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Lady Violette

The Romantic Lifestyle

Posts Tagged ‘Purses’

Restoring Vintage Reptile Purses & Skin Bags From the 1950’s Using Vintage Scarves for Handles & Ties

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Lady Violette de Courcy's Collection of Vintage 1950's Reptile Handbags with Scarf Wrapped Handles

I have several reptile skin handbags from the 1950s that are in good condition except for one thing – without exception the handles were all unusable because they were made out of a thin strip of leather with the reptile skin glued over the top. That skin had deteriorated from use, age, and the glue used when they were made. In many cases it was too cracked and had broken off and it looked terrible. This is why other people threw these handbags away and I managed to get them for very reasonable prices.

My first try was to take them to a good shoe and leather repair shop to find out what they could do to replace the handles. I actually visited three shops for estimates. The verdict was unacceptable as they could not, match the skins and any other repairs they suggested wouldn’t be as pretty and would cost way too much – more for fixing one bag than I had already invested in my entire collection of 6 of them! I didn’t think these shops were being very creative!

I love the styles of these purses. Very lady like and formal and to be carried not flung over your shoulder. They are just so feminine and civilized. And, of course this is currently in style on the runways if anyone cares about that. New ones are being designed by all the big names and cost a small fortune.

Late 1940’s Vintage Crocodile Skin Bag With Scarf Wrapped Around Damaged Handle & Tied at One End

Of course I developed my own solution – both affordable and pretty as can be while remaining well suited to the original era of these purses. I am getting asked about it and getting compliments on my bags every day I use them. So here is what I did.

Example One: The Crocodile bag pictured above had a badly split, but still attached handle. I simply took a very long and tough oblong shaped scarf which is a synthetic chiffon from India in a leopard skin print and pulled it through the metal link on one end of the handle until it reached the middle of the scarf (so both ends were equal lengths. I then double wrapped the handle by wrapping one end around, then overlapping it by wrapping the other end around until I got the entire handle covered. At the end I tied a secure and attractive knot to hold the scarf in place and create the decorative scarf tie ends as shown. None of this gets in the way of opening or closing the bag. The handle is now reinforced and no one can see that it is broken under the fabric. This took a lot of fabric. The scarf I used is 76 ” long and 18″ wide!

Vintage 1950's Navy Bag From France With Handle Repaired Using a Belt & Scarf

Example Two: The elegant navy bag above is actually leather, not snakeskin. I love the hardware on it! It is a burnished gold with little stars embossed on it like a piece of elegant costume jewelry. It’s leather handle was unusable. I had to remove it. I was left with a metal ring on end to which the original handle had been attached. The circumference of the metal rings was not very big.

My solution was to take a very thin vintage belt that I happened to already have that would fit through the rings. It also happened to be red and it is what is now under the scarf. It doesn’t match the bag at all but it doesn’t have to as it is completely covered  by the scarf. The job of the belt is to create a strong secure handle. I simply pulled it through and buckled it! The buckle is hidden under the scarf at the V on top of the handle. The length is perfect buckled on the smallest size of an S length belt.

I then took a large square silk scarf in a pretty complimentary print, folded it in a triangular half, then brought each end inwards to the center folding to create a long skinny scarf folded rectangle with the points at each end (such as you would to tie it around your neck) and pulled the scarf through the belt halves at the top of the V in the middle of the handle. I secured the scarf with a knot at the middle of the buckle, then began wrapping each side individually downward, tightly covering the belt and pulling its two sections together, until I got to each of the ends with equal scarf point lengths remaining. I carefully knotted them to look about the same and dangle down artistically on each side of the bag. This makes a very secure handle with double strong leather straps inside the silk scarf wrap. I think it is also very attractive. The scarf I used is slippery shiny soft silk and is a huge square. It is a small geometric print with large paisleys on it and a navy border around the edges. It just happened to work out well for this particular bag.

Vintage 50's Snake Skin Bag With New Handle Made of a Silk Cord Belt Decorated with a Chiffon Square Scarf Tie

Example Three: This Bag is in Perfect Condition Now! I removed the completely broken down original handle and pulled a brown silk cord belt I just happened to have through the metal loops doubled it and knotted it at the correct length letting the ends with the decorative knots on them hang down on one side. I then took a small vintage 50’s silk chiffon square scarf in complimentary browns, gold, orange, white, and green colors and pulled it through the knot and tied it into a fluffy little floppy bow to decorate the one end of the purse. Voila! I have given this purse a new life and I didn’t spend any money on expensive repairs.

The cost of the above purse and renovation was: $9.95 for the purse at an estate sale. (Good price due to broken strap!) 99 cents for scarf at a thrift shop. And the cord belt I already had on my miscellaneous belt rack. I spent $11 total on this lovely spring bag! It is very clean inside and even has its original coin purse, mirror and comb intact!

Beautiful Real Black Patent Leather Vintage 1960's Bag From England

Example Four: Here is Real Black Patent Leather Purse. It is from England and I think it was made in the 1960’s. It is large and roomy and perfectly clean inside. The handles on this one were in great shape with no problems at all. The clasp is a pretty silver with an embossed design like a piece of jewelry. This bag needed no repairs. It is gleaming white leather inside. I doubt if it was used very much being that there isn’t a scratch on it. I got it an an estate sale for a very good price because the kids selling it thought it was terribly out of style. I offered $10 and they accepted. I got it home and I liked it but it did remind me of my grandma! She always says “Get me my handbag, Dear…” and it is huge black bag quite similar to this full of everything under the sun. It weighs a ton the way she packs it up. She takes it to town sitting on the passenger seat of her Oldsmobile and it gets her through the day! It gets its own seat. She would never put it on the floor. It gets its own chair at restaurants too! That is how large and important it is to her.

