Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Every Purse Tells a Story

This is my story of purses (I can see those eyes glazing over from here), but I encourage you to stick around. It may get interesting. Okay, it may get semi-interesting. Well, Linda, at wants to read about them, so here we go, Linda, and anyone else who may or may not wish to identify themselves.

When I was about five years old, I got my first purse. It was clear plastic, with pink flowers and a bit of white bead work. For a little girl who spent a good deal of her time in the woods, you wouldn't think a purse would be a want, but I had a habit of quietly getting into any purse left lying around, friends of my sister, Judy, being my chief victims. More than once I was caught with my hand in the  "cookie jar." I wasn't larcenous, I just saw them as portable treasure chests, where anything was possible, and I wanted to know what they were carrying around in there.

On one particularly dark night, I left that purse sitting on a table in a cafe I had gone to with my parents. After playing "Sugartime" on the jukebox enough times to drive my parents and anyone else within earshot stark raving mad, we walked out, into the dark and to the car, not realizing until we were long past the turnaround time that I had left it behind. Despite my parents promise that they would see what they could do to get it back for me, I held out little hope for ever seeing it again. The town we'd been in was about sixty miles away and that was a distance in 1958. I can't imagine what was in it, little to nothing; every nickel I might have had went into that jukebox, along with my dreams of being one of The Lennon Sisters. I can see my small self sitting in the back seat still, sadder than I'd ever been. That little purse never found its way back to me.

Thus began a lifelong obsession.

They say everybody needs a hobby, I guess this one is mine. See that brown and black one in the upper middle?  Buffalo hide. Bayfront Blues Festival, Duluth, MN., sometime in the mid '90's. Ditto for the deerskin in the far upper right. Same festival, different year. I used to wear it tied around my waist, aging hippie that I was. Am. The little beaded brown suede pouch on the far left was bought from a Native American woman near Page, AZ., while on my way to Lee's Ferry, a place with some historical interest, if not significance. It's sort of an amulet bag.

The other beaded one was bought at a consignment shop when I first arrived in Santa Fe in the fall of 2001. Got it for only $10. I've never understood how it could go for so little. I had a long blue coat that it seemed to go with perfectly.

The little pouch with a tassel, made from an old serape, was bought from a woman who had a store next to the art gallery where I worked on Canyon Road. She made some very cool jackets, also out of serapes, and was a painter as well. She lived in the back of her gallery/store, an old adobe known as The Bodega. When things were quiet she'd sit on a bench just outside the door, wearing her own creations, a quintessential Santa Fean. Her name was Teal. She was well-loved and respected among the locals. I wish I'd gotten to know her better. She kept her illness very quiet and no one really knew she was struggling until she no longer walked up to El Farol in the evening to join her friends on the patio. She was gone shortly thereafter. Every time I use it, I think of her.

Then, there's this brown velvet one. I bought it at a Salvation Army store. It has a peach silk lining and leopard print velvet gloves inside. It always makes me feel good.

My still burgeoning collection began with that little crocodile bag. It could be alligator, but I think it's crocodile. I got it at an auction for just a few bucks. My sister, Chris, knew I coveted it, but it was in a box with some other things and it wasn't coming up real soon. We both wanted to expedite things, so she simply took it out of the box, told the auctioneer's assistant I wanted to bid on it, now would be good, and so he put it up next. I was the sole bidder and got it for just a few bucks. We hightailed it out of there, with me happy as can be on a Saturday morning in June. That was back in 1980, I believe. I used it a lot, so the handle wore out and I, in a moment of pure purse genius, replaced it with a necklace my grandmother had given me back in the late '60's. I'd never worn it, it wasn't my thing. Maybe it was waiting to become a handle for my purse twenty and some odd years later.

Which takes us to the yellow one. Bought in a vintage shop in St. Paul, it remains one of my favorites. It's been the most fun. And there's a bonus.

That's right. Matching flip-flops. They're not vintage; they're just happy happenstance.

