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Lady Violette

The Romantic Lifestyle

Posts Tagged ‘Vintage Handbags’

Vintage Fur Muffs & Muff Purses ~ and Identification of the Kinds of Furs They Are Made From

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

My Collection of Five Vintage Fur Muffs

I have a small collection of vintage fur muffs. Several of them are also purses. I absolutely love muffs. They are so practical and darling! You can carry them instead of a purse and have a place to keep your hands toasty warm while looking glamorous or romantic.

This is the Lovely Sheared Natural Colored Brown Beaver Muff That Belonged to My Grand Mother

The first one I acquired is the beaver one which was my grandmothers when she was a young woman. It is natural brown colored sheared beaver and very soft. There is a zipper in the back which opens to reveal a roomy satin lined “pocket” compartment which serves as a purse for carrying a few essentials. It has a loop made of heavy satin ribbon to attach the muff to your wrist. My grandmother told me she used it wherever she went in the winter and, most romantically on sleigh rides and when she went ice skating on a lake near their home where the young people gathered for winter socializing and recreation. It is very soft and silky and exceptionally warm. The part of the fur we see in this muff is the part that is located under the stiffer and longer guard hairs that you see on a live beavers coat. They shear off the guard hairs which protect this inner part of the beaver’s coat when processing the fur in this manner. This softest thick part of the coat, under his guard hairs, is what keeps him toasty warm in bitter winter cold and serves as his insulation while he is swimming and working in snow and icy water. His longer outer guard hairs literally serve to guard this amazingly soft and warm inner coat. Water runs right off the guard hairs and when swimming they make him sleeker and faster in the water. Beaver fur is used for garments both with the guard hairs left on it and sheared in the manner of this muff. With the guard hairs on the fur has a courser feel when you stroke it, but this super soft exact part of the fur is located right under the guard hairs next to the leather skin. Snow will slide or shake right off a beaver coat with the guard hairs on it while this inner fur is keeping the wearer, or the beaver, exquisitely warm. A sheared beaver coat is more dressy and elegantly soft and was usually made for garments to be worn for fancier occasions.

This is the Backside of the Sheared Natural Brown Beaver Muff Showing the Zipper that Gives Access Into The Satin Lined Purse Compartment discreetly Hidden Inside The Muff!

Fortunately my grandma took very good care of her sheared treasured beaver fur muff and she gave it to me when I was in the 4th grade doing a school science report on beavers. I lived in Portland OR at the time and every child had to pick a topic for a science project. I chose the beaver who happened, coincidentally to be the official state animal! Of course my topic was approved by the teacher! I did not pick the beaver because he was the state mascot. I picked him because I loved my grandma’s beaver fur muff and my grandpa’s stories about real beaver damns he had observed. They loved beavers and I developed a great affection for them hearing them talk about them. My entire family got involved in helping me and I wrote a spectacular report with great displays which included this very beaver muff! My father took me to visit a professional furrier in downtown Portland who gave me strips of beaver fur to use for my displays. I had a sample with the guard hairs still on it, one that was sheared like this muff, and several that were dyed different colors to show some of the ways the furriers could create different colors and looks with the same type of fur.  I had a white one, several shades of brown, a tan one and a black one.

My rancher woodsman grandfather took me out into the wilds of Idaho to observe a beaver damn and the large beaver colony in action. It was amazing and I will never forget it. We ever so carefully chopped down a stump from a tree that a beaver had felled and mounted it on a wood display block for me to show in my report. My grandpa just happened to have a real set of beaver front teeth in his collection of weird treasures that I was also allowed to use in my display as well! They were long and very stained and sharp and you could see how they were ideal for cutting down entire trees and chewing through logs to make them a usable size in damn building. We displayed these next to the mounted tree stump in a special cigar box with a glass lid mounted in the top!

After the trip to observe the damn, which was quite an excursion, as we packed into the mountains on horseback and camped out for 3 days and nights in order to study them, we constructed a reproduction of the entire beaver colony and damn in a diorama using sticks and mud and moss and stones and other things. We made it small enough to transport and show on top of a table. My grandfather was so excited and willing to help me that we even created a cutaway of the damn to show what it was like inside!

To top things off we displayed his beaver felt hat from the days in which he courted my grandmother, pictures of them in hat and muff and her fashionable brown beaver fur jacket. I do not have those items now. Other family members do! They are in another state so I cannot get pictures to add to this post right now! Sorry!

My report on the beavers was a big success. It was success that I ended up winning the first prize in the state for my Science report. I am sure that the fact beavers were the state animal and are featured pictured on the Oregon state flag helped me win. I was taken to many schools to present my report in person. I sure wish someone had filmed or video taped it! But nobody did that in those days so it is only a legend now! Finally the entire display was featured at OMSI ~ the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in a display with plaques and everything for several years. I was really impressed by the plaques and having my name on them when I was in 4th grade! My family moved from Portland to Seattle a year later and I have no idea what became of my beaver exhibit and report after that.

The conclusion to the story is that I have had tremendous respect for beavers and have truly loved the little guys ever since! I now live in Lynnwood, WA and a couple of years ago an industrious beaver colony built a large damn in a wetlands area just off the 44th Street Exit of Interstate 5. That is the exit I take to get to my house! They quickly built a big damn and it caused a lot of water backup leading to a flood that forced the highway department to close off the roads. The industrious beavers were so adept at building and so determined to succeed that they could not be stopped. ( I really enjoyed watching this transpire!) At first the highway maintenance people tried to redirect them a bit without disturbing them, but it didn’t work! More beaver troops were called in for this emergency project, arrived from somewhere, mysteriously, and built the damn bigger and higher in record time working 247 around the clock in the freezing dead cold of damp and icy winter! The lake,  (Yes! Really! It became a large lake! ) completely blocked off that freeway exit and several blocks in each direction. No one could get through. something had to be done!

The State Wildlife Department organized a swat operation and came in  and captured all these beavers and transported the entire group to a new distant location suited to their lifestyle but far from civilization as we know it! I do not know where they are now, but I hope they have adapted and survived. Every time I pass the wetlands I think about them and I miss them! Of course I think they should be protected. When I use my sheared beaver fur muff I get to tell people what it is and I get to tell my fantastic true story about my 4th grade beaver report. And I get to urge people to protect the existing beaver colonies. This is a perfect opportunity for me to promote the protection of this beautiful animal and I think the muff is doing more good for beaver society that it would if it were destroyed. as the Peta people advocate doing. I have strong personal opinions about this and I feel you can make people care more about issues like animal protection through education and knowledge of the history of the animal and its relationship to people during the development of our society. In our history the quest for beaver pelts was why much of Canada and the western states were explored, settled and developed. Now it is our turn to protect them.

Today I am writing about my muff collection, but, soon I will photograph and post pictures of the 1947 wool cloth coat trimmed in a different kind of fur collar that my grandmother wore with this sheared beaver muff. I will show how the two kinds of fur coordinate with each other really well and can be worn together now, just as she did back then for an elegant put together look. The coat is currently being cleaned and having a button restored so I cannot include it for a few days. I will link the two posts together when I put it up.

Amazingly Soft Sheared Seal as Used in This Muff is Even Softer and Finer Than Exquisitely Soft sheared Beaver!

