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The history of dress clips

by gillian conroy |

Dress clips are a type of pin that first gained prominence in the 1920s and were worn in pairs, often opposite one another on the neckline or straps of a dress.

The style, however, fell out of favor in the 1950s when classic brooches regained popularity.

Dress clips first began to appear post-World War I. Fashion in both clothing and jewelry changed as the world worked to recover from the “Great War” and time marched on into the 1920s, a famous decade for style.


During this time, fashion began to dictate some of the jewelry trends. The tight, corseted dresses of the Edwardian period came into a much more free-form, flowing, adventurous, romantic style including the famous flapper dresses of the era. 

This new style of dress called for more ornamentation, and dress clips evolved as a reaction to that and were worn not only on dresses but also on furs and accessories, like handbags. The dress clip quickly establishes itself as a must-have item in fashion.

In the beginning, dress clips were always in pairs, worn separated from each other on the strap or neckline of a dress, and almost always symmetrical.

However, they also could be worn together. Pairs of dress clips often had a back that secured the two halves together so they became one piece, like a more classic-style brooch.

The dress clips are two pieces that can be worn together or separate, whereas a brooch is typically a single element. The Art Deco period is also the first time dress clips appeared, while one could go as far back as the Ancient Egyptians and find brooches.  

In the 1930s and ‘40s, the style of dress clips evolved alongside other jewelry.


The bright-white platinum and diamond aesthetic of the early Art Deco era expanded to incorporate yellow gold and colored gemstones and asymmetry became more of an acceptable idea.

During the Great Depression and the World War II, people went to the movies to escape and were inspired by the captivating and dazzling style of Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, who were featured on screen and in photographs wearing dress clips.

In the 1950s, the fashion for dress clips started to decline as the brooch took over.

While today's casual dress sense doesn’t lend itself to the traditional manner of wearing dress clips, there are different ways of appropriating them. Some women wear a single clip to dress up a pair of black pants or blouse while others tuck them into up dos to add glamour to their hair.  

Olivia Palermo styles her diamond dress clips in a contemporary and chic way.