Well, that's it for now. Thus ends the story of my purses. I may be back for a part two. There are more, as you can see from the picture, but their stories can wait for another day. See that black one with the beaded bow?  Viva Las Vegas, baby. Yeeeah. Now you want to hear more, don't you?  Maybe next time.


  1. I love your collection...better than t-shirts...although those are fun too. My favorite is the pouch with the tassel. I bet some of your bags would fetch a good price on Ebay. Not that you would sell your memories...but in a pinch....maybe. They're a good investment. Yesterday my daughter and I went thrifting to some stores that carry vintage, and I was flabbergasted at the prices of hats, purses, shoes, and vintage clothing.
    Nice collection...thanks for showing us.

  2. Sure. All women love purses and even some men. That yellow jobber is a sophisticated honey. Reeeal class. I can see you in the disco spotlight, under the twinkling lights, dancing disco with one of those little shoulder-strap bags over your shoulder and stars in your eyes. :)

  3. I really liked the part about Santa Fe. I lived there in the 70's.(when it was really cool). Gotta go, my new Avatar 3 disc dvd just got here. Off to Pandora I go...

  4. Not everybody is a purse person. All of my "purses" look suspiciously like backpacks. I've tried purses so I could fit in better, but... they just never functioned as well as a pack that slips on my back.

    But looking at your collection was an inspiration, filled with adventure and fun. Thanks, Teresa! Maybe I'll try again... you sure make them sound way more interesting than just going for function!

  5. That's a great collection, and all so different. My favourite is the yellow one too. It is just so different as well as stylish, I don't believe I've ever seen one that style and colour before.

  6. Teresa! That's amazing. Having kept all those sweet purses with all those sweet memories!
    I've only kept one of my mother's because it is hand-embroidered and from Vienna. I gave it to her once and she didn't like it!! We had some fun about that.
    I like your old purses, they are fine and colourful and all tell a story. It's amazing that you still have them. (I'm sure the crocodile is worth something but this is not the question!).
    Cheers to your purses! If you get tired of them you could invite Jack's Yeller to come over and join Buddy for a pursian dinner!
    Grethe ´)

  7. How I would love to see you in the yellow flip flops toting the yellow plastic purse at my local Unique Thrift store! Thanks for sharing.

  8. I was a nanny for two years in college - we called it "babysitter" back then - and I remember teaching my two little girl charges that the purse and the shoes should always match. We played guessing games - they could look at my purse and figure out what color my shoes were!

    Now I have a few purses from - where you buy a bag and then cover it with various shells - and a couple from REI. Backpack-like things.

    I love your purses!

  9. That blue one peaking out on the bottom looks fun and, dare I say, sexy? What a fun post and what a great collection. One of my own favorites is made out of a Jerry Garcia tie. An envelope type of purse that hangs from my wrist.

  10. Karena, I suppose they woudld be, but I have a few that I could Never part with. Glad you enjoyed this.

    Manzanita, Disco is my favorite music to exercise to. When I exercise. Which isn't as often as it should be. I'm confessing to the Queen of Healthy Living. Thank you. :)

  11. Oh come on, Michael. You liked those yellow flip-flops. I know you did. :) Have fun with your New game

    DJan, I have a hiking bag and other bags for everyday use, but I have fun using these for special occasions or a night out. When I used to have nights out. I fear singledom is veering into fuddy-duddy.

    Jenny, It's a '60's purse. The real deal. At the shop where I purchased this, I could have gone hog-wild. So many cool choices, but the yellow won.

  12. Grethe! I am still laughing over your pursian dinner remark. Wouldn't those two have fun? Quail and duck, with buffalo and deer hide to chew on. I suppose I should stop there. That hand-embroidered purse from Vienna sounds lovely. People have specific tastes sometimes. At least you could laugh about it. Thanks so much!

    Janice, There you are! I was wondering about you! So good to hear from you. The combo sends out some real rays of sunshine. Summertime is time for fun.

    Hi Linda M, I have fun even displaying these. I'm glad you liked them.

