I’ve long been fascinated by other people’s wardrobes and closets – what they keep in them, how they’re arranged, what they tell us about their owner; and of course, is there a better way to arrange them to create space and better access? Just your run of the mill questions from a person who loves things well organised, optimised and ‘in their place’. Seems I’m not alone...
New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art recently opened an exhibition called Sara Berman’s Closet. Strolling through the museum you might stumble up what looks like a small clothing closet filled with women’s clothes and accessories; and that’s exactly what it is - a recreation of the late woman’s closet from her Greenwich Village apartment. The idea was devised and executed by her daughter, artist Maria Kalman and grandson, Alex Kalman (co-founder of Mmuseumm).
Sara Berman's Closet at The Met. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Sara Berman was renowned for her all white wardrobe. The stark minimalism of the wardrobe reflects Berman’s modest upbringing; she emigrated with her Jewish family from Belarus to Tel Aviv to escape persecution, and as an adult, went to New York City. So Berman grew up as a poor immigrant; and worked day and night in her home – not much more than a shack – with her mother and sister. The order, simplicity and total lack of excess of any kind surely tells the story.
Our homes tell visitors so much about our lifestyles, interests and lives in general; but our wardrobes tell so much more. Imagine how different the wardrobes of Oprah Winfrey, Mother Teresa and Lady Gaga would be?
Someone who has spent a great deal of time pondering women’s wardrobes is artist Hans-Peter Feldmann. Feldmann has long been fascinated by clothes, cosmetics and the everyday objects that women choose to surround themselves with and late last year Galerie des Galeries in Paris Gallery exhibited some of his works based on these ideas.
One of his most famous pieces, All the Clothes of a Woman… is literally that. Feldmann photographed every single item the women in the artwork owned – she even had to take off the trousers she was wearing. It was 1960s Germany and at that time many people didn’t have a lot of money. No doubt most wardrobes today would be much bigger; but the interesting thing is what it tells us about this time.
Feldmann's 'All the clothes of a woman...' Photo: courtesy of the artist and Galerie Martine Aboucaya, Paris ADAGP.
Needless to say, a personal favourite of mine is Feldmann’s piece Contents of a Woman’s Handbag… According to Elsa Janssen, director of Galerie des Galeries: “When Hans-Peter was young, he told me he was very curious about what his mother had in her handbag, but his mother didn't want him to see inside it, and he was a bit frustrated. So he decided to ask a woman to buy her handbag and all its contents for 500 euros, and in the end he bought ten bags and he kept all the contents...”
When exhibited, the handbags and their contents are laid out in traditional museum vitrines. The women who relinquished their bags are identified by their first name, age and city. None of the women who were offered the 500 euros were given the opportunity to give their bags a quick tidy, the deal was it had to be handed over as is. Important items such as credit cards or passports were returned to the owners.
One of the handbags and its contents from Feldmann's 'Contents of a Woman's Handbag...' Photo: Serpentine Gallery.
The result sees cases full of business cards, phones, pain killers, crumpled receipts, sanitary products, pens etc. - many of the items that I talk about in one of my previous blogs: ‘What would you find in most women’s handbags?’; check it out here if you’re interested: https://handbaghanger.com.au/blogs/thh-the-handbag-headquarters/what-would-you-find-in-most-women-s-handbags
Another handbag and its contents by Feldmann. Photo: Serpentine Gallery.
So it seems women around the world are carrying around much the same paraphernalia in their bags – regardless of cultural background, age or which city they live in. Perhaps we are all more connected than we acknowledge.
I completely relate to Feldmann’s obsession with the beauty and joy these everyday, highly functional ‘works of art’ bring. My journey to create the ideal handbag hanger started when I felt it was such a waste to not get more pleasure out of all my gorgeous handbags. They were all hidden away, wherever I could find a place to put them. I wanted to have them all on ‘show’ lined up before my eyes to see each day just for the pure pleasure of it. But of course, the equally fabulous benefit being that I could easily access them all, so wearing a different bag all the time was easy, having them all laid out before me.
Enjoy your handbag collection, and remember, always treat them with the love and respect they deserve. If you haven’t invested in them yet, it’s never too late to start treating them right, the answer is here with my original thh – the handbag hanger. I consider my hangers to also be works of art. Much thought and time was spent designing my hangers to look great and complement your bags. And they've been made strong, and well engineered - manufactured by a company that makes climbing carabiners and safety equipment (so you know your bags will be hung safe and sound, and off the ground!) Hope you love them; and your handbag collection, as much as I do.
I’d love to hear about any other great artwork based on handbags and wardrobes, and of course, always keen to hear about your amazing bags.
Please leave a comment below, and share this with your friends; it’s always good to share ‘handbag love’.