As the sun goes down, the anticipation builds for the evening ahead and that outfit you’ve been day dreaming about all day. Whether you’ve had a hurried outfit change or a leisurely preparation, after a final spritz of scent, the last crucial component to grab as you leave is your evening bag. These pockets of perfection give us the freedom to express ourselves without making the long term style commitment of our daily tote. From dazzling detail to intense pops of colour, shopping for that perfect bag is like hunting for your favourite treat in a sweet shop.
In the late 18th century when detachable pockets hidden in the folds of skirts became impossible with the new fashion for light muslin dresses with drastically narrowed willowy silhouettes, the carrying of a small external bag became essential. Over the past 200 years, though there might be less call for smelling salts and fans and more need for phone space and your perfect lipstick, the spirit of these receptacles of elegant essentials has changed very little. From the 19th century to the contemporary, diminutive evening bags can pack an impressive style punch. Designers and craftspeople have used them to showcase techniques to dazzling effect. From the fabulously moulded or jewelled clicking clasp to fiendishly detailed bead purse, metallic tones like pewter to the simplicity of an achingly elegant shape. Whether dangling from your wrist or tucked nonchalantly from one arm, you know you want your vintage evening bag to get noticed.
Vogue wrote in 1920: ‘Sometimes an evening bag looks for all the world like a bunch of violets, but its stems pull apart and leave just enough room for a bit of rouge and powder and a handkerchief like a cobweb.’ Just for the night, evening bags have never needed to fit within the constructs of other bags. They have no anatomical necessity other than some way to hold them. They can take any shape or form and there is no need for them to be practical or durable. From a simple black silk pocket, to Lulu Guinness Lips to a real fish bowl, we have seen them in every form. The 20th century has been a period of material innovation with new plastics like bakelite, lucite in the 1930s extending the possibilities of creation for designers. Today, designer evening bags take more than a little inspiration from vintage evening bags. Take a look at the Open for Vintage evening bag collection and find your original piece.