Shilbottle WI, April meeting

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HANDBAG HISTORY: Shibottle WI’s evening began with a short business meeting where forthcoming events were outlined.These included the book and walking groups, a Young@ Heart event on May 17, with taster classes on keep fit etc, and a new book exchange scheme. Another new activity will be the monthly lunch club which will begin in May.

Our speaker was Susan Howard who gave a talk on The History of Handbags.

Susan has been collecting vintage handbags for many years and brought along some items from her collection to illustrate her talk.

Did you know that it is reckoned that a handbag on average contains 44 items ranging from spare underwear to emergency teabags?

The history of the handbag is a fascinating story and Susan’s talk started from the 16th century up to the present day.

In earlier times, pockets in wide skirted dresses were used to keep items such as household keys but with the introduction of the narrow empire line dress in Georgian times the first handbags in the form of a slim reticule were seen.

Susan outlined the many factors which lead to the design and uses of handbags as we know them today.

The development of the railways in the 1840s saw the appearance of the carpet bag for men when travelling and a smaller version - the handbag - was used by ladies travelling by rail.

Susan explained how the changing role of women, brought about with votes for women, more women working outside the home and being financially independent. Better education opportunites and property rights, was reflected in the design and shape of handbags.

Susan illustrated this from her collection, for example, from the 20s and 30s beautiful small handbags with tiny mirrors - cosmetics were now available over the counter - and a loop to hold a lipstick and glamorous evening bags that had a space to keep some cigarettes and a lighter.

Bags now contained car keys and money and were gradually getting bigger.

We also saw bags from the 60s and 70s, one made from magazine covers coated with plastic up to the present day – a bag made from recycled LPs.

It was a fascinating talk, we had not realised there was so much to be said about the handbag and it was brought to life by the lovely bags from Susan’s collection.

Our next meeting will be held on Thursday, May 19, (the annual meeting) at 7.15pm at Shilbottle Community Hall, Grange Road, Shilbottle. New members always welcome.