Tassenmuseum Hendrikje

Museum of Bags and Purses in Amsterdam is permanently closed.
A museum for all handbag fans who daily ask themselves: which handbag will I take today? The fire-engine red one, a present of an old flame, the malachite green with the secret pockets a souvenir from Paris or the beige goatskin envelop bag that looks like Prada but bought in Hong Kong? Visit the Bags and Pursed Museum shop to satisfy your hunger for bags.

Bag Collection

If you are a handbag fan, it is almost certain that your collection of bags pales into insignificance beside the collection owned by Tassenmuseum, Museum of Bags and Purses. Housed in a 17th century building on the Herengracht, the museum displays 3,500 bags, purses and handbags. The majority is Hendrikje Ivo’s private bag collection. She started her addiction some thirty-five years ago when she fell in love with a small leather bag with a tortoise shell flap and decorated with inlaid mother-of-pearl flowers.

History of the Handbag

These days, bags are fashionable items but this was not always so. In old days bags were means to carry personal belongings because pockets had not been invented yet. Medieval bags did not even look like bags, nor were they called bags, but chateleine. Women in the Middle Ages hooked multiple dangling chains to a sash or waistband. Attached to these chains were useful objects such as a tape measure, a seal, a pin cushion, needle case and the key to the storage chest.


Garments with Pockets

When tailors started making garments with pockets, bags became fashionable accessories. Beside a handkerchief, a comb and needlework tools, women carried in their bags peppermint, coins and snuff boxes. Suitcases developed from necessity when travel became more commonplace. Handbags achieved popularity when women began to go out to work.

The Handbag Collection

Glass display cases line the walls of the exhibition rooms in the Handbag Museum. Two full floors are devoted to historical bags including a 16th century silver-framed leather pouch with eighteen little holes to store secret treasures and an 18th century embroidered envelope-shaped purse attached to a ribbon tied around the waist and worn between petticoat and skirt. This pouch was impossible to pickpocket and may be considered the forerunner of today’s traveller’s pouch.


Chanel 2.55

Another floor is crammed with 20th and 21st centuries bags. Almost everyone’s favourite in this section is Chanel’s 2.55, made of quilted leather and held by a golden chain. The name refers to the month and year of its introduction. You may also like the harmonica-shaped red leather shoulder bag and the Gianni Versace green-and-white ivy bag Madonna carried at the premiere of the movie Evita. The all-time favourite is a red leather handbag that functions as a telephone, complete with dial hook and receiver.



Museum of Bags and Purses / Tassenmuseum Hendrikje

Herengracht 573


Be sure to visit the Museum Shop which brims with bags all sort and all prices.

Opening hours: Every day from 10.00-17.00. Arrive after 16.30 and you will get a 50% reduction on the entrance fee!

photo credit Marianne Crone