Vintage Handbags from 1930s-1970s

From container of one’s personal items, these receptacles have become fashion accessories, elaborately styled, for women they represent an instrument of seduction The 1930s was the Age of movie stars and good housewives. Each dress whether for casual or travel, afternoon or evening, had its matching handbag from shoulder bags, bucket bags and flat bags. These handbags were made from a rich array of materials; calf, crocodile, pigskin, ostrich, doe-skin, Chamois, lizard and snakeskin were often used in combination with metals and enamels. These were the Golden years of the pochette, flat and rectangular in shape.

During the 1940s fashion was far from peoples’ thoughts. Designers had to be creative with re-worked leather from old models. However, the 1940’s was a time of experimentation with new materials, such as coloured rubber supplied by Perelli.

In the 1950s Italy re-emerged to the forefront of world handbag scene. Leather triumphed, as no other skin can be tanned to last, dyed in any colour, be as soft as a fabric and at the same time be as tough. New materials such as plastic were introduced and handbags became more practical, functional and larger. Some handbags even contained another smaller and refined bag. The ‘sausage’ style was fashionable right up to the end of the 1960s. The green calf afternoon handbag became a style icon in its day with elegant, linear style. During the late 1950s-early 1960s bright colours made of leather and pink suede were popular.

The 1960’s saw the rise of youth fashion with Chanel’s shining black-patent bag on a long gilt chain striking a chord. PVC handbags were bright and reflective with angular, black-and-white Op Art designs. However, from 1961-65 handbags hardly featured in magazines, not having the look right look for the hip sixties generation. Rising to the challenge, handbag designers introduced multi-coloured shoulder bags to complement the psychedelic patterns and later “flower power” fashions. These won over a new generation of fans to the handbag. In the late 1960’s eastern-influenced larger satchels and fabric shoulder bag were much sought after.

The 1970’s marked growing informality; mixing fabrics, patchwork leather bags, brass and studded suede. Couture Houses such as St. Laurent represented by beige canvas and brown leather shoulder bags with dog leash fittings put down their marker. In 1974 large, soft envelope bags were popular, with thick clutches, such as the smart ginger and cream striped handbags by Christopher Trill. Another talented designer, Clive Shilton, artfully matched 1930s jewellery with floral quilted designs.

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