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December 18, 2009

Almost the Kitchen Sink…Examining Handbags

I met two girlfriends for coffee this week and the subject of handbags came up. I’ve been thinking about doing a blog post on handbags and their contents for ages so I con…ah, persuaded them to let me photograph what they were carrying in their bags. Note – they both censored their contents a little!


This is what my friend Tessa Radley had in her handbag.


This is what my friend, Jo had in her handbag.

I’ve been carrying around my briefcase this week. It contains my alphasmart, wallet (credit cards, driver’s licence etc), house keys, flash drive, camera, Palm PDA (e-reader), small makeup bag, canvas bag (instead of using plastic bags), chewing gum, about five pens, notebook, a library book about Distance Relationships, bus ticket, iPod, tissues, sunglasses, business cards in silver case, and cell phone.

Maybe you should call me Gadget Girl. :grin:

The typical handbag of a typical woman in 1945 contained:

One or two lipsticks
A compact(the won’t close)
1 fresh handkerchief
2/3 crumpled handkerchiefs
A package of letters
The laundry bill
3 tickets from the cleaner
1 nylon stocking to be repaired
1 address book
1 pack of cigarettes
3 packs of matches
1 leather picture folder
All ration books (including expired ones)
Several cards with address of a furrier,
a wholesale place for children’s coats, a beauty parlor, a graphologist, etc.
2 scraps of paper with telephone numbers
and no names
1 hairnet
1 bottle of vitamins
3 samples of slipcovers
1 fountain pen
2 pencils
1 parcel of V-mail letters covering
several months held by a rubber band.

The typical handbag of a typical woman today:

ATM Card
Cell Phone / Blackberry
Change Purse
Crumpled Tissues
Hand Cream
Hair Brush
Lip Balm
Nail File
Makeup case filled to capacity
Wallet and credit cards

One bag is not enough
Our contents spill over into our totebags,
where you will find:
Bottled Water
Paperback Book/Magazine
Shoes to change at work

I thought the differences were quite interesting.

Source: Accessory Web

Do you carry a handbag, and if so, what do you have in it? (note – if you’d like to send me a photo of your handbag contents I’ll post them next week)


  1. Nancy Henderson

    I have a handbag with keys, cards, money, spare pair of glasses because I’m always breaking my glasses and I’m blind as a bat without them. I also carry a tote bag containing my Alpha, books, magazines–usually the last issue of RT that I haven’t read yet–spare shoes in winter. Then to work I also carry a lunch tote. So Mon-Fri I’m carrying 1 purse, 1 tote, and 1 lunch tote. And I wonder why my back hurts!

  2. Maria Zannini

    I’ve worn a fanny pack for so long I’d forgotten what my handbag looks like.

    I generally carry a wallet, checkbook, pen, keys, hairbrush, compact, and aspirin.

    Oh, and old receipts. My bag is a graveyard of old receipts.

  3. Jaime

    When I was younger, I carried the cute purses with a small wallet, a few cosmetics, my cell and keys. Now? I carry a ginormous tote stocked full of diapers and wipes. I’ll squeeze my wallet, chapstick, and a book inside (if I’m lucky). But it all depends on where I’m going and who’s taking the trip with me.

    The hips aren’t the only thing that gets larger with each child you have — so does your purse! :mrgreen:

  4. RKCharron

    Hi Shelley :)
    Just… wow.
    I always wondered what was in a woman`s purse. I like the differences in 60 years.
    Thanks for the fun post.

  5. Kate Pearce

    You had me at handbag. I have a gazillion :)
    Interesting how the things we carry have changed! I can get my laptop in my current bag, which suits me just fine :)

  6. Shelley Munro

    Nancy – some of us do tote around a lot. There’s something to be said for small handbags. I bet we could get by without most of the stuff.

  7. Shelley Munro

    Maria – LOL I’ve just cleared my bag of old receipts and bus tickets. I’m sure they go forth and multiply in the dark!

  8. Shelley Munro

    Jaime – I had to laugh about the growing hips and handbags.

    RK – you’d wonder why we need to carry all that around, wouldn’t you? In my defence some of my stuff is writing related.

  9. Sherry S.

    I don’t carry a handbag all I carry is my wallet which I stick everything in coupons, receipts, checks, ATM card, stamps, work ID and discount cards for book and grocery stores.

  10. Shelley Munro

    Sherry – I think I need you to organize me! I usually tote around my writing stuff, which means I need a large bag. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it!

  11. Mary

    I usually carry a change purse, daily planner, keys, chap stick, sun glasses, keys, credit cards, tissues and hand sanitizer.

    • Shelley

      You sound much more organized than me, Mary. I have a small bottle of hand sanitizer as well. I’d forgotten about that.

  12. Fedora

    Man, I’d be embarrassed to post a photo of my bag! ;) Although I don’t carry diapers any more (yay for potty training!), my bag is still stuffed with all kinds of random things! Stuff for me like sunglasses, wallet, book; stuff for the kids like crayons, paper, wipes, snacks, etc. plus random things I’ve picked up or stuffed in there before I could reach a garbage can or any number of things!

  13. Linda Henderson

    Let me see, wallet, checkbook, keys, lip gloss, receipts, cough drops, band-aids, assorted papers, address book, pens, small note pad, pictures and that’s about it.

  14. Shelley Munro

    Fedora – when I wrote this I hadn’t thought about children adding to handbag contents. I’ve learned something. :mrgreen:

    Linda – ah, another organized person. I think the secret is to use smaller handbags. Mine are all large and therefore it’s tempting to toss a few extra things inside.

  15. Beth Reimer

    I carry a little purse but the sucker is crammed full of all kinds of things