On Tumblr, I was asked about what to look for in handbags from the 1960's. Of course the varieties are endless, just as they are today! But here I will give just a little description of just some of the different styles of bags that were available.
In the early sixties, there was the generic classic handbag. Simple and stylish, it was usually rectangular or squarish in shape, consisted of leather or vinyl covering a metal frame, and had one or two straps of the same colour and material. This is not to say though that other materials were not used. You could also get velvet, velour, suede or even skins and furs. Handles could also be in the form of a chain, lucite, bakelite or even wood. The bag was closed with a metal clasp or closure, in which you can find endless varieties - that’s personally one of the things I love most about vintage handbags. These can also be found with semi precious stones set into them. Colouring was often simple and conservative, generally with a neutral palette. That is not to say though that the colours were limited to that. In the mid sixties these colours would go wild.
At this time there was also the woven tapestry bag. These usually came in floral designs, but could also show scenes or romanticism, such as a couple sitting in a garden together. These bags would either have leather or vinyl straps, a chain, a handle in lucite or wood, or be in the form of a clutch. Shapes were similar to that of the classic hand bag, and as the decade progressed colours brightened and patterns become less conservative.
Then there was the lucite handbag. These were usually more expensive, and are even more expensive nowadays for collectors! The material enabled more freedom of shape and styles were quite geometric. Generally when I think of a luctie bag I see it almost like a little jewellery box with handles. Elaborate designs could also be carved into the bags and handles, or they could even be inlaid with different materials like mother of pearl. Again colours, were quite general and neutral, but there was also the option of varying transparency.
There were even bags made of wood. These were usually decorated with floral patterns or have hand carved designs cut into them. They were lined with material varying from silk to felt, and handles varied. They were closed with a metal clasp. I like to think of these types of bags as like a little girl's first jewellery box. You know the ones that play music with the twirling ballerina inside?
Hat-box handbags were also available. These of course, were shaped like a hat-box, but just that bit small to carry comfortably as a handbag. There were also varieties in a more boxy shape. They could be closed with either a clasp or a zipper, and often had a wrist strap.
Skins and furs, real or faux, were also a popular material in handbags, and could be considered a sign of sophistication and wealth if they were real. There were bags in alligator and crocodile skin, snake skin, lizard skin, leopard print and other furs. Last time I visited my local antique store there was even a handbag covered in kangaroo fur!
Metal framed, hard cased alligator skin handbag. The bottom have four little feet on the bottom to protect the bag.
Brown textured snake skin.
As we headed into the mid-sixties there was a much greater freedom in colour, styles, and materials, especially for the younger generation, reflecting the new celebration of youth and novelty in the fashion world. All of a sudden there were bright pinks, greens, oranges, multiple colours on the one bag, or even patterns. Emilio Pucci released bags and simple, sleek clutches with his signature bright and flamboyant prints upon them. Though the traditional shapes and materials were still used and going strong, alternatives that had always been around were becoming much more popular, with straw or wicker bags in little tote shapes or even little picnic baskets, and raffia and beaded bags. The straps of these could be molded plastic, or even beads themselves.
As the later sixties arrived, we still had the general bag designs, but there was the appearance of ‘hippie’ styled bags. There were now tapestry bags much bigger in shape and with Aztec, Indian and Native American inspired designs. You had suede and tooled leather bags and satchels with buckles and metal clasps, and often with beautiful designs inspired by nature worked into them. Straps with these styles were generally longer allowing the bag to freely and casually hang down at the hip, and many people following the ‘hippie’ movement made their own bags. Fringing, bead work and drawstrings were also popular.
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