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.