Amsterdam Adventures: Museum of Bags and Purses

Because I was teaching in the Netherlands, The Triplett Sisters recently had some wonderful adventures in Amsterdam. One of our first stops was a curious museum which honored all types of bags. According to Susan B. Anthony, “Every woman should have a purse of her own.” The Museum of Bags and Purses acknowledged that men should also have bags, since the oldest item in the collection was a man’s bag with secret pockets. It was wonderful to see the wide variety of handbags, but frequently we fail to recognize the needlework skill involved in many of these purses.

Today’s blog will focus on “thigh pockets” purses hidden under the fabric of the dress. A slit in the dress allowed the wearer access to the items in the pockets. These pockets were from the 17th century to the early 19th century until the dress fashion changed and the dress pocket interfered with the silhouette. (It’s too bad these went out of fashion. I could have used my thigh pockets as the excuse to hide my extra weight on the hips.)

The thigh pockets could be embroidered, patchwork, quilted or tapestry. The fabrics used were usually more sturdy such as wool, cotton or linen. Each pocket was strung on a ribbon that was tied around the waist. The contents of the pockets varied as much as the owners: sewing supplies, portfolios, snuffboxes and more. Stay tuned for more of our Amsterdam adventures.