Carry Me: 100 Years of Handbags 07/10/2022 – 12/03/2023

Adamson-Eric Museum
Adult: Adamson-Eric Museum
  • Family: Adamson-Eric Museum
  • Discount: Adamson-Eric Museum
  • Adult ticket with donation: Art Museum of Estonia

Carry Me: 100 Years of Handbags

In the last one hundred years, handbags have become essential parts of most permanent fashion accessories. A handbag can be a very practical everyday companion, an extraordinarily luxurious and expensive status symbol, an eye-catching design element, and a conveyor of powerful social messages. A woman’s handbag is never only a fashionable everyday commodity, but also a complicated, multifunctional and sometimes even impractical form of art. A handbag tells a lot about the fashion-awareness, lifestyle and status of its owner in society, as well as her state of mind, identity and world views.

As society changes, handbags change. Art, pop culture, music and celebrities have enormous influences on fashion. New bag styles come and go, and some handbags become highly desirable luxury items. There are often talented designers and influential fashion houses behind the birth of classic iconic bags, and the fame of some handbags is boosted by their famous owners. Some handbags are even more widely known and more time-resistant focus objects of fashion houses than clothes. Original handbags of different eras are also desirable and precious collector items.

The present-day handbag developed in the 20th century. It has been influenced by art, trends in fashion and new materials, as well as such social changes as the emancipation of women and their higher employment rates. In the 1920s, handbags became every woman’s fashion companion. This elegant exhibition based on Italian private collections focuses on trend-setting developments of handbags through the different decades of the last one hundred years and thus also reveals the changing roles of women in society.

The exposition contains almost 50 original handbags, representing well-known fashion houses – Hermés, Gucci, Dior, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Chloé and Roberta di Camerino – as well as the designers Judith Leiber, Karl Lagerfeld, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Marc Jacobs, Wali Mohammed Barrech, Riccardo Tisci, Frida Giannini, Paco Rabanne, Lulu Guinness and others. The display also includes handbag models which have become famous because of being carried by Grace Kelly, Jacqueline Kennedy, Princess Diana and other fashion icons.

The handbags and costumes displayed at the exhibition come from various private collections in Italy. The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue in Estonian and English.

In connection with the international exhibition of handbags, the second floor of the museum – the permanent exhibition of Adamson-Eric’s works – is displaying a special exposition of handbags designed by him. The handbags created by Adamson-Eric, one of the most versatile artists of Estonian art history, are all unique items. The display includes handbags designed for the artist’s wife, Mari Adamson, the poet Debora Vaarandi and the pianist Lilian Semper.

Curator: Günther Fulterer (Italy)
Coordinator: Kersti Koll
Exhibition design: Mari Kurismaa
Graphic design: Tuuli Aule

We thank: Kaubamaja Tallinn, Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design

Blue beaded purse. 1920s, France; Evening bag. Roberta di Camerino. 1950s, Italy; 3D découpage box bag. Anton Piek. 1950s, Germany; Classic Red Lip clutch. Lulu Guinness. 1994, Italy; Pink handbag. Roberta di Camerino. 1970s, Italy. All bags: private collections, Italy. Photos: Günther Fulterer

In collaboration with