Most furs have guard hairs to begin with and many can be sheared off to get down to the softest part of the fur which can then be used for elegant garments and fur accessories such as muffs. a sheared fur garment is more delicate than one with the guard hairs left on to continue to guard the fur. This should be rather obvious! The reason some people get confused by two items made of beaver or other fur is that one could be sheared and one could still have the guard hairs on it and they could very legitimately look quite a bit different to the untrained or inexperience eye. Furs can be bleached or dyed different colors or shades as well, just like human hair, so that could change the look as well! It is no wonder people who are new to fur get confused at times! Additionally, designers and furriers have been very creative over the years and have made furs and garments having unusual effects that become difficult to recognize without experience. The more you see, feel, study and collect, the better you will become at correctly identifying fur types. That is why I am writing these posts and showing pictures of my own furs ~ in order to share what I have learned and help others figure out what they have. I hope it is helpful.

This Photo Shows The Back Quilted Silk Satin Side of the Sheared Seal Muff. It is Feather Down Filled for Extra Warmth and Elegance. This Piece Dates to 1912

This muff is made of sheared seal on the front side and quilted silk satin filled with feather down on the back side. it is also lined with silk and filled with feather down on the fur side. I love the color of the silk satin and the decorative stitching pattern used in the quilting stitches. there is a small piped border on each side where you put your hands into the openings. In the next picture I have turned the muff sideways to try to photograph the inside and show the zippered interior purse compartment.

Here you can Look Inside the Sheared Seal fur Muff Purse From the Side Angle and See the Zippered Area For the Purse.

When you turn the fur side in the light you get different effects of coloration depending on how the light hits the pile of the fur.  The entire piece is beautifully constructed.

The Seal Fur Can Be Stroked to Lie in Different Directions Which Gives a Different Effect and Look to the Fur Color

In the next picture I have photographed again in natural light but the color looks different ` a bit cooler, because of the quality of the light hitting the fur. You can change the way the fur lies by stroking it one way or the other. I love to “pet” the muffs when I am using them! You should never brush your furs or comb them. It will damage them. You can smooth them out with your hands gently. Be sure your hands are clean and dry and free of any hand lotion, cosmetics or perfumes as they could damage the furs. If you want to wear perfume you should apply it to your own skin in areas where it will not come into contact with the fur itself.

Please note. I took all the pictures of these muff at the same time. The color fluctuates a lot on this seal one but this is due to the way the nap of the fur is positioned, turning the fur muff, or moving it a bit into a different quality of light.

Dramatic Natural Black/ Brown and White Natural Skunk Vintage 1940s Era Muff with Bakelite Wrist Ring Attached

This vintage 1940s’s muff is natural black/ brown skunk fur which is kind of obvious isn’t it? I am saying that with a sense of humor because I have been asked if it is some really odd things ~ ranging from dog to zebra! I do not think it looks like those animals at all and I think it loos exactly like a skunk, so I can only assume that the people who say such things must not know their animals or look at animals or pictures of them very care fully!

The Dramatic Skunk Muff and Matching Stole Ensemble Circa 1940s is a Real Vintage Show Stopper!

This skunk muff is not a purse but it does come with a matching stole! The muff is made up of six skunk pelts and the stole is made up of 24 skunk pelts! I have written extensively about the skunks fur and how to recognize it in my previous post on this skunk ensemble * .  Sometimes skunk is dyed jet black.

Fluffy And Incredibly Soft Silver Fox Fur Muff With Double Hand Compartments

This incredibly fluffy long haired vintage muff purse is Silver Fox Fur. It is only fur on the font side and is backed with black textured fabric. It has a black satin wrist strap. It is uniquely designed to have two compartments for your hands, one for each hand. There are several kinds of natural foxes and they are different natural colors – not dyed. Sometimes fox fur is dyed as well. In the future I will show you different kinds of natural fox fur in different colors so you can see the differences, but in thins post I am focusing on muffs so I want to be sure it is understood that this particular example is a Silver Fox. This has been confirmed by a professional furrier, Rene Vogel.

This Picture Shows the Black Stripe Textured Fabric Used to Back the Fur Portion of the Silver For Fur Muff Purse.

Inside this Silver Fox fur muff purse has a concealed secret zippered purse area for your belongings. I love how well structured it is. The old time furriers did a nice job of designing and sewing these muff purses. The muff keeps your hand so cozy and warm as well. I personally need this extra warmth even when I am wearing gloves! I love the idea and the practice of keeping warm with fur lined gloves in a fur lined muff while wearing a fur lined coat and a fur hat and fur lined boots. I have tried every other solution to keeping warm but none other works as well. I am thin, I have no body fat to help me stay warm! I have become aware of how tiny a fox is inside his fluffy long fur coat insulated for the winter cold by his beautiful fur pelts.

I Have Tipped the Fox Muff Purse at a Weird Angle So I Can See Inside It To Photograph the Zipper for the Purse Section

The furs are lightweight, they trap air between then to keep you warm, some fur follicles are hollow and these trap additional air within the individual fur hair itself to keep the animal even warmer or the human wearer of the coat made of his fur even warmer.  This is why, in olden times, when there really were not many ways to keep warm people initially wanted to wear furs from animals for coats. It was the only way you could keep from freezing to death in some bleak and frozen places. Historically humans began to wear furs as a necessity for their own survival. I do not think that a lot of people who work for animal rights realize this or, if they do, they never think deeply about it. As humans we owe a great deal in our evolution to the fact that we had animals to eat and their furs to wear in order to keep warm and thus stay alive!  Personally I am very grateful to animals of the past for making this contribution to the survival of my species. When I wear a vintage fur or carry a vintage fur muff purse I an sometimes able to use the comments people make about wearing furs to discuss this. I find it very wasteful of a life to discard a perfectly useful vintage fur when it still has a lot of useful life in it! I personally want to honor the animal from whom the item came by wearing his already dead pelt proudly until it expires naturally.

Natural Black Persian Lamp Fur Muff Purse with Black Fabric Backing and Satin Wrist Strap Made in the 1950s

The last vintage muff purse in my collection is natural black Persian Lamb fur. It features very curly black fur on its natural black skin backing on the front side. The back side is a heavy black brocade like fabric. This muff is the real thing. Faux  versians of Persian Lamb exist as well and were often used for coats and jackets in the 1950s. I will do a post on Persian Lamb in the near future explaining how to tell the difference and showing examples. I have decided to save that topic for another post because it will make this one really long if I add it now!

This is the back side of the Persian Lamb Muff Purse

Sewn into the black fabric back in a metal zipper to access a generous pocket which is the purse. In the next photograph I will show the zipper pocket unzipped and shot from above so that you can see inside the purse. It is a really roomy compartment.

In This Photo You Can Look Into the Unzipped Pocket Section of the of the Black Persian Lamp Muff Purse and See How Nice and Roomy it is! It even has another little pocket inside of it that is meant to hold a small mirror!

Then I will show the muff purse standing on one end so you can see how it was structured.The openings at the sides of the top were where you inserted your hands to keep them warm and they are positioned so that you insert one of your hands through the wrist strap first, then a hand each into the top section openings of either side of the muff. The muff then hangs in front of your body in a perfectly balanced manner.