Anyway, for days when I have to carry around 50 pounds of daily gear myself, I now have this bag to remind me of my Grandma! I wanted to jazz it up though which is why I tied  on this perfect for spring shiny black silk square scarf in a big pink dahlia print. I wear a lot of pink and this ties it all together with the shiny black bag and black patent leather pumps. The scarf brings the giant bag up to date and gives it a now fashionable Mad Men Style vibe. I can see Joan Henderson carrying this to the office in one of her bright pink wiggle dresses circa 1960. The scarf choice is perfect for this bag as it also has little jacquard polka dots in black on black which you can just barely see in this photograph.

I simply tied this large silk square scarf in a self knot loop pulling the ends through once and let the silken tails flow long and gracefully down to the front on one side. Tying a scarf to your bag makes you more conscious of how you tote your purse and forces you to behave in a more ladylike manner to show off the both the scarf and the bag. It is good self discipline. Like finishing school for the carrying your scarf tied purse.

Palizzio New York Snakeskin Bag Decorated with a 1950's Scarf Tied on One Side

Example Five: This is a beautiful late 1950’s vintage snakeskin bag from Palizzio New York. It is in good condition except that the handle is getting the same kinds of age related problems described above and will soon probably go. I am being careful with it. I will wrap the entire handle when it becomes necessary. For now I am decorating it simply with a same vintage large silk square scarf tied in a soft and sensual large floppy bow on one side.

I have a big hatbox full of vintage scarves in many shapes and colors that I ruffle through for an appropriate match to tie on my purses, baskets, in my hair or around my neck. I also use them as sashes, wrap my jewelry in them to keep it clean and safe and a bit padded, put them over small tables and sometimes drape them over a lampshade to soften the light or add a touch of color to a room with the light glowing through the colors of the scarf fabric. Scarves have a million uses! I use them to wrap bundles and presents, as bracelets and necklaces, as a sling when I broke my arm. I have even learned to tie large ones as skirts, dresses and halter tops. They make great summer wear. I love using them as shawls and stoles and as wrap around skirts. For these reasons one can never have too many of them. There is warmth in the winter months too. It always helps to have a warm scarf around your neck or a shawl draped over the shoulders of your woolen coat to make you even warmer.

I believe everyone needs an ample scarf collection. I find most of mine in thrift stores and consignment shops. I get amazingly nice ones for very reasonable prices from these sources. I look at the scarf racks every time I go into these places. I have even found really beautiful designer scarves this way. I even have three gorgeous Hermes scarves that I found in thrift stores. But, honestly, many non famous designer scarves are just as beautiful as those made by big names. I always look for cotton, silk, pure wool, Pashima, cashmere, wool challis  and occasionally blends. But the natural fibers tend to produce superior bows and stay tied better. Scarves are one of the best buys you can find in thrift shops. Only yesterday I picked up 6 of them for 99 cents each. This was at least $150 worth of scarves had I purchased them as new retail merchandise. And they are all in perfect condition. I make it a practice to buy vintage only if it is clean and in very good condition. I think many scarves are given as gifts and are often not even worn. Then, when people clean out they pitch them. This is to our great advantage as vintage and thrift store shoppers because we can find real beauties for exceptionally good values. And scarves can transform your wardrobe very easily as you will have seen if you are following all my scarf tying and scarf using posts in this blog. I actually call them my transformers.

Palizzio Very New York Snakeskin Purse - Vintage 1950's - With a Scarf Wrapped Repaired Handle

Example Six: A beautiful Snakeskin bag from Palizzio’s Very New York collection circa 1950’s in a black and brown combination with gold hardware. The handle on this purse was completely damaged – broken, cracked. unusable. I removed it and replaced it with a narrow vintage belt, then pulled a long chiffon print scarf through the ring on one side and braided it around the belt from one side to the other completely concealing the supporting structure of the underlying belt in the wrapped fabric. I did a two strand braid using the belt as the third braid strand. You will be able to figure that out if you know how to braid using three strands. Just start in and the method will become apparent as you work. When I got to the end of wrapping the handle I tied what was left into the bow at the side and additionally embellished it with a butterfly brooch. The Butterfly looks like he just flew in and landed on the flowered scarf! The scarf I used here is silk chiffon 76″ long x 18 ‘ wide. It has a black background and is printed with yellow, medium blue, cream and red accents in stylized flower and paisley patterns.

As far as what types of scarves to use for each bag and handle, this is pretty hard to advise without seeing the purse you intend to wrap and the selection of scarves you have at your disposal. I can suggest that you will need to use large scarves as the wrapping, braiding and tying uses up a lot of fabric. As I was beginning to do this I tended to choose smaller scarves and it wasn’t always working. I would end up without enough scarf at the end to tie a nice decorative bow or streamer. The best advise I have is to experiment. And don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it right with the first attempt. I have had to work at some bags with a couple of scarves to end up with one I liked to use.

I have wrapped each of these bags ahead of time so that they are ready for me to shift my contents into quickly when I want to change out my purse for a different one. That way I do not have to fiddle around trying to get a perfect wrap and bow tie job done as I am trying to rush out the door and get some place on time. I keep my entire collection of purses and bags all tied up and ready for use. I also keep my hatbox of vintage scarves all cleaned and pressed and folded at the ready for use when needed.

Black Vintage 50's Snakeskin Bag with Vintage Cacharel Silk Foral Print Scarf & Antique Onyx, Silver & Marcasite Brooch

Example Seven: This is a very sweet small black snakeskin purse with silver hardware. It is vintage 1950’s. The original handle is still barely functional.I decided to decorate this one with a small silk 18″ square floral printed Cacharel scarf to make it ready for spring. The scarf is black with a lavender inner border and pastel flowers that resemble little violas. Some have light silky grey bits in the flowers that I think look nice with the silver accents on the bag. A plain pretty scarf didn’t seem like quite enough decoration so I added the my antique silver and onyx brooch/pendant also trimmed with sparkly marcasite stones. I am only using it this way because it has a good safety setting so I know it won’t come off and get easily lost! You could also sew a nice decorative button on over the knot if you had one you liked to use there. This handle will last awhile longer but, as you can see in the photo it is bending where the snakeskin is creasing. These are the places that show the aging effects of the drying skins and eventually break through. There isn’t really anything you can do to prevent these age related effects from eventually happening. I just recommend keeping an eye on your bag handles and silk scarf wrapping them when it becomes necessary. By no means throw out these beautiful purses just because the handles aren’t perfect any longer!

