Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Part II: Museum of Bags & Purses Amsterdam

The last time we took a tour of the Museum of Bags and Purses, we saw some wooden school boxes, letter cases and wallets, limoges, stocking purses, reticules, and handbags in various materials such as tortoiseshell, ivory, perspex, lace, and leather. We also had a gander at the more ornate and bejewelled bags on display from different periods in history. Please click here if you haven't read Part I of this post so you can view the pieces I mentioned.

Moving on to the rest of the exhibit, our first stop is the section of chatelaines.

Hung together on a hook from a belt or skirt waistband was a long chain called chatelaine. In medieval times, it was considered  a symbol of power for the lady of the manor, as she was the keyholder. It was called halters in The Netherlands.

16th and 17th-century ladies hung their purse, bible, keys, fan, pomander and knife sheath on ankle-length chains. During the 18th century, the chains were shorter and it was more sewing equipment, seals for documents and a watch that could be found hanging.

 In the 19th century chatelaines came with chatelaine bags. With handbags coming into fashion, chatelaines became completely obsolete--perhaps much to the relief of every modern woman.

Gilded chatelaine with Diana on hook, England, circa 1740.

Chatelaine of cut steel, France, 18th century.

Chatelaine bags made of metal and velvet, late 19th century.

Silver chatelaine with scissors, box, pin cushion and needle case, The Netherlands, 1st quarter of 19th century.

Silver chatelaine with needle case, scissors, vinaigrette and thimble box, Amsterdam, circa 1740.

Polished steel with gold decoration and cornelian chatelaine. Included are a tape measure, pencil, pin cushion, seal, corkscrew, notebook and needle case (seemed like a store!), England, early 19th century.

Silver Accessories 
Inside a woman's handbag were a handkerchief, comb, needlework tools, and some of these silver boxes:
Vinaigrettes came with a small sponge and scent.

Peppermint boxes

Coin boxes


Vesta boxes had phosphorus matches which could be lit by striking on a rough surface.

Cut Steel/Mesh Bags
Beads from cut steel were an alternative to glass beads. They were produced in France, Germany, Austria, and the US. The French were known to make the best quality cut steel bags. Being heavy was the main disadvantage of this type of bag. 

  Mesh bags consisted of metal rings or plates interwoven similar to the chain mail coats of medieval knights. Germany and the US were major producers. Whiting & Davis, an American company, was the best known maker of Dresden mesh bags. Mandalian company was another major producer of mesh bags and theirs had a subtle oriental influence.

Dresden mesh bags; the pattern was set through screen print, 1920-1930.

Top shelf: silver mesh purse and cigarette case, Georg Adam Scheid, Vienna, 1892; Lower shelf: Enameled mesh bags by Mandalian and Whiting & Davis, US, 1920s.

Mesh bag with a picture of Charlie Chaplin, Whiting & Davis, US, 1960s.

Eastern Decorations
From 1915 to 1955, the bags in this case were made in the Middle East and the Far East for the European market. Liberty in London and Port Said bazaar in Egypt sold similar bags.
Leather bags with embossed Eastern decorations.

I made a quick trip to the ladies' and was delighted to find clutches on display in each cubicle. Luckily the toilets were empty so I managed to take some photos. I wonder what you can find in the men's loos?

Bags in the Ladies'

Dressing Cases
In the 19th century, traveling via steam trains and steamships became popular. More frequent trips required more 'ergonomic' suitcases and flat leather dressing cases. The latter contained brushes, manicure sets, travel bottles and boxes made of silver, crystal, ivory, and mother of pearl. As you can tell, this type of travel case was the forerunner of today's vanity case.
Case of mahogany with necessities, Paris, France, 1840s.

Art Deco
The 1920s and 1930s brought into the limelight art movement-inspired designs which came to be known as Art Deco. The designs were characterised by streamlined geometric shapes and bright primary colours, with red favoured, combined with black and silver.
A display of Art Deco bags

A leather bag of art deco motif.

Exotic Skin
Because I was distracted by the displays in this section, I wasn't able to get as much information about the specific bags on display. All I can say is, your guess is as good as mine.
The lighting and the skin looked foreboding and ominous.

It looked alive and would've moved had I poked it.

This quadruped's front legs would get in the way when opening the clasp.

The only one I could handle--ostrich feather.

I agree. Toad skin is not the most attractive type of leather. Go ahead if you think wearing boils is fashionable.

Rock me armadillo.

Unusual/Quirky Bags/One-offs
Need I say more?Take your pick.

I used to work for the eveningwear department of one Knightsbridge department store and this was one of our stars. It had a cameo role on Sex and the City movie.

Cupcake crystal minaudiere by Judith Leiber, 2007.