A Side View of the Persian Lamb Muff Purse Showing Where You Insert Your Hands.

Marilyn Monroe carried a muff purse like this one, also in Persian Lamb fur as she ran to catch the train in a black hobble skirted dress in the movie Some Like it Hot! One of the nice things about muffs is that they give you a place to put your hands. This can be a real asset when posing for photographs or in Marilyn Monroe’s case acting in a film! It is a valuable tidbit of knowledge at any rate! Who knows when any of us might be called upon to play a femme fatale?

My Vintage Real Fur Muff & Purse Collection Comprised From Lower left Corner Clockwise of: Sheared Beaver, Silver Fox, Skunk, Persian Lamb and Sheared Seal

The reason I have shown so many photos and various angles of these muff purses is to document and illustrate some of the ways in which they are constructed. Some are just cylinders drawn together at each hand end while others are rather complex designs. I think there are vintage patterns available to make some muffs and muff purses. You could make them out of fur or faux fur or possibly heavy wool or novelty fabrics such as upholstery fabrics and line them and fill them with down to make them warm. I love fur ones the most but I think interesting ones could be made with alternative materials. I think of them as purses as well as hand warmers so there are undoubtedly some unique variations to be made. I have also seen old crochet patterns for making muffs and matching hats! I believe I have one somewhere in my book case. I will try to find it soon and post it here on my blog so we can look into more ways to make vintage muffs!

I plan to do another photo shoot soon showing ways to wear these beautiful muffs with vintage and contemporary clothing. If you have fur muffs and want to contribute photos to me to add to this post I would be interested in doing so. You can leave a comment about this in the comment section with your email address and I will get back to you about it. I am also interested in locating and preserving more vintage for muffs made of different kinds of fur and in different styles. If you have fur muffs you are interested in having used for this project please contact me. My email address is violette@ladyviolette.com.

In my interest of being absolutely sure of what kinds of fur I have and claim these to be all of these vintage fur muffs have all been inspected and authenticated in October 2012 by a professional Swiss custom furrier in Seattle, WA named Rene Vogel of Furs by Rene. Thank You Rene!

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Touring Lamarelle’s Gallery of Delicious & Delectable Purses Curated by Lady Violette

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

This is a visual feast! These beautiful vintage purses have been artistically embellished  and reinvented by my dear friend and soul mate La Marelle. La Marelle is a designer who “coutures” vintage purses and other vintage items that she finds to create new works of wonder each as delectable and enticing as the incredible pastries in a deluxe French bakery. Every one of her designs looks good enough to eat!

This is the Purse I Carried to Tea in This Story

Last night I dreamed that I was having tea with Marelle in an elegant turn of the century tearoom in Paris named Pastisserie La Marelle; and these purses were actually little cakes that were brought out to guests to select from a pastry tray and served to actually eat on exquisite antique French flowered china plates. Elegant teas served in magnificent ornate tea pots and delicate vintage bone china tea cups and saucers, each one a unique design, accompanied the delicious purse cakes made of butter cream and chocolate and vanilla cakes and icings and filled with rich custards layered with tart berry souffles and layers of candied oranges and lemons. Some were embellished with cherries or peaches and nuts and other fruits, and some with sugared flowers and leaves. These miniature purse shaped cakes were wheeled out on an ornate antique pastry cart by child waiters dressed in tiny tuxedos with coat tails who asked guests with impeccable manners, ” Would you like to choose a cake Madame?” And of course we did! They came ’round again when you had finished one to offer you another.

This is the Purse Marelle Carried to Tea in This Story

Our little waiter was named Aubrey, after the artist Aubrey Beardsley. He was about six years old and he explained, “You can eat as many as you like because these cakes have no calories! They just look good and taste wonderful! ” Of course we chose another, and another, and another as soon as we had eaten the one that came before! Marelle and I feasted on purse cakes and talked for hours and at the end of the afternoon agreed that we must come here regularly, once a week, and do this again. We made a reservation to return for another tea and cake date next weekend.

Now let’s have a look at some of the delicious purse cake selections on the pastry menu and while you are visually feasting on these delectable designs keep in mind that these cakes are available as a real purses in La Marelle’s couture store. The details and location will be given at the end of this story.

The Lady Violette, a Divine Chocolate Cream Creation

There is my favorite, the Lady Violette, named after me, and our miniature waiter Aubrey expertly explains that is concocted of rich but light chocolate and mocha cakes layered with chocolate and raspberry butter cream inside and elaborately decorated with glace frosting in two shades of chocolate stripes, light milk chocolate and dark bittersweet chocolate, on the outside. It is then trimmed with a pure dark chocolate coin purse, a butter cream ruffle along the closure flap and an edible marzipan perfume bottle. The handle and strap are made of edible caramel and chocolate flavored strips! The gold and silver accents are made of edible metallic gold and silver dragoons. The label of the perfume bottle and the woman’s portrait face on the coin purse are made of almond flavored marzipan! He assures us these are not at all fattening saying, “We make these cakes without calories because this is a couture bakery and we know that our customer’s love to partake of elegant deserts and designs but must keep their figures in order to wear their couture ensembles.”

Red Cherry

Aubrey shows us cake purse after cake purse, each one as different and as interesting and intriguing as the one before. Each one looks incredibly delicious!

Chocolate Filagree

We ask how they have managed to remove the calories while retaining the integrity of these elegant deserts. He explains that this is a top secret scientific process! He also assures us that it is done without removing any of the taste you would expect from an elegant European pastry!

Petits Fours

He does tell us that he and his artist father developed it in their California cooking laboratories using all organic ingredients and the latest scientific baking methods, then brought these to France at La Marelle’s request.

French Vanilla

He further explains that they decided to unveil the results of their research in Paris because this was the home of the world’s best pastries and couture, and, if it was a success there it would ultimately become an international success. He had quite the business acuman for such a young man! We were very impressed!

Creme de Menthe

He also tells us that he has always loved international cuisines and teas and is able to pursue his other interests in the arts while working at this restaurant in Paris. He is studying sculpture when he is not working. We ask him if he is not a bit young to be living away from his parents and siblings and his home in CA and working in Paris?  As ladies, we have begun to feel motherly concern toward him as he is such a sweet and intelligent little boy.

Pistachio

He assures us that he is fine living in Paris and loves it here,! Plus, he says, his little sister, Madamoiselle Coco who really is named after Coco Chanel, will soon be joining him to study fashion design. He is a year older and wanted to come ahead to establish an apartment on the Left Bank and get everything set up for her before she arrives. We ask him how old she is. He tells us she is five years old! And he goes on to say that she is already well known for her fashion designs and styling capabilities in Southern California! She even owns a La Marelle Couture Purse which was personally made for her by the designer herself because she felt an instant report with Coco and wanted her to have it.

Coco's Purse ~ Cream Chantilly ~ Custom Design by LaMarell

Coco is the youngest fashionista owner of a LaMarelle Couture Purse that we know of. He told us that many people stop Coco on the street to ask her about her La Mareele handbag and find out who designed it. It has been quite the conversation piece! I am sure that happens to anyone who carries or wears one of La Marelle’s couture creations!