Handle repair alternatives: I looked into attaching chains to use as handles but I didn’t like the heavy metal hanging down over the snakeskin and I thought it could easily damage the rest of the purse. The character wasn’t right either, to my way of thinking, on a feminine vintage purse. I prefer the look of a soft and feminine silk scarf. I also thought about making a beaded handle and I may eventually try that. I have seen a raffia wrapped one that someone else did. She used the raffia you can purchase to use for tying up presents and making bows and wrapped the handle as I do with the scarves. She finished it off with a big poufy raffia bow and lots of extra raffia ends sticking out. She called it a festive look for hitting the clubs in Miami with her retro 50’s snakeskin bag. It would be cute with the right outfit! I am in cold Seattle and not hitting Miami clubs so I need a more day to day social, going shopping, going to work, or attending a meeting looking purse. The scarf ties on my lady like snakeskin, crocodile, alligator and leather purses work well for me with my style of vintage coats, dresses and suits. I think they look both lady like, fashionable and professional which is the look I want to pull off. I get lots of compliments on the look I achieve so I can only guess it must be accomplishing the effect I want and working out the way I want it to. What people say to you out on the streets is always a good gauge of how well your fashion choices are actually working!

In the summer I go all out tying my colorful vintage basket purses with bright and cheery scarves. I’ve shown some of those on my past blog posts and will do more as summer approaches. If you want to see all my scarf tying posts search for them on this blog. Ditto my vintage purse posts. I have done quite a few. I am always putting up more as I am a big scarf wearing fan. Everybody can learn to use their scarves. There is no reason to have them languishing in a dresser drawer or eventually giving them away to a thrift store! Get them out and use and enjoy them!

My Personal Spring Collection of Seven Vintage Scarf Tied Skin Bags

Inspiration: Here is my entire lineup of seven vintage reptile, patent and leather bags that are now tied up with vintage scarves and ready to use. Four of these had seriously damaged handles and could not be used at all until I had done them over in this way. Now they are all ready to grab and go! (By the way do not use leather cleaner on reptile bags! It ruins them. I use only a dampened with water soft cotton cloth.) Personally I really like the shapes of these purses. Again, they are so finished looking, lady like and girly. This is a perfect example of restoring, redoing, reusing and enjoying nice things from the past isn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beaded and Metallic Gold Embroidered Black Velvet Evening Handbag, Belt, Buttons, Scarf/Shawl ~ A Vintage Ensemble Inspired by Matching Accessories from India Circa 1930’s in Razia Zardozi Style

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

Vintage Ensemble Featuring Accessories From India Decorated in Metallic Embroidery & Glass Beads & Stones ~ Silk Satin Evening Dress, Black Silk & Velvet Belt with Gold Embroidery, Sheer Black Silk Chiffon Scarf/Shawl Trimmed with Gold Edgings & Red Glass Stones, and Embroidered East Indian Evening Bag ~ all circa 1930. On the Table a Pair of Black Suede Evening Pumps Trimmed with a Satin Bow by Palter De Lisa circa 1950 with Large Black Velvet, Pearl and Metallic Gold Embroidered Buttons Used as Shoe Clips. Jewelry by Liz Palacios San Francisco.

I am posting more photos of the Vintage Black Velvet Indian Embroidered & Metallic Beaded Evening Purses and adding pictures of the matching accessory items ~ belt, evening scarf/stole/shawl, and buttons ~ of the same textile technique/ ethnic art form so you can view them as I described them in my post yesterday. I am often inspired to put together an entire look by a key piece, such as one of these evening bags, or by a technique used to create a textile or embellishment. I love this look! It reminds me of English  Elizabethan gowns, the glamorous movie stars of the 1930’s and graceful East Indian women in saris all at the same time. I have borrowed a little something from each of them to achieve my own unique look with items from my eclectic collection.

The Three Embroidered Evening Clutches that Constitute My Mini Collection of 1930's Indian Embroidered & Beaded Evening BagsI am often asked where I find the items in my collections and I am going to try to explain that as often as possible. It is not an easy answer ~ I don't just go to one place and buy them! They are hard to find, It often takes years of searching and a good trained eye to spot them. I patiently sift through immense amounts of junk to eventually locate just one treasure - I go to antique stores - where you find things at the highest prices, because they often know what they have. I also shop flea markets, fun because you never know what you might find there. Thrift stores, charity shops, church bazaars, rummage sales, hospital donation shops, the Goodwill, (but I don't find much there as they are now selling anything they recognize as special on their eBay stores.) The Salvation Army is doing eBay as well. I buy and sell on eBay sometimes, but I feel it is very difficult. I prefer to see, inspect, hold and decide on an item in person. Garage and yard sales, estate sales, sometimes auctions, antique malls with many dealers in small booths, consignment shops, estate sales, asking friends if I know they are moving, or not interested in those goodies they inherited in a trunk when Grandma dies, elderly friends who are downsizing and moving into retirement homes, the retirement homes themselves often hold senior sales where the residents can sell things they are no longer using and do not have space for. These are a great source for well cared for vintage hats, purses, costume jewelry, treasured sets of fancy antique dishes, vases, even old wedding dresses. I even got a sewing machine and button hole attachment at one of these. The people are nice and love to see their things go to young women who appreciate them.

