A true gem for fashion lovers & historians alike is tucked away in Little Rock. Esse Purse Museum is the world’s only independent handbag museum and one of three dedicated to a woman’s most faithful companion. Although my last visit was just over one year ago, a trip to Arkansas’s capital is not complete without stopping in to view the latest special exhibit. Fortunately, we visited on the opening day of Hats and Pins, a delightful collection of vintage chapeaus and the pieces of jewelry that often adorn them.
The exhibit is displayed in a room off the main floor of the museum that wasn’t open during our last visit. Each piece is its own statement, rich with color, a dash of fantasy, and made with expert craftsmanship. Although there isn’t any information provided about each piece, it’s easy to get lost in the fantasy of either becoming the type of woman who would wear of these hats or imagining all of the places each hat visited while being worn on fantastic adventures.
This temporary exhibit will be on display through December 30, 2019, and admission is included with the cost of the museum ticket price. $10 general admission, $8 for students, seniors, and military.
‘What’s Your Weight?’ is the one interactive exhibit in the museum. I’ve been known to carry larger than necessary handbags and stuff them to the brim, so I always reluctantly place my bag on the scale.
Sure, I can blame a portion of the nearly seven-pound weight on my notebook, rose gold chain, or even my oversized portable battery, but the truth is that most of the belongings could have stayed in the car.
I’m grateful for these reminders that most of us are carrying too much baggage, both physically and emotionally.
The rest of the museum handbags and their contents as a way to tell the story of women’s history. Focusing on 1900-1999, each vignette features purses and their likely contents, providing insight not only to the political climate (often including campaign memorabilia) but into the priorities of the time. Each handbag and accessories featured in the museum are part of the owner’s personal collection, and the items in each display rotate throughout the years.
I may have been too overwhelmed by the details of the museum’s collection on my first visit to draw correlations between the progressive increase in bag size and the amount of responsibilities women began to have outside the home as the years progressed. I have nothing but anecdotal evidence to support my theory, but I’m sure the museum’s owner, Antia Davis, could shed a lot of light onto this topic.
No trip would be complete without combing through the museum’s gift shop. Filled with handcrafted handbags, jewelry, and more, you’re guaranteed to find everything from a unique statement piece to everyday essentials. If a trip to Little Rock isn’t in your future, you can shop the museum store online.