Bittersweet Chocolate

Again we express our concern that they are both a bit young to be leaving home, aren’t they? He assures us that their parents visit often because their mother loves Paris and their father is an artist who shows in modern art galleries around the world. Young Aubrey tells us he has helped his father set up his art in his shows all his life. He explains that that is one of his areas of expertise so he is always available when a show needs to be hung. He also loves to attend the gallery openings and explains that he would never miss one. He also explains that he himself loves to dress up in special attire to attend these events. We are charmed by him of course!

Lemon Cream

Young Aubrey assures us he is mature enough to handle this adventure, “Look at me he says, I have a job, I support myself, I am a specialist of sorts already.” We are quite impressed!

Maple Sugar

And he tells us he is ageless from eating many of these cakes! Aha we think! Women ( and men) will like that aspect of these delicacies as well! Will they not?

Black Licorice

He keeps showing us more and more cake purses and describing the ingredients and flavors with amazing baking expertise. Honestly, we are quite impressed by his knowledge! He also tells us we can eat as many as we like and that it will make us all the more creative, fashionable and colorful if we eat more of them. Wow!

I ask him, ” Is it okay then to be a glutton for both designer handbags and pastries?” “Yes, definitely!” he assures me,”It will make you very healthy and very beautiful!”

Sugar Icing & Florentine

As he serves us, pouring more tea whenever we need it without being asked, and assures us that he feels quite capable of taking care of his little sister after she arrives! He says, “We have always been best friends as well as brother and sister and I am eager to see her develop her design talents. She has always expressed herself artistically with her clothes. She does such amazing things that people stop us on the streets to give us compliments. She is a natural!”

Whipped Cream

“Where?” we ask, “is she going to study?” As we continue to daintily devour beautifully decorated and deliciously flavored ornate and tasty purse shaped cakes!

Molton Fudge

“Right here” he answers, “where I can watch over her with The Great Couturier La Marelle!”

I was quite surprised! I looked quizzically at Marelle, herself, sitting right across from me and asked, “Is this a dream or is this really happening?”

Time Will Tell Purse

And she smiled like the Mona Lisa and said in her charming voice,  ” You shall see! You shall see! Time Will Tell!”

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Then I woke up! And I wrote down the details of my dream immediately so that I would not forget this fantastic story. And who knows? It very well might come true! Parts of it already are happening for these delicious looking purses are already available to purchase and carry as real calorieless fashion design indulgences from La Marelle’s Shop Hopscotch Couture. And all the people cast in this dream story are real people with the real names and the real talents described and attributed to them in this story.

Here is where you can view more of Marelle’s work and purchase many of the purses featured in this post as well as others. Marelle is cooking up new ones on a regular basis. She is always whipping up some fantastic dreamy new frothy creation! Feast your eyes and visit her shop. And remember that these delicacies have zero calories! Just as the fantastic little waiter in his tux and tails described them!

Marelle’s work is so diverse and extensive – she currently has over 400 pieces listed for sale in her Etsy shop alone.

By the way, La Marelle means hopscotch in French, so Marelle named her shop on Etsy Hopscotch Couture. To visit her Etsy store and view the entire gallery go to: http://www.etsy.com/shop/HopscotchCouture.

Marelle sells her work in her online Etsy shop above and also accepts private commissions. She can be contacted  by email at lamarellegallery@aol.com or by telephone at (443) 825.6353.

Her work can also be seen on her website at LaMarelleGallery.com. There is a link on there that will take you directly to her Etsy store as well.

Read More about Marelle and her paintings and designs in this article from The Weekender at http://www.theweekender.com/stories/Marelles-Hopscotch-Couture-One-of-a-kind-finds,61685

The photos  in this post were taken by Marelle herself.

Be sure to search my blog to see recent past posts and return to view upcoming future posts featuring more pictures and descriptions of Marelle’s interesting and imaginative work. I know you will find it all very tasteful!

 

Why Do Women Like to Buy, Collect, Carry and Covet Designer Handbags? By Lady Violette, Pursenally

Monday, August 13th, 2012

El Roi Molded Wood Handbag in Rainbow Hues Lined in Black Silk with Silk Tassle & Strap designed by Fine Artist Tim Woods of Beverly Hills. From Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

Many woman regard designer handbags as works of high art and amass grand collections of them from their favorite luxury designers, from both the present and the past.

It is common knowledge ~ in the high fashion world, not in the modern world of everyday life for the majority of people! And I know this! ~ therefore I continue, tongue in cheek with:

It is common knowledge that handbags from the following four categories are coveted as works of art and social status symbols:

Bottega Veneta Forest Green Nappa Leather Intrecciato Foldover Clutch with Optional Shoulder Strap Handbag From Italy Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

Category #1) The commercially produced and successfully marketed contemporary designers such as Prada, Chanel, Gucci, Hermes, Bottega Venta, Fendi, Nancy Gonzalez, Jimmy Choo, Manilo Blahnik, Valentino, Alexander Wang, Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, Chloe, Lanvin, Christian Louboutin, Salvatorre Ferragamo, Balenciago, Yves Saint Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana, Reed Krakoff, Tom Ford, Burberry, Akris, VBH, Brunello Cucinelli, Henry Beguelin, Nina Ricci, Michael Kors, Jason Wu, Louis Vuitton, Judith Leiber, and a handful of other high end designers are some of the ultimate status symbols in today’s high fashion society.

Collection of Handbags by Designer Isabelle Fiore from Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

Category #2) Cole Haan, Coach, Dooney and Burke, Emma Fox, Juicy Couture, Kate Spade, Milly, Longchamp, Lancaster, Tory Burch, Furla, Ralph Lauren, Diane von Furstenberg, Lauren Merkin, Frye, Brighton, Hobo, B Makowsky, Isabella Fiore, Lulu Guiness, Mon Sac, Marc by Marc Jacobs, MICHAEL Michael Kors, and several more make the current social status grade on the currently produced bridge level as fun, “everyday use bags” that are a little more casual and sporty, still ultra classy, but not quite as expensive as the very high end names above, while still being well made and recognizable on the street as a casual high status label. To the majority of people in the world these are also considered very expensive handbags. Let’s face it, realistically, a $300 ~ $400 dollar handbag is still pretty pricey for many people and some bags in this category are many times that price.

Collection of Tooled Leather Vintage Handbags & Wallets From Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Collection

Category #3) There is another category ~ the beautiful well made vintage handbags from the great designers of the past and these come in every material, shape, size and price range. There are many designers in this category. Some are well known and others are long forgotten, but their work is distinctive, immediately recognizable as vintage, sometimes museum quality, usually well made and often quite affordable. Vintage is synonymous with class and glamor. It is very very cool to find and carry a gorgeous vintage handbag. It requires moxie and self confidence and makes a fashion statement of strong individuality.

A Beautiful Selection of Dainty Vintage Gold Evening Purses ~ All Made by Whiting & Davis Over Several Past Decades From Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

When you carry a vintage or artist made bag you state that you are a fashion original and do not follow the crowd. This is the ultimate cool. Many of the high end commercially successful designers in categories #1 and #2 admittedly find inspiration for their current work from vintage designers of the past.

