During my weekend trip to Amsterdam, I stumbled upon what is known to be one of the largest Bags and Purse Museum in the world. This Museum is a building devoted to old, vintage, and classic handbags, purses and suitcases. The collection includes 4,000 items dating back to the 16th century. You will be surprised how different the shapes of bags were centuries ago. There are only three museums in the world specializing in this field and this one houses the largest collection!
Around 30 years ago, Hendrikje Ivo, an antique dealer from Amstelveen, bought a small antique tortoiseshell bag with mother of pearl in England, dating back to 1820, which was made in Germany. Hendrikje’s interest in discovering the history of this first bag triggered a passion for collecting handbags. After a while she had collected more than 3,000 bags. She soon decided to show part of the collection to the public. At first, the museum existed in two rooms of a villa in Amstelveen, but as the number of bags was growing steadily, she looked for a new location. Since June 2007, the museum has been located in 17th Century patrician house at the Herengracht which is Amsterdam’s most prestigious canal.
Today, the Museum of Bags and Purses is an institution with a permanent exhibition presenting the core of the collection and temporary shows of the particular designers, mostly Dutch. The bags and purses in the museum are made out of a lot of different material. Some of these include ivory, animal skin, metals, leather, fur, and many more. My personal favorite was an aluminum Coca Cola purse covered in hundreds of shiny crystals. It is such a unique and original piece!
The oldest handbags in the museum are small, only used to carry coins, keys and sewing kits. Such bags were carried by both men and women under clothing to avoid drawing the attention of thieves. The development of pants with pockets for men, and the change from billowing skirts to more form-fitting dresses, led to handbags becoming an item for women.
With the coming of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, technology and the growth of rail travel for the middle class led to larger handbags, usually made of long-lasting leather.
Items in the museum’s collection include brands such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Yves Saint Laurent and many more ranging from the 1950s until today.
I recommend checking out the Bags and Purse Museum on your next trip to Amsterdam. You won’t be disappointed!
Written By: Nadine Fakih