Fit For A Queen: Inside The Royal Bags Exhibit

With the largest museum of bags and purses in the world, how could you argue with wander-lusting for a trip to Amsterdam?

Located in the UNESCO World Heritage Canal Ring of Amsterdam, The Tassen Museum Hendrikje Museum of Bags and Purses offers visitors a fascinating look at over 5,000 fashion pieces.   Dubbed one of the 10 best fashion museums in the world, we felt the museum and their current special exhibit, The Royal Bags Exhibit, was something that fashion fans should definitely know more about.

Though the museum started around 30 years ago in a private home, they have spent 10 years as a public institution, and it all started because current museum director Sigrid Ivo's mother found a gorgeous vintage bag with tortoise shell plates and brought it home. Hendrikje and Heinz Ivo began to collect and collect they did.  By the easy 2000's the collection had grown so large they need to much bigger space for the museum.  Thanks to the help of a Dutch businessman, the museum was able to move to it's current location, restored 17th century canal house, complete with "Period Rooms" that can be rented for wedding and meetings.  Each year the museum welcomes approximately 80,000 visitors.  Here's some we found fascinating; It's all privately funded.

We had a chance to talk to Sigrid Ivo to get more background on the museum as well as the special exhibit spotlighting The Royal Bags.


The Collection

There are around 60-80 bags that are involved in The Royal Bags Exhibit itself, and some of the most glorious pieces were once used by Queen Elizabeth, The Queen of Denmark, Sweden, and even a 19th Century Empress. One of Ivo's favorite bags however, happens to be what has been dubbed as "The Grace Kelly Bag," designed by Hermes, and is the purse that she thinks is the "must see" bag of the exhibit. (pictured below).

Fun fact too - Grace happened to also be hiding a pregnancy under that bag!

Many of the items in the collection happen to be borrowed for this exhibit, so they are limited time editions. Ivo also explains that some of the bags featured in the exhibit were only there due to the kind help of the Dutch Royal Family and government officials who wrote letters to other royals requesting they offer items for inclusion in the exhibit.

Prince Rainier III of Monaco (1923 - 2005) with actress Grace Kelly (1929 - 1982) at the announcement of their engagement in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1956. She is clutching a Hermes purse. (Photo by Howard Sochurek/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Prince Rainier III of Monaco (1923 - 2005) with actress Grace Kelly (1929 - 1982) at the announcement of their engagement in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1956. She is clutching a Hermes purse. (Photo by Howard Sochurek/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)



One interesting note that was made during our conversation was the subject of styling and logos. Many of the Royals were actually very modest when it came to who designed their bags, and Ivo said something very profound on the subject:

"Recognize style, you don't need to see the brand." 

This struck a chord with us when speaking with her, because a lot of the time, in modern day fashion, it's all about who made it and what the logo says. But as you sift through the gallery below, you'll happen to see it's more about the aesthetics and quality of the look of the purses than it is plastering an embellishment or logo on it.


Sigrid's Choice

Of course, we had to ask Sigrid if she had a personal purse/bag collection - and she does!   She shared that she has about 60 bags, but more of them are contemporary designers than anything else. She loved the art deco styling and the modern geometric versions of purses, and made note of some that had aluminum or plastic trims that she found most intriguing.

It's Not Just A Building Filled With Purses - There's Stuff To Do!

If you do end up taking a trip to Amsterdam, there's a few more things that you can see when visiting The Tassen Museum Hendrikje Museum of Bags and Purses. The restaurant, for example, has a very lovely historic setting, and they take reservations for lunch and high tea. Another great thing you can do at their museum is rent one of their "Period Rooms." With the rooms decorated in 17th or 18th Century restorations, many events can be planned there such as business meetings, dinners, receptions, and even weddings. Now you can see how that place is privately funded! Being one of the top ten fashion museums in the world, you can't argue with that kind of ranking.


The Important Stuff

October 8th 2016 until February 26th 2017 will be when the Royal Bags exhibit is running, but keep in mind that the museum itself is all year round, stocked with about 5,000 bags from historical pieces to modern designs. It's worth it to take a glance and have some high tea if you've got the travel time to do it! To find out more information,


Check out the gallery below of just a few of the many pieces featured in the exhibit - and maybe get some inspiration for some fashions you can bring back!