The Lady Violette ~ One of a Kind Fine Art Handbag Designed by Multi Media Artist La Marelle

Category #4) Finally, there are the fine artist designed and hand made one of a kind handbags individually produced by living artists. When you carry one of these bags you are actually carrying an original piece of artwork around with you as part of your wardrobe! You are making a public statement that you are an art collector and a supporter of the arts. This can also make the outfit you are wearing into a work of art in itself and it is a sure conversation starter. It is fun and different and  can be very avant garde. All kinds of interesting handbags designed by artists working in many different media fall into this category. I have selected two handbags ( above and below) by the artist La Marelle to illustrate this category. The first photograph in this post of the Rainbow Hue Wood Purse by Beverly Hills Artist Timothy Woods is another excellent example of the genre. So is the petite black purse, further down, by Rita Diana for Mylinka. She has developed a fan base and following amongst Rock Stars! Artists handbags like these are becoming increasing well known and collectable. It is fun to see something you bought because you liked it show up a year later on the Red Carpet when the artist/designer you discovered is suddenly popular with celebrities! This has actually happened to me and it can happen to you too!

The Mona Lisa Handbag Designed by Fine Artist La Marelle ~ A One of a Kind Art Piece Made From a Reclaimed Vintage Purse Made New Again

Fine artist designed and made handbags are usually one of a kind or are produced in small limited editions. They are often handmade of rare or unusual materials.  They are always interesting. They are fun to find, discover and carry and they often generate interesting reactions from people! As an example I had a man follow me for an entire city block in New York in order to ask me who made my quirky surrealistic purse when I was carrying my Man Ray handbag. The artist who made my bag was a friend of mine who was inspired by Man Ray’s work and my encounter led to her getting a commission from my follower. You should be prepared to answer questions when you carry an unusual artist made handbag! They are not for the shy!

Vintage Collection of East Indian Clutch Bags Circa 1950 ~ 60 Made From Black Velvet, Metallic Embroidery, Semi Precious Stone Cabochons and Decorative Braid from Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

All of the types of bags and purses described are Fine Designer Handbags!

So why do women like them? Why have mere purses in which to carry your money and a few items you need during the day reached such status? There are several reasons.

The first thing another person sees about you is your body and your face. After they see your face they subconsciously size up your body and what you are wearing. You are carrying your handbag so it is immediately seen/viewed as a part of your silhouette and an important element of your entire visage. Visage is a rather archaic French word that means what you look like all in all. I think it is the perfect word to express what I am trying to convey with this statement. This entire process happens in a matter of seconds and no one involved actually realizes it is happening at the time. It is the instantaneous impression you are making.

Vintage 1970 Botegga Veneta Shoulder Bag of Softest Italian Nappa Leather with Decorative Wood Button and Trim from Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

Thus a handbag is seen by everyone who sees you because you are carrying it, quite obviously, and thus it becomes a visual part of your clothing and ensemble for that day. This is why the term “wearing a handbag” has come into use versus carrying one. I personally know I am not wearing a handbag or a purse! I know I am carrying one. But I am constantly hearing the term “wearing a handbag” , so I have begun to think about the origin of this statement and what it means. I have concluded that it refers to carrying a handbag or purse that is coordinated with or compliments the ensemble of clothing you are wearing at the same time. As such it has become another venue in which designers and stores can seduce women into buying a slew of expensive handbags so they have the proper one to tie in with each outfit! This translates into more sales of fancy designer handbags and purses. Which is exactly what the fashion designers and fashion retailers want.

A Hand Knitted & Felted Handbag Made By Artists in Bolivia of 100% Wool from Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

Artists are more interested in creating intrinsic style. They realize that the bag you carry can make or break your total look. It is at any rate an extremely important part of it. Thus, for an artist or serious designer, the handbag has become another canvas on which to express his or her true sense of style. And for the wearer of fashion who is more interested in projecting serious style than following fashion like a lemming a handbag can be an extension and expression of great taste. It is always a lovely feeling to perfectly express your own great taste. And it is the ultimate compliment to have someone admire that.

A Beautiful Bright Blue Seed Beaded Butterfly Motif Evening Purse Made Entirely by Hand in Paris During the Late 1800s. From Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

It is not , of course, a life or death matter to grab the wrong bag to go with a lovely dress as you run out the door to an event, but it definitely makes a difference and when you have chosen the right one to compliment your entire ensemble you stand out as elegant and totally chic making the person with the wrong bag look as if she should have stayed at home! That simple fact should explain how important it is to take the time and effort to select the right bag!

An Exquisite Caramel Colored Bottega Veneta Intrecciato Clutch of Italian Nappa Leather from Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

Each of the top big name designer lines has a distinct look that is instantly recognizable, along with their own unique designer label, to the consumer/ collector in the know. Carrying one, or wearing one, whichever verbal terminology you care to use, instantly catapults you into a certain social class. You look as if you know fashion and are fashionable. You look as if you have style and can afford such expensive items and therefore have attained an enviable income and/or social standing. Such as a high paying job or a wealthy husband, or any number of other instant but not necessarily accurate impressions. ( It is possible to rent an expensive handbag by the week and change them up every week to look as if you have a never ending supply of new and expensive designer handbags and purses even if you are living from paycheck to paycheck while working for a temp agency!) The truth is that people treat you more nicely if you make these kinds of positive style impressions. I have experimented with it so I can attest to the experience first hand. People treat me better and with more respect if I am carrying an expensive fancy designer handbag and wearing nice clothes than if I am toting my stuff around in a recyclable canvas grocery bag. Even if I am wearing sweats and coming from the gym if I am carrying a distinctive expensive looking bag I am treated as if I have class and am a rich lady. An expensive distinctive looking handbag really does makes a difference in how you are treated by society. Everyone likes to be treated with respect ~ and envied by their friends who covet their fancy handbags ~ so why wouldn’t they want to carry a distinctive  designer bag? There is absolutely no reason!

Well, there is one reason, actually. If you want to go someplace and be incognito, or if you want to avoid being mugged or robbed in certain locations, you should deliberately slum it. You can actually do this and still be stylish, just don’t look like you have money. It can be done and I highly recommend it when in a situation that calls for caution.

A Darling Petite Black Leather, Sequins & Silk Fine Art Limited Edition Handbag Made By Artist Rita Diana for Mylinka from Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

As stylish, fashionable and/or artistic women we have several choices before us. and it is ultimately our choice to make. We can either capitulate to the type of fashion and sales pressure the mass media wants us to and buy lots of high end commercially produced designer handbags from expensive retailers or we can be relatively rebellious and only carry one or two, or a small few, or those types of high end designer bags and collect any number of different vintage and artist made handbags and purses that we “pursenally”  like a lot and can mix with our outfits in ways we also personally like and can financially afford without killing ourselves with stress of the decision making or financial variety – both of which are ultimately unattractive and unwise.

A Rare and Delectable White & Crystal Clear Vintage Lucite Box Handbag Made by Patricia of Miami in the Early 1950's from Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

This is what I have chosen to do myself. I have amassed a goodly collection of well made and beautifully designed vintage purses and handbags. I happen to like vintage designer bags and artist designed and made bags most because I am an artist myself and I love originality and high quality. I also love handmade things. I have also collected a few fancy big name designer handbags that I have acquired from time to time because I really liked the designs and colors of the particular bags I have chosen. I have never bought a handbag simply because it was a status symbol but I have acquired some over the years that are status symbols simply because I liked them. I am very fond of the vintage purses and artist made handbags that I have in my personal collection, and I am equally fond of the good quality well designed big name designer handbags that I own.

