When I was lucky enough to come across this true treasure and important part of Vintage fashion at an auction: I was immediately mesmerized. At the time I didn't know a lot about Wadsworth or the history of this style of clutch; but I I knew it was special. Its energy and feel was like nothing I have ever seen before. I had to have it. This purse is incredibly Rare and highly Collectible. Wadsworth was genius when it came to creating these tiny and extraordinary Minaudiere clutch-wristlet pieces.
Invented in 1934 by Van Cleef & Arpels, the Minaudiere is a dainty accessory, often described less as a "purse" and more of a jewelry piece intended to substitute for an evening bag. They are often metal plated and oblong - meant to be "portable" or able to be held in your hand. However, a feature of these unique style of clutch is its practical and compact utility. Inside a Minaudiere are compartments for all of your evening essentials -it is incredible how the design and creativity made space for a coin purse, mirror, lipstick, powder, combs, etc. Everything a woman could want for that fancy dance or date-night. Many of these "purses" did not have handles - but some featured small lanyard straps or chains to wear over the wrist. These small portable evening accoutrements are Vintage glamour at its best.
As this style grew in popularity, during the 1950's many haute couture designers - like Wadsworth, added their own genius touches and artistry to them. Wadsworth pieces are incredible and made of the finest materials and craftsmanship. Some of his most rare Minaudieres are his signature "Camera" designs. This piece is one of those camera/dance style pieces.
It has a gold-toned frame - the front side has a rectangular plate made of the same shiny metal - it would be perfect for engraving. The back and rest of the front are covered with a black antelope suede. It has a leather and black suede strap that fits perfectly around your wrist to make it even more "portable" and easy to take out for a night on the town.
This Minaudiere opens on two sides and has a snap closure. The interior is really really cool - Wadsworth really was ingenious in his designs and ability to provide "space" for everything while keeping his purses small and compact. Inside you will find a small coin purse, a powder compartment with the original puff (there is still some powder in there - if you feel like your nose might need a buff! lol), the middle powder section has the Wadsworth embedded label/signature. There is also a place for your lipstick with a clever "clasp" to keep it in place. The "lids" of the small cubicles, if you will, are made of a delicious and soft creamy leather. The "bottoms" are an off-white/cream mid-century plastic. My best guess is that it is either Celluloid or Lucite. I tested it to see if it was Bakelite, but did not get the yellow color-change indicative of genuine Bakelite. I know that often this color is more difficult to test - but I never use the term Bakelite if I cannot guarantee its authenticity. I have been told by other collectors that it is Bakelite - but again, that is "word-of-mouth" - so I am unsure and don't want to label it as such without "proof."
The "flip" side of this clutch has a mirror with a clever hidden comb. Wadsworth really did think of everything for the perfect night out! The mirror has some cracks, and damage, most likely due to age and use and possible storage. This "imperfection" doesn't take away from of the beauty of this bag (in my opinion). It has aged with both grace and dignity - and is an elegant and highly collectible piece. I can only imagine the stories it could tell - so many nights of parties, dances and extravagant events! I'm sure it holds secrets and memories galore.
It measures 6 1/4" x 3 1/8" x 1 1/4" - one of the sides when opened is 4 1/2" x 2 3/4" x 1/2"
This is an incredibly rare and remarkable piece - I have enjoyed it and hope you do too. I would love for its "Story" to continue and grow - it may be small but it has a lot of room for all that its future holds.
Please feel welcome to message me anytime with questions! Thank you so much for visiting my shop - it really means a lot.