The FIDM Museum is in the final months of a major fundraising campaign to purchase the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection, a private collection of 1,400 historic garments and accessories from four centuries. Each Friday, this blog will present exquisite pieces from the Larson Collection.
Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection
These two purses from the 19th century are as ornamental as they are functional. In the early 1800s, a fashion for high-waisted, sheath-like gowns meant that women could no longer hide capacious pockets in their voluminous skirts. Small bags called reticules became an essential accessory. The example above, of cotton mesh with brass hardware, is collapsible. Pockets returned with the crinolines of the mid-1800s. The so-called miser's purse below could easily fit in a woman's (or a man's) pocket, but it was decorative enough to be carried, as well. As curator Laura Camerlengo reveals in her book The Miser's Purse, the name postdates the fashion and "seems to have been inspired by the purse's design: Its slit opening made it very difficult to retrieve coins once they had been inserted." Two rings slid across a central opening, trapping coins in the ends of the bag until they were needed. These ubiquitous acessories were usually crocheted, and "the crafting, giving, receiving, sale, and use of miser's purses reflected specific social mores and conveyed certain meanings," Camerlengo writes.
Helen Larson spent 50 years assembling her collection, which includes several historically significant bags; now, it is in danger of being dispersed forever or absorbed into another private collection, inaccessible to students, researchers, and the general public. The FIDM Museum urgently needs your help to save the Larson collection. Please did deep into your own purse and make a contribution online or by mail, or join our #4for400 social media campaign to donate $4 (or more) by texting "Museum" to 243725. Donations are tax deductible; if your company or organization has a matching gift program, your support will go even further. You can also help by spreading the word on social media, using the #4for400 hashtag. The FIDM Museum as until the end of 2015 to finish raising the necessary funds, so please join the campaign and help save 400 years of fashion history!