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Tools of the Trade: The Victorian Lady's Chatelaine

We've all experienced the predicament of the ever-expanding purse filled with everything we could possibly need—our keys, wallet, favorite lip balm, perfume, etc. For Victorian women, the chatelaine served a similar purpose.

A chatelaine is a collection of small items which hang from a sturdy chain that clips to one’s hip. If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, you may have noticed that Mrs. Hughes wears a chatelaine.

Downton Abbey Mrs Hughes Chatelaine

For the Victorian woman, her chatelaine functioned almost like a tool belt and might include any number of useful items such as scissors, a sewing kit, matches, a watch, mirror, paper-knife, memo book, pencil, glove hooks, perfume bottle…the list goes on and on.

Victorian Era Chatelaine

“A Victorian chatelaine is essentially a tool belt of a highly personalized nature.

Picture a Swiss Army knife crossed with a charm bracelet and you’ll start to get the idea.”

—Sarah A. Chrisman, This Victorian Life

Each chatelaine was unique to the needs of the lady. To look at her chatelaine, one could easily ascertain many of the lady’s daily activities based solely on the items she chose to carry.

For example, Mrs. Hughes’s chatelaine includes the keys to presumably every door at Downton, as well as a pair of scissors for the occasional trim or repair to keep everything (and everyone) in tip-top shape.

What useful treasures and tidbits would you equip on your chatelaine?

For more Downton Abbey inspiration, visit our collection of all-natural beauty products inspired by the lovely ladies of Downton!

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