Brief History: Chatelaine

Current design inspiration : Chatelaines.
Chatelaine is French for “mistress of the castle”

In the 18th and 19th centuries, women in charge of their estates wore a decorative clip of long chains holding important household items about the waist. These items were things like the key to a pantry where valuable tea, spices and food were kept; a small notebook; sewing items; a magnifying glass; or maybe a watch, nail file, or compass. The earlier waist-hung items were referred to as “equipage”, later evolving to “chatelaine” in the early 1800s.

The chatelaine, while still having the useful purpose of organizing the household, also became a fashion accessory that was often given as a wedding present from a husband to his bride. Sewing and needlework were an important part of a young girl’s education and these accessories were ideal in organizing notions. Chatelaines were made of silver, brass, steel, leather, or fabric, depending on the financial status of the household. There was a decorative clip that attached to the waistband with three to seven long chains with clasps suspended from it. If you’ve seen “The Others” with Nicole Kidman, she is wearing one.

Toward the end of the 19th century, dresses with no waist line (and no place for a chatelaine) became fashionable and the waist chatelaine developed into the brooch type and the fabric type worn around the neck