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I have a large collection of Moon Bags, and I always display a nice selection at Chelsea Girl (see photo.) Customers never fail to respond enthusiastically to them. The history of the purse fascinates me because it runs parallel to the women’s suffrage movement.
They have so many qualities that I admire: artistic sensibility, practicality, quality workmanship, novelty. I learned that Michele was desperately trying to reach Patricia Smith because she wanted to write a book about Moon Bags (she had 200 in her collection.) She was unsuccessful, discovering that Pat spent half her time in Mexico teaching art in public schools and the other half of her time painting. I have a BFA in Photography from NYU and worked as a photojournalist and talent scout for major record labels before opening Chelsea Girl in 1993. Before the 1920s, handbags were small: women rarely left their house and had no need to carry any items with them.

They were designed in the late 70s by Patricia Smith, a Milwaukee-based artist, and became wildly popular in the early 80s, when they were sold exclusively in high-end boutiques.
Always up for a challenge, I did extensive research (not easy with such a common name) and found Pat’s phone number for Michele. But as the suffrage movement grew, and women were granted basic human rights (like the right to vote, which occurred in 1920) purses became larger, reflecting women’s changing needs and newfound independence. What made Moon Bags unique were the distinctive, handpainted acrylic panels, often featuring portraits of women, reproductions of famous works of art, and abstract floral designs.
Unfortunately, Pat was not interested in being interviewed for a book and Michele was never able to follow through without her involvement.
All the bags were limited edition, never mass-produced, and she oversaw production until scaling down her 25-employee business in the late 90s, when the bags ceased being trendy.

I star in the groundbreaking Sundance series, “Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys” with my best friend, David Munk. A true artist, Pat decided to concentrate on her art, never absolutely comfortable with the commercial direction, however successful, her artwork took.

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