How to Wear a Brooch

How can brooches help your work wardrobe?  Reader A wonders:

I have a fashion challenge that has stumped me for years. I received two beautiful, expensive broaches that look like they could be integrated into my work wardrobe, but I do not know how to wear them. How does a fashionable workaholic go about wearing a broach without looking like it’s a substitute name tag?

We haven’t talked about how to wear a brooch in a looong time, and brooches were hot on the recent runways.  So let’s revisit!

Wear it high on the lapel of your jacket — I usually like to wear mine just a bit lower than my clavicle, so it’s really accentuating my face.  I’ll admit that usually a necklace and a brooch is too much, but I thought it worked here. (You can see more of my personal jewelry collection here.)

– Use a brooch to close your blouse (see the picture at the top of this post).  This was one of the main ways it was seen on the runway, and I can see the appeal (but for me it just reminds me in a bad way of the early ’90s/late ’80s).  You can also use it to close a cardigan at the top for a very vintage vibe.

– Wear it in your up-do (whether it’s a half up-do or full up-do).  This is particularly handy if you’re using a ponytail holder — just secure the brooch to the ponytail holder.  (At least, that’s what I’ve always done — in this video they say to use a bobby pin to attach a brooch to your hair.

– Emphasize your waist with it.  This looks particularly great with solid-colored wrap dresses — where the fabric crosses over, add the brooch to add a bit of pop. (This could also be an option to make a simple sheath dress transition from desk to dinner.)  This also works well with wrap sweaters.

– Accessorize your rear view.  Add it to the back of a sweater at the nape of your neck, or even to the back of a jacket.  Much like the up-do suggestion, this is best viewed from behind, so it’s a great idea for women who will be turning their back to their audience — I could see it being great for teachers or professors who use the blackboard.

Two more ideas from the Kat Archives:

– Use it to transform clothes you hate.  For example: years ago, I had this gray sweater that I hated.  The neckline wasn’t quite a crew and it wasn’t quite a scoop, and it was a boring gray, and I just felt totally blah in it.  So instead of giving it away to Goodwill, I got creative, and yanked the neckline down to make it more asymmetrical, pinning it with a brooch.  I thought the look worked so well that I took a picture of it (totally unflattering picture from way back in 2004).

– Use a brooch to emphasize an unusual neckline.  This is probably more of an evening look — for example, years ago I bought this great David Meister dress that I called my “hot mama” dress — part of the appeal was this ridiculously wide sweetheart-like neckline.  Wearing a necklace with it totally killed the effect of the neckline, but I wanted to accessorize it somehow, so I wore a brooch at the far edge of the neckline (totally unflattering picture from back in 2006 at a wedding reception).  I thought it worked and wore the dress (and brooch) to at least another 3 occasions — a charity thing for work, a friend’s wedding, and the first party my husband and I ever threw together.

Readers, what is your favorite way to wear brooches?  Describe what your favorite brooch looks like — and tell us if you’ve bought any great ones recently.

how to wear a brooch

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  1. I love the gray sweater idea. It looks great.

  2. How good was this post?

    I hate brooches. I even hate the word brooch.

    And now I want to put them ALL OVER MYSELF.

    No but for real.

    • LOL. :)

    • Meg Murry :

      Now that you’ve pointed it out, I’m not a fan of the word either. And seeing it written so many times it makes me want to pronounce it brooooooo-ch (with the oooo’s pronounced like hoop). Definitely one of those words that just looks wrong the more you look at it.

  3. Susan (edna_mode_nyc) :

    Great ideas, Kat! And, you look fab wearing the brooch high on the lapel!

    • Anonymous :

      Agreed, this is a great post. And Kat, you are rocking that flower brooch!

  4. In the Pink :

    So, my style/fashion consultant taught me how to wear a brooch with my pearls. Just pin it in between two pearls – not through the string/silk/cord. It works best with a brooch that has a deep inversion so there is room on the back of the brooch for the pearls to sit. I’ve tried it several times with success. Sort of like the necklaces out there with clasps big and shiny enough to be seen – intentionally – on the front of one’s outfit instead of at the nape of the neck.

    I also like closing clothing necklines with brooches…finding the brooch on a suit jacket too standard wear for my tastes. YMMV of course.

    I have seen some women wear a large scarf as a sash/belt and close it with a brooch.

