oa South African Journal of Cultural History - Victorian brooches in South Africa - a reflection of European fashion

Volume 5, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1011-3053



The brooch is one of the oldest forms of adornment for clothing. It developed from the functional pins that were needed to keep certain parts of a costume together. As time passed by, it acquired an ornamental function as well and started appearing in different shapes. By the Victorian era (1837-1901), fashion dictates applied to accessories as well and certain shapes, decorations and materials for brooches were popular at certain times. Merchants, immigrants and travellers brought the styles in vogue in Europe to South Africa where the local population acquired and wore fashionable brooches, although these were often of the mass produced type and often of inferior quality. A study of contemporary photographs and surviving examples, mainly from the collections of the National Cultural History museum in Pretoria, shows the similarity between what was popular in Britain and Europe, and what was worn locally. Although the examples that were chosen to illustrate this article are mainly from the Transvaal, similar ones from the other parts of the country can be found. It is highly improbable that a certain shape would be restricted to one region only. It must be borne in mind that people moved around. Many families also had members in all parts of what is today modern South Africa.

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