Vintage Embroidered Handkerchiefs


As a rule, I try not to “collect” things unless they serve some useful purpose. Ok… and I like them to be pretty. For sentimental reasons, I like to pick up art, postcards, and Christmas ornaments when we travel, but one of my favorite and more useful collections is my embroidered handkerchiefs. I probably should have been born in the Victorian era because I really admire traditional women’s craftwork, like needlework, but I also hate waste and love any opportunity to make green choices, and well, a handkerchief is a beautifully practical alternative to Kleenex!

When I read that Lauren Conrad scoured thrift shops looking for vintage monogrammed handkerchiefs to gift her bridesmaids, I was so impressed (and a little jealous that I hadn’t thought to do the same for my own bridal party). My something borrowed for my wedding was actually a gorgeous handkerchief with butterfly crochet work done along the corner. It killed me to return it back to mother-in-law, it was so beautiful and special.

Handkerchiefs might be considered old-fashioned today, but were once an indispensable part of any stylish woman’s wardrobe. Material was symbolic of the social and economic class of the user. It was an important favor to gift to another, commonly carried by all, and often used by young women to signal a young man across the room. I’ve found most of my handkerchiefs at thrift shops all over New England, but I especially appreciate the art and sentiment behind them. I love to imagine my great-great grandmother embroidering on hers, turning something basic and functional into something beautiful.  Most cost less than a dollar and the embroidered detail on each is just exquisite. That’s probably why my favorite aspect of this “collection” is just looking for them whenever I can.

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