12:00 am #


    They seem cool, but I can’t stop thinking about the tangling horrors. Am I the only one who can’t remove necklaces from a jewelry box in any denomination less than ‘giant clump?’
    Not to mention the fact that I have to assume that those are the world’s tiniest scissors. Also not to mention the fact that we already have a device to hold things at your waist, and…DUN DUN DUN…it is called a ‘fanny pack.’

  10. Avatar
    lisa shumek 01/17/2012 at 4:19 pm #

    I would love to have one. There is something so very romantic about a Chatelaine. I love how delicate and feminine Chatelaines are.

  11. Avatar
    motherendurance 08/30/2014 at 3:51 pm #

    I am an embroiderer and textile artist and I am building one right now – I ALWAYS need embroidery scissors, needle cases and a needle threader at the very least. Not losing my keys would just be an awesome bonus 😉 The original multi-app mobile device!

  12. Avatar
    Yasmin 02/24/2015 at 4:02 am #

    Absolutely! I am frequently disgusted at the lack of pockets us females get. Even in our pants! We have to pay a pretty steep premium for pockets in skirts, and I don’t always want to carry a full handbag around! I’m currently making a chatelaine for myself in an old fashoined style, but I’ll probably make a more modern one soon that I can keep my sunnies, ID, and cash in for when I want to go out.

  13. Avatar
    Debbie 06/04/2015 at 10:48 pm #

    I have one! It was handed down to me from my mother, who I believe said it had belonged to either my grand or great grandmother. Mine is made of German Silver, and consists of a lipstick, rouge, small perfume bottle with screw-off lid, (also attached to the bottle with a chain), and a rectangular pencil wrapped in a silver case with lid. It has 4 chains, all attached to a single ring of silver. It’s pretty awesome and I treasure it!
    My mom told me this type was worn under their long skirts, attached to the petty coat. Also was told it’s worth quite a bit!

  14. Avatar
    Rebecca (Gypsy) Williams 06/20/2016 at 9:59 pm #

    Oh yes….in fact I used to wear something quite similar while working. I worked with horses and it was more convient to have things hanging from my belt than in my pockets. I used a large clasp to keep the whole thing gathered together when I wasn’t using something or was riding or mucking stalls.

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    Maggie 06/21/2016 at 8:50 pm #

    I would say I have the modern equivalent – large carabiner with several key rings. They currently hold: keys, flash drives, screwdriver, knife, keychain store discount tags, a few cool misc things. It clips to my belt so as to be handy and not lost. 🙂

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