Victorian-era multitool for women: the chatelaine

Ben Marks of Collectors Weekly says: "Our Senior Victorian Accessories Correspondent, Hunter Oatman-Stanford, has just written a piece about the chatelaine, which was the killer hands-free device for women back in the Victorian era. For his article, he interviewed author Genevieve Cummins."

Like a customized Swiss Army knife, a chatelaine provided its wearer with exactly the tools she needed closest at hand. For an avid seamstress, that might include a needle case, thimble, and tape measure, while for an active nurse it might mean a thermometer and safety pins. Inspired by the complex key rings carried by “la chatelaine,” the female head of a grand French estate, these beautiful little contraptions were as fashionable as they were practical. In fact, their design was sometimes so trendy that style trumped usefulness.

The Killer Mobile Device for Victorian Women


  1. Is it akin to the little basket of keys that Agnes wears on her hip in David Copperfield? Or maybe to that netting of steel Miss Murdstone carries?

  2. and sadly no mention of Skirt Lifters for women and mud:

  3. I wonder what trinkets her chatelaine might sport if the lady was a ninja assassin?

  4. Ooh… we had one somewhere in the family (not sure what relative it ended up with or if it survived). It was quite pretty and ornate. There’s a photograph I think of one of the ladies in my family wearing one as well, but it is more a decorative one. I can’t imagine it did much good and for some reason (age, perhaps?) she had her spectacles on her face for the photograph. Heh… proof my family has always been weird. Maybe she just liked them.

  5. It seems like there are more items than necessary here.  What more does a woman need than a thimble and a rape whistle?

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