A pre-WW II Olympic tribute bag.

A Spar bag, anyone?

Royal Bags
Leather travel case with engraved silver toiletries and cypher of King William III of the Netherlands (1817-1890), made by Storck and Sinsheimer Germany, circa 1880, from the estate of Queen Juliana of The Netherlands.

A portrait of King William III of The Netherlands; and pieces of engraved toiletries.

Leather travel case with canvas cover, and engraved silver toiletries, made by Schrek, Berlin, Germany, circa 1950. Owned by Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands (1911-2004). From the estate of Queen Juliana of The Netherlands.

Leather handbag with decorated frame, made by Schiaparelli , USA, 1950s. This bag was owned by Princess Lilian of Belgium. She was the second wife of King Leoplold III of Belgium.

Contemporary Bags
Most of the contemporary bags were donated by the designer or previous owners of the bags. The museum also hosts events for designers to showcase some of their pieces. 

There was an impressive selection of contemporary bags such as Fendi baguette and Prada fairy bag, among others. I couldn't help but notice though that Chanel 2.55 and Birkin bags were missing in action. Perhaps the rightful owners are not ready to give them up just yet, or even loan them. Or in the case of a Birkin, the future donor hasn't even gotten hold of one yet.

I'm Not A Plastic bag, donated by Anya Hindmarch herself.

Philippine designer Cora Jacobs' shell-laden evening bag, 2008. The same bag is used in the promotional photo outside the museum.

Gucci Indy bag, donated by Gucci Group.

Gucci Bamboo bag.

'Socks' minaudiere by Judith Leiber, pictured carried by former US First Lady Hillary Clinton. Named after the Clintons' family cat.

The eponymous Kelly bag, re-named after Grace Kelly.

Lanvin satin evening clutch with rhinestones, 2003. From the collection of Elizabeth Taylor.

And to cap my visit to the museum, the woman known worldwide for her much-publicised and controversial collection of shoes, had a lone evening bag that looked at home under the spotlight.

Evening bag made of acacia wood or thorntree, donated by former Philippine First Lady and incumbent Congresswoman Imelda Marcos.

I hope you enjoyed the museum tour with me, and I strongly recommend for you to visit the Museum of Bags and Purses on your next trip to Amsterdam because there's just so much more to see!



  1. I enjoyed reading this. Looking forward to the next.

    1. Thank you Vida! Appreciate your kind comment.

      Hope to see you again here x

  2. OMG.... I love this place, Tnx for sharing my dear!!!!!
    Have a great day!

    1. You're welcome! Go and have a look!

      Have a great day too x

  3. Spar? Spar??? You should have donated a Tesco bag while you were there and then you would have gotten a plaque as a donor! But where did all of Imelda's bags go? I didn't know that about her bag collection - her shoes got all the publicity. Manila should have a Marcos museum if they confiscated the money and goods?? I quite like the chatelaines that I could use as an evening bag! :)x

    1. That Spar bag was designed and donated by a Dutch designer called Marieke de Vree. Designers are invited to showcase some of their designs. Why she chose Spar, I have no idea. I'll have to design a bag for Tesco to get a plaque at the museum :)

      Some of Imelda's shoes are on display in Marikina, the shoemaking capital of the Philippines. I've seen them. I think she's a UK 6. Don't know where the bags went to though.

      I think because of the reputation they left, it would be an insult to the country to set up a museum in honour of her collection. That's why there's only 1 in Manila that I know of.

      I'd love to try the 1st chatelaine on the photo, and maybe hang my blackberry, wallet, iPad, iPod, etc, and see how far I can walk :) x

  4. Marvellous post, and bookmarking it now. This is a place that I really want to visit, I never went when I was there. I always adore steel and mesh detailed bags. :) xx/Madison

    1. Thanks Madison! You must really go the next time you're in Amsterdam. It's a must for fashion people. There are more mesh bags to see and they're all best seen in person :)

      Have a lovely weekend xx


  5. So many beautiful bags - and some animal-skin fuglies! My favourite is the Liz Taylor.But I wouldn't kick most of them out of my wardrobe. I'll let them hang on to the Spar bags though!

    1. Hahahaha...fuglies indeed! That's why they were given away by their owners. Liz Taylor's bag was very classy. I think even Spar bosses rejected the Spar bag, hence it's locked up in one of the museum's display cases!
      Welcome back Sulky!


  6. Thank you very much for taking us on this tour which I thoroughly enjoyed as I have a thing about handbags in all their shapes and sizes. The quirky ones are such fun and the cupcake one is a work of art.

    1. You're welcome miss b! Glad you enjoyed it.
      They're best seen in person though. You must go when you're in Amsterdam.

      MsMadge x


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