Purses are much more than fashionable objects containing items women need to go about their daily business. Purses are personal, private places into which only the privileged dare put their hands, vessels of the feminine that hold the essence of a woman’s individuality.
What’s Inside compliments the permanent exhibition of ESSE Purse Museum & Store, offering intimate portraits of this most intimate accessory. Open the book and step inside one of only three purse museums in the world where, decade by decade, you’ll conjure the lives and habits of 20th-century American women through clutch-sized vignettes and gleaming minaudières of fashion. In these pages, discover evocative photographs of purses and their contents, enticing essays, vibrant artistic renderings, and illuminating historical fictions.
While conceptualizing the purse as an extension of a woman’s personal space and a reflection of the time in which she lived, we celebrate a century of everyday women. Breathing life into often unnamed heroines, we revere the stylish changemakers whose struggles and triumphs forged the way for generations of women to come.