Vogue takes a look back at history’s most era-defining handbags, from the prim silhouettes of the 1950s to the outré decadence of the 1980s.
Above any other fashion accessory, the handbag is a sign of the times. It’s a window into the zeitgeist – from the prim, restrictive styles of the 1950s to the brash, outré designs of the 1980s and the small-screen star fuelled logomania of the 1990s, the handbag manages to encapsulate the spirit of an era like no other fashion creation.
The handbag was no longer a necessity, but remained an alluring way to make a statement. Seizing upon this new-found experimental spirit, Paco Rabanne launched a collection of now-iconic chainmail purses, destined to be swung on the dancefloor, while the likes of Biba and Mary Quant capitalised on the rise of the high street, offering accessible bag designs to a generation of women who idolised the style of Twiggy and Edie Sedgwick.
At the luxury end of the market, Bottega Veneta coined its transformative intrecciato weave. Still a house signature today, the technique was originally created to strengthen supple nappa leather for use in butter-soft totes. Meanwhile, Louis Vuitton created a smaller, more practical version of the Speedy, at the request of loyal fan Audrey Hepburn, and Emilio Pucci applied psychedelic prints to lustrous silk clutches.