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French & Elegant Beaded Purses - Facts & Tips

Cleaning your Elegant Evening Handbag

By the late 1920's and early 1930's, a new look in beaded purses stepped into high fashion. The ultimate in hand made beaded handbags from Paris and Belgium began selling in various American marketplaces.

In 1933, H. M. Manheim & Company, of New York City, sold elegant beaded evening bags from Paris.  Covered with white or ivory seed beads, some were embellished with simulated pearls.  Others were elaborately hand stitched with micro petit point or embroidered with tambour Beauvais needlework. These very special purses were satin lined with inside pockets and some had small mirrors as well.

Soon, evening bags were hand made in basic black. The wide variety of styles and colors sported exciting frames, many with matching beadwork.  Others had elaborate champleve or cloisonne enameling, rhinestone embellishments, jeweled accents and romantic Limoges porcelain discs.

The appeal and elegance of these stylish beaded evening bags continues to capture the hearts of women. Today, they are carried to weddings, dinner and garden parties, the opera and special gala events. 


Each and every one of these marvelous handbags is unique in itself and rarely have I ever discovered two that are exactly the same.  Every time I acquire one of these elegant evening bags, excitement abounds.  They are not that readily available in the excellent condition I desire for you. 

I have cleaned many beaded evening bags but primarily the all glass beaded variety. I typically do not purchase bags that absolutely need cleaning if they have petit point or embroidered details because I will not soak purses with decorative needlework or intricately hand stitched silk, wool or metallic threading.

Before cleaning your purse, you can carefully and gently polish the metal frame with small pieces of the finest steel wool but don't use steel wool on any enamel paint that might decorate the frame. Afterwards, wipe excess residue with a damp clean cloth.

The all glass beaded purses can be soaked for several minutes and more in mild soapy warm to hot water and gently, very gently swished about, try not to make bubbles. More than one dipping or soaking may be required when the purse has been overly exposed to cigarette smoke or other environmental contaminants such as perfumes and sprays. If your wash water is very yellow or dirty, dump it and start over until the wash water appears cleaner.  Then rinse in fresh warm water, more than once if necessary. A soft tooth brush can be used on the lining for added cleaning and to the exterior beadwork as well if needed, brushing gently, very gently in the direction of the beadwork.

Carefully towel dry both interior and exterior of the purse, absorbing as much water as possible. Gently stuff your handbag with a face cloth or small guest towel and press gently to absorb. I emphasize gentleness because glass beads are breakable, although they are quite resilient. Blow dry all metal parts immediately until they are totally dry.  Then blow dry the interior with warm air for about 10 minutes to help speed the drying time. Air dry all day and over night before storing, turning the purse over occasionally for even drying and air flow.

When completely dry, store your evening bag in a cool, dry area, wrapped in white tissue paper and in an "open" zip lock bag, if desired.  Always remember to allow your purse to breathe, it is a vintage textile and must have air. I keep my evening bags stuffed with tissue paper when stored or displayed. This helps them maintain the preferred original shape and avoid creases that may cause damage or become difficult to re-shape.

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