As just one example there is a lot of specialized knowledge and work involved in the complex process of making an exquisite intrecciato nappa leather Bottega Veneta handbag and I admittedly enjoy the lush, soft, luxurious and very real “Oh, so rare!” results immensely! I admittedly enjoy then so immensely that I have acquired several of them, admittedly six to date. They are soft and lovely and I enjoy cuddling them like a child with a special teddy bear. I have them because I have earned them, and I deserve them, therefore I allow myself to enjoy them often. This is a pretty good example of why women want and enjoy their own personal special designer handbags. The same reason a child loves a certain special to her stuffed animal! Perhaps, in this particular personal case, because it is leather, very soft, and extraordinarily tactile.

The Handbags Shown in this post from the Lady Violette de Courcy Personal Handbag Collection are not currently for sale.

The handbags in this post designed by La Marelle are for sale in her Etsy store Hopscotch Couture.  To visit her Etsy store and view her work go to: http://www.etsy.com/shop/HopscotchCouture.

Marelle sells her work in her online Etsy shop above and also accepts private commissions. She can be contacted  by email at lamarellegallery@aol.com or by telephone at (443) 825.6353.

Her work can also be seen on her website at LaMarelleGallery.com. There is a link on there that will take you directly to her Etsy store.

The photographs in this post of Lady Violette’s Handbags were taken by Lady Violette de Courcy and Fredric Lerhman. The photographs of La Marelle’s Handbags were taken by Marelle.

 

Meet LaMarelle ~ An Artist Who Coutures Her Own Gallery of Unique Designs From Treasures of the Past

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

HER TRUNK RUNNETH OVER! ~ A Still Life Assemblage by La Marelle Featuring a Grandiose Selection of Her Coutured Vintage Designs: photograph by Mike Burnside

 

I have a talented friend named Marelle, an artist and designer, whom I want to introduce to my readers. La Marelle loves vintage fashions and accessories as much as I do! I met her on Etsy where we both have shops. Marelle finds previously owned, loved and gently used vintage purses, handbags, hats, shoes, jewelry and hair ornaments and waves her magic wand over them to couture them into new transformed pieces using the original old piece as a base or canvas, on which to create a unique new piece of fashionable wearable art. She describes what she does to a vintage item to recreate it as one of her own the process of couturing it.

Every item Marelle coutures is different and one of a kind. She has tremendous range and creates items inspired by sources as diverse and varied as the contemporary rebellious youthful street punk scene, to the elegant era of the court life at Versailles, or the refined Victorian period. She is inspired to new levels of interpretation by each vintage piece she finds. Her imagination seems boundless! She is also a painter.

This photo is of a still life composed (by Marelle herself, of course,) of her handbags, shoes, collars, gloves, compacts, photographs, jewelry, perfume bottles and other objects d’art pouring out of a transformed vintage trunk that has been appropriated for a display presentation of her work for the photographer Mike Burnside when he visited her recently in her in her old four bedroom Victorian house and studio where she both lives and works in a small town in northeast Pennsylvania. I like this photo because it reminds me of a pirate’s chest overflowing with choice vintage treasures!

Marelle’s work is so diverse and extensive – she currently has over 400 pieces listed for sale in her Etsy shop alone ~ that I have decided to introduce her in today’s post, with the beautiful still life photo shown above; and follow up with several additional posts that showcase and describe in depth more beautiful individual examples of her work. In this way I will be able to lead you through an extensive  tour of La Marelle’s Gallery viewing and savoring one work of art at a time.

By the way, La Marelle means hopscotch in French, so Marelle named her shop on Etsy Hopscotch Couture. To visit her Etsy store and view the entire gallery go to: http://www.etsy.com/shop/HopscotchCouture.

Marelle sells her work in her online Etsy shop above and also accepts private commissions. She can be contacted  by email at lamarellegallery@aol.com or by telephone at (443) 825.6353.

Her work can also be seen on her website at LaMarelleGallery.com. There is a link on there that will take you directly to her Etsy store as well.

Read More about Marelle and her paintings and designs in this article from The Weekender at http://www.theweekender.com/stories/Marelles-Hopscotch-Couture-One-of-a-kind-finds,61685

The photo for this post was taken by Mike Burnside from Burnside Photographic, Harvey’s Lake PA,  www.burnsidephotographic.com

Be sure to return to my blog soon to see future posts featuring more pictures and descriptions of Marelle’s work.

 

 

About Intrinsic Style & My Favorite Handbag from Bottega Veneta

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

A Favorite Precious & Beloved Vintage Bottega Veneta Clutch from The Lady Violette Handbag Collection

I have a beautiful black woven leather Bottega Veneta clutch handbag that is now over two decades old and too worn out to carry outside anymore despite the fact that I have sent it to the Bottega company for repairs and complete overhauls several times. They do a wonderful job of restoration but it is now truly too worn out to carry outside, it would fall apart! But I still use it inside ~ I keep favorite letters and special cards in it. It is my favorite bag I have ever owned. It was very expensive and well worth every penny I spent on it. I love it and it makes me very happy and because of my experiences owning it symbolizes intrinsic style to me in every way.

Today a friend named Nora complained to me about her daughter using the same bag, one that was getting worn out, all the time, despite the fact, that, she, her mother, had bought her several other very expensive well known designer bags in efforts to replace it. Perhaps it falls into her favorite bag category as I describe below, category number III. If so, I told her, you should cut her some slack!

So I decided I should write this for her and my readers. In my opinion there are three ways to look at bags!

I. There are special designer or collector bags that you keep very carefully, protected in their dust covers, for the majority of time and bring out to use and enjoy only when attending a special event or wearing with a special outfit. Thus you are very careful of them and they are seldom used or seen!

II. There are casual sturdy tough bags you can use daily or casually and toss about with careless abandon. These are very practical. Some become favorites and get a very broken in familiar look. I have nothing against this. It is very practical and I think that is where my friend’s daughter’s bag falls. Sometimes these look like hell, but that can also be OK if you don’t care.

III. Then there are the Special Favorite Bag Category bags, like my black Bottega Veneta black leather clutch as described. These are the type that are well made and classy enough to belong in Category I as described above, but they are so beloved and special and comfortable that you literally fall in love with them and become emotionally and physically attached to them! It is not always easy to recognize that a bag will be like this at first. (Just like a person in the same category!) If a beautiful and expensive designer bag makes it into this category it is truly well designed because it is useful and lovely and enjoyable all at once.

