[Taking A Close Look At...]

Ladies' Accessories

"My wife," remarked Fitznoodle, "is fairly crazy over the fashions. She's got the delirium trimmins." [Aurora, 4 May 1882]

"FOUND on the main road in this settlement A PURSE. The owner can have it by proving property and paying expenses at ALEX. FRASER'S, W. RIVER." [Casket, 12 August 1852]

[ View object ]

Date:c. 1900
Dimensions: 16 cm long (with chain 30 cm)

Comments:The chain purse with its gate bag top and mesh construction was a popular Edwardian accessory. The gate was fitted with a clasp and was designed to expand. This style was usually equipped with a long chain as well as a finger ring that could be used to attach the bag to a belt. Both Victorian and Edwardian women were fond of fastening their purses to their belts, usually with a large, highly ornmental clasp. The narrow cut of dresses, after all, did not leave much pocket room for small purses.

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, both men and women used stocking purses (often called miser's purses) which were long and tubular in shape. They evolved out of the medieval tradition of carrying coins in one's stocking. By the early 19th century, the small drawstring purse, usually referred to as a reticule, became a commonplace accessory. Beaded bags (with glass or cut-steel beads) fashioned from silk and linen were particularly popular. By the late 19th century, the leather metal-framed purse displaced the once popular cloth handbag. These bags had multiple compartments for special items, such as a powder puff. Women were now sporting a variety of combination purses, bag purses and finger purses, available in assorted leathers as well as imitation monkey skin and imitation walrus. Chain-link mesh also appeared on the scene in the 1890s and continued to increase in popularity into the 1920s, when beads again became all the rage. According to Eaton's catalogue for 1901, a chain purse like the one above cost about 85 cents.


[ View object ]

Date: c. 1901-1925
Dimensions: 27 cm from head to tip

Comments: The hat-pin represents the shifting style of female headgear as women moved from wearing bonnets to fancy hats. Although hat-pins first appeared in the 1850s, they were more widely manufactured and used in the late 19th century. This pin is made of metal with a round, black jet head. Its function was to secure a hat to a woman's head by thrusting through the crown and hair and out at the far side. Hat-pins usually had decorative tops and the ends were often protected by small ornamental guards. Some hat-pins were designed by noted artists, jewellers and silversmiths and could be ostentatious in their workmanship, with gilt and faceted glass decoration. Hat-pins were also notoriously lethal; some were as long as 35 cm. These devices proved vital as anchors for hats profusely ornamented with such trimmings as large feathers and flowers. However, as hat styles shrank, so did the length of the pin. In fact, pins more than 22 cm long became a rarity. Hat-pins were usually displayed in vase-like china holders with perforated tops. This particular pin is very plain and possesses no identifying marks. It could easily have been purchased through the T. Eaton Company catalogue. In 1901, such a pin would have cost about 25 cents and would have been available in assorted colours. This hat-pin came from the McPhee household in Lochaber.

Kristel Fleuren

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