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Friday, October 9, 2009

The Legend of the Minaudiere

by Polly Guerin, Fashion Historian




Everybody knows that accessories make an outfit, and it seems you can never have too many evening bags, especially a Minaudiere. The French word describes an elegant but small, highly jeweled hard metal case that one can nestle in their hand. These charming little handfuls are more an art form than anything else and placed on the dinner table or worn at a gala event these minaudieres look like portable art. "Bubbles," the late Beverly Sills, had hundreds of them and mostly as gifts or bought from Judith Leiber the famed handbag designer who produced animal, avant-garde and whimsical shapes all jeweled and emblazoned with eye popping colorful rhinestones. Among Bubbles' collection, recently auctioned at Doyle, were a Doctor's Bag Minaudiere, A Shell Minaudiere, an Elephant Deity Minaudiere, and a wide assortment of Faberge Egg Minaudieres. Minaudiere in its original sense was a charming way to describe a coquette, a person with affected manners.

          Contemporary minaudieres are just that coquettish but their incarnation is ascribed by Deborah Chase, (a new RWA/NYC member) in her book, TERMS OF ADORNMENT:  The Ultimate Guide to Accessories (HarperCollins), as having been created by Van Cleef and Arpels in 1930, when Charles Arpels noticed that one of his clients was using a metal Lucky Strike box as a purse. He adapted the look and named it after the wife of his partner, Estelle Van Cleef, who was "minaudiere" (charming). At first minaudieres were made of gold plated or silver metal and encrusted with genuine gems, but the look was too delicious to remain exclusive. Within a decade you could find the dainty purse on female arms throughout America. Deborah recommends that, "You look for vintage mother-of-pearl, petit point, or beaded minaudieres in flea markets and antique stores and to modernize the minaudiere change the short wrist strap for a long chain so that you can hang the small bag from your shoulder."

          Mad about a certain book cover? Your own, of course! Have it immortalized on a square-shaped minaudiere. That's the concept behind a magical new line of limited edition minaudieres by Paris-based, Olympia Le-Tan, evoking first-edition covers of 21 classics. The collection is handmade in France, using canvas, embroidered flet applique and silk thread, with a brass strictire. Each minaudiere book retails for $l,500 and the boutique Colette is the exclusive Paris distributor for the collection. (213 Rue Saint-Honore, 7500l; +33-1-55-35-33-90.)
          Now that's a great new way to promote your romantic book. Not only is a book minaudiere a good marketing tool, it will certainly draw attention to your novel and You. Perhaps you can find a handbag manufacturer who can personalize a book minaudiere for your best selling novel.
          Terry Mayer, jewelry designer, takes it one step further and creates book miniatures in silver or another alloy, and imprints the title of a book on the cover so you can wear the little jewelry book on a chain, front and center. Visit her at www.terrymayerbells@aol.com. ♥





BIO:   Polly Guerin's first job in journalism was as Accessories Editor at the fashion bible, the trade newspaper Women's Wear Daily where she honed her skills on writing about accessories and later as professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology she lectured on Product Knowledge explained how accessories were made and manufactured. Polly is also a vice-president of Romance Writers of America/New York Chapter. Visit her at www.pollytalk.com with links to her Internet PollyTalk column and blog www.amazingartdecodivas.blogspot.com.

2 comments:

  1. Polly, these are absolutely adorable! (Personally, I love the one with the snake.) What a cute idea to turn a book cover into a fashion accessory!
    A fascinating post!

    Lis

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  2. They are so cute. I don't know how much you could get into these little purses -- maybe just a lipstick and a $20 to get home.

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