The perfect handbag. An expression of very personal taste no other accessory has the ability to make such a style statement on its own. The perfect handbag is something we buy for ourselves. It may follow your style but it is always bought for your sole enjoyment (and possibly to inspire a little envy in others!) While we might wear clothes which might, on occasion, increase our allure, a bag is never going to be part of the attraction. We doubt an admirer would ever say: ‘she had a lovely smile, great hair and the most beautiful bag’! But this does not diminish the importance we place on the handbags in our lives or the way we want to wear them day to day, (with or without admirers.) Handbags in the 20th century also importantly represent a woman’s independent life outside the home.
Over the 20th century women in the public eye have had their names inextricably linked to iconic bags. As an expression of their style and characters, they have been part of famous photographs of these women which are still admired today for their timeless style. Hermès is a brand which has most famously associated its creations with their wearers. Famously, the 1930s ‘Sac à dépêches’, a popular forerunner of the vintage box bags of later decades, was worn by Grace Kelly in Hitchcock’s ‘To Catch and Thief’ in 1954 and later used by the Princess to hide her baby bump, eventually rechristened the ‘Kelly’ bag in 1977. And what bag could be better known than the bag which still stands at the very top of the luxury handbag market: The Birkin. So named after actress Jane Birkin who, in 1983, on a flight from Paris to London bemoaned the lack of good leather weekend bags to the then Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas. Dumas went on to adapt a 1982 bag in black leather and the Birkin was born.
However, not every vintage bag has to be a vintage designer bag. Unknown masters of the art from the past 100 years have created handbags synonymous of their era and which not only chart the progression of vintage handbags through the century but also still maintain timeless style, elegance or charm and can be all the better for the mild patina their age has afforded them. You can find simple form and function of the 1940s when, in post war Britain, Vogue encouraged readers to spend wisely and ‘chose large important bags and good shoes and gloves.’ Through early flap bags called ‘swing bags’ of the 1950s, patent leather and plastic creations of the 1960s, suede, applique and saddle bags of 1970s and beyond. Vintage handbags continue to inspire current designers and, when a design is perfect, those styles never go out. Find your perfect vintage designer bag from the Open for Vintage collection.