Monday, January 13, 2014

Closet Confessional: Vintage Purse Hoarding (1960's-1970's)

Good morning!

Well! Isn't it a no-good, very yucky, blah kind of rainy, windy day in Nashville, of a Monday? I walked from Union Street with my umbrella clamped to my head to keep my hat from blowing away, and I fairly well bent the handle trying to keep it and said hat from cartwheeling down the street without me! Days like today I do not like being part of the 2014 workforce, and would prefer to stay in bed with a movie star book. However, time marches on! As one of the highlights of my workaday schedule is telling you about junk I like, let's get down to business!

People-- I have a problem. That problem, is called purses.

Specifically, sixties' and seventies' box purses and hand-tooled leather purses. I think I can date this obsession back to high school, when the rivers ran thick at thrift stores like the Gallatin Road DAV and Salvation Army with $2.99 purses that would tear at your heart strings. Macrame. Decoupage. DIY madness. Anytime I see something fifteen year old me would have to have to go into Jolson-like grief-stricken, knee bent implorations for my parents to buy me (I never had any pocket money!), I snap it up out of habit these days. I cleaned out my closet, like I was telling you last week, and managed to purge a massive number of dresses-that-never-quite-panned-out and shoes-I-wore-once, but these box purses and their tooled-leather seventies' counterparts had a free pass, as far as I'm concerned, to sit unused forever above my hanging clothes, because by godfrey, I love them!

Something about the "handmade" ness of them speaks specifically to my magpie instinct. I've been reading a book called The Hoarder in You: How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life, by Robin Zasio, and she specifically calls out the hoarder's tendency to one, have a more sentimental vulnerability towards physical objects and two, be more drawn in by "seeing a value no one else would see" in an item to make it worth buying. Now, I know everyone has some shades of these feelings in their shopping lives, but most people wouldn't feel a near physical pang of regret in leaving something seemingly one-of-a-kind behind at the thrift store. At the age I am now, I do manage to self-talk myself through the paces of "Even if you did live in the forties'/fifites'/sixties', you would buy everything you saw, you'd just buy things you like" and trying to see the difference between "you want this because it's old" and "you want this because it's old and you like it". I can't save all the tchotchkes! Still, seeing a lot of these purses, they hit both markers of something I like and something one of a kind and old, so home they went, jiggety-jig.

Par exemple, I got BOTH of these, somehow, at the Rivergate Goodwill in the last two months. This white one is in an odd, taller-than-usual size, and was sitting in the housewares section like "please, please, take me with you, Lisa". Of course, I obliged-- look at the dingdang raised, 3D decoupage doing on...can you tell the birds stand out from the flat surface of the box by a good quarter inch? I read online about how this effect is accomplished by using small pads under the 2D illustration, which seems easy enough-- however, not as easy as buying a 1970's teenager's handiwork forty years later for $3.99. I used to hate to admit when I was in school that the enormous, crocheted saddlebags I would carry as purses were not made by my own two delicate hands-- but leave unto crafters the things that are crafters! I'm much better at sleuthing out an inexpensive find than handling an Xacto knife, and it's good to know these things about yourself.

The second one, in a more common shape but with just as smart a set of little birds adorning the sides, was sitting near the VHS tapes at the same store a month later. I was idling through the aisles going, "Boy, I wish they had something as neat as that box purse I found here last time...holy smokes! Did I just 'manifest' this box?" I like it as well if not better than the first!

These enormous boxes, and the floral one beneath, were all from estate sales. I don't think I gave more than $3 for each. The one with the 1890's buggies on it was at a sale where I bought three enormous forties' suitcases (which are storing things in the attic as we speak)-- the homeowner had been a crafter in the seventies', and had lots of clothes from that era, all two sizes too big for yours truly. :( Truth told, I've thought of covering that and the pastel one over with something else, but every time I try to I have a pang of guilt for how much work went into making them as they are, and leave them alone! I think the flowers on the one below are hand painted. My favorite of the three is hands down the yellow-roses one on the right, which gets points for being woven like a picnic basket, big enough to tote a large book in, and decorated with a velvet ribbon around the opening in the best shade of seventies' moss green.


