Reader Mail: How to wear brooches?

how to wear brooches2018 Update: We still stand by this advice on how to wear brooches (and links have been updated below) — but you may also want to check out our more recent roundup of how to wear a brooch.

Reader L writes to us, wondering:

Can you do an article about how to wear brooches / pins? They always look so nice on Michelle Obama. I bought two of them and have no idea if they are work-appropriate or what to do with them…

Personally, I love brooches.  (Pictured above:  Nonogram Pin, sadly no longer available at Brooks Brothers.) Back around 2003 it was all the rage to wear 2-4 of them (at least, it always seemed like that’s what Stacey and Clinton were advising folks to do); now, thanks to Michelle Obama, they’ve regained popularity. I’m not sure they ever went “out of style” completely, though—in other words, if you like the way they look and Michelle Obama stops wearing them for some reason, you can still wear them.

There are lots of ways to wear brooches, obviously.  On the lapel of your jacket or blazer is the most obvious place — this works best with more delicate-looking brooches, but can be done with larger brooches as well. We’ve seen Michelle wear them as ways to keep a cardigan closed; we’d advise going with a fairly muted, large brooch (the one above is a bit fancy, but would work well for this purpose) and positioning it in the middle of your abdomen — well below your breasts.   We’re a big fan of wearing a large, colorful brooch with a solid-colored turtleneck or scoopneck; wear the brooch not on your chest but in the region between your clavicle and shoulder.  Finally, for work, we’d also include the brooch-as-hair accessory — if you’re doing a low ponytail or a half-up do: try pinning the brooch in your hair so it anchors to the elastic — it’ll just look like a really lovely barrette.

The more shiny/sparkly a brooch is, the less appropriate it is to work (at least, for our $.02).  We’d wear these kinds of brooches to dinner parties and black-tie dinners, though; pinned to the dress at the waist (either centered or at the side), or pinned to the shoulder/clavicle region.  If you have two matching brooches you like, you can try to pin them to your dress at the shoulder–we’re thinking of some old scene in a Claudette Colbert or perhaps Katharine Hepburn movie where the heroine wears a sleeveless, Grecian-type drapey dress and does this.

In general, keep in mind that the brooch — worn for work — should bring attention to your face; not your chest or your outfit.

Readers, any opinions on how to wear brooches? Shop more brooches, below…


  1. Two (or more) brooches at once? I can’t imagine what this looks like, and I don’t recall ever seeing the look. Does anyone have photos?

  2. I totally rocked the multiple brooches look in college, usually one larger one with two smaller ones in a grouping on my lapel. My grandmother, thrilled to see them coming back in style, gave me a bunch of her lovely vintage brooches. Eva, here is an example, although a bit on the extreme side:

  3. Anne Vohl :

    Brooches go in and out of style. I have been collecting them to wear to work for 38 years. On a jacket, place the brooch so as to accentuate the cut of the jacket. Try them out while the jacket is still on the hanger. If the blouse has a low neck, a necklace will look better than a brooch. Yes, you can combine three or five brooches (always an odd number) on one lapel, and that is fine for work. Of course it must be a big lapel, and the brooches must relate to each other in some way: dogs, stones, flowers, etc. Sparkly brooches are great at work from about November 1 through New Years.

  4. Lots of broaches look to me a bit too much like pieces of “Flair” from the movie Office Space. I think I would max out at 3 and probably not more than one elegant piece for a court appearance.

  5. My ten year old daughter’s favourite look at the moment is a red tartan coat over jeans with about 15 badges from Tokyo loaded on PLUS 5 tin butterflies and beetles. She adds a white scarf with yellow horses on it, and a necklace of a lollypop. Need I say more…..

  6. Here are a bunch of examples of how Michelle Obama wears brooches, including more than one together:

  7. I really like brooches. I really like using them to make a work outfit more ‘evening’ appropriate. For example, I have worn them with a nice flowy top or dress to work, then used it to gather the material at the waist to make it a little tighter and more flattering for happy hour. You can do this by gathering the material either in the back on on the side (around your hips). I get lots of compliments when wearing them this way… especially when someone sees it first at work, then after-hours.

  8. I’ve been thinking about this a lot myself. I’m a younger professional, so I’m worried that I might not be able to pull off the brooch look. Can anyone speak to how one my wear this and keep it youthful at the same time?