Embroidered Evening Handbag #1 ~ Circa 1930

 

 

 

Embroidered Evening Handbag #2 ~ India Circa 1930

 

 

 

 

I am one of those younger women whose taste can be summed up like this: If your grandmother liked it I probably will too. So these ladies love me! I have bought something they had on display and started to talk to them and they make appointments with me to come back to see other things they think I might like that they hadn’t brought along to this sale. They love to have me over to tea and show me things and tell me all about the stories of their youth, when they wore the items and what life used to be like back in the old days. I also enjoy this! I have ended up making some wonderful friends and great connections by spending the time listening to these women tell me the stories. One lady, of 96 years had just recently remarried! She was like a young bride of 28! Full of joy, but also full of the wisdom of her age. She had moved out of a large home to live with her new husband and had had to downsize considerably. She was selling many of her belongings on Craig’s list. I answered her add for a Singer Featherweight 221 sewing machine. During the discussion she told me she had sewed all her own clothes for many years and still had all the patterns. I expressed interest! She was really pleased! When she returned from her honeymoon I visited her in her new home and she gave me her life in sewing patterns. And the stories of each outfit she had made and the fabrics she had used. I have Dorothy’s life in her sewing patterns! And it is an amazing story. I am planning to post this story on my blog at some point.

Embroidered India Evening Handbag #3 ~ Circa 1930

These Indian Handbags came respectively from a #1) thrift store in Seattle, WA, in 2002, #2) an elderly lady who was moving in Portland, OR, in 2000, and #3) a church charity store in Houston, Texas in 1998.

Collecting vintage items is both fun and frustrating. One of my friends who is in IT and is an online gamer compares it to World of Warcraft for guys! He says it is all about the joy of the hunt. You never know what you may find! what unique and fantastic treasure may be lurking around the corner!  Once he came up with this explanation I seemed to be able to be more tolerant of his interest in gaming and he understood why I like going to estate sales and antique malls and charity and  thrift stores! But he won’t go with me! He has not got the patience for it. Thus he doesn’t get the rewards – except for the current favor I have done him by showing him that you can find fantastic designer and vintage silk men’s ties in the same types of places I find my treasures! And these are good for the times you have to dress up in business suits and look good and don’t want to spend $130 t0 $180 on a new tie! The vintage ties are often more beautiful and in great condition. And I find them for $2 to $12 versus the $80 To $200 range in better men’s stores.

Besides, recycling is so good for the environment! these lovely items from the past are in good shape and beautifully made and deserve to be used and appreciated again! And your style is so much more fascinating and original if you mix new and old together to create something totally original and unique!

The Three Exotic East Indian Evening Handbags Juxtaposed ~ Circa 1930's ~ Black Velvet Decorated with Metallic Embroidery, Cabochon Stones and Glass Beads

So, here are the Three Vintage Indian Circa 1930’s Handbags, again, and I will also list the matching accessory items I have found over the years: A slim velvet evening belt trimmed in the same metallic embroidery, two large buttons which can be used to fasten a black jacket or cape or to decorate a pair of evening pumps, and a sheer black silk chiffon scarf/stole/shawl trimmed with matching embroidery and stones at each end to wrap around your neck or drape seductively around your shoulders! I saw a gorgeous black velvet evening jacket completely covered in this metallic embroidery and cabochon stones and beads attributed to the 1930’s in a thrift shop in Philladelphia. It was totally encrusted and weighed a ton. It was also an extra large size and extremely expensive. Due to the huge size and weight of the piece I couldn’t even consider it! I am small and it would have drowned me, but the decorative work was utterly amazing! I mention this so that you know these pieces exist and you might be lucky enough to find one! I think the jacket was priced at about $500. It looked as if it had never been worn. I think these kinds of items survived because they were very dressy and people only wore them for special occasions then kept them carefully wrapped and boxed up in a drawer or closet. This is good for us as they have survived in good shape for us to rediscover and use again!

Shoes Trimmed with Buttons as Shoe Clips

The pretty evening bags surface from time to time. I think they were popular gift items too and also were given as Christmas, birthday, anniversary and Valentine’s Day presents. I have a theory that beautiful bags, gloves, scarves, men’s silk ties, lingerie and costume jewelry often fell into that category and being valued as special occasion treasures were worn very little. I have often found them in their original boxes or paper wrappings with the gift card enclosed ! ~ from 80 years ago!

Details ~ Handbag, Belt & Shawl

This is utterly amazing! I posted a blog about my three Indian Evening Bags yesterday, and began to write and photograph this piece. Then I had to go to an appointment and found another one that very afternoon in a horribly junky little thrift store in Kirkland, WA. It was just dumped into the filthy purse bins in the back of the store. Fortunately it hadn’t been crushed! But it was very dirty. I brought it home and cleaned it up and now it looks quite good! It is different that these three! It has more green stones. I have to mend it a bit, but then I will post photos so you can see it. I’ll post a photo of all four of them so you can see how the designs differ. I love the fact that they are handmade and no two seem to be alike!

Beautiful Vintage Embroidered and Beaded Black Velvet Evening Bags From India – Circa 1930

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

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Three Vintage Evening Bags from India Circa 1930's are black velvet decorated with metallic silver and gold embroidery accented with glass beads and cabochons. The small evening purses are envelope style clutches with optional braid shoulder straps which can be tucked inside to hand carry the bag. These were elegant pieces used to accessorize black evening outfits and look equally lovely today worn with any Little Black Dress - long or short - and some delicate gold and colored stone jewelry. Narrow black velvet belts decorated with the same type of embroidered design and buttons about one inch in diameter were also available to add as matching accents to your dress and evening jacket. I have also seen sheer black silk chiffon stoles decorated with a band of the matching metallic embroidery and stones on each end. None of these evening purses are labeled so I have no further information as to the source they originally come from. I have found them in different times in different places. Just beautiful! And I can imagine how lovely an evening gown worn with the matching belt and stole would be! The buttons could be used on a jacket or as clips to decorate a pair of sexy black heels! Assembling such an elegant circa 1930's evening ensemble is something inspiring to work toward in my constant quest for quintessential vintage glamour!

Carry On In High Style! Vintage Basket Purses & Contemporary Woven Basket Totes Make Inspiring Colorful & Lightweight Spring & Summer Handbags!

