The 1950s were a groundbreaking decade for handbags and purses. It’s not that women were using them more than before or for different purposes, but designers really went out of their way to be different and it shows.
Nowadays, almost every woman has a purse with her. But back in the 1950s, not every woman carried one. Sure, it was a great fashion accessory, but not every woman felt they needed one like they do now. Take a look at thousands of pictures of women from the 1950s like I have and you’ll notice that in 90% of the pictures women aren’t carrying handbags or purses.
But you have to admit the styles were amazing. In the 1950s, women preferred short-strapped handbags that stayed close to the body. Duffel bags weren’t unheard of, but they didn’t provide the svelte look that women were going for. Gold lame was a popular handbag style.
The materials used for purses in the 1950s were much more varied than they are today. In the early 1950s, most purses were made from crocodile, alligator, turtle or snake skin. But as the decade progressed, some fashion designers went as far as to make lucite (a material similar to Bakelite, or plastic) boxes that functioned as purses. These are some of the coolest looking vintage handbags you’ll ever find.
Women also bought wicker purses, leather purses and many other types. Popular high fashion purse designers included Gucci, Chanel (and her iconic Black Quilted 2.55 Handbag released in 1955), Dior, Hermes, Wilardy and many others.
Check out our picture gallery of vintage 1950s purses and handbags from fashion magazines and catalogs below.
I used to have “handbags” while going to school in the 50s. I remember one was a heavy quality saddle brown leather, that was based on a ….horses feed bag….that shape with drawstring top, with long narrow leather strips (as would be put over the horse’ s head) with his head head in the bag (it was that tall, more than 12″, maybe 18″.
The other earlier style, earlier I think, was based on what soldier kept rifle shells in. About 7″ – 8″ wide and about 4″ wide, with a flap top, that was kept closed with a small strap that was slipped through a metal piece of the front of the bag, with a very narrow strip of leather that went over the shoulder. This was also brown and was made again of very heavy leather. They both had to be relatively inexpensive as we didn’t really have money. I had started working at Macy’s, Jamaica, NY , in the Sweater Department when I was 16. It was great as I received a good discount for anything I could were to work.
I remember that Macy’s in Jamaica! And Gertz. I also remember picking berries while wearing my little net covered Easter pillbox style hat and getting in trouble when I got home. White gloves were ruined. Stockings and garter belts before there were panty hose. I remember especially wearing the white gloves to church on Sunday, with my Sunday hat. Hats were required for church back then, and declined in popularity once the church changed the rules. A pity.
I say over and over again. Most of this stuff has made a come back for as long as I can remember. I got 3 bags now I would love to know what year they were made. Or if they are recent customized. I don’t recognize the name on the tags or you can’t see the print. Like I said cardigans sets came back at old navy when? I remember my grandma dying and I liked a sweater set she had in the late to early 90s. Pencil skirts I was to Ted with set. Geek I guess. Nobody ever said either way if it looked okay or not. Love the scarves over the hair and sunglasses I always have. I thought it spelled success. ” movie star” or classy lady.