Family Fashions: Grandma Nicki’s Clutch

· Family fashions that bear memories ·


In the months after my grandfather’s passing, I spent several days at my grandparents’ home helping my grandma get it ready to sell. These were hard days sorting through memories or doing dirty work cleaning, but I was happy I had the time to help. During one of these days, early on, my grandma came across a beaded clutch that I was immediately drawn to. As she was trying to lessen her load, she happily passed the clutch onto me.

It was love at first sight. White satin with grey beads scattered across the entire bag and lining the edges, the beauty comes from the white beaded lilies, outlined in the same grey beads with seed pearls standing in for stamens and stigma. Beautiful in its simplicity, I couldn’t wait to use it.

When my grandma gave me the clutch, she told me that she’d gotten it as a birthday gift from her parents. She could remember that it had come in a blue box and was purchased from a store in her tiny hometown of Ephrata, Washington. The tag on the inside says it was produced by “Regal Products” and made in Japan. A quick search of “Regal Products” and “Regal Products 1950s” brings up no hits for bags or clothing.

Grandma has fond memories of taking the bag to dances with my grandpa while they were both at Central Washington University before they were married. Grandma’s handwritten maiden initials “NR,” along with the memories of dances with Papa date the bag to before 1959, making it certainly over 60 years old. Yet, the bag holds up – both physically and stylistically. Would you find a brand-new bag that looked it in a store today? No, but nor does it look out of place in the contemporary landscape. It has a classic look and the neutral palette ensures it can go with just about anything.

I finally had my chance to use the bag just after Christmas last year. Though you may not think that a white bag adorned with lilies would be appropriate in the winter, that is the beauty of this bag: the white lilies make it appropriate for spring or summer, while the dark grey beading allows it to also be worn in the winter.

My cousin had a winter wedding a few days after Christmas. I decided to wear a Banana Republic light grey sheath dress. Made of a wool-type fabric and simple but with a dramatic bow on the back, it seemed the perfect option for a wedding in the snow. What made it even better was that I instantly knew that the dark grey beading on Grandma’s clutch would match perfectly. Sheer black tights, black heels, and a pop of red from my wrap and the outfit was complete. I loved how perfectly the clutch matched the grey of the dress. This wedding was a few days after my now-husband had proposed to me and a picture we took before the wedding was actually the photo we used to announce our engagement on social media.

And just as my grandma has good memories of the bag, I also began to make good memories with the bag.

I’ve continued to make memories with the bag in the year since. I brought it to another cousin’s wedding in June and to my husband’s Christmas party this December. However, an extra special memory came on Thanksgiving this year which also happened to be the evening before I got married. My grandma was here in England and I was able to use the clutch while sitting next to her at dinner. This time, my palette was deep burgundy. A silky burgundy dress with matching shoes and velvet hair bow, the clutch added a much-needed break from the burgundy. Paired with a white coat, it made for an elegant, pulled together look for the night before my wedding.

At dinner, I sat next to my grandma and she noticed the bag, mentioning that she was glad I have it. She also let me know that the grey beads that helped it be so versatile were once metallic silver. I wish I could see it what it looked like then, but I am also glad that time has dulled the beads as I don’t think it would fit quite so seamlessly with contemporary style if it were it a brighter shade. But I can imagine that the silver beads would have made it quite a glam accessory. I felt especially grateful to have been able to use the bag with my grandma and make a memory with her.

I love using this bag. I love that I get to pull it out when I’m getting dressed up. I love having a vintage bag to use on special occasions. I love that it seems to seamlessly match any outfit I want it to. But most of all, I love thinking about my grandma – and my grandpa – whenever I use it. Imagining the outings it saw as they went to dances in their late teens and early twenties; wondering what my grandma wore with it; wondering what she put in it. Thinking of all the memories it’s sure to have seen and all the while making my own memories with it.

And, just like that, it has done what sentimental items of dress have a unique knack of doing. It has become a living memory.

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