“Chatelaine”

close-up of couture technician wearing a chatelaine

A chatelaine is “a set of short chains attached to a woman’s belt, used for carrying keys or other items.” (It also means “a woman in charge of a large house”, presumably because she’d be carrying a large cluster of keys etc.) I saw “Dior And I” at the Austin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival a few years ago, a documentary about the designer Raf Simons and his time at the House of Dior. One interesting thing I saw in the film is the chatelaine that couture technicians wear around their neck. It’s basically a little pouch on strings, used to carry scissors, pins, chalk, etc. It struck me as being a great idea for two reasons.

The first reason is that, obviously, having the stuff they use the most around their neck is more efficient because they always have what they need right at hand. They don’t need to go back to their workbench to fetch what they need.

The second reason did not occur to me until recently when I was making the black/white/red tartan dress. I didn’t want to have to undress every time I need to try on the dress. Since I was by myself in my workroom, I just sewed in the nude. (Don’t tell anybody! 🙂 ) That did save a lot of time. Until I found that, one, since I’m nude, I don’t have anywhere to clip my scissors scabbard to 🙂 and two, I still had to take off my pin cushion around my wrist and put it back on afterwards every time I tried on the dress. It then dawned on me that the reason the chatelaine is worn around the neck instead of, say, clipped onto a belt, is because one always has a neck to hang chatelaine from regardless of what clothes one happens to be wearing, or not wearing 🙂 .

I went looking for proof that “chatelaines and couture technicians” is a thing, and found plenty.

One example is from a photo of a group of couture technicians of the house of Givenchy on a balcony with a model wearing a design by Riccardo Tisci. A couple of the technicians can be seen wearing a chatelaine around their neck. One woman’s chatelaine shows a pair of sewing scissors. Her chatelaine does not appear to very deep and also has a wide mouth, probably so she can easily retrieve items in it:
couture technician wearing white smock and a chatelaine
The scissors are located at the chatelaine’s upper left corner, handles up, probably for convenient access for righthanders. You can also see that in this pic of two of Dior’s in-charge couture technicians, with the designer Raf Simons:
wo of Dior's in-charge couture technicians

While the vast majority of chatelaines are utilitarian and unadorned, slapped together with random fabrics and with quick stitches:
utilitarian chatelaine
…some chatelaines are more embellished with edge binding and quilting:
couture technician w/ embellished chatelaine

I think there is a chatelaine in my future. And definitely there is more sewing in the nude in my future. 🙂

1 Comment on ““Chatelaine””

  1. #1 Abbey
    on Feb 28th, 2017 at 01:17

    What a great reminder. I will have to make one to see whether I like using one. Just found your blog and like your posts.