    • I think Swarovski has some nice, youthful brooches. I gave my daughter the butterfly brooch when she recently graduated from law school and it is a favorite fashion accessory for her.;sid=l28U-kvjxzo3-gF2xg8V3CLponrkiMcIOxKYEeee3iOGCQ==?BannerID=04000660.200&gclid=CMfqyMfOwZwCFQtN5QodKyizmw

  9. Delta Sierra :

    I’d heard that brooches were ‘out of fashion’ and am glad to hear they are coming back. It’s annoying when a perfectly good fashion item/idea is declared passe, especially one as innocuous as this.

  10. Brooches can also look great on the collar of a “dressmaker” jacket–a Mad Men type jacket meant to be buttoned up, w/o lapels. Big brooches can be worn on the almost shoulder, as you so wonderfully described–between clavicle and shoulder, of a jacket or dress. Very slimming, as it draws the eye upward and diagonally.

    I buy brooches on eBay when I get bored sometimes. Sparkly for the holidays and evenings, vintage w/o sparkly stones otherwise.

  11. Brooches also are handy to wear in conjunction with scarves. You can use a two inch brooch (maybe something in brass or bronze) to pin a large challis shawl or a merino ruana in place at the shoulder. I would wear something like that in the winter with a coordinating tweed jacket, a long-sleeved knit shell and a boot skirt. You can thread the ends of a silk scarf through the back of a brooch with a larger pin to arrange it over a cardigan or a collarless dress or blouse. You also can use a small pin (maybe a circle pin or a pearl straight pin) to keep an ascot-tied scarf from slipping out of line with an oxford blouse.

    In all cases, use a brooch with smooth edges so that you do not pull on the scarf fabric. Avoid sparkly brooches with scarves at work as it pulls focus and often can be too much. And watch out . . . I hear that the brooch at the neck look is coming back as part of the retro-80s trend.

  12. I love brooches and have a few vintage pieces from my grandmother. I always think of them as cold-weather accessories. You’ve inspired me to enjoy them while it’s still 100 degrees out.

  13. I wear brooches practicly every day! You can visit my blog to check them out. I like to collect them as well. I was even wearing brooches before they were technically in style! I like them because they are kind of like a signature for me. Lots of people have a signature scent or a bag, me, I wear brooches.

  14. I favor and use brooches often. Using a brooch is a fast way to change the look of an outfit. Consider using a brooch that is appropriate in size, shape and composition for work — then switch to a larger brooch with more sparkle on the same outfit for after work functions! I have used them on scarves, capes, shawls and hats, even gloves! Matching brooches can be used on the sleeve cuff area of many sweaters or blazers to add interest. Brooches look great clipped onto certain handbags (of course, do not puncture your expensive leathers or fabrics!!!). Reminds me, there are magnetic devices one can use with brooches that do not puncture your fabrics. Again, a fast way to take a plain bag to work, then dress up that same bag by adding a sparkling brooch to that bag for an after work dinner or event. Don’t be afraid to use them on winter coats and jackets either — you will be amazed at the compliments they bring. Many times, especially between the times a brooch is “in” and “out” of style, a brooch lends itself to being securely closed, added to a chain, then used as a necklace. Or slipped onto an otherwise boring belt. Be creative and have fun with them!

  15. History freak :

    I’m going to weigh in with a point of view that is not only unrelated to style, but is also probably not something many readers have ever thought about.

    Did you know that throughout hisory, Slavic women wore pins, buttons and broches to ward off the “evil eye”, jealousy, and other negative influences? Pregnant women and brides especially wore them a lot. In fact, the Russian word for “button” derives from the word for “to scare off”. I’m thinking that with all the successful professional women around here, some of us can use a little bit of protection against jealousy!

    It was thought that the correct way of wearing a broche was close to your heart, on your chest, with the side of the broche/pin that has the lock/closing on it pointing downwards. One should preferably buy the broche off money that you found or got as a gift, as this makes the strongest protective charm from the broche. One also should never leave such a protective charm in the laundry or wash it.

    Personally, I love broches. I have been wearing them for long before I ever found out about this superstition. The funny thing is, I have noticed that the few times I have lost a broche because it unlocked or fell off by itself, I was in environments where a lot of people had reason to be jealous or hostile towards me. Now this may be a coincidence, but who knows? I say keep the broches back in fashion forever!