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What’s Inside An Edwardian Purse?

February 21st, 2014 by Magdalena Tabor

Recently, I came across a vintage Edwardian leather purse with lovely hand tooled art nouveau detailing; its well worn handle laced with whip stitching, and a sweet edwardian woman with pursesilver clasp to shut tight the secrets it once held for someone I envision as fashionable as she was intelligent. Its condition implied that it was either a favorite of many or a one and only prized possession. Anything old always inspires vivid imaginings in my on-line travels.
But first, let me define “Edwardian”. This is the era encompassing the reign of King Edward VII from 1901 to 1910 after the death of Queen Victoria transferring the succession to her son. In juxtaposition to his somewhat reclusive mother, Edward publicly embraced art and fashion along with political inclinations toward the betterment of the working class, particularly for women.
In 1903 the U.S. founded the National Trade Union League to improve the wages and working conditions for women. While in 1905 the U.K. led the formation of the Women’s Social and Political Union for the right to vote, although the fight began much much earlier than this.
So, with this in mind, it’s interesting to note what was going on at the time this particular purse came into fashion and into the hands of a certain owner in uncertain but hopeful circumstances. Again, antiques inspire thoughtful musings about who owned it when, and what may have transpired at the time of its inception. It’s always a lesson in history that never fails to fascinate.
Who was the lucky lady to carry this lovely article on her arm and what did it contain? Was she an intellectual, a suffragette with a strong sense of fashion and appreciation for beautiful things? The following is a list of things I imagine may have been hidden within the compartment of this handbag:
1) Currency. Either British pounds or American dollars. Perhaps both, if she was so privileged and worldly. How much would depend on her financial well being after spending a tidy sum on the bag. Or was it a gift from a well-to-do husband to his adoring but headstrong wife?
2) A handkerchief. No lady at the time would be caught sniffling in public without one. It was probably a starched white version (laundered by the housemaid) and embroidered with a scripted monochromatic initial of its mistress’s intriguingly elusive name and scented with her signature Parisian parfum.
3) A house key. In those days there was only one key needed with which to enter one’s castle and perhaps a second to the gated estate.
4) A love note. The lady may have hidden this indiscretion at the very bottom and rummaged nervously for its instructions leading to the Venetian gondola unbeknownst to her devoted but insufferably boring husband.
5) A timepiece. Essential in getting back to the estate unnoticed before the wee hours of the morning, birds twittering in the rosy light of dawn.
6) A cigarette. A hand rolled number indulged in the privacy of her room with the window ajar and a profusion of flowers from the greenhouse to rid the smell.
6) And finally, a political rally flyer. Slipped into her hand by the rebel rouser with whom she unwisely kept company culminating in the ruination of her marriage and reputation.
End result, an empty but still very beautiful handbag generating looks of admiration and envy….Alas! Where’s that starched white hanky? And the address to the factory with improved working conditions?

So………whadayathink? What arouses your passions? Do old things muster wild imaginings to rid you of the winter doldrums? Or are these fantasies a direct result of too many Downton Abbey re-runs?

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One Response to “What’s Inside An Edwardian Purse?”

  1. Michael Tabor Says:

    Some FB comments:

    Like · · Share · February 20 at 8:35pm via WordPress ·
    Julie Walters Slattery likes this.

    Samuel Mann Weird n cool
    February 20 at 8:42pm · Like

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