Fastenating Fashion

In an early “Folio” version of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Othello, the “unpinning” of Desdemona’s garments by her maid, Emilia is central to the dramatization of the scene in Act IV.   Later published editions of the play eliminated the scene completely.  Shakespeare’s inclusion of this seemingly incidental activity would have been understood by his audience. And according to one scholar, it’s omission in later versions of the play greatly diminishes our understanding of Desdemona’s character. 

When the scene opens, as he is leaving to go on a walk with Lodovico, Othello directs Desdemona “Get you to bed on th’instant, I will be re-turned forthwith: dismisse your Attendant there: look’t be done. “As she is anxious to comply with his order, several times in the ensuing conversation between them, Desdemona tells Emilia to “Prythee un-pin me”.  And, “No, un-pin me here.” Later she admonishes Emilia to go faster, “prythee dispatch.”  

At the time of the original production of the play, the dressing and undressing of an upper-class woman in the beginning of the 17th century was a time-consuming task that required a lot of pins. Pins of various lengths and types were not only used to make clothes, but to hold pleats and tucks in place. 2  Furthermore, all the elements of a woman’s dress, especially the highly embellished and embroidered parts seen in aristocratic portraits, were separate detachable pieces that required individual placement and fastening by someone other than the person wearing them. While some sections of a woman’s costume were tied with ribbons or laced with cords, most were pinned. In one of the opening scenes of the 1988 movie, Dangerous Liaisons set in the late 18th century; Glenn Close is shown being sewn into her dress, another practice of fastening.

Today, the pin is a material item that manages to be both simple and complex at the same time. Even now the importance of the function of a pin has neither changed nor wavered.   Working with fabric in the age of Velcro and fabric glue sticks, one still needs to fasten and hold fabric in a more delicate and forgiving fashion to perform some tasks.  The correct pin is as important as the correct needle.

A Pin Trousseau

This idea grew out of our selection of products that would originally comprise the Accoutrements line. An offering of a range of pins for a variety of tasks seemed a logical extension, as we discussed what we noticed was missing and liked to use for different sewing and embroidery projects.  As we presented this concept to our retailers at the TNNA shows in 2008, we told them we had assembled a “Pin Trousseau”. This is an essential collection of all the pins one would need if you were going out into the world. 

1 “Unpinning Desdemona” Walen, Denise A., Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 58, Number 4, Winter 2007, pp. 487-508.

2 To see a picture of a brass pin from the late 16th century, see page 218, figure 316 in Janet Arnold’s book, “Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d”.  On the same page she discusses the role of “The Pynner”, a person whose work was vital to her majesty’s wardrobe.

Access Commodities’ Accoutrements Pin Trousseau (click for images)

ACC 1333 - Brass Applique Pins

ACC 1237 - Fork Pins

ACC 1322 - Small Black Pins

ACC 1347 - Glass Head Pins

ACC 1385 - Super Fine Pins

ACC 1349 - Super Fine Glass Head Pins

ACC 1357 - Stainless Steel Pins

ACC 1292 - Triangle Head Pins

ACC 1236 - Coilless Brass Safety Pins              

What is unique about our pins is first the packaging.  You can clearly see what type of pin is in the container.  It is smooth, palm-sized and sleek, so no matter the size of your fingers it is easy to reach into the package and remove a pin---or replace it.

The container itself is easy to screw open and close, and is compact enough to fit in all sewing baskets and sewing kits.

Ask your local retailer for these items.  You might want to tell them how you heard about it!

Recently Posted Comments

Leave a Reply