Chatelaine, UK, early 20th century. Chatelaine, UK, early 20th century. Copyright Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, acc. no. 1987.263.a-f.

A chatelaine is an ornamental belt clasp or hook, from which chains are hung. It derives from the French term chatelaine, meaning ‘mistress of the chateau’. Chatelaines were worn by European women from the medieval period until the twentieth century and the advent of handbags and (outside) pockets in women’s clothing.

Fastened at the end of the chains were small, household items such as keys, pencils, purses, scissors, thimble cases, watches and sometimes small sewing kits. The sewing chatelaine, for example, was a popular dress accessory from the 1860's until the end of the century. By the end of the twentieth, chatelaines were again being made, but worn around the neck, rather than the waist.


  • ROTHSTEIN, Natalie, Madeleine GINSBURG, Avril HART, Valerie D. MENDES and Philip BARNARD (1984). Four Hundred Years of Fashion, London: Victoria and Albert Museum/W. Collins, p. 174.
  • TAUNTON, Nerylla D. (1994). Chatelaines: Utility to Glorious Extravagance, Boston: Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
  • Shorter Oxford English Dictionary: ‘Chatelaine’

Metropolitan Museum online catalogue (retrieved 8th July 2016).


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