Pride and Prejudice (2005 film)

Whether wooden, metal, jewel-tipped, or uniquely designed, a woman’s hairpins were always functional. The predecessor of the modern day bobby pin, pins held a lady’s hairstyle in place. The Regency era fashions were considered simple compared to the wigs and bouffant styles of the Georgian era, but they were, by no means, plain or unsophisticated. Whatever a woman’s preferred style, it was necessary a bonnet covered her hair when she went out and tied snugly to hold her pins in place.

During the Season, every matchmaking mama contrived to position her daughter in the most favorable light. Decorative pins with jeweled tips were certainly used to attract the eyes of potential suitors. In addition to the pin, hair combs, tiaras, and headbands augmented a coiffure from a simple chignon or knot, a statement declaring one’s wealth and position.

Emma (2020 film)

How reliable were these pins for keeping a lady’s hair in place? How many pins might a lady lose in a year?

It surely would have been her undoing if someone caught a lady alone with a gentleman in a room and her hairpins scattered about the floor. As a writer, however, I imagine a betrothed couple found ways to avoid scandal. Perhaps walking in the gardens? Indeed a declaration that the wind was responsible for removing her bonnet and hairpins might have afforded the necessary excuse.

In my upcoming novel, A Fortuitous Wager: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary, I included just such a scene! When Colonel Fitzwilliam sought Charlotte’s assistance in solving a cipher, she requested of him a brief, romantic interlude (before considering herself on the shelf for the rest of her days.) Afterward, Charlotte returned to Longbourn with the good colonel. Having lost several pins during their encounter in the shrubberies, Charlotte’s tresses tumbled about her face and down her back as soon as she removed her bonnet! None of their walking partners looked askance at the implications brought about by her disheveled locks (for who would consider Charlotte to be passionate), yet she excused herself to put her hair to rights.

I find it amusing to consider how many young ladies might have acted accordingly with their intendeds while waiting for the banns to be read or during a long betrothal period, for the passions of the youth are known to dislodge even the bobby pins of today.

Sources for

Pictorial History of Regency Hairstyles Posted in 19th Century England, Jane Austen, Jane Austen’s World, Regency Life, Regency Period, Regency style, tagged Regency Fashion, Regency Hairstyle on March 17, 2013, Jane Austen’s World

Custom Wig Company “A Brief Discussion of Women’s Hair in the Regency” July 11, 2011

SMITH, SIMONE HARUKO “How to Re-Create Regency-Era Hairstyles” Bellatory April 4, 2022

To purchase or see more images of hairpins from the Georgian/Regency period, visit Regency Hair Pin – Etsy

12 responses to “Hairpins: Fit, Form, or Function?”

  1. Regina Jeffers Avatar

    I frequently wondered about women in the Regency with naturally very thin hair and how they would have kept their hair in an updo. I wore my hair long for years (below my waist), but I can tell you it would never have stayed up in curls on top of my head without glue. LOL! The bobby pins of the 1950s and 60s could not hold it. Thanks for an informative piece.

    1. kimbelle1 Avatar

      Oh, absolutely true! Ladies with thin hair would’ve had a horrible time with these same pins, and scandal all the way!

  2. Alice McVeigh Avatar

    Interesting article! I’m interested in how great a role hair played in this period… Emma, miserably sending her maid away only once her hair had been prepared for the next day… Frank Churchill envisioning his aunt’s emeralds in Jane Fairfax’s hair… I suppose it was the same with the clothes and everything else but so laborious compared to the late 20th/21st centuries. If I’m playing a concert I might waste ten minutes straightening my hair and um… that’s about it!

    1. kimbelle1 Avatar

      Thank you for reading, Alice! It is so much a part of the period that gets mentioned nearly every scene, feathers, pins, brushing, bonnets, that a lady’s hair and it’s styling could not but be my first blog. To find my thoughts aligning with yours on this is fun indeed…for the many ways it was done in all of the novels is too numerous to ignore!

  3. Lyndsay Constable Avatar
    Lyndsay Constable

    Interesting! It reminds me of that scene at the beginning of North and South(movie) when Margaret removes a butterfly hair pin declaring she is too old for such an ornament. Henry thought she was being particularly familiar w him, i think. It makes more sense now after reading your article.

    1. kimbelle1 Avatar

      Oh, what a scandal she was aiming for in doing so! To think of the compromise should a lock of hair then be out of place! Thank you for checking out the blog, Lyndsay~

  4. cindie snyder Avatar
    cindie snyder

    I wondered what kind of pins they wore on their hair! Not sure they would hold my mane!lol

    1. kimbelle1 Avatar

      You would’ve had a ready-made excuse, Cindie, and your escaping locks would’ve allowed you freedoms most never enjoyed! How fun!

  5. Riana Everly Avatar

    My hair also would have been the bane of every lady’s maid. Perhaps enough sugar water to stiffen it, and a bucket-load of hair pins would have done the trick. I do love those scenes where the hairpins come out… and then have to be gathered up again and somehow replaced!

    1. kimbelle1 Avatar

      I wonder at how much effort had to be made every morning to be covered by a bonnet so none could see the day’s style, or none not at the young lady’s home. I, too, have enjoyed more than one scene, and that got me thinking how a girl might find advantage in that which could cause ruination unless managed perfectly! Too fun, and I thank you for reading~

  6. Linny B Avatar
    Linny B

    Interesting article and I’ve read a few stories in fanfiction where Elizabeth uses her hairpins to get out of a sticky situation.

    1. kimbelle1 Avatar

      Yes! I’ve seen one when she used it to pick a lock and another where she used one to hold pieces of a blanket together after she and Darcy were soaked! So much ingenuity, our JAFF authors have!

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