Wearing vintage clothing and accessories is one of the most accessible and affordable (not to mention creative) ways to reduce the environmental impact of your wardrobe and home goods. So every week, I comb Etsy and eBay and find beautiful vintage pieces around a particular theme. (Check out last week's entry, "Baking accessories from the past make useful gifts.")


The problem with brooches is that most of us tend to think that they are just a pretty thing that hangs out on the upper part of a blouse; right or left side seems to be about the only choice one has in placement. And that supposed limitation is (like most limitations) totally a figment of our imaginations.


The beauty of brooches is that you can wear them anywhere, unlike, well, pretty much every other piece of jewelry. A necklace has to be worn on the neck, a bracelet won't really fit anywhere else, and rings can be strung on chains to make a necklace, but beyond that don't have much variabililty. Brooches, however, can be worn just below the shoulder, but also on the pocket of a skirt or loose pair of pants, pinned onto a hat, holding a scarf closed, keeping a blouse a bit more demure with placement above the top button. 


Women of the '30s, '40s, '50s and '60s realized the many uses of brooches and while some new jewelry designers still include them in collections, they are few and far between. The good news is that there is a plethora of beautiful vintage brooches available online, most of them for less than $10, and many for less than $5. I kept to an animals and insects theme (which is the basis for my own brooch collection), but you could pick one that encompasses floral motifs, stars, abstract design or even something as specific as owls. 


This swallow brooch with a beautiful patina from Etsy seller SilksPurseSowEar is not only sweet, it's graceful too, and would work most ideally with a scarf (a bird-patterned scarf?) to accentuate the wings with the drape of the fabric. 
Often you will find brooches in bunches when you search online (called lots). This lot of gorgous butterfly brooches (and a couple of hat pins) is offered by 1enchantedtreasures on Etsy. Clustering three or four of these pieces on a plain black shirt, or creating a line of the pins along a pants seam could be a really fun way to take advantage of the variety of size and colors of this collection. 
I don't know that I've seen a dinosaur brooch before, and this tyrannasaurus looks, dare I say, quite friendly. This piece via ronpetrarca on Ebay could work just as well for a mom with dino-loving kids, as a professor of paleontology, as a hipster wearing it with a wink and a smile.  
This baby bird's winking green eye and oversized feet, plus '50s-style rhinestone body really caught my eye. Almost ready to fly, this little guy, on offer from Lilly's Vintage Jewelry, isn't quite ready to leave the branch yet, but might be soon. 
Rhinestones on a skunk are just kind of hilarious, and this Stinky Skunk by Nemo, produced in 1955, is quite an unusual find in the world of brooches, which tend toward the pretty and flowery. Available from Vintage Gypsies on Etsy

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Vintage Fridays: Brooches are so 2012 -- useful and decorative
Try these forgotten pieces of jewelry — which can be had for a song — to dress up almost anything.