Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Codex Clutch: An Introduction to Bookish Handbags

A Judith Leiber crystal encrusted
evening bag
You can't tell a book by its cover: outward appearance is not a guide to a person's real nature; saying recorded from the early 20th century.

 Ladies accessories, such as compacts, clutch bags and full-blown handbags have been made in emulation of books throughout the 20th, and now the 21st century. There probably is a size limit, as I've yet to see a book-shaped briefcase or luggage set in folio format. Book purses make sense, as after all, books are time-proven efficient repositories for everything imaginable. Then there are their 'smart' and 'secrecy' factors; they make us look intelligent and accomplished, plus they are pretty good at hiding things one doesn't want others to notice. They are also amusing conversation pieces and can be perfect ice-breakers in social situations (or, I guess if they are really authentic looking, you could pretend you are reading), and they are perfect gifts for book-lovers. I'd suggest that shy ladies or their partners go run right out and buy one (or look online). There is no shortage and with so many variants, they exist to compliment every personality. 

I have seen numerous beautiful and imaginative antique compacts and purses. Examples include those made of beadwork, embroidery, silver, silk and leather with gold-tooling. The compact below is made by Dupuy, Paris.

Vintage bags are common and many of the popular designers of the 1980s and 90s created them, including the infamous Ivana Trump and Paloma Picasso. The most outrageous book bags are the minautieres from Judith Lieber, who created book bags in single codex format as well as a three-book stack with a strap, in schoolbook style. The basic formats of her miniautieres are consistent but the Swarovsky crystal decorations vary greatly. Some follow expected book standard and others go off the decoration deep end.

There are plenty of new blook bags out on the market as well. I've been seeing some on the street, and certainly at Metropolitan openings. Olympia Le Tan and Kate Spade have produced some quite chic blook novels, poetry books and travel guides. For thoroughness sake I must also mention the truly tacky book bags out there, which are cute and cheap,  but odd. Then there are the extremely upsetting altered bags. Sometimes it's hard to tell if a purse was made to look like a book or is an altered book, but in theory, I strongly discourage any destruction of books for any reason. It's not so difficult to make something that looks like a book(s) from scratch.

Natalie Portman with an Olympia Le Tan Lolita book clutch
and another Le Tan blook below. 
Olympia Le-Tan


  1. Very original design. Using a book for a bag it´s a great idea. Handmade clutch bags are really unique and make you look more stylish.

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