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

2001 Vintage Cole Haan Cheery Cherry Straw Tote

Day 1: Come sort with me. By getting all my spring and summer clothes and accessories out and putting warm weather looks together I’m trying to inspire better weather to come to Seattle where it has been colder than it is in Moscow, Russia almost every day over the last 4 weeks! This is the coldest spring on record in Seattle! I’ve been going through my closet for a couple of days trying to prepare for warmer weather. I can, at least, add spring accessories to warm clothes to start with! A scarf or colorful bag will cheer me up, but I won’t freeze to death as I will if I wear a breezy dress or mini skirt. One problem with being fashionably thin, for me at least, is that I am always cold unless it is quite warm out. I love the fashion freedom warm of weather when I can wear anything I like and still be comfortable! Now I am just dreaming about that!

I adore this cheerful market tote by Cole Haan with the cherry cluster on the front. It has a big squares pink and red designer gingham lined interior with leather compartments that can be used for a cell phone and sunglasses, zippered pockets and a strong reinforced black leather bottom as well as the black leather rim and strong leather handles that won’t break! Leather laces tie the top closed for security. It looks like a breezy casual basket, but it is actually a marketing sized tote handbag that is very sturdy and well made! It’s big enough to shop with and fill up with small purchases. Stores do not give out plastic or paper bags where I live. A city ordinance was passed which requires you to bring your own bag. I’ll carry a shopping tote and put a wrapping scarf inside in case I end up with something to carry that is too big for my tote. I have been using the traditional Korean scarf wrapping method lately. I will post information about it soon. You make a carrying bag out of a big scarf. It is both convenient and attractive.

I have had this Cherry bag and used it every summer for 10 years! I bought it new from a Cole Haan shop. Is it contemporary or vintage now? Or at that awkward in between point? That is a good question! It was new 10 years ago. I have taken good care of it. It looks vintage. It is getting older. It’s a classic and I will not ever give it up! I’m going to keep this one.

Here’s how my mind works: I love straw, I love gingham, I love  everything with cherries! I love to eat them, I love maraschino cherries in cocktails, I love cherry blossoms! Come to think of it this bag might be cute worn with a breezy romantic cherry blossom pink dress. I sometimes like to wear red and pink together, so I’m going to try it. And the black leather is a good touch as it makes this go with black clothing or accessories. The 10 year old Cole Haan Cheery Cherry Straw Tote is definitely a keeper! And the last big important question I ask myself is: If I were rich and could buy anything I wanted would I keep this bag or get rid of it and get something else? The answer is, I’d keep it! I love it! I never get anything in the first place unless I really want it!

Vintage Cole Haan ~ Straw & Leather Wildflower Tote

Next Day: I am going to be sure I’ll be ready to dash out if and when the sun appears. Unfortunately it is windy and freezing again today. It’s too awful to go out so I’ve been sorting out and photographing my collection of vintage purses and decided I should do my contemporary ones as well. How to arrange your stuff so you can find it when dressing in a hurry is always a challenge and one has to develop her own methods.I’m organizing them in logical to me groupings. One such is summer basket style handbags, totes and purses.

Recently strolling through a really grungy thrift store of all places I spied this Cole Haan Basket Purse in the back of the store hanging from a nail on the wall. Other shoppers were standing right in front of it looking at several bags on the rungs below it. I tried to act nonchalant and not look at this one, not even look up, hoping and praying that it would not catch their eye. They were discussing the pros and cons of buying up a trio of old dirty Coach bags to attempt clean up and sell on eBay for a profit. I patiently waited pretending to look at old curtains hanging nearby. And I listened. None of them had ever sold anything on eBay, but they had heard you could sell Coach on there and make a lot of money. The bags under consideration were oil stained and terrible looking. And overpriced at $34.99 and up each! Finally, after fifteen minutes, they decided to take the Coach bags, they put them in their already overflowing cart, and headed off to the checkout counter. The coast was clear and I grabbed my prize!

A brand new, never used, perfect, in mint condition, gorgeous, precious, leather, straw and cloth, wildflower embroidered  Cole Haan Basket Tote handbag! It has a leather base and bottom, straw walls, a leafy green linen interior lining with leather compartments inside, a strong leather drawstring with which to draw the top securely closed and tied, and the prettiest embroidered wildflower garden dancing around the sides! The sturdy leather bottom, interior and handles are a beautiful saddle brown summer neutral color. The multi colored wildflowers will compliment almost every solid colored summer outfit! There was however, one possible problem. There was no price tag on the bag! I went up to the front counter. I asked the price. The cashier didn’t know. She called the manager. He was busy. I waited and waited. He finally appeared. The cashier showed him the bag and asked him, “How much?” He opened it, looked inside, turned it over and over, checked out the bottom, pulled the drawstrings shut, tied them and untied them and tied them again. I waited very quietly and patiently. Finally, he said, “How does $14.99 sound?” I said, “OK.” trying to keep low key. Then he turned to the salesgirl and said, “Give it to her for $12.99 since she had to wait so long!” I said “Oh, thank you, that is nice of you. I appreciate it.” I was happy! he also gave me a 20% discount coupon to use on my next purchase! The moral of this story is: sometimes it pays to ask!

Ann Taylor Straw & Leather Beach Tote with Mother of Pearl Button, Lined in Floral Print Cotton with Matching Sarong in Mini Drawstring Bag! Adorable!

Day 3: Because I knit I stash my unused yarn in my summer tote baskets during cold weather. Why not? It is a good way to sort and store yarn and make double use of closet space. But making this shift means I have to figure out an alternative place to store the yarn when I start using the bags again. Challenging! The one good thing about the seasonal shifting process is finding everything you own again, revisiting it, reevaluating it, deciding to keep it or not, and finally figuring out new ways to wear it! I love the last part! It’s like shopping in my own closet. And I don’t have to spend any money doing it! I feel so rewarded when I come up with new ways to wear something I already have.

