Not your mother's fanny pack

Marian Howley re-defines fashion functionality with homemade purses

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You can uncover evidence of a woman's personality and lifestyle in the mysterious depths of her purse. These tool kits can reveal what a woman needs to face the world every day.

Marian Howley doesn't like to carry a lot around, but when she found that her little leather Coach bag wasn't big enough for a trip to London, she sewed her own purse.

Howley picked up a simple fabric pattern from Wal-Mart and made a bigger purse that would better accommodate her travel needs. And when she brought that handmade purse to work, a co-worker urged her to make more and sell them at the Christmas in the Rockies craft fair.

"I didn't want to do it as a business. It was just a fun thing to do," Howley said. "And I wanted them to look good and quirky and random with no rules."

She cut up vintage fabrics and patches from her old Girl Scouts sash. Her personal handbag now has sentimental value because she recycled material from one of her grandmother's dresses into the strap of the purse.

"It doesn't have to match my shoes or hat or coat," Howley said. "I'm just drawn to the randomness of the colors."

Howley understands that purses can mean different things to different women.

"I think women who carry big purses carry a lot of things to be ready for anything," she said. "And small purses provide for little clutter and less bother."

Howley recognizes that it can be hard to give a purse as a gift.

"It may not work into that person's lifestyle," she said. "My mom carries a fanny pack, which was a great idea and very practical, but they're awful and strange. And it might make sense to carry a messenger bag across your chest in a big city, but I never liked that feeling."

Understanding how personal purses can be, Howley is open to the idea of creating personalized purses for women made out of their own sentimental recycled fabrics.

"I've gotten so many additional ideas from people, and I love that," she said. "Maybe it's just a matter of breaking the rules to surprise the fashion."

Need a new purse? Call Marian Howley at 846-7137 or e-mail blacktail@zirkel.us

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