Handbags Are Us

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!


About kcthreads

Two years ago I left an administrative government job to live near my relatives in America's "heartland," and to be free to pursue my own and my family's interests and needs! This transition exceeds my dreams of a life near loved ones with time to be creative. My husband and I have found ourselves young at heart again as we explore gifts we had set aside to meet the needs of our workplaces and community. He photographs birds and wildlife daily, and exhibits in local galleries. I design and make handbags and aprons that I sell through my Etsy shop and by word of mouth. After 30 plus years, I am finally studying art again, taking classes in watercolor and pastels from a nationally acclaimed artist! During the years I promoted youth development and family programming in my community and state, I have been compelled to find ways to support American made crafts and products. This recession has encouraged me to promote and support the efforts of local artisans and craftspeople, in the belief that a renewal of hands-on entrepreneurial-ism can make our community and our nation stronger. When we purchased this '30's bungalow three years ago, we didn't realize there was a farmers market within walking distance and an artists cooperative gallery even closer! I am an advocate of using and re-using products that have been designed and crafted with care, and strive to live responsibly and creatively. Another indulgent pursuit of mine is re-learning how to cook - after a lifetime of taking shortcuts due to long work hours and ease of take home food. My inspiration and tutorials are mostly from Jamie Oliver and Julia Child! After a year of experimentation and joyful homemade cuisine, I am inspired to share the crazy fun of cooking and dining with more than family and friends. As I cook, and watercolor and sew I find inspiration everywhere in the present...and the past. I was blessed with a Mom who was home with my brother and I, and who joyfully cooked and sewed and imagined the possibilities in life each day with us. My offerings in this blog will include some of her inspiration. Life is good!
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3 Responses to Handbags Are Us

  1. Sandy Lewis says:

    You write such enjoyable blogs. I really like this one as my life is usually carried in my handbag.

    • kcthreads says:

      Thanks! Isn’t it true…as we dash about and make things happen, our trusty handbag at our side. I really like things that are practical and utilitarian. We should honor them and give them a little flair once in awhile.

  2. DownDogDiva says:

    I am amazed your purse survived 2 weeks in Utah! You must have been so happy. I love your bags.

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