The next thing to come out the back of my closet is this straw and leather beach tote from Ann Taylor. It is lined in a black, red and white floral print cotton and came with a matching sarong of the same fabric in it’s own little drawstring bag! It is adorable! The big scarf can be wrapped and tied scarf style, as a sarong skirt, or as a sarong dress. Or – for an elegant resort evening look –  it can be folded in half as a triangle and worn as a shawl over your swimsuit and a long black skirt! Versatile! Theoretically you should be able to throw in a black swimsuit, a black jersey skirt, a pair of sandals, your cosmetic pouch, a bottle of sunscreen, and a hairbrush and have everything you need for a weekend trip to the Bahamas. Or, at the very least, a glamourous day at the beach. Better remember a big straw hat to keep the sun off! And a pair of sunglasses. Everything fits in this bag because it is huge. Throw everything in and button the basket closed with the attractive real mother of pearl button that fastens with a leather loop! I’m dreaming. Today it is so cold and windy out that I am completely bundled up in several thick layers of knits.

I bought this Ann Taylor Giant Beach Tote with it’s matching sarong at the Ann Taylor store in the mall at the end of summer sale a couple of years ago. I’d had my eye on it and I swooped down on it the minute it was marked down. It was 30% off. There were two. I got one!  Like most women I do love purses and handbags. I don’t have a favorite type. I enjoy variety. It keeps things different and exciting! I have a mix of vintage, contemporary, old and new, artsy and designer, inexpensive and, well, you know, expensive. But that is relative… I am very selective as far as quality is concerned. Every bag that makes it into my collection is well made and well designed. There has to be something very unique and special about it. I have to love it visually, find it comfortable to carry and practical to use. These are my general guidelines. Within these guidelines is a lot of room for me to exercise my personal taste!

Liz Claiborne Palm Tree Tote

Macy's Special

A Macy's Special ~ Generic Tote Basket Purse

Day 4: I found these last August during the sales at the local mall. I love end of summer sales! I don’t really look out for them, but I tend to wait for them to happen and somehow, instinctively, wonder into the store at the moment they are happening. I was lucky to find both of these bags at Macy’s for 50% off. The one on the left, by Liz Claiborne, is natural straw painted with palm trees and pineapples. It has wooden handles and leather trim, The inside is lined in a tropical leaf printed fabric. It comes with a handy little matching zippered  pouch to be used as a small purse or cosmetic case. The burnt orange basket purse with round bamboo handles, is also from Macy’s end of summer sale. It is a generic brand with no designer name or label. They had them in five colors and they were only $12.99 on sale! It is lined in solid red cotton. I added the scarf for extra flair. I remember now that it was very hot out and I had gone to the mall to be in some air conditioning for a while and escape the heat. We do not have air conditioning in our house. Consequently it is way too cold nine months out of the year and way too hot when summer finally hits for 3 months out of the year! C’est la vie in Seattle!

Vintage 1950's Cylindrical Basket Purse

Flowered Lid and Side View

Day 5: I can dream of warm sunny days… I am well into my week of wishful thinking! But it is still like the middle of winter here! Today there has been freezing wind, rain, icy sleet, and hail. It is only 1:30 PM and it is way too cold and blustery to go out for a leisurely stroll. They have been putting sandwich boards out on the streets to advertise summer markets opening outdoors in June! Last night we went out to a restaurant in pelting rain and the owner asked the waiter to go out and bring in the sandwich board promoting their specials because it was getting wet. Before he could get out to rescue it the wind had picked up the heavy placard and whirled it into the street where it had crashed into a heap on the pavement and broken. March is, notoriously described as coming “in like a lion and out like a lamb, ” but we are already into May! And the lion is still rumbling and prowling, raging, howling and mad!  It is so cold and wet that anything nice you might wear is blown to pieces and ruined! New and vintage fur coats get drenched by rain. Felt and fur hats are ruined the same way. Umbrellas are blown inside out and destroyed. Designer shoes and boots are damaged by the inevitable mud this frenzied climate produces. This weather is interesting and dramatic in its way but it is not conducive toward dressing up in lovely romantic outfits with delicate clothes and accessories made of precious materials! Silk flowers and feathers and lace do not hold up under such duress! If I dress up in them neither do I! Out of necessity we have to bundle up here. This afternoon I am wearing several layers inside the heated house just to stay warm enough to function! Cold drafts are blowing through the house. And it’s May! I want sunshine! I know it will eventually come, so I am continuing my preparations… I’m having fun in the sun in a way just preparing for it’s eventual arrival!

Now we are getting to the really great finds! My colorful true vintage basket purses. First, the 1950’s cylindrical basket purse above, which stands 10″ tall  and is 8.5″ wide not counting the handle. I paid $6.99 for this bag! Getting a small dog into it would be no problem but I think he would chew himself out and that would be a problem because he would ruin the purse! There is no way that is going to happen! It is in perfect shape. It is lined in hot pink cotton and has an inner pocket. The outrageous 3D hand embroidered straw flowers and leaves are shiny straw each made up of three graduated tones of each color. Black beads that look like watermelon seeds form the centers of each flower. This is one funky bag! I think somebody got it a few decades ago while on vacation. When she got it back to Seattle, in weather like this, she forgot she had it and it got lost in the back of the cupboard. So she never wore it! Another problem with things like this bag in Seattle is that the light here is cool, everything is tinged with a cool grayness which makes bright colors seem jarring to the eye. When I am in California or Mexico I instantly notice the warmth of the sunlight and the fact that bright colors look enticing and appealing in warm light. People can wear tropical colors in that kind of light more easily than they can in grey cool light. Brights are more appealing and easier to use in a warm sunny environment.

This cylindrical basket purse has no labels or country of origin tags. It looks like a tourist souvenir from some tropical resort in the 1950’s that somebody like Lucille Ball brought home with her. Luckily she took good care of it! I plan to carry it to a big summer picnic we attend every year and wear a pastel halter dress and espadrilles with it. And a great big brimmed straw hat tied with trailing long scarves in the colors of the flowers! I have three vintage chiffon scarves from the 60’s that will be perfect ~ a yellow, a coral and a blue.