If you own a bag like this, you love it for your own reasons and no one else can, necessarily, understand them! It is very personal. And very special! And you, as the owner are very lucky to have it. I know that Nora’s daughter’s bag is one of these special Category III bags! She has lugged it through college and traveling, during her summer vacation, all over the world and now has two young children and continues to use it! Of course it is weathered and has character by now! In its own way it actually looks great – to people who understand this type of thing! I like it, myself. I can see the meaning in it and how useful and serviceable it has been. It is truly shabby chic. She is totally attached to it, carries her life in it, and will not give it up! She thinks it is wonderful and so do I! It is also sort of cool that her mother hates it, to tell the truth! That fact even adds to its sense of character! She also refuses to carry a wallet. She carries her ID and credit cards in a bunch held together with packing tape. She has also done this forever. (Her forever!) This also makes her mother crazy! Eventually her bag and her makeshift wallet will fall apart and she will probably be forced to acquire another one. Then, I predict, that she will evolve into using one of the other bags her mother has bought for her. One of the big problems is that the mother buys for her own age, life circumstances, social position and taste. The daughter, has her own style, situation and experiences and they are quite different.  These two women are of different ages and are in different stages. Frankly a conservative expensive bag that Nora would like, isn’t at all right for her casual diplomatic Bohemian daughter! The daughter is selling the bags her mother buys her in consignment shops. This upsets Nora, but frankly, she kind of deserves it. After all, the fact that she is trying to force her look, and her own sense of style, on her adult daughter is inappropriate if the daughter doesn’t like it or want it. She should let her daughter do things in her own way. Her style will evolve as she does and this handbag issue work itself out!

Here are my personal Lady Violette de Courcy handbag insights!

# 1) You do not wear a bag. You carry it. (courtesy of my mother who died at age 82 – leaving me a collection of fabulous retro bags.)

#2) You can have a lot of bags, but mostly use one – the everyday bag. The one you grab and go with because it is the most comfortable, you can find your stuff in it, it isn’t too heavy and you like the way it feels. That was where my favorite black woven Bottega fell.

#3) The way it feels – the leather, the way you can carry it, the shape, the weight, the lining, the security of the clasp, etc. – all make it special! When the favorite bag is sitting on a chair or table by itself it looks like a sculpture. It is a beautiful thing on it’s own. That is where my favorite black woven Bottega fell.

#4) The bag goes with you, not what you are wearing. You will know this because of how it feels and the fact that you never think about this. And the fact that you get a lot of compliments on it. A lot of “I love your bag!”and “What a cool bag!” That is where my favorite black woven Bottega fell.

#5) It is always best – always – if no one recognizes where it came from. (This is Nora’s one big mistake if you ask me!) The design should be so cool that it should develop it’s own character. This is where my favorite black woven Bottega fell. It is also a stated goal of the Bottega Veneta company!

#6) An example of my own. I bought a black woven Bottega Venetta Clutch when I was about 16 for myself. I spent a small fortune on it. I didn’t even know about the prestige and reputation of the name at the time. I just wanted a bag that fit all the above criterion. Obviously I had good taste!

You would think this would be saved for special occasions or dress up. But no! I used it every day. I used it every day for 22 years! I especially began to notice how I would throw it on the floor of the car, on the passenger side, when I was driving. As the Bottega bag got more and more broken in, softer and softer, ploppier and ploppier I loved it more and more. I could fold it under my arm and it was as comfy as a teddy bear.

I used it for every imaginable daily purpose. And I was not particularly careful of it – that would have spoiled it. What made this bag so great was the ability to enjoy it – which I must give myself the ultimate credit for! I was able to relax into my Bottega and carry it everywhere and let it become a part of me. And it did.

#7) People who recognized what it was were shocked that I used it like this. There problem, not mine! I had earned the money to buy it. I had found it for myself. I had broken it in. I was allowing myself to use it and enjoy it to its fullest extent and my fullest capacity. By doing so I was really treating it like the treasure that it was.

#8) Eventually it got a little worn out. So I sent it in for repairs. I only had to have it repaired twice! I sent it back to the company and it was returned in fine condition with the clasp fixed once, and the strap sewn back on where it had torn a bit the second time. It looked brand new when I got it back. By now it was 15 years old. It was becoming softer and more comfortable every year. I loved it.

#9) I used other bags from time to time – but that was always an effort. It was an effort to change the contents, whenever I did it, to another bag, And it was always an effort to carry it, and it just hadn’t become an extension of my body as the Bottega had. I always missed my black woven Bottega when I used another bag and changed right back to it the very next day! Thus I can understand Nora’s daughters feelings about her favorite handbag! Can you?

#10) The black woven Bottega clutch finally wore out. The leather got so thin and raggedy that I could not really use it safely. Amazingly the bag looked its most exquisite at this stage! But it had become very very delicate. So I retired it from carrying. I still have it, carefully tucked away in a desk drawer filled with special cards and letters from friends and family members that I also want to keep. I will never get rid of it. It is still beautiful and carries something very important –  many happy memories – the best of which is how perfectly naturally elegant using it made me feel. As I said, the black woven Bottega was very expensive, but I feel as if I got my money’s worth out of it in every possible way! I fully enjoyed it in very way possible for as long as I could get use out of it. And I still do. I get it out and look at it and feel it every now and then. I also learned, from owning and enjoying it, that buying yourself luxuries like this is totally reasonable deserved and justifiable. The bag was well worth what I spent on it and so was I! I get very annoyed with people who do not understand the real value of fine things. It is there if you understand it. This, of course, takes a certain level of exposure and education.An appreciation of fine design and good workmanship and, most of all, self knowledge and self love.

Interestingly, Nora does not understand any of his even though she is wealthy and can afford to buy nice things, but her earthy individualist casual well traveled daughter does! Through self knowledge and experience. She also knows her own style and is not going to allow her mother to shove her taste and style down her throat! Good for her! Long live independence! Really good personal style requires being independence and having self knowledge. And, again, an appreciation of fine design ad good workmanship and, most of all, self knowledge and self love. I realize I said this twice. I really want it to sink in!

I should mention that I have several other especially lovely and satisfying bags. But I have only had three during my lifetime that fell into the special loved bag Category III of the black woven Bottega clutch, I have a whole shelf of others, currently, but not a favorite, comfy one. They are very hard to find. I even have four more Bottega Veneta bags, which I love and appreciate, but which are not as special and unique as that particular one. I love them all dearly however.

#11) Incidentally, my mother’s favorite bag and shoes were Kelly green – and made of soft Italian leather. She wore this color accessories with navy blue Christian Dior silk suits and pale blue Dior silk blouses. This became her trademark look. Also a navy blue purse and shoes. She had multiple green shoes and bags. And multiple Christian Dior navy suits. She hand washed and ironed her light blue Christian Dior silk blouses herself. She was gorgeous. She accented this with a gold and green apple jade necklace, ring and earrings. All very light and delicate. She wore Diorissimo perfume and 22K gold Dior hairpins! She never lost one! This amazed me. And she carried a 22 K gold jeweled refillable Dior lipstick case. My uncle went to Paris several times per year and he brought the lipstick refills back for all the women in the family.

She only and always wore the color True True Dior red lipstick and matching nail color for special occasions. For day to day wear she wore Revlon’s Cherries in the Snow or a bright coral from Elizabeth Arden. She repainted her own nails every morning while having coffee and reading the The New York Times.  She was absolutely impeccable. She said you could tell a real lady by her hands and it was very important to take very good care of your hands and nails. She was very disciplined about her beauty routine.

