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Alumna peeks into purses, finds film

Most purses carry a woman’s everyday essentials, from her breath mints to her cell phone. But what a woman carries in her purse can reveal much more about her than her favorite shade of lipstick.

Coleen Hubbard (MLS ’07) directed, wrote and narrated The Contents of Her Purse, a documentary film that studies women through their handbags.

“The theme of [the documentary] shows the life cycle of women from what little girls have in their purses all the way up to what elderly women are carrying in theirs,” Hubbard says.

The idea for the documentary began with a one-act play Hubbard wrote that premiered in Denver about two men who find a women’s purse. The men examine its contents and build an image of the purse’s owner.  

The age groups of women in Hubbard’s film vary from a 5-year-old girl with a poodle purse full of stickers to a 95-year-old woman carrying denture cream. The film also depicts new mothers whose purses are filled with diapers instead of makeup.  

“The objects a woman carries represent where she is at that point in her life,” Hubbard says. “The simple things people keep in their purse can have a deeper meaning than we assume.”

Maro Casparian, a Denver resident and self-described “avid purse carrier,” was interviewed in the film.

“I thought it would be a simple interview about how many purses I had or what ‘purse choices’ a business woman makes,” Casparian says. “But, I found myself talking about my mother — recently deceased — and the purse that I had inherited from her. The sound of the purse closing brought back strong memories of being a little girl and watching my mom get ready to go out.” 

To attract a wider audience Hubbard started “The Purse Chronicles,” a performance event for women that was promoted as “a girlfriend’s night out.” The event, which was held in downtown Denver, included Hubbard’s film, audience stories, special guests, prizes, food and wine. Proceeds from the event were donated to local organizations helping women and children.

At the event, women shared with the audience what they had in their own purses.

“The Purse Chronicles” brought forth how meaningful and important women feel about what’s inside their purses,” Casparian says. “Women want to have a venue to go to together, to laugh, to share and bond.”

Hubbard’s catchphrase for the film, “Fashion is about which purse you carry, but life is about what you carry in your purse,” emphasizes that it doesn’t matter whether a purse is from a top-shelf designer or a thrift store — it’s what’s inside that counts. 

“Whether it’s an old valentine from your husband, family photos, your kid’s crayons or your Blackberry, the things we carry in our purses make up who we are,” Hubbard says. “The event was a way for me to show how all women are different, but our purses are one thing that we all share.”

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