Old ladies carrying purses

I haven’t seen this in years, but within the last few days, I’ve seen two elderly women walking along with their purses (erm, probably a “pocketbook”) dangling from the crooks of their elbows. (Think Sophia from Golden Girls.)

No woman under the age of … 80, maybe? … carries her purse like this. When did shoulder bags become popular? I’d guess during the '60s, maybe – and some adult women at that time made the switch and some didn’t. My mother was born in 1917, and I remember her using a shoulder bag through the '70s and '80s (she died in '87). So she would have been, what, around 45 or 50 around the time the style fundamentally changed. OTOH, neither of her older sisters (born 1915 and 1914) switched to shoulder bags, I don’t think. I know as Americans we’re not allowed to mention social class – but might it be a class thing?

Any purse historians out there?

(NB: I can get more mundane and pointless than this, but it’s really, really hard.)

I am an AARP-age female, and neither I nor my geezerette friends carry our purses this way. Makes the purse way too easy to snatch.

A thought: maybe these aren’t genuine old ladies. Maybe they are police decoys.

[Slight hijack] This thread made me remember the woman across the street when I was a little kid. She’d take her purse to walk from the house to the mailbox to get the mail. It wasn’t like she’d get in the car and go somewhere afterward-she’d go back inside. I could never figure out why she needed to have her purse (unless they were on the lam and she had a .38 S&W snubnose inside). [/hijack]

AARP seems to think I’m eligible, just because I’m 50. Harrumph.

No, I’m not saying all old ladies (by which I mean women over 80 or so) carry their purses like this – just that absolutely no one younger than this does. I’m speculating that purse styles changed fundamentally at a certain point, such that ways of carrying purses would change – and that some women made the change, and some didn’t.

Think of all those '50s B&W sitcom housewives (Lucy, June Anderson, Mrs. Cleaver, Harriet Nelson) – they all carried their purses like this.

Over the past couple of years handbags have become more popular again. I’ve seen them carried in the hand, on the arm, under the arm and on the shoulder like a tiny shoulderbag.

My purse has a shoulder strap and two handles, and while I usually have it on my shoulder, I have been known to carry it in your old-lady style or just holding the handles in my hand. But then, I’m a rebel. Oh yeah, I am. :wink:

An alternate use for the handbag is a Dangerous Weapon of Mass Hilarity. But be sure to also bring umbrellas and bibles.

My old mum always used to carry a handbag, which I presume is what you lot call a purse. Inside her handbag was usually just a few tissues, a packet of mints and about 3/6 in change. Absolutely nothing of value.

She kept what we call her purse - i.e. the small doodah with zipped compartments with her money in it (I have no idea what you Americans call that) - in her coat pocket. Her idea was that in the event of her being mugged (which, thankfully, never happened), she would simply let go of the handbag. I believe she devised this strategy after her friend Mrs Moriarty was mugged, foolishly kept hold of her bag and had her wrist broken for her troubles.

She used to go to Bingo a lot. Twice in the space of 2 weeks she won £500. Ever wary of being watched by an opportuntist, on each occasion she went to the toilet of the Bingo place (the former Essoldo cinema in Kilburn, where she took me to see “Mary Poppins” in 1964 - it’s now a mosque) and stuffed the notes into the arm of her coat.

I call that a wallet.

Because I live dangerously, I keep my wallet in my purse, which has been known to dangle, old-lady-style, from my arm, despite my relative youth and sensibility.

Oh, yes, and although I have not won money at bingo, I have taken cash out of an ATM, put the cash in my wallet, put the wallet in my purse, dangled my purse from my arm old-lady-style, and walked – alone, mind you – through the mean streets of downtown LA at 8 o’clock at night.

Oh, yeah. I’m tough.

On the “Golden Girls”, Sophia (mentioned in the OP) used to carry her purse around the house. Even when she got up in the middle of the night to talk with the girls and have cheesecake, there she’d be with her purse.

I remember one of my grandmothers scolding my mom for carrying a shoulderbag purse instead of a handbag. According to Gram, shoulderbags were too big, looked like knapsacks and were unladylike altogether. So maybe there was a cultural component after all?

Oddly enough, my mother wound up switching back to handbags (and sometimes even a fannypack, ick!) after years of carrying everything but the kitchen sink slung over her shoulder aggravated her back. But she didn’t tell Gram that was why. :slight_smile:

I have one of these in black, if I’m carrying anything else in my hands it winds up resting on my forearm like Sophia carried hers.

Maybe the purse slips off the shoulder more easily once your shoulders get that distinctive old-lady curve? Having a purse slip off your shoulder and thud against your inner elbow can be surprisingly uncomfortable, even if you’re not an old lady.

As for carrying it around- good habit if you’ve noticed a bad habit of forgetting to bring your house keys out with you, which was my special gift as a young woman.

Just theories, no facts, no old ladies polled.

Wonderful idea.

Couldn’t she have just said something like ‘My boy James is the Napoleon of crime! If you don’t leave me alone he’ll have a gang of his minions torture you to death.’

Despite my youth, I have been known to carry my purse in the crook of my elbow.:eek: Most of the purses I have now don’t even have a shoulder strap, just a little short strap. Most of them are long enough to go over my shoulder, but sometimes it’s just easier to dangle it from my elbow.

When I carry a purse, it’s my red Rampage one, which has a very long, wide strap. I put over my shoulder and neck on the right side. My shoulders slope, so shoulder bags slide off. (though am not yet an old lady) I prefer backpacks, but I can’t seem to find any lately that don’t look slouchy. Usually I forgo the shoulder issue altogether and carry my wallet in my hip pocket, with keys in the opposite one.

My grandmother always had a handbag. It weighed approximately 75 lbs and stayed hidden on the floor behind the rocking chair in her bedroom when it wasn’t in use. And yes, when she went out she was an elbow-dangler. My mother seems equally comfortable with either style; I prefer a purse with shoulder straps.

Harimad-sol, will you teach me the Zen of Traveling Without A Purse? Seriously, how do you do that? My purse has my checkbook, my credit cards, library cards, insurance cards, drivers license, car/house/work keys, chapstick, lipstick, mirror, pictures of Cute Kids, pocket calculator/organizer/electronic address book, another lipstick - if I tried to stuff all that in my hip pocket I’d look very lopsided.

I have deep pockets (only literally, sigh) and I can fit in them: checkbook (mine is merely covered in the plastic cover provided by the bank, so it is slim), wallet (which holds money when I have some, all the various cards, and pictures), lip balm (either a tin or a tube of Burt’s bees), mirrored powder compact, cell phone (which functions as my organizer/calculator), and keys. I divide these things between the two hip pockets. I confess that when traveling long distances, wearing something pocketless, or going somewhere with my mother (who is miffed that I cram everything into my pockets “like a man”), I carry my purse.

I am able to get everything in my pockets, I am convinced, because I am not a mother and therefore do not have to have Mom Stuff, which, as we know, can take up a lot of purse room. I anticipate having to carry a bag when I become a mother.


I’m watching a re-run of Sex in the City on HBO and Charlotte was strolling along the avenue eating ice cream, cutesy pocketbook dangling from the crook of her arm.

There ya go, Twicks. Apparently if you wear $400 Manolo Blahnik shoes while dangling, you fly right under the AARP radar. :cool:

I stand corrected.

Was she wearing a Jackie-Kennedy-ish coat? A pillbox hat?

Yikes, I must get rid of my back-pack/purse thingy that I so adore. I loved it because it frees up my hands for kid/baby needs. How in the world did old-fashioned ladies manage, I wonder?