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Handbags, as a mirror for the development of the status of modern women in the 20th century

Updated: Feb 18, 2021

Lately, as part of a study I was doing on vintage handbags, I came across handbag designs that were common in the 1930s, and I really liked them.

To understand the background a bit, it is worth knowing that the 1930s were characterized by a number of cultural and economic processes that influenced all areas of life.

After World War I, while the world was still in economic recovery, a major economic crisis befell humanity, in the late 1920s, followed by the fall of the stock market in Wall Street.

Art Deco in architecture, was a huge movement that created an entirely new style characterized by the use of simple but bold geometry, luxurious materials, dramatic design and impeccable quality; The process of connecting the characteristics influenced lifestyle and fashion. It increased creativity, used in manufacture and designs of clothing and accessories.

Many bags and purses took on a different shape and were no longer square. The various materials they began to use like plastic, beads and zippers emphasized the lifestyle that everyone at that time wanted to live.

At the same time, the arts and crafts movement flourished and came to defy the industrial revolution that led to the industrialization of art and design. This movement, too, was founded by architects, and advocated soft and feminine lines. A combination of all these, led to the creation of larger bags, the use of geometric shapes, soft materials and ornaments. Women did not give up ornaments, despite the hard times, they simply replaced expensive elements with cheaper ones.

To understand how we came to this point, it is worth going back a bit, to the beginning of the twentieth century. Women stayed most of the time in the pavilion and did not need large bags, mostly used small bundles that were tied to a belt. Since the use was domestic, not much thought was invested in the design. Large bags were used for travel and designed as luggage or as travel bags. In the 1920s, women began to leave their homes and visit the shops and "malls" of the time and the shopping experience became social. They needed a bigger bag, so the hard bags with the metal frames, fabric bags decorated with beads and embroidery were born. There was extensive use of a middle grip handle on the wrist. In fact, bags symbolized the freedom and independence of women who began to emerge.

I was inspired from the 1930s bags when I designed this bag. It is made of soft leather, has a semi-circular shape, instead of the decorations, I used smooth leather and embossed leather, the grip is by rigid plastic handles. It is larger, than the bags that were accepted in the 1930s, and adapted to the needs of modern women of the 21st century. I personally am very fond of vintage, vintage handbags are an inspiration, but I will always choose modern elements to match them to our days.

What do you think, do you like vintage, a touch of vintage in contemporary bags, or would you prefer new designs only?



1. the power of purse handbags – Anna Johnson

2. Bags a selection from The Museum of Bags and Purses, Amsterdam – Sigrid Ivo


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