I have a special attraction to handbags and purses. No, I do not have an overstuffed Imelda-style closet that floods the room when opened. I am a rather practical sort and tend to carry one particular bag for many months at a time, usually trading it off as the seasons change. (I lived in Upstate New York for quite a while, which meant, maybe twice a year for season change – winter and short summer. Now I average about three bag changes per year.) What I particularly find appealing though, is the addition of another bag when going out and about – usually a tote bag or sack that will carry anything from books to fabrics, a change of sweater, hairbrush or sketchbook. How can we live without bags?!
Our handbags are the keepers of our tools, toys and treats. They carry our money, our sustenance, our vanity and our possibilities. When I was a very little girl, maybe 6 years of age, I was given a wonderful purse, a small basket style made of soft wood, shellacked and trimmed in leather. It snapped neatly open and shut and I loved putting my treasures inside. I did not have much money then, but always carried about 3 quarters and some nickels and dimes. My Mom always told me to have a quarter on hand for a phone call in an emergency (yes, even when I was 6 I knew that wisdom). A very special little doll came along with me in that bag, a wild golden haired troll with a fat belly, about 4 inches high! I think he was a good luck charm for me, as I always wanted the little Buddha belly nearby.
The long awaited cross country trip to Missouri from California began right after school got out in early June. I had my little handbag by my side, and on the trip I carried extra fun things like gum and Neccos inside. Well, my brother and I always loved riding across country in the roomy Chevrolet, marking the route town by town on a big map and watching for license plates from different states. I looked forward to our lunch stops as my food obsession then was tuna sandwiches and cherry pie for dessert. I ate nothing but those items all the way across country and compared quality from cafe to cafe! On one such stop when my Dad filled up with gasoline, I made the mandatory girls room pit stop and left my purse! This was in the middle of Utah and I did not notice (must have been in a pie state of mind) until we were well up the Rockies in Colorado!! Oh my, was I a sad little girl! Anyway, my parents cajoled me and reminded me how much fun awaited us with our cousins in Missouri.
Two weeks later, on our road trip back to California, we stopped at the same gas station in Utah and, lo and behold, the owner was there and when my Dad inquired about the purse he smiled and pulled it right out of a cupboard. Halleluia – I was astounded and one happy little girl! I think that experience made me a solid devotee of the handbag. Additionally, since it was “found” I have always been a bit of an optimist about life, feeling that souls out there aren’t all bad and that the possibilities for the “good” are real.
Now, a bit of history on the handbag will reveal the importance through time of this piece of apparel by both men and women. My internet search revealed some interesting facts. In Medieval times, purses were attached to the “girdle” around the waist that both men and women wore, and contained money, sweet smelling pomanders, daggers and keys. This style of wear was prone to thievery(Ken Follet’s book World Without End has a great scene of “cut-purse” robbery) and by Elizabethan times the drawstring purse for women went underneath the multi- layers of skirts so fashionable in this era. With commerce on the increase and prosperity rising, women’s bags became ornate, often decorated with embroidered love scenes. The shoulder bag emerged as people traveled more by horse, cart or by foot. In the 19th century purses that coordinated with a woman’s clothing became popular, and by mid-century with the emergence of railroads manufacturers created an array of carry on bags for the travelling population. The term “handbag” was coined at this time. Of course, the 20th Century, particularly since WWII, has seen an industry boom around the handbag, as it is in modern times an essential piece of apparel that for me would be impossible to live without. (Random History.com)
Style is individual, fashion comes and goes….but our handbags are forever! I could ramble so much more on this topic, but, alas, you must toss that bag about your shoulder and get about your day! Please appreciate the bag that provides you with the precious, the powerful, and the practical. Enjoy!