  13. Penny! A Jerry Garcia tie in the shape of an envelope hanging from your wrist!?! That sounds so cool!

    And, regarding the "blue " purse: it's actually dark emerald green with peach lining and has the initials MM embossed in gold inside. In my fantasies, it belonged to Marilyn Monroe. I'm sure it's just the company, but it makes a good story. It didn't photograph well. I carried it into a bar one night, a loooong time ago, and it drew some attention. Menfolk like it. So, maybe it is sexy. Or something. Thanks!

  14. Oh gosh, and to think I almost went to bed without looking at the computer. These are all so cool Teresa! I love purses or back packs and the bigger the better. It's funny cause I'm not the girly girl type either. My favorite is the draw string with the red flowers and green leaves, it looks like velvet. I had one almost just like it. And, the Las Vegas big bow is pretty neat too.

    That's such a sad story about losing the purse when you were a kid. I can't believe you've saved all these over the years. I think I've always been a minimalist at heart, except for the big bags.

  15. Hi Linda, Yes, It is velvet, with some sparkly thread, too. It was a holiday treat for myself shortly after arriving in Santa Fe. I have bigger purses for everyday, but sometimes these smaller ones are perfect. Somehow, in all my moves, these always made the cut. I did get rid of a few that I wasn't as attached to or had a story to go with them.

  16. T~No not a game. It's Avatar 3-disc extended collector's edition movie. I got it on Amazon for $7.40. It comes with a book and extra footage. I think this may be my favorite movie.(Thanks for your positive words tonight, kinda gave me the cold chills)

  17. What was I thinking? Duh! I love Avatar! It's just mind-bogglingly good. I think my favorite part is the Tree of Souls. What a great price. I can see why you were all happy. Enjoy!

    And, you're very welcome.

  18. Teresa, these are very cool. I have various purses sitting in closets (none as dramatic and colorful as yours), but I almost never bother to switch to a special one for a night out anyway. Thanks, this was a very entertaining and fun post.

  19. Hello Teresa:
    A delightful story and a weonderful collection of bags.

  20. Now, I don't mind admitting, I found that fascinating. I must confess, I have always thought that the greatest inequality between women and men is that women can have bags (purses) and men can't. Things are changing now but it is a little late for an old fool like me.

  21. Hi Nancy, I'm glad you enjoyed this post. My nights out when I can use one are few and far between, but they're ready, just in case!

    Jane and Lance. Thank You!

    Alan, Everyone needs a place to stash their stuff and more than paper money and coinage. Those messenger bags are good manly bags. It's never too late....

  22. Enjoyed all your stories,I'm in awe that you can remember where you got all your handbags. It's so true, 'A girl can never have too many handbags or shoes!'

    My favourite straight from the first photo was the crocodile-box bag! Have a great week-end.

    Hugs to you Jane.

  23. Lovely tale, I really enjoyed the share.I have one I call a puppy purse, a reverse backpack I put my dog in when I travel and go into a mall or store when it is hot.My daughter hopes I never use it with her around.LOL

  24. Jane, I love shoes, but at size 11 it gets tough to find interesting ones. Hats i also collected for awhile, but haven't worn them much in awhile. Maybe one day again. Thank You! :)

    Steve, A puppy purse! My Buddy wouldn't fit in one, but it sounds perfect for your Lily.

  25. Purses obsession
    Money recession , is bad
    This your obsession ?

  26. I enjoy a good story even about purses. I only get mine out on special occasions. Always found it amazing how much stuff women could keep in there. Then there is the aroma they have.

  27. Thanks, Paul. It's not bad as obsessions go.

    One Fly, I'm glad you enjoyed this. Only special occasions? LOL Aroma. Is that the woman or the purse? I'm thinkin' if it's the purse, she may have a doggie bag in there. :)
    I'm kidding you, Tom. I'm glad you took the time to read and comment. Thanks Much.

    Thanks, Tom.

