Two purses from the 1930s and 1940s

Well, I’ve been busy – I’ve recently relocated to New York City. Unfortunately, my clothing collection can’t come with me; it’s still in storage at my previous home. I’ve been bringing individual pieces up to NYC with me every week or so to work on, and this week I took a little blue clutch that needed some TLC. I picked it up recently at an antiques store. I got upset when I saw that the seller had taped two stickers onto it, and all the adhesive had come off onto the silk. Grr!

navy silk clutch

The silk clutch, probably from the late 1930s to 1940s.

It’s pretty faded; originally it was a very dark blue. The design on the front is made with blue cording and four whimsical little flowers with rhinestone centers. With those meandering lines, it kind of reminds me of something by Schiaparelli.

Or maybe it’s James Thurber that I’m thinking of.

Today I cleaned it a little. It was pretty dusty and will need a better cleaning than what I’ve just given it, but it’s a start. I was worried that the interior was full of mold, but it turns out it’s makeup powder, maybe blush.


The clutch was made by Maben Bags, with a little stork logo.

The clutch was made by Maben Bags, which had a little stork logo. I haven’t been able to find much information about this brand, expect that they seem to have begun business around 1935.

I can’t get the adhesive off. The fabric is so faded that I’m worried it’s been structurally compromised (yay big words) and since it’s silk I don’t want to wash or rub it. I’m not sure how to go about removing it.

Because my clothing collection is based on a very limited budget, I don’t have acid-free paper to wrap these pieces in. I came to something of a solution today: I took out the sewing machine and whipped up a few basic cotton bags. While they can’t protect the pieces from abrasion, they’ll be better than nothing. So the clutch got its own bag today, and it’ll be returned to my collection soon.

A tiny cotton sleeping bag.

Yes, I know it might be considered overkill to take so much care of a purse that’s so badly worn. But I like to.

I have one other purse in my collection from this general time frame. It’s a black silk clutch with a tiny version of itself inside as a coin purse.


My other 1940s purse, by M Faille.

Anybody else reminded of Alien? Or is it just me?

Anybody else reminded of Alien? Or is it just me?

Yeah, it’s just me.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on an item from the 1970s: a beautiful red velour hat. I don’t have a ‘before’ picture, partially because I’m ashamed of the state it’s in. I was given this hat years ago, and it had been in perfect condition at the time. I didn’t recognize it as ‘old’, however, and since it didn’t fit me, I packed it away nicely and put it in storage – worst move ever. Bugs got to it, and by the time I found it, it had a few bug holes. I’m pretty upset at myself for that.

The silver lining is that now I have a perfect opportunity to try freezing an item to kill the bugs in it. The hat’s been in the freezer for a week now, double-wrapped in plastic and taped up so it won’t get wet. I’m going to take it out on Saturday or Sunday … we’ll see if freezing has helped!

About Amanda Goebel

I'm an Anthropology / Fashion History and Material Culture graduate from The University of Delaware, currently working on a Master's in Museum Studies. I'm a living historian interested in costume and culture from years before. I love researching the mundane and the everyday that has changed or disappeared since. I re-enact the 18th century, and I recreate clothing from that time. This blog is where I'll write about my research and projects. View all posts by Amanda Goebel

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