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How to Style Your Grandma’s Brooch

You’re scrolling through Etsy, filling your cart with one of the most popular accessories right now – pins. You dream about how you’ll accessorize your day-to-day wardrobe with these tiny gems. There’s one shaped like a coffee cup and another that looks like a cat. Into the cart, they both go. Feeling satisfied with yourself, you click to the checkout page, card in hand. As you scroll to the bottom of the page, your heart stops. The number staring back at you from the total line is way, way larger than you could’ve anticipated. How can little pieces of metal and plastic cost so much? To be fair, each one is a miniature work of art. There just isn’t any space in your budget for artwork. Before you start feeling down about not being able to accessorize like the face behind your favorite vintage chic Instagram account, consider this: There’s a less expensive, more versatile alternative to those costly pins, and it may even already be in a box somewhere in your parents’ home.

What is a brooch, and how do you find one?

You know a brooch when you see one. The difference between a brooch and a pin is that the former is generally more ornamental. There’s a very glamorous, Old-Hollywood air about the concept of wearing a brooch. Despite that, you can typically find them for cheap – or even free, if you have a relative who’s willing to part with them.

That’s the first place to look on your quest for brooches. Ask your mom, grandma, great-aunt or whoever you think might have some if you can raid their jewelry box. Some brooches are, of course, more valuable than others, and their owner may be less willing to part with them because of that. If you ask nicely, though, you might find yourself in possession of some lovely pieces. Your grandma would probably be pleased as punch to see you wearing her favorite brooch!

If your family is a little lacking in the brooch territory, your local thrift store or secondhand shop can make up for that. They’re generally filled with old brooches for a variety of prices. You can find some interesting pieces for under five dollars by sifting through a shop’s bin of brooches. These include your standard decorative brooches as well as more whimsical ones – if you like giraffes, get a giraffe brooch!

Thrift stores typically carry higher quality brooches as well. If one of these really catches your eye, don’t immediately turn it down just because of the price tag. A beautiful brooch is a worthy fashion investment. It’s something you can wear for the rest of your life and never stop getting compliments on it.

That being said, finding affordable brooches isn’t hard. Even cheaper than thrift stores are garage sales. This may take a little more time because garage sales are less likely to have a high quantity of brooches, meaning you could have to go to multiple sales before you find anything. However, the deals you can score are worth it.

General guidelines for styling brooches

Because brooches are shiny and a little flashy, they look best when worn on a solid-colored garment. This gives them the opportunity to stand out from the rest of your outfit. You can use a brooch to dress your outfit up if you’re going out for the evening or add a touch of class to your everyday style. I styled three different outfits using three different brooches: a whimsical owl brooch that I bought at a secondhand shop and two more high fashion brooches I got from my mom.

Look #1: Cozy Cardigan

This is my favorite way to wear a brooch on a regular day. It’s perfect for more whimsical pieces, like my little golden owl! Pinning a small, understated brooch to the lapel of your favorite cardigan is a great way to add a little life to it. You can even pin it there and leave it on the sweater permanently. That way, whenever you wear the cardigan, you automatically have a fun accessory for the rest of your outfit. Just don’t forget to take the brooch off before you wash the sweater! Here, I’ve chosen to wear my cardigan with a striped T-shirt and colorful A-line skirt to give it a soft, cute vintage feel, but there’s some versatility with this look. You can easily pair an essential cardigan with a patterned dress or even a simple blouse and jeans.

Look #2: Button-Down Beauty

If you’re looking for a less typical way to wear a brooch, this is it. Pinning a classy round brooch in the center of the collar on a button-down dresses up the shirt and shows off the accessory. It’s a good way to incorporate a more flashy brooch into an everyday look and make semi-professional attire a little more chic. Putting the brooch front and center on your outfit will make people notice it, as it can be easily overlooked because it’s a smaller piece of jewelry. I wore my button-down with quirky patterned pants for a look that makes a statement while still being fun.

Look #3: Sophisticated Shift Dress

Here’s a classic way to wear a brooch. I pinned my bold gold and red brooch to the shoulder of this simple black dress, and it automatically looks more glamorous. This look can take you from an evening at an orchestra performance to a night out grabbing dinner with friends. If you don’t feel like wearing a lot of jewelry, this style is a way to glamorize a more plain dress without wearing too many accessories. A neutral-colored heel will complement the look without drawing attention away from the brooch. A brooch is a statement piece, and this look proves that. Matching a brooch to any solid-colored dress will have a similar effect, and you’re sure to get compliments on the piece.

Brooches are a beautiful accessory that can add a little flair to a variety of outfits. There are many different kinds of brooches that are all beautiful and can be found on a budget. You just have to get out there and dig through your grandma’s jewelry box.

Brianna is a sophomore journalism major at the University of Florida. She loves both writing and reading, and she plans to become a librarian. When she's not in the library, Brianna can be found dancing to Fleetwood Mac, putting together a Pinterest moodboard or listening to a true crime podcast. You can find her on Instagram @brianna.moye and Twitter @brianna__moye