LITTLE BITS OF GLITZ – DRESS CLIPS & DUETTE CLIPS
LITTLE BITS OF GLITZ – DRESS CLIPS & DUETTE CLIPS
I have recently acquired quite a few of these beautiful pieces of jewellery which are truly from another era – more than any other piece of jewellery in my Etsy shop: Vintage Jewellery Fun !! these are so redolent of a bygone age. They hardly feature in the modern wardrobe at all – only in a vintage capacity – which is a big shame because they are just so appealing and beautiful. They really are little bits of glitz, to accent different parts of your attire and, it has to be said, your body. They are considered to have been worn usually on the neckline of a dress, blouse or jumper – however, if you take the trouble to Google up images from the 1930s and 40s, just to look at how they were worn, you’ll see they were used just about everywhere !!
1930s ART DECO / RETRO MODERNE
Back in the late 1920s and 1930s, it was the era of Art Deco – a very strong decorative style which just about touched everything in its path !! From the design of the magnificent Empire State Building right down to the smallest button, it was everywhere – and everyone’s life was influenced by it. This is something we can’t quite imagine today really – the force of the individual is paramount in this day and age, meaning that the fashion is very much a case of be yourself and carve out your own stylish path.
Everything was designed with geometric motifs, and sparkly diamanté jewellery was all the rage, most especially Art Deco dress clips and brooches. Teamed with onyx, carnelian or any other plain coloured stone, the geometric designs of Art Deco jewellery was absolutely stunning, and thus highly prized today amongst specialist collectors.
In the late 1920s, fine jewellery designer Louis Cartier came up with the concept of the double dress clip, which he patented in 1927 – a clever device that let two twin clips attach to each other and be worn as one brooch. The pieces could also be worn separately as matching dress clips, for example, on either side of a neckline. This versatile design, known as ‘clip-pins’ was such a huge success that in the 1930s, fashion jewellery brand Coro premiéred its own double clip called the Coro Duette Clip – a fine example can be seen at the top of this page.
Popular US brand Trifari also made its own popular spin on the concept, which were marketed as ‘Clip-Mates’. Collectors should note that vintage jewellery sellers will often mislabel Clip-Mates as Duettes. It also has to be noted that the term ‘Duette clip’ has been adopted as a generic term for all of these versatile convertible pieces, signed or unsigned.
Eisenberg, Miriam Haskell, Mazer, Boucher, Hattie Carnegie and Vogue all made their own versions of the Duette Clip.
Later on, from around 1937 or so, the Art Deco style gradually changed into what we now know as 1940s Retro – volutes, scrolls, spirals, and stylized leaves and flowers were the dominant motifs throughout the late 30s, on through the 1940s right up to the early 50s. There are some really beautiful Dress clips and Duette clips from this period.
Here I’d like to take a close look at some of these wonderful pieces, and talk about how they were worn back then, and also, how we can wear them now !! I’ll show you some of the pieces I have for sale in my Etsy shop, with close-up photos so you can see how they work – they are truly ingenious !!
Here they are being worn on necklines of very low-necked dresses and strapless ballgowns. This was probably the best known use for these delightful pieces, simply because we’re used to seeing Hollywood stars from the period dressed up to the nines for parties, award ceremonies and Premieres etc, usually sporting a dress clip or two on her decolleté !! I especially love the period adverts for Eisenberg (Red dress) and Coro Duette Clips (Blue dress) Generally speaking if it’s in one piece, they’re being worn as a brooch, and if they’re in two pieces, they’re being worn as matching dress clips.
NECKLINES AND COLLARS
Of course, they were also worn during the daytime on the necklines of simpler cocktail dresses, day-dresses, jackets, and jumpers (sweater-clips were an American variation, being very similar and just as popular) Here are some examples of this:-
Included here – top row, 3rd along – is a picture of designer Coco Chanel, who famously put forward the idea that imitation jewellery was a fantastic thing because it meant the you could go a bit over the top, with lots of bangles, or necklaces being worn at once, with very simple outfits. She had a pair of dress clips that she wore in many photos, including this one.
The last photo on the bottom row is a simple photo-booth picture of an ordinary girl in her wartime wedding outfit, when the concept of a huge white wedding dress was simply not possible with the rationing rules. I love this photo as it shows her dress clips being worn as an important feature of her wedding attire, along with her triple-strand pearls !!
Here’s a magazine article from the early 1940s advising women on how to wear them on the neckline:
Of course, the necklines and collars of dresses and jackets weren’t the only places you could wear these delightful pieces – there was a whole fashion of wearing very low-backed dresses with rear plunging necklines that were simply made for a dress clip or two !!
EVERYWHERE ELSE – HOW TO WEAR THESE TODAY:-
The dress clip and the Duette clip/brooch were both such ubiquitous pieces of jewellery in the late 20s-early 50s that they crop up in almost every photo from that era. So much so that it’s astounding to me that they have disappeared so utterly and completely from the everyday wardrobe of almost every woman today !! What a shame – I’d like to bring them back into fashion, even though the only ones available are vintage.
They can be worn in many other places other than your neckline of course – how about clipping one to a hat, like Carole Lombard here:-
or maybe your shoes ?
Admittedly these skull-clips are very modern, but the idea is out there !!
Perhaps clip one onto your evening clutch.
Here’s a couple of modern actresses who have embraced the vintage dress-clip in a very modern way:-
Sarah Jessica-Parker Nicole Kidman
I have quite a few of these pieces, so here is a closer look at some of them:-
Of course, diamanté wasn’t the only material used for these lovelies – here is a Marcasite dress clip:-
It’s unusual to find these Duette clips in really, really great condition these days particularly as they may have been languishing in your Great Auntie’s jewellery box for decades, being bashed up against other jewellery, or gathering dust in a loft somewhere, so when you find a piece in perfect condition you just have to have it for your shop – that’s what I find anyway !! Hence the higher price of some of these items, particularly if they’re signed pieces. Recently I sold this one for £65, and it was a true beauty – clear and red diamanté, in pretty much perfect condition – an unsigned piece but really lovely quality:-
What a beauty !!
If you are as taken with these gorgeous pieces as I am, please do come on over and have a look – They crop up regularly on E-bay and Etsy vintage too, and they are well worth the money just because you get so many different looks out of the one piece of jewellery. So very versatile – let’s bring them back into fashion !!