Mum’s Evening Purse

Shopping might be so appealing because the alternative takes so much effort. When we make something for ourselves, we invest ourselves in the result, and then often confront disappointment if it seems less-than-professional. Shopping brings an instant hit and, hopefully, a satisfactorily assembled item.

Once upon a time, making was a necessary function of the home-maker. Shop-bought clothes were expensive and only the well-to-do could afford a personal dressmaker.

If you were lucky, like me, your mum was imaginatively creative. If you were unlucky, like me, you now spend your life wishing to recapture that magic.

Because, to a small child, it was magical. A flat piece of material is given shape and sparkle. It is embodied and moves. The light and colour are transportive.

Mum’s evening purse is made from left-over fabric. She has vivid memories of the jacket, as do I – black and shiny and glittering in the sun, paired with a silver choker and ear-rings, and a large mother-of-pearl brooch secured at the waist.

Technically, it’s called a clutch bag. These are defined as slim flat handbags without straps or handles that are clutched by one’s hand when carried. I’ll keep calling it a purse because that has a delicate sound to it.

We think the purse dates from the early to mid-seventies. It’s big enough for a comb, a hankie and a lipstick. It measures 210mm across and 125mm at its highest point. The type of fabric is not obvious but has a metallic feel to it.


In our area, the Country Women’s Association and the Agricultural Show societies held yearly events where locals vied for ribbons and Best in Show with an assortment of home-made objects. My favourite was the Spring Flower Show at the Bogan Gate Memorial Hall. This was before colour TV appeared in 1975, so these competitions were often the only time a farming family could be regaled by lashings of beautiful colour artfully arranged.

Many towns around the country still have their craft shop where locals sell their wares. Some towns have created tourist festivals around local crafts. Alice Springs’ Beanie Festival quickly comes to mind because beanies in the desert is quirky!

But things now seem to be going upmarket. The word ‘craft’ is being phased out, and I don’t see ‘artisan’ at all these days. Someone decided the activity needed a rebrand. Everywhere I turn, there are Makers and Making, the Maker Movement and Maker Spaces, all with capital letters.

Home sewing nearly died out, thanks to the rise of globalisation and the importation of incredibly cheap clothes. Perhaps there’ll be a return to these skills of old with the rise of the environmental sustainability movement.


For each of the items I document in this ongoing attempt to capture some family history, I must decide what to do next.

In this case, the purse may be too delicate for much re-use but could probably stand up to an outing or two, perhaps next time I’m wearing something swish for dinner. It’s just the right size for my phone.

What are your thoughts?

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