Death by Handbags: Visiting the Amsterdam Museum of Handbags and Purses

You know that feeling when you have to touch something such as clothes on rails or the fur of an animal. Well the Tassen Museum Hendrikje (Museum of Handbags and Purses) in Amsterdam was exactly that. Being surrounded by exquisite one-of-a-kind hand wear may sound quite a bore but believe me, it was magical. Even one who is not that enthusiastic regarding attire would enjoy this because every single handbag was unique and differed from the rest providing both an historical essence and a feeling of attraction towards the item. Vivienne Westwood, Chanel, Orla Kiely, Bottega Veneta and many more well-known designers ranging from the 1400s to the present day all exhibited in opulent glass shelves.

Placed upon an idealistic Dutch street in Amsterdam, the museum began through an avid handbag collector called Hendrikje Ivo who found her fascination amongst the year of 1820 when she discovered a leather handbag with tortoiseshell capping near Norwich, England, of which she then went on to uncover its history thus did the same for her future handbag purchases. Around 75 years on, the museum currently speculates 4000 handbags that all have compelling disparate origins.

Firstly I came across this beige velvet bag created in 1550-1570 with rose detail that we all know, is still used today. The bag is part of the Rothschild Collection and was used by both women and men which they attached to a belt as there was a lack of pockets during the 1500s. Overall, the hand attire would have been viewed as advanced clothing back then due to its strong iron clasp and variety of hidden locks. Focusing on uses, bags in those days were frequently used for carrying coins, the bible and alternative personal requirements.


Next is this range of coin purses from the 1700s which obviously conveys the century’s allure with embroidery, mainly being flowers alike to the previous handbag. Personally, I adore the draw string locks as they provide dimension rather than a flat surface. Not only were these pouches used for carrying personal belongings but they also acted as an ostentatious carrier of expensive perfumes called ‘sweet bags. These sweet bags would then be reused as pretty carriers of money that would be given as New Year’s gifts towards royalty; moreover the bags would be placed upon attire to maintain a distinct aroma of perfume which was viewed as a high-class action. Alternatively, pouches were used as gaming bags for chips. These specifically consisted of a flat bottom to aid the purses in standing upright. Decorated at the surface was usually a family coat of arms therefore the players could easily distinguish their own pouch. Almost every Dutch woman tended to wear their bags upon harnesses, chatelaines or belts similar to the 1400s. 


Amid the 1800s, craftsmanship progressed greatly starting with the use of silk reticule however ending with the popularity of leather fabric attire. This was mainly a root from the French Industrial Revolution meaning that items were made more efficiently thus larger quantities of each product could be made at a quicker rate. As a result the pinpoint of handbags was made: the reticule. The reticule  was a pouch with either a cord or chain (corresponding to the classic Chanel Chain Bag), of which the term ‘reticule’ originated from the Latin word reticulum defining a miniature women’s mesh bag used during the times of the Romans. Another consequence of the French Industrial Revolution was the increase in transport and wealth generating a brand new market of carrying attire decorated with images of individual locations often bought to bring home to friends and family as a souvenir. Bringing the 1800s to a final was the popularity of leather handbags and purses. Quite peculiarly they were attached to a metal ring and worn upon the wrist to carry purses, diaries and train tickets. Above all, I regard the 1800s as being a major pinnacle in handbag and purse development considering that the base of mode, Paris, went through an Industrial Revolution. 


Forwarding on to the 1900s, this century saw leather handbags change from basic leather to leather with added element using features such as shimmering metallic and textured beads. For example, colours other than beige and black were implemented upon leather. One hand garment at the museum was a sophisticated lilac evening bag with enamelled adornment in gold from France in 1915 conveying the sense that women began to have particular bags for the day and evening, of which day bags were most commonly briefcases and satchels, whereas evening bags involved pouches with a larger amount of decoration rather than one set colour and print. Not only did leather become vastly successful but also glass beads mainly from the Czechoslovakia, Germany, France, Italy and Austria. These beads would be organised to display flowers, landscapes and historical scenes in a theme of art deco and orient. Furthermore, I saw a synthetic lucite bag which resembled that of glass. With a mahogany shade and structured design, it was one of my favourites contained in the exhibition for the reason that despite the formal shade, the gloss of the product made it appealing thus I believe the designer (which was not stated) to have been very intelligent and creative. Moreover, hand garments corresponding to this bag of that age all came together to inspire box bags seen today, for instance the plastic Chanel clutch and the cube shaped handbags Alexa Chung constantly wears. 


Finally arriving in the 21st century, the time we all know too well. Here was an array of designer names that dominantly made their mark on the external of the handbag. Think the Louis Vuitton ‘LV’ print and Vivienne Westwood’s signature crown jewels logo centring the product in an opulent pre-eminence of gold. Besides these, the one I found most preferable and surprisingly my mum too, was the Chanel Lego Bag in pastel blue. Why do all my posts turn into an advertisement for Chanel? Anyway, this bag is timeless even though it has only been available for at most ten years, the Chanel Lego Bag is the first item I would purchase if I was in possession of 10,000 pounds, it is what I define as perfect. Of course the clutch was shown exactly at the midpoint of its case just to give you that urgent need to grab it and run. Anyway, this bag is and will forever be my uttermost need of handbags. 


