One of the latest arrivals to the history of handbags, shoulder bags are a relatively modern inclusion to the contemporary wardrobe. No nonsense and hands free, they reflect the activities of women as they have changed over the 20th century. During the 2nd World War compulsory gas masks and women’s forces uniforms required the wearing of the shoulder bags and satchels and their style filtered through to civilian style. Today, they are one of the most popular forms of handbag from the cross body bag to the satchel, they come in every form, little and large. Worn long or short or, even slung over your back while you cycle, they can be the best choice when we are on the go in the city.
However, their practicality does not diminish their look in the style stakes. Shoulder bags are included as some of the most iconic bags on the planet from designers such as Chanel. Their longevity in fashion is testament, not just to their appearance, but to the number of women who have loved these bags for more than looks alone. The classic Chanel 2.55, introduced to the world by Coco Chanel in February 1955 was actually a reincarnation of a bag originally made in 1929 which Chanel designed specifically to free her hands. In the 1950s it was an instant and lasting success, with its adaptable chain shoulder strap and its beautiful looks which allow it to be as easily worn with everything from a beautiful dress to a pair of beaten up jeans. This bag holds its own.
It is this adaptability of shoulder bags which suited the busy lives and stylish of women in the 20th century. Gucci’s classic 1950s Hobo bag the ‘Constance’ became the ‘Jackie’ the year the Kennedy’s entered the White House. And in the 1960 and 1970s, two-way bags were favoured with the detachable shoulder strap creating a sleek look for wearing with trousers and the introduction of Courrèges pantsuits in 1964 and Yves Saint Laurent’s ‘Le Smoking’ dinner suit of 1966. Equally popular in the 1970s were saddle bags of every form, a style which has been adapted in every material and size, and which remains a popular for the bohemian edge. So whether you are looking for a statement piece, a small cross body or a simple classic, take a look at our Open for Vintage selection of vintage shoulder bags from decades past to find your new inspiration.