Ivanka Trump, adviser to the president and sentient press release, delivered a particularly callous line regarding her father’s family separation policy on Sunday, telling Face the Nation’s Margaret Brennan that immigration “is not part of my portfolio.” As if to punctuate her stony statement, Trump wore a triangular, gilded brooch on her left shoulder, its insignia-esque vibe perfectly costume-designed for a movie villain.
It’s not the first time Ivanka has adorned her pricey clothes with a sparkling pin. According to Instagram, she appears to have packed the same diamond-shaped brooch for trips to both Seoul, South Korea, and Kansas City, Missouri. She’s also smiled for her personal videographer wearing a blue appliqué that looks to be the size of a child’s fist. Back when she ran her eponymous, now-shuttered clothing line, Ivanka sold a trench coat that came with its own rhinestone brooch stuck on the lapel.
But it’s not just Ivanka. Extremely un-subtle brooches are enjoying a bipartisan resurgence this winter. Exhibit A, of course, would be the much-discussed mini House of Representatives’ mace pin, worn by Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the “somber” impeachment day earlier this month.
The $125 item, identified by The New York Times' fashion critic Vanessa Friedman as belonging to storied D.C. jeweler Ann Hand’s collection, was quickly dubbed a “power pin” by many.
It was the gilt cherry on top of a series of appliqués Pelosi donned during the process, so notorious that Kate McKinnon suited up in one while playing the speaker on Saturday Night Live.
Pins have long been a way for political or symbolic figures to blaze silent statements on their chests. Queen Elizabeth II, who famously cannot speak out about current affairs, owns undoubtedly the most priceless assembly of all, including baubles first owned by Queens Victoria and Mary. This summer, the queen wore her “State Visit Brooch”—a 2011 gift from Barack Obama—to meet Trump, which some on Twitter took to be a coded sartorial diss.
This year saw the rise of a surprising style hero—Lady Hale, president of the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court. While ruling that Boris Johnson’s prorogation, or suspension, of Parliament was unlawful, the justice wore a spider pin on her shoulder. She was quickly dubbed a “brooch icon,” a title she deserves for her impressive collection of animal-shaped accessories.
Once a design of necessity, invented in the Iron Age to merely hold clothing together, brooches were first tricked out by the Romans. The accessory has maintained a somewhat gaudy reputation ever since, earning a soft spot in the hearts of corporate American women, who have long used brooches to jazz up a staid work blazer.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright owned more than 200 pins, which she later exhibited at the Smithsonian. Her 2009 book, Read My Pins, chronicled how she communicated through her costume jewelry while in Bill Clinton’s Cabinet. After the Iraqi media dubbed Albright an “unparalleled serpent,” she bought a snake pendant. “I thought, ‘Well this is fun,’” Albright wrote of her rhinestone and ruby stockpile, which also included eagle-, balloon-, and wasp-shaped brooches.
Fun, sure, but a move that made a generation associate brooches with big-shouldered, women’s lib power dressing, giving the look a costume-y feel. Perhaps that’s why pins were plentiful on the red carpet premiere of Bombshell, which chronicles the women who spoke out against Roger Ailes. Ann Curry affixed a daisy to her coat, and the actress Tricia Helfer, who plays Alisyn Camerota, wore a swallow in flight on her collar.
Because brooches are often the least expensive item a label like Gucci might sell (going rate: around $520), buying one has become a way for some to add quick cachet to their outfits. According to The Evening Standard, brooch-buying enjoyed a 26 percent increase in 2018, after pins made appearances on the runways of Erdem and Alexander McQueen.
The emerging popularity of vintage shopping, especially on sites like 1stdibs and The RealReal, also adds to the brooch boom. Victorian-era pins, especially those made of ruby, moonstone, or diamonds, can cost up to six figures. On TheRealReal, Chanel “Camellia” brooches are especially popular, and the site offers varying shades and fabrics of the blossom shape.
Those with deep pockets and strong shoulders can purchase a host of heavy pins chock-full of pricey, vibrant stones from the likes of Oscar de la Renta ($270), Saint Laurent ($595), and Alexis Bittar ($445). Brooches in bulk are available on Amazon, where faux crystal and pearl options are sold in 25-piece packs, marketed for wedding bouquets.
Brooches for fashion’s sake—as opposed to ones that send a message—may not carry the same symbolic weight as the ones that adorn Pelosi or Albright. But they remain incredibly garish, and a spot-on choice if your preferred statement is simply, “Look at me!”