Carrying these kinds of purses is weird because of a) how stiff they are and b) how no one carries them anymore. Most of my bags I take on a daily basis are of two schools: little fifties' trapezoidal faux-alligator skin, or forties' black wool or cloth clutches (I have one right now from the flea market that seems to be of Mary Poppins dimensions on the inside-- it fits more than purses that look much larger on the outside!). These purses you can cradle in the crook of your elbow while shopping, or twirl by the handle, or balance under your arm if you need to look at something. BOX purses, on the other hand, feel like you're carrying luggage with you all day. There's no hanging these like a wristlet while you reach for something on the bottom shelf of a thrift store, you have to set it down. Which, in more cases than one, has resulted in said box purse being mistaken for an item I'm buying. Unthinkingly, I put mine down on the counter at Goodwill the other day and the clerk started turning it over in his hands to see where the price sticker was. "Oh, no, that's, uh...that's mine, I already bought that...before..." I mumbled as I awkwardly picked it back up. This makes them more difficult to carry, in my opinion, and thus relegated them to the back of the purse pile for a long time. Well, no more! Difficult or no, I'm making a resolution to carry these little gems out and about with me more often!

Starting today! Here I am modeling the newest one, I dressed as seventies' as possible to go with the vibe here (do you see one of my new roman shades in the background?):

Also out of the closet, came tumbling this triad of hand-tooled and painted purses, from when the Goodwill Outlet was still over next to Bicentennial Mall (glory days). How could I pass them up? The one in the middle is one purse (is that not insane? Like RuPaul's signature dress-modeling line "This is the front...and this is the back."). Again, if you want perfect strangers to come up on you with their memories of making similar handicrafts in their high school days, these are the bags for you (who I am kidding, it is my favorite thing for people to come up to me and tell me about their memories of making similar handicrafts in their high school days...teach me your secrets!!). It's a smaller category than box purses, but I am also remembering that I left two out that are still in there with the forties' purses and the Enid Collins bags (shhhh).

Enough about me though-- what do you think? Do have any of these in your collection slash have you made one before? What is there in your closet that you don't use a lot but would NOT pass up in a vintage sale setting? Are you one who has thirty different bags for every day of the month or do you default to a single method of junk-conveyance and stick with it? Let's talk!

That's all for today, but I have even more closet confessionals (from the great purge of the new year) to share with you later this week! Have a great Monday and I'll see you tomorrow! :) Til then.


  1. Replies
    1. You know it! Killer on one side, prey on the other. (What was the person who made it thinking?! I want to be that person)

  2. i have a leather one with some flowers tooled on it that i got at the goodwill outlet that gets so many compliments whenever i wear it out! i have two box purses too, but haven't carried them for the same reasons you listed. they are just so awkward!

    1. I'm glad you agree! I need to add another problem to the list-- things falling out of it! I am so terrified the closure on the box purse I carried today and yesterday will snap open and leave all my Goodwill receipts and makeup and loose change rollin' down the street!

  3. 1) I love them all- great collection!!!
    2) I, too, have had thrift store clerks try to ring up one of my possessions. Typically my wallet. I don't get it.
    3) I SO miss the days when the thrifts overflowed with cheap vintage!! Those were also high school days for me. Sigh.

    1. 1) Thanks! I need to cut down by about 3, but I love them all, too!
      2) Isn't it weird trying to explain to them their mistake though? "Oh, no, that belongs to me. That is already mine. I probably got it here, but in a previous, cash transaction."
      3) RIGHT?! I keep trying to explain to people the pre-internet vintage market, even the very little of it I was able to enjoy....glory days!

  4. Ah, box purses! A subject near and dear to my heart! I like your collection--and I am happy to see that you collect box purses of this type (decoupaged, hand-made, bird-or-floral themed) because they are exactly the kind that I do not collect...not because I don't like them, but because I have made myself specialize because otherwise, I would attempt to have ALL TEH BOX PURSES. But whenever I see one, I always sincerely hope that someone cool snaps it up, and so I am glad that you are out there giving them a good home. For me, I collect Caro-Nan basket bags and the occasional Enid. They ARE awkward to carry. You've got to be in the mood for the hassle and also the attention--they are eye-catching and people do love to comment on them. Everyone's Great-Aunt Myrtle from Mississippi carried a Caro-Nan to church, and you WILL have to hear all about it if you carry one. Fortunately, I deeply enjoy stories of people with names like Myrtle. I also have a hand-tooled leather bag that I picked up at the November flea, I think. It's a cutie, I'll have to put it on the blog...I am such a blog slacker these days.

    1. I LOVE your Enid and Caro-Nan bags that I've seen on the blog and on you in real life, though! You have a great eye for those things. It's wise of you to specialize, like you said, because otherwise you end up with a closet full of things you don't even know you have because they're so far back in the back, behind all the stuff! (Guilty). Put that bag up on your blog, I wanna see it! :D



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