Purses hold necessities, luxuries, and almost always, a few surprises.
Humans have been carrying around bags with their belongings ever since they had belongings to carry – but some of the first women-specific handbags were actually oversized pockets. Unlike the pockets we think of today, these were fairly large and separate from garments, meaning you would keep your belongings in them indefinitely and just transfer the pocket to whatever you were wearing. Additionally – and perhaps the most important part of these pockets – they were worn underneath a woman’s skirt, hidden and therefore considered to be an undergarment.
But, in the 18th century fashion changed. Large, billowing skirts were out and with them the ability to hide large pockets beneath. Suddenly, these pockets and whatever was in them were on the outside and many people viewed it initially as wearing your underwear in public.
“The idea of a woman parading her personal belongings in a visible pocket was an act akin to lifting up her skirts and publicly revealing her underwear,” writes Carolyn Cox in the book “Bags: An Illustrated History.”
Women compensated; first by carrying small bags called reticules that held small items like coins or lipstick and relying on their husband to carry more important items like money, or a fan. Then, more structured bags were introduced, and women were able to carry their own belongings. Before too long handbags stopped being thought of as undergarments.
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Now, a woman’s handbag is a fashion statement, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the notion that the contents of your purse are private.
“You would never ask another woman what’s in your purse; it’s like asking what’s in the top drawer of your dresser,” Jauna Niles, promotions manager at Snoqualmie Casino says.
That doesn’t mean we’re any less curious. What does Niles have in her purse? Beyond a wallet, sunglasses, hand lotion, and the usual detritus that collects in any bag – receipts, bobby pins – Niles has a few more unusual items. A pink Craftsman Leatherman, a Tide Pen, a vial of body glitter, and a handful of tiny picture-hanging nails.
“I think I just threw them in there?” she explains about the nails.
When it comes to strange things thrown in her handbag, Niles is not alone.
Players Club Lead Clarice Bowler says the strangest thing she probably has in her purse is glue. Two types of glue to be specific; one for eyelashes and one for press-on nails.
“I come very prepared,” she says.
Her level of preparedness goes beyond eyelashes and nails; she also has hairspray, cologne, hand cream, makeup, extra contacts, and “always, always, always a magnified mirror in case I’ve got to change one of those suckers,” Bowler says with a laugh.
Players Club Lead Romy Perkins has worked at Snoqualmie for 10 years. She says her personal cubicle is small, meaning she’s had to downsize her purse and get good at strategizing what she needs.
She fits her checkbook and a pocket calendar into an eyeglass case, has a pouch that corrals gift cards, and another pouch with what she calls “motherly things;” Neosporin, Band-Aids, toothpicks and first aid accoutrements.
One extraneous item in her purse is a spiritual rock.
“It’s one of those comforting kinds of rocks where you rub it and it gives you calmness and the thought of who gave it to you,” she says, noting it’s probably the most interesting thing in her purse.
It’s clear whatever is in a woman’s purse is as personal and private as it was in the days of hidden pockets. And even though pockets might be making a comeback – just ask any woman what her favorite aspect of a dress or pair of pants might be – there’s always going to be a special place for the purse.
Get the chance to grab your own new handbag during Snoqualmie Casino’s Mother’s Day Giveaway. Fifty winners will win a designer handbag, each filled with $500-$10,000 cash or Freeplay! Drawings are Sunday, May 12th from 10 a.m.-10 p.m.