What is a Toilet Pin?

During the Victorian era a toilet pin, known today as a hat pin, was and still is a decorative and functional pin, which is used to hold a hat in place. In the 1880’s hats replaced bonnets causing the sale of hat pins to soar all the way through to the early 1950’s.

Toliet PinsThe hat pin remained a standard women’s accessory and, with sixteen different lengths available from 1” to 12” (25mm to 300mm,) you certainly would have been spoilt for choice. Hat pins were manufactured from the finest quality steel and finished with the highest of polish which guaranteed the pin to go easily through the toughest of straw. The pinhead was the most decorated part of the hat pin, often a ball head and supplied in black, white, turquoise and any other fashionable colours at the time.

During the early 1800’s the handmade cottage industry production of hat pins was labour intensive, extremely slow and very costly, causing the demand to outgrow the quantity supplied. To keep up with the demand wholesalers supplying retailers started to import from France. This action caused an imbalance in trade and as a result parliament passed an act to restrict the sale of hat pins to two days a year to be held at the beginning of January, which may have led to the term “January Sales” or indeed the nickname “pin money.”

Long Hat PinsEver changing fashion and designs constantly stimulated the demand for the hat pin. Hat pins were fashionable and affordable. In 1910 a wholesaler would sell hat pins in bulk to a retailer from 7/11 to 8/6 (shillings & pence) depending upon the style of packaging. Today this would be the equivalent of £30.94 to £33.22.

In 1910 hat pins were available in the following lengths:

1”, 1½”, 2”, 2½”, 3”, 3½”, 4”, 4½”, 5”, 6”, 7”, 8”, 9”, 10”, 11” and 12” 

The shorter lengths of hat pins, known today as dressmaking pins or quilters pins, also doubled as a “button” function to pin clothes together. This was in the time before the button became a workable tool accessory.