Pinned into your clothes: A study in silk, linen, thread, and lead

That noise you hear from behind the curtain is us preparing to polish off the Haberdashers, which will catch us up.

In the meantime, pins? Why were they important and how in-demand were they, really? 

There’s one order for pins in Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe accounts for 121,000 pins. No, I din’t mistype that number. One hundred and twenty-one thousand pins.

“Item to Roberte Careles our Pynner for xviij thousand great verthingale pynnes xx thowsand myddle verthingale Pynnes xxv thowsand great Velvet Pynnes xxx and nine thowsande smale Velvet Pynnes and xix thowsand Small hed Pynned all of our great warderobe.

Arnold, J., 1988, p. 218. From PRO, LC5/33, f. 150, warrent dated 20 Oct. 1563. quoted by Rachel Jardine

Furthermore, according to Rachel Jardine’s research, this was followed less than a month later by another order of similar size. The wardrobe accounts of the queen, in fact, are full of pin orders of all sizes for all sizes of pins, plus orders to have existing pins straightened and sharpened.

Elizabeth didn’t always order in those quantities, but it illustrates handily how many it took to pull off the kinds of fashions that were rampant in the later Elizabethan period. Because you can’t dress like this without using tons of them.

It’s really no wonder so many pins are found by metal detector enthusiasts and construction crews. The internet is awash with 16th century pins for sale at astonishingly (to me) low prices considering the age of the artifacts.

More later. Much to do, many irons in the fire… so to speak.



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