Not too long ago, I was sitting in a staff meeting when a coworker looked at me and said, “Is that a fake mouse sitting on your shoulder?” She was referring to my mink mouse pin, which I’d thrifted at the Salvation Army the weekend before. Another coworker laughed and replied, “Does that surprise you?” The laughing consensus around the table was, “No.”
Last month, Sal at Already Pretty posed on having a signature piece, something that is yours and deflects outside input. Pins, more precisely, odd pins, are my signature piece – they are how I inject a little bit of my true, strange self into every outfit. I know that I’m already very lucky when it comes to what I can wear to work – my office is business casual, and many of us wear jeans every day. Not every curator is so lucky. However, even with all the fashion leeway I have, my outfits are perpetually a balancing act between looking professional and looking like me. Weird pins are one of the ways I inject some quirkiness, personality, whimsy, and a certain amount of “huh?” into my outfits while still keeping the rest of the ensembles appropriate for the work I do.
Here are some of my favorite pins
Top row: Native doll pin from local artist, American Theatre Wing pin (belonged to my grandma), handmade orange glass pin from my grandma’s thrift store (label says “Moiseyev Ottawa”), green Aztec face pin from Mexico (belonged to my grandma)
Bottom row: Cross-stitched “M” pin from Goodwill, pewter rabbit pin from Goodwill, self-made felt pom pom pin (I usually wear several at once, and put smaller pins inside them), Mathematics medal pin from Arc, silver sandollar pin from Arc
Top row: Mother of pearl and (real!) gold Asian character pin yard saled by mum, rhinestone “K” pin from The Rocket Scientist’s sister, green owl pin thrifted and self painted (originally gold), gold leaf from Arc
Bottom row: “Self Destruct” button from the Spy Museum (a freebee at the annual American Association of Museums conference), cross-stitched Interrobang pin self-made, rhinestone fish pin from Arc, other fish (sorry, bad camera) pin is one that I’ve had since I was little
Bottom row: Zebra felt and button pin self-made, GORGEOUS rhinestone scarf clasp from Goodwill (the first pin I ever thrifted), Huntington Yacht Club pin from Arc
And those are only the pins from one jewelry box…
If you look at my pins, a couple trends definitely begin to pop out. A lot of them relate back to natural history, many of them are crazy sparkley, and several of them are just a bit weird. That’s me! I trained as a zoologist, I secretly wish I could be a drag queen and wear lots of sequins and sing show tunes all day, and I’m proudly slightly strange. All of the above are hard to communicate through clothing without turning into a charicature of myself, but a well-placed pin can speak volumes while still allowing the rest of my outfit to speak, too.
It’s only been the past two years or so that I’ve really embraced pins as a jewelry staple, but I’m thrilled that I have. I wear them on shirts, dresses, hats, coats, scarves, even on the hems of skirts. They also look great clustered in a big clump, and definitely make a statement (speaking of statements, I’ve even ringed pins around the collar of a dress to make a “built-in” statement necklace before).
If you’re interested in beginning to collect pins, here are a couple tips:
- Let your family know. Since most people don’t wear pins, often relatives will have them languishing in jewelry boxes just waiting for you to rescue them.
- Thrift and yard sale. Most of my pins originally belonged to someone else. I love getting to continue the life of a piece of jewelry, and you can find the most fantastic and strange pieces this way (the rhinestone snail pin was apparently originally worth over $50). Several of the pins came from grab bags – $1.00 for everything in the bag. Even if there’s only one good pin, that’s not too shabby a deal.
- Wear pins. As soon as I started wearing them, people began giving them to me. The coworker who gave me the gorgeous Native doll pin said “I knew you’d like this because it’s so pretty, and you’re the only other woman I know who wears pins.”
- Haunt Etsy. There’s a myriad of collectors out there finding interesting pieces and selling them at very reasonable prices. There are also so many incredible artists making one of a kind pieces. Anyone can go out a buy a pin at Kohl’s (I’ve done it plenty), but it’s really cool to own a piece that’s just yours.
Pins may not always be my what I chose for my signature piece, but for now I’ll keep taking a stab at them (thought I’d make it through a whole post without a bad pun, didn’t you?)