What’s the key to picking up the perfect vintage handbag?

The handbag is one of those evergreen fashion staples of which almost every lady seems to need to have at least one or two in their possession, and many have tens or even hundreds. It’s no great surprise, then, that vintage handbags have become such a big thing.

vintage handbags

Indeed, there are a lot of factors that may dictate which vintage handbags you buy, including...

The era

The tendency for so many vintage handbags produced during a certain era to borrow elements from earlier decades may seem to muddy the issue somewhat. Nonetheless, different eras are strongly associated with different aesthetics that tend to show through their handbags.

There can be very big differences between, for example, the small handbags produced in the 1920s that are frequently embellished with pearls, and the handbags of the 1960s that are often very colourful and use ethnic fabrics – the latter being the era of psychedelia and the hippie generation, after all.

Or what about the elegant and feminine handbags of the 1950s, the military-influenced large and square handbags that were in vogue in the 1940s amid World War II, or the bright, neon-coloured new wave handbags that lit up the 1980s?

Learn about both the obvious and more subtle variations between the different eras, and you will be better able to narrow down your search when on the lookout for vintage handbags.

The authenticity

When we say ‘authenticity’, we could – of course – be referring to different things. We might be talking about whether the vintage handbag that you have your eye on really is vintage – or in other words, whether it dates from the era it resembles, instead of being a more recently produced bag that merely imitates a past era’s style.

Handbags in the latter category tend to be known as ‘retro’ instead of vintage. However, if you’re seeking out a bag from a specific fashion house or label, it’s also a good idea to research how likely it is that the advertised handbag is what it is claimed to be. Ask for genuine photos of the bag and trust your gut instinct.

The materials

The materials from which a vintage handbag is made don’t merely go a long way to determining its price – they should also assist you in deciding whether the bag is the right match to your aesthetic preferences and practical needs.

Leather handbags, for instance, tend to be long-lived, but can also be very brittle if previous owners have failed to take proper care of them. Crocheted fabrics, meanwhile, often look lovely but can be susceptible to pest damage, which is why synthetic yarns and fabrics may be preferable.

With beads, velvet, metallics, tapestry and plastics – to name just some of the common materials used – all making appearances in vintage handbags, there’s much to learn in this area if you are only just starting to collect such bags for the first time.

Is now the time to get started building up a collection of vintage handbags? If so, you couldn’t choose a better place to shop than RETRuly, which is the first online marketplace to be created by vintage lovers, for vintage lovers.