Vintage Sewing

Book Review of "Handbags: What Every Woman Should Know"

September 1, 2009

“Rational and Beautiful”: that’s a chapter title in the book, “Handbags: What Every Woman Should Know,”* for the section that discusses fashion during World War II. It talks about how shortages and rationing led women to be creative with whatever they had on hand. “Make Do and Mend” was a phrase seen commonly on war effort posters, and everyone did just that.

This book is light on text and heavy on images, great for inspiration! It talks mainly about bags from the 19th and 20th centuries, and even some styles from the 21st. It discusses fashion trends (and what created them) for each decade. Fun for anyone who loves fashion design and/or has a thing about bags!

Why, Queen Elizabeth (now the Queen Mum) carried her gas mask about with her on official tours in a common cotton drawstring sack! What a woman of the people!

I’ve always been fascinated by that whole concept of working with what’s right at hand, and so I started making clothing and bags from recycled clothing. When things in our closets and drawers got too small or too worn to wear, we used to take them to the Salvation Army. Now, instead, I’m keeping them and “upcycling” them. I’m also making trips to the S.A. to supplement my used clothing stash.

These women surrendered their leather handbags for the war effort; the bags were turned into leather goods for the military.

If you want to see the project this book inspired in me, go to my blog for more pics and info. (You can glimpse a tantalizing sneak preview in the pictures above!)

* “Handbags: What Every Woman Should Know,” by Stephanie Pedersen, published by David & Charles, a division of F+W Publications, Inc., ISBN #0-7153-2495-0

  1. Oops. Well, that's how they referred to her in the book…They meant the present queen's mother, whatever she was called in the 40's…

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