General Crafts Kit Purses


Crafty Kit Purses
By Wendy Dager

Rather than purchase the well-known, ready-made Enid Collins or Collins of Texas tote-style purses sold in the 1960s by high-end companies such as Neiman Marcus, do-it-yourself kits of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s were available to crafty housewives. With the kit, glue and a steady hand, these women were content to pay a mere $10 to create their own “practical handbag of luxurious fabric in 3 fashionable colors—BLACK—OLIVE—NATURAL, superbly finished with harmonizing trim, genuine mahogany bottom and personal zipper pocket.”





This enticing description is direct from “The New, Fabulous Jewel Tone Handbag” catalog, which was tucked inside each box, along with “exciting jewels, braids and sequins” to glue directly onto the bare make-by-number purse. While other companies—including Collins of Texas, which put out “Sophistikits”—sold these kit bags, the most popular were those from the Jewel Tone brand, a product of the General Crafts Corporation in Baltimore, Maryland.




The kit purses, with their linen-like exteriors, wooden bases and plastic interiors, ranged from elegant to sassy, and included popular hippie-esque designs such as the peacock, owl, butterfly, rooster and other animals, along with several floral patterns. Harder to find, but very desirable, are the Spanish dancer, poodle, seashells, carousel horse and “Travelogue,” with its Paris, London and Rome motif. Depending on where one shops, these purses generally range from $15 to $75 and sometimes come with their original box. Occasionally, one can find these purse kits unused, with the beading still packaged in plastic and the bare purses awaiting their d├ęcor.




With completed bags, common problems are missing beads, curled edges on trim, stains, and age-related stiffening of the purse, which can cause it to break away from the metal brads that fasten the handles. Purses should be taken to a tailor or shoe repair shop for new brads, but minor defects can be fixed with glue and replacement beads.




There are some who might say these purses are but an imitation of Enid Collins’s handiwork. But to those who are simply interested in having fun with their wardrobes, kit purses of the 1960s are just their bag.



Jerry Terrence The Original Carpet Bag


The Vintage Purse Gallery Interviews Jerry Terrence, Inventor of The Original Carpet Bag
By Wendy Dager

            When Jerry Terrence visited Grauman’s Chinese Theater in 1964, the marquee caught his eye, setting him on a path to an enduring legacy of fashion entrepreneurship.
The film was The Carpetbaggers, starring George Peppard, Alan Ladd and Carroll Baker, but it wasn’t its star-studded cast or engaging plotline that changed Terrence’s life. It was the title that gave Terrence the idea of taking it literally by creating bags made of actual carpeting.
            “I was working in the floor covering business that my father, who’d been a policeman, established in 1945,” said Terrence, a California native. “I went to college, then started in his business, and then got the idea to create the carpet bags because there was nothing quite like it in the marketplace.”



            Terrence, who had no knowledge of the fashion industry, contracted the sturdy hardware portion of the purses to a friend who was in the tool-and-die industry. The purses’ fabric—carpeting—was a material with which he was very familiar. Using his expertise, he had mills custom-create popular 1960s colors to match the preference of the mature women that were the main demographic for these bags at that time.
            Thus began the line of bold, unique, well-constructed purses bearing The Original Jerry Terrence Carpet Bag label, which women enthusiastically bought for a retail price of about $8.99 each.



            “We did a lot of innovative things in New York and across the country to get the attention of store buyers,” said Terrence.
            Enlisting a staff of true “Mad Men”-type advertising geniuses, one clever marketing technique was to send fortune cookies to fashion buyers for department stores such as The Broadway and Joske’s. The cookies had fortunes that read, “The Carpet Bag is Coming!”
            In 1965, Terrence’s company threw a press party for The Original Jerry Terrence Carpet Bag. He hired a woman to act as a hostess for the party, paying her $100. That hostess was an up-and-coming Joan Rivers.



