not just any brooch


Many of us who follow the dismal story that is British politics will have noticed the commentary on Lady Hale’s spider brooch. Headlines included – it draws the eye but repels; a perfect icon for our times; say it with a brooch.

And of course the inevitable merchandising followed – tote bags and T-shirts first off the merch mark – some of it worthy fundraising.

Nothing I read about the brooch quite got into the obvious cultural reference –  Spiderwoman with superpowers taking on the Evil Establishment. No-one negatively referred to those 1930s devilish movie heroines dressed in sequinned Black Widow web frocks, or to the elegant de-fanging of this stereotype by Morticia from the Addams Family. Opportunity lost.

The Guardian predictably noted the fusion of fashion and politics:

Hale is a brooch trailblazer. She has a particular fondness for creepy crawlies – frogs, beetles and the like. On her profile on the supreme court website, she wears a brooch of a caterpillar – like the spider, it’s an animal that hardly has the cute factor on its side. Madeleine Albright, as secretary of state under Bill Clinton, was open about her use of brooches – or “pins” to Americans. After being called an “unparalleled serpent” by Iraqi state media, she wore a snake brooch to her next meeting with the country’s officials and her brooch-as-statement career began. Albright published a book called Read My Pins in 2009 and has continued to allow her pins to say it all. The smashed glass ceiling design, worn to watch Hillary Clinton make her nominee speech in 2016, broke the internet. 

US Vogue similarly commented

Hale’s ability to take on Boris Johnson while maintaining her signature sense of style has done the impossible and made brooches politically relevant for the first time since Madeleine Albright used them to subtly convey her feelings; perhaps they’ll go the way of Senator Wendy Davis’s pink filibuster sneakers and turn into bona fide resistance symbols.


We wished they’d said more. We are very interested in jewellery as more than ornamentation. As nosy researchers with an interest in wardrobe, we want to know what went through Hale’ s head as she chose the brooch to wear that day. It sure wasn’t an accident.

What exactly did Hale hope to communicate through the spider?

Some of our women and wardrobe survey respondents told us that they use jewellery to individualise their work-wear and to send messages – arty, boho, bold were three adjectives used.

We wonder if any  women leaders out there select individual jewellery pieces to send very specific messages? Do any of us do a Lady Hale?

Do any of us wear a women’s symbol to work on particular days? Everyday?

Do we wear pins with messages?

Do we opt for something slightly oblique but nevertheless communicative, like Lady Hale’s spider?

Please do tell us via the comments or on social media if you use any of your jewellery in very particular ways. We’d love to know. (And pictures, yes please, pictures).