    So thrilled to get my cache of vintage brooches out of the bottom of the jewelry chest! What’s old is always new again if I wait long enough.

  5. I have so many brooches (from grandmothers and great-grandmother, primarily), and never wear them bc I don’t know what to do with them. Thanks for the inspiration. Love it with the sweetheart neckline dress! SO pretty. Also, those are not unflattering pictures, Kat, you look gorgeous.

  6. I just checked in and saw all the voter pride comments on the last post. This is so funny because this morning I passed several long lines of people looking cold and tired, and I felt like “WOOHOOO! OWW OWWWWWW! WAY TO VOTE, GUYS!!!” Their expressions made it look like such catcalls would be met with bafflement, but maybe I underestimated the shared civic spirit. I’m incredibly politically cynical, but I’m off to vote myself in a few minutes. Fingers crossed for a sticker.

    • Oh, and brooches. I’m not a major user but got some vintage ones to keep scarves in place throughout the day. These other ideas are interesting.

    • Almost There :

      You get that sticker girl!

  7. Anon in SF :

    I also like to pin some of my bigger sparkly brooches to my winter coat, sometimes in groupings of 2-3 for evening. I’ve also had great success pinning a brooch to a boring black satin clutch for evening events. It looks very lux, and dresses up my $20 DSW bag.

    • HOLY —–! This is GENIUS. My biggest issue when i go out to fancy things is not having a bag that feels fancy. I am stealing this idea immediately. Thanks!! ;o)

  8. Mountain Girl :

    I love brooches – especially vintage finds. I wear one nearly every day and think it has become a bit of a signature item for me. Some other ideas:

    Wear it to secure a large scarf at the shoulder. If the scarf is smaller (particularly if it is thin) wrap it and secure with a brooch to create a choker.

    Pin it to your winter hat.

    Wear it on a chain or collar to create a necklace.

    If your brooch is heavy and causing your cardigan to droop from the weight, pin the brooch through the shirt beneath or around your cami or bra strap.

    I don’t love how Michelle Obama sometimes wears them to secure the top of her cardigan. I think it is an unattractive look for her as it creates a triangle and seems to emphasize her hips and make her look much larger than she is. Check out these photos for an illustration of what I mean:

    • Mountain Girl :

      My post never showed up so I’ll repost without the links.

      I love brooches – especially vintage finds. I wear one nearly every day and think it has become a bit of a signature item for me. Some other ideas:

      Wear it to secure a large scarf at the shoulder. If the scarf is smaller (particularly if it is thin) wrap it and secure with a brooch to create a choker.
      Pin it to your winter hat.

      Wear it on a chain or collar to create a necklace.

      If your brooch is heavy and causing your cardigan to droop from the weight, pin the brooch through the shirt beneath or around your cami or bra strap.

      I don’t love how Michelle Obama sometimes wears them to secure the top of her cardigan. I think it is an unattractive look for her as it creates a triangle and seems to emphasize her hips and make her look much larger than she is.

      • Is there a way to stabilize a heavy brooch *without* pinning it to your bra? That never works out for me — I have ruined nice clothes (and very expensive bras) that way.

        • Vintage Lawyer :

          I’m wondering if there is some kind of fabric you could pin behind the brooch (on the inside of the garment to which you’re pinning it) to act as a backing. I can’t figure out how to wear brooches on cashmere sweaters.

          • Meg Murry :

            Seems like you could get a piece of felt in a simliar color to the sweater to pin behind the brooch – felt is generally really cheap at craft stores but fairly sturdy and comes in lots of colors.

        • Mountain Girl :

          I don’t pin it to my bra. I pin it around my bra strap so that the strap is inside the clasp mechanism. That way the pin is able to slide along the bra strap as you move and doesn’t look pull on your bra.

        • ambrrozhia :

          Way late here. Military service members remedy this problem by using cardboard under their blouse. Men could get away with using thick cardboard to keep their ribbons from drooping. I used thin cardboard, such as cereal box flap or cardboard from the panty hose package since the ribbons are worn on the chest.

  9. Meg Murry :

    Just a note – are anyone else’s timestamps off by an hour? Is it the server that didn’t “fall back” or just my browser? I’m using IE 8 and the time on my computer is correct

  10. Quick TJ – I know this has been covered before but I can’t find it in the threads – I am looking for Rettes’ favorite ways to track when items they want from different stores go on sale – every google search is turning up articles circa 2008 and I am sure there’s something better out there now.