She loved Christian Dior. If you are French you are born knowing who Dior is and wanting Dior. That is the way it is in France. For this reason they never had to advertise Dior in France. I now this for two reasons: as a child I was exposed to Dior by my family and, as an adult, I worked for Christian Dior for several years. As I said, people in France knew about it from birth and wanted it naturally, so advertising was unnecessary.  I had baby dresses made by Christian Dior. I saw Dior items and labels every day at home and heard women and men talking about Dior all the time. My uncle was a European buyer for Nieman Marcus and went to the shows in Paris to buy for the store several times a year. He brought us gifts every time he returned: French perfume, the newest colors of cosmetics, dresses, jewelry, and pretty unique accessories. We were an unusual American family in the minority having this much exposure and access to Dior style and products. About fifteen years ago, when Dior greatly expanded their shops and sales to markets all over the world they learned that not everyone the world over knew who and what they were and naturally wanted their products. They found out that they had to advertise, just like American designers do, to create desire for their designs.

My mother was absolutely impeccable. She was a redhead, She was 5’4″ tall and weighed 117 pounds her entire adult life. She was beautiful and glamorous. Her hair was as elegant as the rest of her – waist length, cut straight across the bottom, swingy and a lovely color. She wore it in a ponytail with a black velvet ribbon or in an expertly rolled chignon. People stopped her on the street to tell her she had beautiful hair until the day she died. It made her look young and suited her perfectly. She wisely understood that cutting her hair would have made her look older. Little girls always offered to brush her hair and she often allowed them to do so. It was perfect hair – texture, condition, color, length. She took very good care of her hair too. And she always did it herself.  She could make a perfect chignon. Maybe because she had those 24K gold hairpins from Christian Dior!

I am fortunate to have a couple of her navy blue Christian Dior suits and other items left. Interestingly the designs of the suits are sill beautiful ~ another example of intrinsic style and wonderful workmanship!  Elegance that will never go out of style. Still, truly, True True Dior. I actually came across a partially used old bottle of Dior nail polish in that color the other day while going through boxes in our house. I took it outside in the sun and took a good look at it. It is still a beautiful deep red. So I checked it out. It was the first red lip and nail color Dior made and it has always been their number one best seller! It is still available in Europe. there it is, once again, an example of intrinsic style!I thought my mother had good taste and was very stylish when I was a little girl. Finding out that her favorite color was such a longtime favorite from Dior supports that

I plan to photograph all these items soon as I am allowed to lift ad use a camera again. I have been slowed down on this endeavor due to breaking the bones in my wrist and arm last week,

 

 

Hand Painted Red Clogs ~ circa 1970 From A Ballet Dancer’s Personal Collection of Red Vintage Shoes in The Lady Violette Shoe Collection

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Red shoes go with many things. If they don’t match they often provide a nice accent. They cheer you up for some reason. Christian Louboutin has put red soles on the bottom of many of his shoes for years. The red sole has become his trademark. That red sole, with all the other colors in his designs works, no matter what women are wearing with his shoes. And they love it. They love it because it is cheerful red and because it gives them a status jolt to be seen, coming and going, with that bit of red on the bottom of their shoes.

Alas I do not own a pair of Louboutins.  They haven’t come to me yet. They probably will some day, but the time has not been right yet. If anyone wants to send me a pair, my European shoe size is 38 medium width and I would love to have a some! It is possible that somebody out there has some and doesn’t like wearing them and would like to pass them on to someone who would!

Meanwhile, I will tell you about my Danish country shoes. My mother was 100% Danish. The Danes traditionally love red shoes, and clogs, or wooden shoes, as some people call them. They also love to paint things to make them pretty around the house. This is one of the traditional Scandinavian Feminine Arts.

Red Leather Clogs Hand Painted with Scandiavian Designs by My Mother

Red Leather Uppers on Traditional Wooden Clogs Handpainted with Scandinavian Motifs by My Mother

My mother painted everything with traditional Danish and Swedish motifs and it was very charming. We had small tables, dressers, bedroom furniture, stools, chairs, lamps, vases, baskets, and of course, shoes, painted in traditional Scandinavian patterns. Here is a pair of bright red leather clogs that my mother decorated. I have a navy blue pair of this type as well. She also painted this little lidded picnic basket which can be used to carry lunch for one person or is small enough to use as a casual purse.

Red Clogs & Small Handmade Wooden Picnic Basket Hand Painted With Traditional Danish Motifs ~ Can Be Used as a Lunch Basket or as a Small Casual Purse

We had clogs lined up in a row on the porch to put on when we went out in the yard and garden. We were supposed to jump out of them to come into the house in our socks so we would not get the wooden floors and rugs dirty. Since we had worn clogs in this way from the time we started to walk we had no trouble walking or running in them at all. I wear them at home this way to this day because they are so convenient and easy to use. I love the fact that you can just slip them off and jump into them when you are ready to go outside again ~ with no tying or buckling or time required! They are very good for your feet too. And they are so durable they never wear out. I have a black pair too. They have tiny blue forget~me~not flowers painted all over them. It is fun to have your shoes personalized in this way too. We would get a pair and choose what flower to have her paint on them for us and she would decorate our shoes however we liked. I will do a post about clogs sometime soon and show photos of all the ones we have. I am showing this pair, now, as part of my red shoes collection.

I have red dress shoes, casual dress flats, clogs, boots, and casual sports shoes in my red shoes collection. I also have several pairs of red shoes made specifically for ballroom dancing  so they have soft suede soles, and a pair of amazing thigh high red real patent leather boots that were made as part of a very glamorous theater costume for a production of The Merry Widow. I have a sweet pair of traditional Chinese flower embroidered silk slippers which were very inexpensive and are easily available in Chinatown stores everywhere. I like them because they are so colorful and folkloric. In contrast  I have a pair of specially made red suede Flamenco dance shoes which are beautiful and exceptionally sturdy as they must be to with stand the rigors of flamenco dancing. It is a good thing that I am getting them out and going through them now to blog about them!

I will finally figure out exactly what I have, how many pairs, etc. My faithful sheep mascots below are helping me! They will see to it that I finish this project! They are really determined! Plus, they like experimenting and playing with all this vintage stuff.

The Sewing Sheep Showing the Picnic Basket, or Purse, Being Used as a Sewing and Knitting Baslet

My little sewing sheep mascots, the measuring sheep, and his mother, the knitting sheep, are quick to point out that this little picnic basket also makes a nice small portable sewing basket! They are demonstrating that they have no aversion to being put inside it along with a little sewing project and coming along to the local sewing store to pick out buttons or ribbon or going to a friends house for a session of knitting visit! Air can get into the basket through the slats so they can breathe if they are inside. They came up with this idea. They said the basket looked very versatile to them and could probably also be used as a sewing basket! Sheep are very smart! The small sheep has a tape measure inside him. You pull on his tail to extend it, then push on his tummy, to roll it up inside. His mother is filled with sand so she stands up securely. Her tail is a long black grosgrain ribbon to which I have tied my embroidery scissors so they don’t get carried off to some far corner of the house! She is addicted to knitting. She uses toothpicks for needles and makes mufflers for other small animals. The toothpicks are the same size as # 1 or #2 sock needles. I did a small piece of sample knitting with a sock yarn I was trying out, then slipped it off my sock needles and onto her toothpick needles to help her get started. She has been knitting ever since! I have her make all my gauge swatches of sock yarn and she just loves helping out this way!

Shoes from the Lady Violette Shoe Collection.

Basket Purse from The Lady Violette Handbag Collection

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!