• Abandoned Suitcases Reveal Private Lives of Insane Asylum Patients If you were committed to a psychiatric institution, unsure if you'd ever return to the life you knew before, what would you take with you? That sobering question hovers like an apparition over each of the Willard Asylum suitcases. From the 1910s through the 1960s, many patients at the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane left suitcases behind when they passed away, with nobody to claim them. Upon…
  • Lucite in the Sky with Diamonds Of all the fashion accessories of the 1950s—Ray-Ban sunglasses, Pucci scarves, Eisenberg cocktail rings—none were more dazzling than Lucite handbags. These geometric gems, which in retrospect seem to anticipate the exuberance of the 1960s, were like portable jewel boxes turned inside out, in hues that ranged from basic black to pretty pastels to clear. Some purses were made of laminated Lucite, se…
  • Purse Perfection: Judith Leiber on Faberge, Rhinestones, and Her Favorite First Ladies When I was a girl, my mother had a lot of wonderful handbags. My dad traveled often in Western Europe. Every time he came home he brought her a beautiful bag. Some of the bags came from Vienna, where my mother was born and raised. She also had bags from France, England, and Spain. My father used to buy them from all over the place. Before the war, there were laws in Hungary that prevented Jews …
  • Abigail Rutherford on the History of Vintage Handbags and the Rise of Women's Rights Even as a young girl, I was interested in the historical aspect of handbags. I probably started collecting in high school when I became more aware of my own tastes. I went to a small art school for college and did a lot of studio work, even though I was an art history major. Eventually, I went to one of Leslie Hindman’s auctions and talked to her about the historical side of things versus the mass…