            “There was also a promotion at the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas,” said Terrence. “The owner of the Dunes bought bags for every one of his guests in 1964.”
            The carpet bags were so enormously popular that the factory in Southgate, California was operating 24 hours a day, with three crews of 12-15 employees working three shifts. Nearly one million Jerry Terrence bags were sold in the US alone during the four years the company was in operation.
            “My parents, wife at the time, friends and everybody else were saying ‘you are nuts!’” said Terrence. “I was very persistent because I felt there was a lot to this. I made some mistakes, but realized what they were, regrouped, and bam! It really hit. It was an important era in my life.”
            Today, these 1960s purses are a desirable collectible among fashionistas and vintage purse aficionados, with the demographic now a youthful 18-30 years of age.
            But those who love these unique bags no longer have to scour online auctions and vintage websites to find one, because The Original Jerry Terrence Carpet Bag was relaunched and it’s better and bolder than ever.
           “It’s very much an exciting business after all these years,” said Terrence. “It’s changed so dramatically. Now there are no more handbag reps—we put together a team that uses social media.”
            While the product is still made of carpeting, its construction has changed somewhat. Terrence is now offering crossbodies, clutches, A-frames, iPad cases and briefcases, all with carpets dyed in modern hues such as animal prints, camouflage and plaid. In addition, the company has received licensing from the Bettie Page estate to use the quintessential pinup’s name in a special line of handbags. Terrence is as enthusiastic about his products as he was nearly five decades ago, and is excited about the company’s new direction and staff of industry professionals.
            “It’s a different world out there,” said Terrence. “The whole world has changed and unless you change with it, you’re going to fall back.”
            --For more about The Original Jerry Terrence Carpet Bag newest products, or if you have a store and are interested in having the Terrence team schedule a special showing of vintage bags and memorabilia, visit the website: http://www.jtcarpetbag.com/. 
         
     

Paul B. Stone Very Originals



FUN, FUNKY, WHIMSICAL
PAUL B. STONE “VERY ORIGINALS” PURSES
By Wendy Dager


          When it comes to mod, funky and fun accessories, Paul B. Stone “Very Originals” was once the go-to wholesale manufacturer for retailers, including Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Resort.
            First located in downtown Los Angeles’s garment district, the Paul B. Stone company moved to the San Fernando Valley in 1955, settling in an industrial area of Canoga Park, California.
            “The company started out doing novelty things like Christmas stockings and liquor bottle covers,” said Carl Stone, son of the company’s owners, Paul and Edith. “I believe one of the characters was a Kentucky colonel—to put on bourbon bottles—and there was one with a basset hound that had a funny inscription.”
            By the 1970s, Paul B. Stone was manufacturing fashion accessories including tote bags, golf sportswear, tennis racquet cases and sun hats. These vintage accessories are still occasionally available for purchase online through sites such as Etsy and eBay, and are made of long-lasting durable fabrics like heavy cotton, with bright colors and whimsical patterns reflective of the hippie era.



            Carl’s father Paul was a hardworking businessman, often going on the road to sell his wares, and attending trade shows in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Hawaii. Paul’s wife, Edith, was the artistic force behind Paul B. Stone “Very Originals.”
“My mom as a designer was in her element,” said Carl. “She was a creative person and she enjoyed doing the designs and overseeing the process of designing a line. She picked the fabrics and there were a lot of paisleys and things like that.”
            As a young man, Carl spent some time helping out with his parents’ company, doing odd jobs and deliveries. He recalls that the business started out fairly small, but grew to about 25 employees.
            “It had evolved without a real plan,” said Carl. “But, as the business expanded, he took over a lot of units. It was in a small industrial park and expanded to the point where all the sewing and finishing was done in one building and the cutting was done in another building.”



            Paul and Edith Stone sold the business in 1977 or 1978 to a company in Chicago, and the couple happily retired from the accessory manufacturing industry. Paul passed away in 2006 and Edith in 2009.
            Carl, a renowned composer of electro-acoustic music, says his parents were very encouraging about his studies and career, and never thought he would enter the family business. For Paul and Edith, the Paul B. Stone company was simply a livelihood, and it’s likely they had no idea that, forty years later, vintage clothing collectors and fashionistas would be so enthusiastic about their colorful, well-made purses and accessories.
            “It’s nice to know that there’s any sort of constituency for the Paul B. Stone line. I wasn’t aware that there were any in circulation,” said Carl. “I’m glad people are using them.”
              —Special thanks to Carl Stone for the interview. If readers of this website come across any brochures or other ephemera from the Paul B. Stone company, please email info@vintagepursegallery.com.