100 Years of 100 Handbags

We are bringing back one our most popular exhibits

Fashion, utility, lifestyle…handbags are intrinsically connected to how women live in modern society. This exhibit explores how women’s lives have shaped the fashion of handbags through a collection of one hundred handbags ranging from the 1850s to the 1950s. Peer into the style choices of a flapper, a pioneer, and a Victorian socialite and discover the origins of one of women’s most beloved accessory.

The Women’s Museum of California is bringing back on of our favorite exhibits, 100 Years of 100 Handbags. The exhibit was first put on display in 2017 after collector Jean Nemer donated 100 vintage handbags to the Women’s Museum collection.

This exhibit explores how women’s lives have shaped the fashion of handbags through a collection of one hundred handbags ranging from the 1850s to the 1950s. Small beaded coin purses, handbags made out of sea shells, leather bags, and more, the collection on display showcases the various forms women’s purses have taken throughout the years.

See the exhibit early by RSVPing to our exhibit preview, May 02 at 6:00 PM

Attendees are encouraged to bring in their own vintage handbags for collector Jean Nemer to look over and assess.

One thought on “100 Years of 100 Handbags

  1. The 100 years of 100 handbags exhibit was a very fascinating display of women’s fashion throughout history. This exhibit looks into how women’s lives have helped set the trend for the fashion of handbags throughout history. This exhibit displays a ray of one hundred handbags ranging from the 1850s to the 1950s. These purses can go from small black clutches to handbags made out of all Jade. The collection of vintage purses showcases the variety of styles women have had throughout the years. I really enjoyed being able to see the different kinds of styles from different eras by having them be displayed all around the museum. Not only did I appreciate the magnificent beauty of the artifacts that were being displayed, but the mini paragraphs that were put beside the items. It was nice to understand the full history behind the artifact and how it was used back in the days. Volunteering in the museum the first day, “100 years of 100 bags”, was exhibited, was a really nice experience because I got to see customers reactions to the exhibit for the first time. There were many positive reactions and comments all day I was there. It was really comforting to hear the customers like the exhibit because it showed people still cared about women and their history even if it’s the small things like women’s fashion. I even heard people have conversations discussing, “If you could choose an era to live in as a woman, what era would that be?”, and it sparked really interesting conversations which I was glad I had the opportunity to witness. Everyone was so intrigued by the vintage clothing and how beautiful it was. I heard a lot of people discuss with each other how there were different beauty standards depending on the era and how it began to shift slowly as the years progressed. I also heard many people make comments saying their mothers and/or grandmothers had dresses just like this and I thought that was incredible. What a nice feeling that must feel to have something your own family used to wear be displayed for educational purposes. What made this whole experience even more heartfelt was that all the items in the exhibit were donated by all one person, Jean Nemer. She entrusted this establishment so much she was willing to donate important pieces of history to the museum. The fact that people are willing to give away such important artifacts displays how this museum is viewed with the utmost respect. This says a lot about how important this museum is to the community and its reasonings for still existing to this day.

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