Small and charming, this dance purse epitomizes both radical changes regarding women’s independence as well as the Art Deco style. The 1920s saw a shift in women’s behavior as they gained freedom after attaining the right to vote and the ability to become self-reliant, holding jobs and earning their own income. This freedom saw women going out more, especially to nightclubs for dancing and socializing. The dance purse was the perfect accessory for a young woman’s new booming social life, providing her with the necessities to touch up her makeup.

This purse has a sleek, cylindrical form and is made of black molded plastic, that had the rich, glossy look of lacquer, but at a fraction of the cost. Faceted rhinestones decorate the surface in geometric patterns, adding an element of glamour and sparkle with a jewelry-like quality.

Function was as important an aspect of the dance purse as style, indicated by the compartments inside. When opened, there are separate spaces designated for the powder and puff and a small section to hold a bit of money. And of course, because no girl could be without, hidden within the tassel is a small metal container for her lipstick.

Amber Werdman is a student in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies graduate program offered jointly by Parsons and the Cooper Hewitt and is a Masters fellow for the National Design Awards in the Education Department.

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