The chronology of purses

My summer purse

My summer purse — You can’t see all the zippered compartments but there are at least 5 outside and several inside.

I have a great idea. I get a lot of them but most are ignored. This one is interesting.

We should put a woman’s purse in time capsules so future archeologists can learn how intricate the American woman is. Instead of carbon dating you just need to look at the contents.

You can tell a lot about the owner from looking inside the purse. You can tell her age, when she lived, her interests, her afflictions and how vain she is. Where else can you find out all that stuff in one spot?

When I was younger, much younger, I thought that when I got older my purse would get smaller. I looked forward to it as one of the few (very few) benefits of getting older along with my AARP card, senior discounts and stealing sugar packets at restaurants.

No more bulky pads/tampons (just in case) or extra pantyhose (yes we did that then).

Fat chance of that happening.

In fact my intention was to age gracefully and beautifully so that I wouldn’t have to carry a makeup bag either. (I was so naïve!)

As I passed through the decades I found that the contents of my pocketbook didn’t lessen – they only changed. In a sense they also aged.

As a teenager, I wore glasses so I carried sunglasses around. That transitioned to contact lenses but guess what? I still needed the sunglasses (my eyes were even more sensitive to light) but now I also needed to carry a contact lens kit.

I carried a transistor radio back in the day but gave that up for nail polish and a file. This is before MP3 players. Way before.

When I was very young, my nails, toes and lips all matched. They also matched my clothes. Do you know how often that required changes? No more!

Now I consider it lucky if anything is polished any color. I’m lucky if anything matches including my underwear!

I’m lucky if I remembered underwear!

We dressed up for work so there was always extra clothes in my purse along with hairspray, combs, brushes and the makeup bag stocked with strange things that I never used. I also had a toothbrush, paste and mouthspray so I could be fresh. There was a goofy plastic thingy that you put over your hair in case of rain.

I would keep a paperback book (for lunch breaks) in my purse along with jewelry, gum, paper and pens (you never know when you have to jot down some hunk’s phone number).

Then came the cell phones. The old ones were big and heavy.

The contact lenses went away and we are back to big, freaking sunglasses now. The sanitary supplies are replaced by “other” sanitary supplies. The makeup is gone, replaced by Chapstick but I added aspirin, stomach pills and other medications.

One thing that has remained constant is the big fat wallet. Women’s wallets have always been bigger and fatter than men’s wallets but not because of money. They have decorative stitching, fancy studs and all kinds of designer touches and extra compartments that add to the weight. They add zero to the functionality.

For me functionality has gone down the tubes. The purse I bought in the spring has so many compartments and zippered sections that I can never find anything. There must be a system but I can’t get it. My next purse will have one zippered compartment and I’ll accessorize it with a man’s skinny black wallet.

Maybe then I will be able to find my stuff!

The archeologist who finds my time capsule will think I am a super organized female member of the Homo sapiens tribe with various ailments and some unnatural fetishes.

So what’s in your wallet?

My rather boring but back healthy winter bag!

My rather boring but back healthy winter bag!

27 thoughts on “The chronology of purses

  1. Great post, Kate. I’ve carried so many “essentials” in my purse that I was in danger of looking like Quasimodo. I was hunched over from all the weight. This summer I bought a much smaller purse whose straps cross your body. It doesn’t hold much, but it sure has kept me from back aches and other fatigue.


    • I start out like that, small and simple and then I keep adding items to carry and before you know it I’ve grown into a big bag. I have moved to the straps across the body bag especially for travel. Works wonders!


  2. Too funny! I carry a big simple purse that is totally for function. I look at those cute little fancy purses but they are not for me. Since I always want to be prepared I carry a little bit of everything. I have a few smaller one that I use for evening or for dressing up. A few times while wearing a jacket I have gone purseless and only carried keys, credit card and lipstick in my pocket. It was liberating!