Longaberger Handwoven Basket Purse, Signed by the Artist

Basket Purse From Hong Kong ~ The House of China

Day 6: Moving on! I found the miniature woven wood basket at a vintage flea market. I paid just $15 for it!  It has the name of the maker and the location on the back. When I got home I looked it up. The Longaberger Baskets are from Ohio and are handmade and highly collectable. Also very expensive – like Coach bags but way more unusual. I love it. It looks like a mini picnic basket to me. It is made of woven wood. I made the printed cloth liner for it with pockets inside. It is 10″ across x 6.5″ tall. The perfect size for a purse in my opinion. This one will be adorable with solid colored or flowery printed dresess that can co-exist with the printed lining which can also be removed or changed if it clashes too drastically.

Next is an adorable Asian style basket purse from Hong Kong ~ The House of China ~ is a vintage 1950’s bag. These were sold in Chinatown in San Francisco and in Seattle at the Shop of China and were well made attractive basket handbags ladies liked to wear with Asian inspired clothing. 9″ across x 6″ tall. I got this one at an retirement community rummage sale for $8! Isn’t the hardware great?

Golden Picnic Basket Purse with Silk Roses Decorated by Lady Violette de Courcy

The next basket purse is one I bought at a thrift store, but it didn’t look like this when I got it! It was a plain straw thing, with a plywood top and a gold buckle tab that looked weirdly fancy on plain wood. I removed the buckle tab and handles, spray painted the purse gold, made a yellow satin lining with a pocket, reattached the handles and tab, and decorated the flat wooden top with beautiful pink silk roses! I love the way it turned out! It looks like the most fru fru 50’s picnic basket imaginable, only it is a nice small purse ~ 6″ tall x 10 ” wide, plus the handles. The handles are encased in plastic tubing which is available through craft shops. You just insert a ribbon, straw, cloth, leather or paper inside so it shows through the clear plastic tube, then attach it to your bag. This makes sturdy strong handles that do not break. I had a few flimsy straw handles on basket purses give out on me so I always look for extra strong handles now or reinforce them myself. It is worth doing this because your straw bag will last years if you reenforce and strengthen the handles it comes with or add completely new ones that are of better materials. The ones to avoid or fix before you use the bag are woven straw. They are notoriously flimsy! Most straw bags and totes are made quickly for inexpensive exports or to sell to tourists. They are often really cute, but not well made, redoing the handles and adding a cloth lining will make them much stronger and lengthen their lives. If I buy or make something this charming I want to get use out of it! I also, admittedly, am sentimental about my accessories and clothes. If I love something I want to keep it, use it, have it around and enjoy it for a long time! That usually means years. So I take really good care of my stuff. I guess you could say I take the term investment clothing seriously. Even if it is a vintage purse I got for a bargain! That just makes me appreciate it even more! I put pink roses on the toes of a pair of 1950’s gold snakeskin stiletto pumps to match this purse. When I find them I’ll post them under shoes of the week photographed along with this little bag. It is a perfect combination!

Flower Basket Handbag from April Cornell 2004

Glazed Straw Flower Purse from April Cornell 2004

Day 7: Last but not least. here are two handbag size small straw basket purses bought at April Cornell on sale when they closed their shop in downtown Seattle in 2004. I miss that store! I liked the pretty printed rayon dresses and the flowery housewares they carried there. And the children’s clothes. Everything was extremely pretty and feminine, very well made, and the style and sizing was reliable. You could take a dress in your size right off the peg and buy it without trying it on and it would always fit the same way and look absolutely great. They had the most beautiful original floral prints. I miss them!

Good thing I still have several pieces. I guess, since they are no longer available, and were very charming and collectable, they are now vintage, even though they only closed in 2004. Generally vintage needs to be older than that but as April Cornell started out looking like it was made in 1920 when it was new, an exception can be made in their case! I do not have rigid definitions of vintage. I think the word can mean anything old, or of a particular era from the Victorian to the 1980’s. Even the 90’s or 2000’s in certain cases like April Cornell. To me it simply needs to be of a bygone era, look old, no longer be available, be very unusual and unique or a combination of these things. I have many vintage items that are really old. There is no question about a dress from 1930. It is definitely vintage. Or a pair of Victorian shoes. Again, definitely vintage. Things post 1980 have to be considered on a one by one basis! I know this is a touchy subject with some people. Definitions remain flexible and should! True vintage or newer, but vintage inspired, straw bags  are fun alternatives to heavy leather purses and give off a delightfully feminine and colorful artsy bohemian vibe well suited to summer weather when it finally arrives!

Straw basket purses were popular for casual wear during the summer and while on vacations during the 1930’s – 50’s. They are light weight and airy looking. They can be purchased at street stands while traveling or in department stores during the spring and summer seasons. You can often find cute old fashioned ones in vintage shops as I have demonstrated here. Contemporary designers, like Cole Haan, Ann Taylor, Kate Spade and Liz Claiborne, make better quality ones designed to last with more durable traditional handbag construction and leather bases and handles. Asian import shops often carry inexpensive new versions, and world wide markets often offer them. Baskets, like that other favorite accessory of mine, scarves, are an historically favorite international accessory that have been made and used by people of all cultures all over the world. Wherever baskets are traditionally made a basket with handles can be found and used as a market tote, luggage, a handbag, a purse or picnic basket!

I want Brie and French bread and a glass of wine now! And I want to carry it down to the park and eat it on the grass! But, alas, it is raining cats and dogs out! Today I will have to have my picnic in the kitchen, but I can spread out my checkered gingham tablecloth and enjoy looking at a basket of fruit on the dining table! And get my picnic basket out and ready to pack up on the first nice day! Hopefully it will be bright and sunny tomorrow! And, hopefully, those little pink and white daisies that I like will have popped up in the grass in spite of the fact that the state of Washington has banned planting them!

Why am I living in a city where the sun hardly ever shines and beautiful little flowers growing in the grass are banned? Not because it is my final choice! But, I am here now, and like the sun and the daisies, nothing can hold back beauty and the force of nature that it is. Somehow, like the hearty wildflower that comes back in the grass year after year, it survives and pops up to cheer us in the most unlikely times and places. When I see beauty , in any form, perhaps a sunny moment, wildflowers blooming in cracks in a sidewalk, and quirky individual artistic beauty expressed by a person of any age or style in unexpected places I am pleased and inspired to continue living and creating and carrying on. Beauty is important. It gives inspiration, joy and reason to life! So, whatever happens we must carry on!

