Inside the Collection

Have you weighed your handbag lately?

Red hand bag
Photography by Paula Bray © all rights reserved

Friends often comment on the weight of my handbag, joking that I must be carrying around a brick (or two)! So, I decided it was time that my bag, on a typical working day, went for a ‘weigh-in’…3.6kg!

After doing a bit of research, I discovered that the British retail store Debenhams have actually already done a study on this. They found that in 2006, the content of an average woman’s handbag (used during the day) weighed 3.5kg, but four years on the average is now 1.5kg, owing to new slimline gadgets and more compact accessories.

But, of course, the size of the handbag and also what fashion is currently in, greatly determines how much you can or can’t stuff inside. For instance, I am a true believer that if you have a large handbag you have to fill it in order to retain its form.

This made me think about some of the more recent handbags (since the mid 1990s) we have in the Powerhouse Museum’s collection – those which are oversized, undersized and everything in between.

Bag designed by John Galliano
Bag designed by John Galliano. Collection, Powerhouse Museum.

This handbag was designed by John Galliano for the Christian Dior Spring-Summer 2000 ready-to-wear collection and measures 36cm high x 30cm wide x 9cm deep. The shape of the bag is designed to the contours of the owner’s body, worn high on their left shoulder, with the ‘D’ keyring facing out – meaning little strain can be placed on the body.

The bag forms part of a complete Dior outfit, comprising an assymetrical denim jacket, knee length skirt printed with horse harness and pair of long printed denim boots, selected for the Grand Marnier/Powerhouse Museum Fashion of the Year 2000 program.

Bag designed by Issey Miyake
Bag designed by Issey Miyake. Collection, Powerhouse Museum.

This handbag was designed by Issey Miyake and belongs to his ‘Pleats Please’ range. The items in this range were characterised by the application of traditional shibori tie-dyeing techniques to modern fabrics (in this case, polyester) and then cutting the design before setting the pleats. The bag is 35cm high x 24.5cm wide x 5cm deep and has a pair of gros grain handles for wearing over the shoulder or clutching at the side. The bag forms part of the Gene Sherman collection of Japanese fashion.

Bag designed by Tom Ford. Collection, Powerhouse Museum.

This crescent shaped bag, called ‘Mombassa’, was designed by Tom Ford for Yves Saint Laurent in 2002. It is made from segments of buffalo leather and trimmed with a large deer horn handle and measures 40cm high x 38cm wide. It forms part of a women’s outfit, consisting of a blouse, skirt and pair of shoes, selected for the Grand Marnier/Powerhouse Museum Fashion of the Year 2002 program.

Furry bag by William Tang
Bag designed by William Tang. Collection, Powerhouse Museum.

This is a rectangular shoulder bag made of black polyester fake fur designed and made by William Tang & Co. Ltd in Hong Kong in 1997. It belongs to an ensemble comprising a top, trousers, coat, bra and skull cap. The bag, as with the rest of the ensemble, was inspired by Hong Kong’s handover to China on 1st July 1997 and it measures 103cm high x 31.5cm wide x 10cm deep.

Louis Vuitton handbag
Bag designed by Marc Jacobs and Stephen Sprouse. Collection, Powerhouse Museum.

I couldn’t resist including this Louis Vuitton monogram silver graffiti ‘Speedy’ bag designed by Marc Jacobs in collaboration with Stephen Sprouse in 2001. Although made as a travelling bag (it measures 27cm high x 42cm wide x 21.5cm deep), it could also be classed as an ‘oversized handbag’ as made famous among a number of Hollywood celebrities; worn with their oversized sunglasses and very much undersized dogs.

The design of this bag was inspired by a visit to Charlotte Gainsbourg’s apartment (actress and singer-song writer) where Jacobs noticed a Louis Vuitton hard suitcase, which Gainsbourg had inherited from her father Serge, covered in black paint, but allowing the Monogram canvas pattern to show through. The bag was acquired for the Grand Marnier/Powerhouse Museum Fashion of the Year program in 1998.

But, I guess what it all comes down to is the choice of what goes in a handbag, irrespective of size – and the heavy culprits can include everything from books and food to diaries, makeup and electronic gadgets. Since the weigh-in experiment, I’ve come to look at my own handbag as a bit of a health risk – since 3.6kg is actually equivalent to carrying around 1.5 average red clay bricks (so, my friends were right after all)!

What does your handbag weigh?

2 responses to “Have you weighed your handbag lately?

  • I am very much a victim of my collection of large and always over-full handbags. I have christened the shoulder pain I get from my too-heavy bag ‘Rome Shoulder’, inspired by an Italian holiday when adding a camera and sketchbook to the already large collection of items I carry around daily prompted a particularly bad case of RSI!

  • This is so true! Once I’ve got my purse, laptop, notebooks, other bits and pieces my bag is easily 20 kg. And I carry it all on my shoulder. It’s a good things bags are so gorgeous, it makes it all more bearable.

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