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Vintage Bags, Handbags, and Cases

Since at least the 14th century, men and women have carried pouches filled with essential items. While they were often tied to the leg inside outer garments, by the start of the 19th century, many people carried handbags, bags, and cases with them regularly. Starting with the turn of the 20th century, each decade has seen its own style.

What are some types of vintage bags, handbags, and cases?

In the 20th century, women carried a variety of styles that are now vintage, including:

  • Dorothy: These options gather at the top, and they were often made to match a woman's robe.
  • Pochette: This is a handle-less clutch often decorated with geometric shapes.
  • Doll: These choices were often designed to look like the person carrying them.
  • Envelope: These choices were built on a metal frame and are usually about 12 inches tall.
  • Scalloped: These options have a scalloped design at the bottom before rising to a smaller top, and they have no handles.
  • Wrist: Usually made of leather, these choices have a wide strap that fits snugly around the wrist.
  • Rucksacks: This type is a strong bag designed to be worn on the back.
What are some vintage handbag styles?

Each decade of the 20th century had its own handbag style:

  • 1900s: Satin purses decorated with glass beads were carried by many women. These usually closed at the top with a metal clasp, and they were carried from the shoulder on a chain.
  • 1910s: Women who had to go to work often wore briefcases made from leather that hung from their shoulders. Dorothy bags large enough to carry opera glasses and a fan were often the evening bag of choice.
  • 1920s: Small leather or metal mesh wristlets or clutches decorated with iridescent beads were often chosen. Others, however, selected shoulder bags made of velvet. After the discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1923, many purses were decorated with Egyptian themes.
  • 1930s: A number of different styles were carried by women in this decade, including shoulder bags, box-style purses, pochettes, and clutches. Leather was often seen as a status symbol, while silk and satin were often used by the middle class. Many of these bags, handbags, and cases closed with zippers.
  • 1940s: Like the 1930s, purses did not bear much adornment during this decade due to World War II. Many had a square appearance. A purse carried by a forearm strap was sold in many stores. Many women chose synthetic fabric purses such as rayon while others carried purses made of wood or plastic.
  • 1950s: Most purses made during the 1950s were either clutches or box styles, and they were made of leather or straw with needlework, pearls, and beads. Smaller handbags were often seen as they accentuated a woman's femininity.
  • 1960s: Messenger bags, shoulder bags, and purses with forearm straps were all regularly chosen by women. While many were made of leather or wool, Indian ethnic fabrics were also often seen in designer handbags. Slung shoulder bags with many zippers were often chosen by younger people.