How to Tie and Wear a Scarf on a Purse or Bag from Lady Violette! You Can Style and “Pursonalize” Your Spring and Summer Bags and Baskets with Bright Scarves Tied to Decorate the Rings or Handles!

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Plain Basket Purse Pretty But Boring!

Scarf Tied Basket! For a Summery "Pursonal" Effect!

An attractive bag can be made even prettier with the addition of a silky colorful scarf tied to the handle. This one is a chiffon square folded in half in a triangle, then the triangle point folded into the center, then folded in half again to make a long skinny rectangle. The folded scarf is then looped through the handle or ring of your basket, handbag or purse and tied into one soft knot or a floppy bow for an easy to do, ultra feminine scarf tie decorating your bag and making it very “pursonal.” I call it “pursonalized!”

I have used 18″ square scarves on these two bags, but any shape will work. You can tie an oblong scarf into a bow for a slightly different look. A larger square can be folded the same way to start and made into a bigger bow as well.

This is a cute casual look for a beach basket, or a dressy look on a leather bag. You can get a lot of variety out of a single bag by using different scarves for decoration. Now that I have started doing it I never want to use the two bags I’ve used for this demonstration without a scarf again! They are so much more fun with the extra color and softness of the scarf addition! I have even seen this done on luggage at the airport to mark a suitcase and distinguish it from similar ones in the baggage claim. Don’t use your best scarves for that purpose though! They are likely to receive rough treatment! A bandana or inexpensive cotton scarf will work on luggage. The point is to make it look unique so you can find your suitcase in a crowd. I recommend as colorful a scarf as possible tied to the handle of your suitcase or travel bag. Your goal is to “pursonalize” your luggage. And have fun!

I like to make fall and winter bags, like the purple leather one below, look more summery by tying on a bright contemporary scarf or a flowered vintage scarf. It cheers me up and gives me more variety and mileage out of my bags. Some purses or baskets I have are open on the top and I tie a scarf on both handles as a way to hold them together and keep the bag closed for added security. It is often handy to have that scarf along for unexpected reasons too! Like needing to tie your hair back in a ponytail or getting caught in a rainstorm and needing a head covering. Look at all the style variations I have for the bag below! It is almost like having four different purses! When I am busy or rushed I often find it easier to change the scarf I’ve tied onto my purse for a new look than to switch out the contents to an entirely different bag. Try doing this! I “Pursonally” guarantee it’s fun!

Next week I will explain how to wrap the handle of a designer purse with a scarf like they are doing in Paris! You can do it on regular purses and make them look like designer purses too! It’s a beautiful technique and it protects the handles on your bag as well! And it’s one more pretty way to wear a scarf on a purse to “Pursonalize” it!

You Can Wear the Plain Purple Purse with Gold Hardware!

or You Can Tie a Silk Chiffon Square into a Soft Feminine Bow Tied Scarf !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

or Try the Purple Purse "Pursonalized" with A Darling Vintage Floral Scarf!

or Go For a Contemporary Look with a Geometric Print Ellen Tracy Scarf!

Vintage Violet Clutch Purse – a Good First Knitting & Felting Project!

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Lady Violette's Vintage Violet Clutch Purse - Knitted,Felted, and Decorated with Vintage Buttons

This is a pretty little clutch purse, I hand knitted, felted and decorated with a few unique vintage buttons! It is very easy to make! I recommend it as a first knitting & felting project. I’ll be leading a group of knitting friends through make this purse in March. It requires only one ball Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Bulky yarn. It’s a good way to use and enjoy vintage buttons you’ve collected.

The original pattern is by Leigh Radford,  It is called “The  Clutch You’ll Never Give Up” and is from the book “One Skein” available from Amazon.

The finished size is 10″ W x 6″ H. I’m making another in un-dyed natural yarn with mother-of-pearl buttons and documenting the process in photos as I go. I hope to post these for people to follow as they make the purse as it will help to understand the directions. The background is a poncho I knit and the bead necklace is also my design.

Of course I love all these shades of violet, lilac, lavender and rose! They are so feminine and uplifting! Lady Violette’s signiture colors! There are many shades of violet flowers in nature. I often see African Violets in this shade of violet. Did you know that bees love pinks and purples and are most attracted to flowers in these colors? I plant a lot of flowers in these shades in my garden to attract them. Butterflies love them too!

There is a knitting website called Ravelry, where you can see more renditions of this pattern as interpreted by other knitters. Just go there, type in the pattern name, search, and take a look. It is amazing to see the variety of looks people have made with this same pattern! You will get many ideas for colors and yarns you can use. The yarn I used is the same color and type used originally by the author. It comes in many colors. I suggest a visit to Leigh Radford’s site to check out her beautiful work and read her inspiring advice on artistic thinking and creative recycling! In the days of yore women worked on needlework together exchanging ideas and passing along skills. This is one of the best ways to learn knitting and sewing techniques. I learned this way from childhood – from my grand mother, mother, aunts, and grown-up friends. One more example of The Feminine Arts! The needlework skills are patiently and lovingly passed down from generation to generation. Leigh Radford calls her pattern “The Clutch You’ll never Give Up” and I recommend making it for several reasons: First, you can easily personalize it as I did using my signature color and vintage buttons and it is quick and easy to make. Second, if you learn to knit and sew through making projects that can be completed successfully without frustration, so that you learn to enjoy the process of making something, you will build technical needlework skills that you will never give up, too! Thus this is a great project for beginning level knitters. Thirdly, there are many uses for this little purse – it can be a clutch, or a makeup bag, or a needlework tool bag, or an art supply bag! I am so thrilled by it that I am making a second one that will look entirely different. I have also decided to line this bag because I want a very finished look. The pattern does not call for that but it can be done easily….A great little pattern and clutch purse which is an inspiration to set you off experimenting and creating your own unique accessories.