The Purse & the Person
Twentieth-century purses' shapes, sizes and materials reflected the century's changing fashions, culture and economics. The modest cloth pocketbooks with chased metal frames and bags of exotic reptile skins in fashion around 1900 were succeeded by fringed and beaded confections, tailored envelopes of smooth calf and sleek suede, amusing synthetic novelty bags, capacious straw beach carryalls, kicky shoulder bags, and luxurious designer-labeled creations. Like all fashions, purses can give full expression to an era's aesthetic sensibility, as the many bags designed with Art Deco's rounded shapes, bold patterns, and enthusiasm for new materials like rayon and plastic demonstrate. Handbag design can be wildly creative, since bags need not be fitted to the body. Ingenious designers have created both wonderful purses with functional and beautiful features like customized pockets, pouches, lids, and handles, and funky novelty purses wrought in odd shapes or from strange materials.
By examining the workaday artifacts found buried deep within women's purses we may glimpse the lives, personalities, and customary activities and concerns of twentieth-century women from Edwardian matrons, 1920s flappers,"Rosie the Riveter," homemakers, 1960s counterculture, superwomen, "fashionistas" to nineties businesswomen.
The Edmond Historical Society hosted this exhibit through