Search This Blog

Monday, June 27, 2011

Purses -- Fun, Frivolous & Functional

Contributed by Valerie Battle Kienzle

Shoulder, tote, crossbody, hobo, luxury, clutch, drawstring, reversible, travel.

Leather, cloth, lamae, straw, canvas, wooden, beaded, embellished.

Designer, discount, fashion, wholesale, authentic, recycled, knock-off. Retro, evening, vintage, everyday.
Affordable, expensive, cheap, sensible.

From ancient times through today, bags, pouches, purses, pocketbooks and handbags have been used by both sexes to carry, conceal and transport necessary and precious items, and to make a fashion statement.
Ancient Egyptians wore pouches attached to their waists. So did some Native Americans.

In Medieval times, people wore drawstring purses called tasques, hamondeys, chaneries and seal bags. Later, people carried "swete bagges" -- bags filled with aromatic substances to mask the smell of unwashed bodies and waste-filled streets.

By the end of the 17th Century, drawstring purses fell out of favor as purses began to be made in different shapes and from various materisls. In the 18th Century, the English called purses indispensables or reticules. The 19th-Century Victorian era ushered in the popularity of highly embellished purses in various shapes and sizes.

The spread of railroads in 19th-Century Europe can be credited with the development and popularity of "handbags." Makers of large travel luggage and harnesses, like Louis Vuitton and Thierry Hermes, responded to the new demand for smaller, hand-held pieces that could be more easily transportd on trains. Muffs and matching robes and handbags also became popular.

After World War I, purses without handles, called clutches, became popular along with highly decorated purses.

Many of the purse styles still popular today, including the satchel and the shoulder bag, were introduced in the 1930s.
Metal and leather shortages during the World War II years resulted in purses made from plastics, wood and synthetic materials. New purses of the time were larger and more practical. Shoulder bags were popular and functional.

In the 1950s, purses made by designers like Chanel were viewed as accessories. They were smaller and manufactured in colors to coordinate with clothing and shoes.

Then came the 1960s. Like many aspects of culture and society, purses changed dramatically. Large shapeless fabric pouches and satchels became popular as all things traditional and conventional fell out of favor. By the 1970s, the large bags were embellished with fringe, zippers, metal buckles and fasteners.

In the 1980s, bags made from synthetic materials were designed to help with organization and order. The 1990s saw the explosion of high-end designer handbags. The name on the bags was as important as the materials used in their manufacture.

As the world enters the second decade of the 2st Century, unisex bags in both synthetic materials and leather are popular. Advances in the manufacture of materials have resulted in abundant handbag choices for men and women in a wide price range. And so their popularity continues...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Vacation St. Charles

contributed by Stephanie Bearce

The last few weeks have been incredibly hectic. Work, keeping track of four kids, two dogs, laundry, cooking, writing a new book, whew! All I've been longing for is a vacation! But that isn't scheduled for another two months. What to do?

I decided to take my own little mini-vacation. On a hot sultry Friday afternoon I made my way down to old St. Charles. It's my favorite place to take a break. The wind drifts over the river and gives a cool breeze. The grand old trees provide shade and the cookie store fills the street with the sweet smell of snickerdoodles. Who needs a beach?

I drifted along main street admiring the shop windows and the architecture. Oh, the detail and beauty that was lavished on the buildings in the 1800's. Sleek modern lines cannot compare to the stone work and wooden details of the previous centuries.

It was too hot for cookies, even though the scent was inviting. It was the kind of day that called for ice cream. Two dips. One chocolate and one mint chip. My mouth was in heaven.

Wandering down the streets I eventually stopped in at the French Town Museum. I wanted to see if they had any information about my house on Third Street. No such luck. Apparently “my house” is a enigma even to the avid researchers of the French Town District. The curator told me there was a picture available at the county archives, but they don't know much else. Ah ha! I have my own mystery house. How intriguing.

While I was there I enjoyed the quilt show that was on display. Hours put into piecing together those worn fabrics and creating lovely bedspreads. Again, such meticulous artistry use on something as simple as a bed cover. I admire the care that women of the 1800's and 1900's gave to making a home lovely.

After I finished exploring the quilts I wandered the streets enjoying the scenes of the porches of St. Charles. They transported me back in time to a day when people did not have television or air conditioning. The heat of the summer was absorbed outside on the porch with a cool glass of tea and the lively chatter of neighbors.

So many lovely porches all designed to allow for a cool spot to sit and visit. Flowers dripped out of planters and flags hung bravely in the heat. It made me appreciate what I have right here in my own home town.

It is a beatutiful place where families work and play. Where neighbors help each other and you can still find a porch with a lawn chair and a friendly smile.

I returned home restored. I poured myself a glass of sun tea and enjoyed it on my porch with my own flowers. Maybe I don't need a vacation as much as I just need to take the time to appreciate what is in my own back yard.