Revisiting Esse Purse Museum For Hats and Pins

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A true gem for fashion lovers & historians alike is tucked away in Little Rock. Esse Purse Museum is the world’s only independent handbag museum and one of three dedicated to a woman’s most faithful companion. Although my last visit was just over one year ago, a trip to Arkansas’s capital is not complete without stopping in to view the latest special exhibit. Fortunately, we visited on the opening day of Hats and Pins, a delightful collection of vintage chapeaus and the pieces of jewelry that often adorn them.

The exhibit is displayed in a room off the main floor of the museum that wasn’t open during our last visit. Each piece is its own statement, rich with color, a dash of fantasy, and made with expert craftsmanship. Although there isn’t any information provided about each piece, it’s easy to get lost in the fantasy of either becoming the type of woman who would wear of these hats or imagining all of the places each hat visited while being worn on fantastic adventures.

This temporary exhibit will be on display through December 30, 2019, and admission is included with the cost of the museum ticket price. $10 general admission, $8 for students, seniors, and military.

Esse Purse Museum Handbag Scale

‘What’s Your Weight?’ is the one interactive exhibit in the museum. I’ve been known to carry larger than necessary handbags and stuff them to the brim, so I always reluctantly place my bag on the scale.

Sure, I can blame a portion of the nearly seven-pound weight on my notebook, rose gold chain, or even my oversized portable battery, but the truth is that most of the belongings could have stayed in the car.

I’m grateful for these reminders that most of us are carrying too much baggage, both physically and emotionally.

The rest of the museum handbags and their contents as a way to tell the story of women’s history. Focusing on 1900-1999, each vignette features purses and their likely contents, providing insight not only to the political climate (often including campaign memorabilia) but into the priorities of the time. Each handbag and accessories featured in the museum are part of the owner’s personal collection, and the items in each display rotate throughout the years.

I may have been too overwhelmed by the details of the museum’s collection on my first visit to draw correlations between the progressive increase in bag size and the amount of responsibilities women began to have outside the home as the years progressed. I have nothing but anecdotal evidence to support my theory, but I’m sure the museum’s owner, Antia Davis, could shed a lot of light on this topic.

No trip would be complete without combing through the museum’s gift shop. Filled with handcrafted handbags, jewelry, and more, you’re guaranteed to find everything from a unique statement piece to everyday essentials. If a trip to Little Rock isn’t in your future, you can shop at the museum store online.

Esse Purse Museum is one of the many unexpected places I can’t wait to show friends when they visit from out of town. For more destinations, visit Rascal Honey Travel & our City Guide: Little Rock.

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Sarah Conley
Focusing on style and self-esteem with her inimitable sass, Sarah has helped change the conversation about plus size fashion. She is a socially connected influencer, has been the star of viral videos, and helped lead an anti-body shaming campaign that earned an apology from O, the Oprah Magazine. With an approach that is more Role Model than Runway Model, Sarah has built a credible connection with the fashion community as a whole. As a freelance writer, her work has appeared in TIME, CNN, Teen Vogue, Glamour, InStyle, Lucky, and more. As a consultant, her social strategies have been executed by former clients ELOQUII, Undone Beauty, NARS, MAC Cosmetics, David Yurman, Diane von Furstenberg, Nine West, Clé de Peau Beauté, and many more. Currently, she serves as the Director of Marketing for Arkansas’s only cut-to-order cheese shop, Sweet Freedom Cheese in Bentonville, Arkansas. When she’s not educating people on the wonders of artisanal cheese or taking her rescue dog, Blueberry Shortcake Flowers, for a walk, Sarah can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @imsarahconley.

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