  11. Almost There :

    Mine are too, just noticed

  12. This is an awesome post, Kat! Sort of related, David Meister sure knows how to dress a woman’s body! I have two of his dresses, and they are both my hot mama dresses too. I love the one you’re wearing. I wish mine weren’t quite so dressy so I could wear them more often.

  13. I JUST posted a question on this — thanks, Kat!

  14. Great ideas, kat – thanks.

  15. Pin a brooch to your hijab. All of them. Everywhere.

    • Cornellian :

      I think that’d make you a bit top-heavy.

    • Cornellian :

      Although, I do actually have a friend who sort of pins her hijab at the edge of her face between jaw and ear with a brooch, and it looks awesome. I don’t know if it’s actually functional or just decorative.

      • It’s decorative. I actually don’t wear brooches on my hijab because the fabric is too delicate to support it unless I pin it through to grab my hair or a headband underneath. If I’m trying to be fancypants, I’ll use a brooch to cover the safety-pin holding the hijab to my shoulder area.

  16. LadyEnginerd :

    I would like an “I Voted” brooch to bust out once a year. While I’m proud of my sticker, voting deserves some bling!

    Also, I’m debating whether to wear my sticker to a recruiting event. It’s for the defense industry, so it might be good to have large, visible cue that I’m a citizen for security clearance purposes … but I’m not sure it’s exactly the most, uh, formal accessory (like my desired I Voted brooch). Anyone like to weigh in?

    • As someone whose S.O. is regularly involved in recruiting events for positions that require the ability to obtain a security clearance, you don’t need a large, visible cue that you are a citizen. They’ll ask you about your citizenship within the first 60 seconds of conversation anyway.

    • I vote (heh) no. The fact that you are attending the recruiting event serves as information that you are eligible to work there, no?

      Plus, with the volume of “OMG I voted you should vote look at my sticker” blasts going around today, I’d avoid risking coming off as juvenile or condescending. Or maybe that’s just me getting sick of my FB feed and I need to go un-bah-humbug myself.

    • I am a banana. :

      I think this is the only day you get to wear a sticker anywhere you want. If it makes you happy, wear it. Other people will be wearing them.

      • Cornellian :

        donate blood and you get to wear one!

        • lucy stone :

          I voted AND donated blood today and got a sticker for neither. Fooey on you, Wisconsin.

          • Lady Harriet :

            Weird! I lived in Madison up until this summer and I got a sticker for voting in all of the spring elections. Maybe all the extra elections in the past couple of years depleted the sticker reserves? :p

        • I am a banana. :

          Noted! But there aren’t nationwide blood drives very often. ;)

    • Suffragette :

      Sooooooo funny, I was just thinking the same thing! The tiny white oval sticker I got today was such a big let down. I decided to start the hunt for a vintage “Suffragette” brooch. Or maybe one of those big “Votes for Women!” sashes, like from the opening scene in Mary Poppins. Too much?

      • Never too much! I watched Mary Poppins the other day and was just thinking that it’s too bad that sashes aren’t in style any more.

      • I just went hunting through my drawers for my old “Pogo for President” button, but them remembered that it was stolen (with the rest of my jewelry) when our house was burgled :-(. I voted by mail, so no sticker.

    • karenpadi :

      Wear the sticker! Voting is a big deal! Stickers that show community spirit or show that you’ve done something good are always appropriate (e.g., giving blood, getting vaccinated, getting pets fixed).

      It’ll be a great icebreaker too. I wouldn’t hesitate to ask someone with an “I voted” sticker about their polling place or drop a “gosh! there were so many issues on the ballot! It took forever to get through!” just to get the conversation started.

    • LadyEnginerd :

      Update: I wore the sticker and was glad I did so. Totally appropriate formality-wise: I was one of the only people there not in t-shirt or jeans (tech panel at a university – none of the students dressed up) and some of the panelists were wearing theirs. Plus, the sticker matched my outfit!

      I still want some voting bling. I’ll have to scour the internet to find a suitable item (love the suffragette pin idea).

  17. YAY!!!!!!

    I finally got to vote! Kudo’s to Andrew Como and the Manageing partner for getting me a new affidavid that let me vote b/c of the storm here even though I was last voted with my dad in Long island. I did not have to go with my dad b/c he called the league of women voter’s and they said Gov. Como made a special proclimateion for ME! My dad is so smart and that is why I can’t find a decent guy who is close to him in smarts. He turned DOWN MENSA! Yay!

