Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Five Handbags To Aspire To

Pretty much every self-respecting vintage gal has at least a minor handbag obsession. Despite owning maybe a dozen handbags already, I still have a healthy wishlist of bags in colours I don't yet have (green, pink, turquoise). I love little boxy purses and metal-framed handbags, I've no time for big slouchy leather shoulder bags or chain-handled evening purses. My tastes of course may differ from yours but there are, I think, certain handbags which every vintage girl - or at least all those with a passing interest in the midcentury era, before the 60s and 70s girls shoot me down - aspires to own.

1. The lucite box purse

Beautifully carved clear lucite purse, $198 on etsy

One of the ultimate vintage wishlist items is the lucite box - shimmering, ethereal and ice-clear, the stuff of fairytales. I could dedicate an entire post to these beautiful purses (and possibly will one day). They were very popular in myriad designs in the 1950s, the gleaming plastic emblematic of the brave new, space-age world of the mid century years. Sadly as these lucite lovelies are wildly collectable, prices often run into the hundreds, particularly for signed examples (Wilardy, Rialto, Charles S. Kahn, Patricia of Miami and Miami Handbags are among the most highly prized labels) in good condition.

The collectable nature and resultant high prices of these bags put them out of reach for most of us, but if you stalk ebay and etsy you can sometimes find (less collectable) bags for as little as £30/$50. I have in my collection a little pearlised lucite bag with a carved clear lid & handle, which is inexplicably yet to appear in an outfit post - I'll try to remedy the situation soon.

2. The perfect leopard bag

Almost as elusive as the endangered creatures from which they take their pattern, the perfect leopard handbag is the ultimate vintage accessory because it will go with everything and - striking yet understated, vivacious yet chic - it will add panache to even the very simplest of outfits. I'm on an eternal hunt for mine - I have a picture of it in my mind: slightly trapezoid and with a flat base, a metal frame, kiss clasp and a black or brown leatherette handle - indeed, not wholly dissimilar to the one above, which has previously sold on etsy. Alas, my dream leopard bag has not as yet presented itself - at least not in my price range.

3. The telephone cord purse

Left: It's mine! Right: telephone cord bags in the Sears catalogue, 1957

I can't remember when I first came across telephone cord purses, but I do know that the kitschy bright colours spoke to me right away. I don't know where they originated, but they appear in the Sears catalogues throughout the 1950s. These bags are pretty collectable and tend to be priced on the high side on ebay and etsy (my primary vintage shopping source), hence the aspirational classification. But thanks to my lovely Mr. I can finally cross this one off my wishlist, as the bag above is currently winging its way to me as my birthday gift.

4. The 1940s crochet handbag

Extravagant fan-shaped crochet handbags - often seen with lucite handles and zipper pulls - were especially popular in the late 1940s. Nearly all those I've seen are in black, with the sole exception of my own, which, in chocolate brown with amber lucite handles it seems was an even luckier buy than I realised.

5. The basket bag

Basket bags "handmade for you in far-off lands" in Sears, 1956

A summer must-have, better yet if it's decorated with artificial flowers or fruit! A basket bag in natural or white straw, wicker or cane will go with all your summer dresses - perfect for a picnic day out. Mine - a white wicker box bag - gets a lot of use through the warmer months.

Do you agree with my choices? What's on your ultimate aspirational handbag wishlist?


  1. I wish some bright spark would re-create clear lucite bags, because they are so expensive and delicate I couldn't use one day-to-day.

    I want a perfectly circular basket bag with shells on. Very specific!

    1. There are several places that make reproduction ones.
      I know that Miss L Fire does
      I do believe that there were several others (de lux had them), but I don't see them right now.

  2. I like the crochet one best and the little baskets. The Lucite ones aren't for me, it's that the shape would annoy me trying to carry it, rather than the way they look. My own favourites are the tapestry ones. But the older ones are rather expensive now.

  3. I LOVE all of these examples - and yes, the lucite purse is a total fairytale, must-have item for any 50s-influenced gal! Beautiful!

  4. I totally agree with you choices! I have each of those types in my etsy faves list right now! I def think those are handbags one should aspire to add to their wardrobe! Great post mama! xox

  5. I also would love a lucite purse, and a crochet purse with plastic/wood handles
    I love basket purses, I have one that is great, but I use it so much (everyday) that the handle has broken :(
    I'd love to have a bunch so that I could switch out.
    Some that you didn't mention that I love..
    - Alligator/ crocodille/ snake (could be fake) I don't know why but I really like these, they match everything . I have one, but it is in bad shape where it wasn't taken care of properly.
    - hand tooled leather the designs on some of those are amazing
    - Not really hard to find, but I just don't have one yet: a plain Kelly purse (that I want pin striped) or a hand painted purse is also nice

  6. I'm just getting into handbag making myself, and I've been searching for some vintage inspiration recently but wasn't finding much. You must know all the right places to look! Thanks for bringing the inspiration to me :)

  7. Fantastic post, it's so fun to see an array of classic mid-century bags in one spot like this. I think that at the moment, the crochet fan shaped bag here is calling my name the very most. Love - and would joyfully carry - any one of them though.

    ♥ Jessica

  8. My jaw just dropped when I saw that lucite purse!! My grandmother gave me that EXACT bag to play with!! I remember how that purse smelled...I so wish I had that purse NOW!


I'd love to hear your thoughts!


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