    • For going out, I often stash lipstick in my husband’s jacket pocket (which I never use) and go without anything else. Yes, it’s liberating but I can’t do that when I go shopping or out with friends. I need stuff.


  3. Amongst a LOT of other things, I see now that my purse holds seven lipsticks. You’d think that I might love a mid-day change of color, but they all happen to be beigy-pink. No wait, one is pinky-beige.


  4. I’ve been trying, not entirely successfully, to reduce all my footprints, including my purse/handbag. I’m down to a 9″ by 6″ by 3″ leather pouch on the end of a leather shoulder strap. (I can’t tell you exactly what’s in there, because, like, what if someone is stalking me online?) But, I can tell you it holds the essentials. When I want to carry water or books or anything other than the bare necessities, I need to throw an extra tote over my shoulder. Which is often.


    • That’s what would happen to me especially when I was working so I ended up consolidating. When I was younger I would have a shoe bag (I had to walk quite a way to get to work and wore boots in the winter), purse, lunch bag and then a sack for books. I tried making the purse and shoe bag handle it all. I think that’s how I got started with carrying so much in my purse!


  5. My bag is huge … yes huge … I always carry my fat purse, a notebook (a paper one) a small pencil case, a small “health kit .. plasters, cream (have exema), sanitary stuff, lip-balm and antihistamine … still need to add a few aspirin), tissues, a book, my phone and keys, a small coin purse (just in case for the bus) and then in the summer I always have a cardigan in there, in the winter gloves and possibly a scarf … my glasses (both sun and normal) and a small bottle of water. As you can see I carry WAY TO MUCh but everything is essential


  6. My mother’s family was quite poor and they had had a devestating fire a few years before my grandmother died. So when my grandmother died there wasn’t much for her children to take to remember her by. One of the few things my mother took was my grandmother’s purse. I love looking through it. It is a time capsule, just like you said. There are buttons and coupons and war ration books, and a hankie, and I feel like I am being with the grandmother I never knew when I look through it. Your stories often give me such good ideas, so don’t be surprised if I post on my grandmother’s purse one of these days!


  7. Like books, I hoard purses. The bigger the better! I like a lot of compartments, otherwise the purse turns into a deep black hole and I need a flashlight to find anything. My purse definitely says a lot about me because it usually has a couple of books, my Kindle, my idea journal and of course keys, glasses, medicine and wallet. Great post! I was immediately drawn in by the title and of course, the picture. 🙂


  8. FUN post . . . but not too relevant for me. I’ve never carried 1/2 that stuff around with me. If people don’t like my “au natural” look, that’s their problem ~ I’m not ruining my posture by lugging around a closet all day every day. 😛

    My current purse is 4″ tall, 4″ wide, and 2 inches deep ~ it holds a wallet (bought in the men’s department), my cell phone, a pen and paper, and Dentyne Fire for fresh breath.


  9. Great post. I have so many purses and my husband always asks me why. I tell him that depending on my mood,I just never know what purse or bag I want to use that day.
    I have tried to decrease the amount that is in my purse but I always find that I need exactly what I just took out, or someone else will need it.
    I am not really sure if the contents of my purse would accurately describe me though.


    • That happens to me too. I stopped carrying my checkbook only to find out that I use it occasionally. Now I carry a check or two just in case but forget to replenish them as they are used. It was easier to carry the checkbook!


  10. It is so hard to find a purse that suits one. Your story proves that. I just want something sturdy and with enough pockets to keep some of the contents separate so I can locate them easily.
    My husband sometimes makes fun of my fussing over my purse (I only have one and keep it til it falls apart). But do you know when we are out some place or other he is always handing me something and saying, “Would you put this in your purse?” And I always seem to find room for it.


  11. I love it! I would add that since I now take meds which make me nonstop thirsty I have to carry a bottle of water in my purse at all times. I’m paranoid about it leaking and destroying my Blackberry so I have to keep that in a separate compartment. It shouldn’t be this complicated!


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