    David never called me! He is such a doosh! FOOEY on him! I told my dad and he agreed that David was NOT marrage caliber. I want a guy to take care of me like my dad. Men here are onley interested in themself, not me. But for a week I do not care. Myrna helped me today b/c her boss is crazy about her and let’s her take off when ever she wants!

    I called the judges chamber’s and they said the judge is takeing this week off b/c of the storm! Yay! Roberta said I should get Myrna and meet her in Riverdell b/c she know a good deli just off the 1 line!!!! I love deli and for a week I do not care Bout my tuchus! Dad is miffed about that but this is my week with the girls exclusivly! Yay!

    So go out and vote corporete’s !! Hurray for Gov. Como!!!!

    • I just misread “Riverdell” for “Rivendell” and thought Ellen was on a quest to Mordor.

      • Susan (edna_mode_nyc) :

        She is! She wants the One Ring from the right man, though.

        • LOL!

          Side note: I really dislike the overuse of “LOL” when someone isn’t actually LOL-ing but in this case I literally laughed out loud.

      • One does not simply walk into the voting booth…

    • I kind of love how Ellen is actually using her powers for good this week. Yay! Ellen!

  18. Research, Not Law :

    Great post, Kat. Thank you for really going beyond the usual suggestions and for all the pic/video links.

    I was given a lovely vintage pin brooch that I have never figured out how to wear, but I think it would be perfect for your grey sweater neckline change. I’m so excited to try it out and hopefully finally wear it.

  19. Anon in SF :

    Also, check out this Nordstrom video with styling suggestions. Some are too weird for me. But some are great ideas

    • Oooooh, I love the epaulet idea! I love brooches, but they usually seem to attract unneccessary attention to my big bust.

      Anybody remember The Gap ad campaign with Sara Jessica Parker from oh, ten years ago? They styled her in long, v-neck grandpa cardigans wrapped snug around the waist and pinned with brooches. I thought it looked super cool, but I could never make it work on me.

  20. Lady Harriet :

    I’m working from home today, but as my mom left for work, she said “I have a couple of extra rhinestone flag pins, do you want one?” She has more rhinestones than anyone I know, so it doesn’t surprise me in the least that she has three rhinestone flag pins.

    I voted on Saturday so I wore my sticker then, but I will totally be rocking the rhinestone flag when I go out later today. :) And I totally used today as an excuse to dress in red, white, and blue. (Well, mostly red and blue.)

    • Mountain Girl :

      I wore red, white and blue as well today! I have an old pin that has a very patriotic color scheme so I like to break it out on patriotic holidays so I had to match my outfit to my brooch.

  21. Lady Harriet :

    Shoe sale PSA– has an extra 10% their already great sale prices through 11:59 PM Pacific with the code 6PMSHOP110612.

    Oh, and I’m tickled to see a picture from What I Wore 2Day, even with no link back to her excellent blog. If I recall correctly, she used the brooch to gather the back of a jacket that was too big and make it fit better, which I think is an excellent idea.

  22. Business, Not Law :

    LOVE the way that looked with the “hot mama” dress!

  23. I have seen so many brooches that I have wanted to purchase but didn’t quite know how to work them in to my wardrobe without looking like an old lady. Thanks for all the fantastic ideas!

  24. I love wearing brooches with wrap cardigans or wraps, period. The best placement is right around my outer collarbone or exactly where the brooch on your sweetheart neckline went. As an added benefit it serves as a clasp for a wrap and transforms it from a loose-hanging scarf that may fall off at any moment into something actually resembling a piece of clothing. Also works to create a waist on a wrap.

    • Susan (edna_mode_nyc) :

      I love this idea. Btw, I took a look at your site and I love your clothing sets– great styling!

    • anon in-house :

      Yes love your site and ‘like’ it on Fb, but is there a way to have your posts delivered via email? I don’t do RSS so I frequently forget to check it out…

  25. anon in-house :

    My other fave website, The Vivienne Files (not me, nor am i affiliated with or know the author in any way!), did a nice post on bunching brooches a short while ago. Her whole website is a godsend has saved me tons of money and helped curb my shopping impulses (which unfort Corporette does not!):

    • Mountain Girl :

      That is the other fashion blog I regularly read. I love her posts on capsule wardrobes.

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