  28. Now that, Teresa, is quite a collection. You hint that the whole thing might have started with the purse left behind when you were a child. I'm thinking each purse might bring you a new memory, you have some mighty interesting articles here. And they are really beautiful, like collections of art. So what's wrong with that? Nothing!

    Now, let me grab my back pack and take a walk in the woods.

    Wait a minute, isn't that just a man purse?

  29. Wild Bill! Thanks for reading. Love your comments. What a nice idea, that each purse might bring a new memory. I'm going to keep that in mind. It's fun to see my collection through the eyes of someone else as a collection of art.

    I do believe back packs and hiking bags blur the lines. :)

  30. Gotta throw this in. For whatever reason Peace Corp types in West Africa and Ghana in my case wore shoulder bags made out of kente cloth. They were purse like but did not have a clasp. They were very handy and I still have mine. Short travels this did it all including the market. The word purse would come up now and then and the girls wore them too. An amazing long lasting tool.

    It just hit me and now I gotta go two other places. I have been for a while now carrying with the short handles a fishing somewhat rigidly constructed carrier. I use the shoulder strap for short hikes but don't try to climb too much as it can get in the way. In it are camera stuff/identification/camera you know stuff kinda like in a women's purse. It is always very close - always.

    Now this other thing is something else people used in West Africa and it was a purse plain and simple. Before I went and got my kente bag and took a couple pictures. This handmade leather holder/purse/carrier with compartments and zippers carried your documents and you always need documents in Africa it seems. It also had a strong loop that you put your hand through and held the bottom many times tightly depending where you were.

    Of course with the girls purses can and should be a fashion statement. You have nice tastes Teresa and that comes from someone who has no taste.

    Before I close down shop here I'll try to put a post up about my purses at the picture place. I sold my home today and plan on loading up next Tuesday.

    There are several interesting items still in that man's leather purse.

    It's supposed to be fun damn it.

  31. Tom, I'm so glad you came back with your own stories. That kente cloth bag sounds intriguing. Do I understand this correctly, you served in the Peace Corps? Very cool. I've always wanted to go to Africa.

    Great stories.

    You sold your house without any last minute glitches! Yeeeeah! I'm so happy for you! Onward and Upward!

    I agree. It's supposed to be fun! Absolutely.

  32. Yes I did but now they don't want guys like me anymore.

    There is relief from all the worry now and that's real good. Just gotta get my stuff loaded up on Tuesday and drive outta here on Wednesday.

    After that some relaxation can start for the last month here. I don't plan on working too hard. I still care but not really.

    I will try to do my purse post when I get home today.

  33. Tom, The world seems to have gotten more dangerous, too, so going into some of these places represents serious security issues, I would imagine.

    Enjoy what you can until Liberation Day.

  34. Wonderful collection of reminders. Those early purses really speak to me. Each was a treat to see and learn about, with bits of your story telling magic tucked inside each bag. Love that one came with gloves inside.

    You have sent me back in time. When I was small, for entertainment on the fly, nothing worked better than turning me loose on one of Nana's purses. (My dad's mom) Searching the contents was akin to a great archeology dig. Or so it seemed. Each thing carefully extracted, examined and returned to it's original spot unharmed.

    Rick and I met Teal at the Bodega on a trip to Santa Fe. You described her perfectly; "a quintessential Santa Fean." She had stories; in her face and those she shared during our encounter. I remember thinking she didn't seem big or strong enough to wear all those bracelets. So thin yet so vital. Passed her later while walking by El Farol on the way to the parking lot. Memorable woman. The following year we returned to the Rd and Bodega. She was gone.

    Those hats you eluded to are one of my secret obsessions; some lingering near by, others secreted away in film and digital versions.

    Wonderful post. Looking forward to the "rest of the stories". Maybe those with the red handles?

  35. Hi Chris, I'm so glad you responded with your own stories. I love that we shared that curiosity about purses. and you met Teal! I'm so glad to hear that. Yes, she was so tiny, but strong in other ways.

    Yes, those handles. They are great. I will revisit this, I'm sure.