Margaret Thatcher


“Handbags speak volumes about the women who carry them – Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was no different.”

According to the Daily Beast’s style and culture correspondent Robin Givham, it’s no surprise that a handbag should feature so prominently in the Thatcher bio-pic Iron Lady; after all, it’s both symbolic and functional.

“During Thatcher’s tenure as prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990, her handbags came to signify femininity and toughness. Their style was unassuming: slender, structured, solid, and ladylike. They looked perfectly at home with Thatcher’s dignified suits and oh-so-British hats,” she says.

“Thatcher didn’t need to wield a gavel. She could place her bag on the table to announce her presence. This swaggering announcement of womanhood was a way to consume space and demand attention. It marked her territory. To be sideswiped by Thatcher was to be ‘handbagged’.”

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“The fashion industry has long known that women – even those who shun clothing fads and have little interest in navigating life in impractical shoes – share a certain illogical passion for handbags,” says Givham.

“Pocketbooks can signify a common touch among the most rarified. And the ‘right’ bag can make a woman of humble beginnings feel as though she has achieved a level of success.

“Queen Elizabeth II regularly carries a handbag although she clearly does not need to carry keys, cash, or identification. Reports have suggested that she keeps lucky charms, family pictures and a makeup case in her handbag.

“First Lady Michelle Obama can often be seen with a handbag. A blue Reed Krakoff tote is a favorite. What could a first lady–with Secret Service only a few steps behind–possibly need to keep so close? (A lipstick? First ladies don’t put on lipstick in public.) The handbag is part of being regular–a way of staying real inside the bubble.”

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  • Reply January 24, 2012


    Of course Michelle Obama carries a handbag – is she going to turn to her security guard and ask for a tampon??? I don’t think so!

  • Reply January 24, 2012


    I’ve never understood the handbag thing. Men manage very well and they carry ID, hankies, keys, mobile phones etc., in their pockets. I gave up handbags 30 years ago when it became obvious that they gave me a back ache. I’ve never had a problem carrying things I need in a pocket and it’s easy to buy clothes with pockets. Women of Australia, throw off your shackles (oh, sorry – handbags) and walk (pain) free!

  • Reply January 24, 2012


    I LOVE my handbags! yes that’s right plural. For me they complete an outfit, can be a conversation starter and are just plain fun. A handbag giving you a back ache? Honey that isn’t a handbag, thats a suitcase!

    Perhaps when I have had enough fun in my life I might `throw off those shackels’. Nah….. Just destined to be a bag lady I guess

  • Reply January 24, 2012


    No, I don’t believe men do carry all those things on their person. Most give them to their wife/gf/partner/whoever to carry in their handbag instead! Or else they throw them into a basically empty briefcase.

    And I’m sure most of us women of Australia would love to know how you manage with just pockets and no handbag. With a phone, car-keys, house keys, lipstick, hanky, tampons, diary, and that’s without any children’s nic-nacks, would surely challenge most pockets I’m sure. Perhaps you could please enlighten us how you manage such a feat. (LOL)

  • Reply January 24, 2012

    Wendy Harmer

    My fave handbag is one of those orange cardboard ones you get from BWS, what does that say about me?

  • Reply January 24, 2012

    Aeron Winters

    I love my handbags. I have my favourite one for everyday (tote-baggish but with stacks of pockets) and then there are all the fun ones to go out with the girls and then of course there are the really glam ones that are for special times. I will never give up my bags. I’ve been a ‘bag-lady’ since I was 13.

  • Reply January 25, 2012


    According to QI, the Queen carries some money, a comb, a handkerchief, a small gold compact and some lipstick in her handbag. 🙂

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