To conclude, the Museum of Handbags and Purses was for me, a once in a lifetime experience. There was no need to travel to various different designer shops just to see their offerings of handbags, everything was grouped into one and I constantly got won over by one handbag and then another and then another. Additionally, it is very surprising that there is so much information and in-depth origin in the field of hand garments as they are such a necessity in everybody’s lives today and provide such an impact to getting around. To be honest, my entire knowledge of fashion was pleading for some extra notes in the bag field and without a doubt these notes are now covered. 

Please pop a comment below of feedback regarding this post and make sure you view the gallery linked to get lost in a multitude of handbags from the early 1400s to the present day all taken at the Amsterdam Museum of Handbags and Purses.

Thank-you for reading,

Poppy ~ Largerfeld Enthusiast x

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Is That Designer Handbag Really What It Says On The Tag?

Since the internet became an intense part of people’s lives, the majority of fashion labels have created online shops where a buyer is able to purchase there desired item with no hassle of attending the shop itself, just a filling in details than clicking once for the order to be sent. As well as their own webpages, designers such as Louis Vuitton and Burberry’s products can be easily found upon Ebay. Obviously, the idea of purchasing an £1,000 handbag from a stranger who lives 15,000 miles away from you usually makes you question whether the apparel is genuine thus we need to be certain that what is stated as the ‘Camubutterfly Valentino Handbag’ is exactly that.

1) Firstly, make a visit to your nearest store that sells designer handbags, in Britain I’d recommend Selfridges or House of Fraser, when you arrive just analyse the fabric of the designer handbags because fakes are generally made out of a coarse fake material which the two can be distinguished without difficulty. Furthermore, the real handbag will feel a lot more comfortable when compared with a fake of which the producer would have most possibly only taken the aesthetics into account.

2) Secondly, take into account the stitching’s appearance on the bag, proper designer goods use quality and faint stitching for their inside labels so that the tag blends in well with the remainder of the product. If the string is blatantly obvious, there is a large possibility that the bag is a fake. Additionally, the stitching is generally completed in a careless manner thus if the string is rather chaotic and rushed there is no doubt that the bag is not by the real designer. 


3) Even -though some fakes have replicated buttons, there are a few who don’t. View the actual handbag online or in the shop taking to mind the buttons. If the buttons are meant to present the name of the designer, then they should. For example, a Chanel handbag is most unlikely to have ‘HK12U’ upon the buttons because it wants the labels name to be mentioned as repetitively as possible to further draw more purchasers of the designers items. 

4) Centred around the Far East and Asia lie boundless amounts of market stalls selling fake designer bags, the most common being Versace, Louis Vuitton and Chanel. Accordingly, it is obviously much safer to order from the evident label’s online store or trusted stores who will have workers that are professionally trained in investigating authentic designer goods.


5) Most commonly, fake dealers use the acronym BNWT (Brand New With Tags) this is an immediate indicator of dishonesty. Could you ever imagine Valentino sticking some tatty tag to one of their £1,300 Rockstud Leather bags reading ‘BNTW’ in permanent marker, no me neither. The tag must be opulent and have a high element regarding that it is a main contributor to encouraging the audience to invest in that piece. Besides, why would Valentino accept some dodgy market worker to legally be a seller of their company’s creations? 

6) Forwarding on, quite a substantial give-away will be the price, the only barrier between yourself and your dream accessory. As mentioned in past points, research the bag and find the price conveyed upon the official designer’s webpage – £1,350. Well her it is being displayed at a worthy cost of £2,000. Everyone wants to save money amongst this day and age so why not accept that it’s a non no and order it from the genuine, 99.9% more trustworthy dealer. 


7) This point directly applies to those viewing online. Read the feedback of the dealers already completed purchasers. Make an instant exit if you see negativity considering that when you’re paying almost £2000 to an outright anonymous, how unsatisfying would it be to have that garment in the post, you open it and it’s the supreme opposite to what you bargained for. 

Despite the on-going worry of being sold counterfeit goods, the number of cases has declined. For instance, 7,800 fake designer products were purchased in 2012, this lead to an overall cost of £87.3 million ($133,000), whereas during 2011 the number was 8, 094 coming in at a total price of £90 million ($142.3 million). Unsurprisingly, the majority of these purchases took place in China where over the course of 12 months, a hefty 697 false designer product’s websites were eradicated. 

Alternatively to China’s vast involvement, Vogue released an article last week regarding a raid of warehouses in Malina, the Philippines where an astounding 14 million pounds worth of counterfeit designer handbags were discovered. More specifically, these handbags included replicas of Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo and Micheal Kors. 

Do you have any stories associated with counterfeit designer goods? Make sure to post your perception in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.