Vintage Tooled Leather Purse

April 30, 2020
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Your Guide to Buying a Vintage PurseFashionable men and women gravitate towards vintage accessories. Classic accessories allow anyone to make a big fashion statement while paying homage to the designs of past decades. Vintage purses are a particularly popular item both at online sites and in brick-and-mortar stores.
This guide takes buyers through the process of purchasing a vintage purse. Information about the different styles of purses available on the market is provided. The buyer should also be sure to carefully review the information about vintage purse pricing prior to making a purchase.

Choosing Vintage Purses

Vintage purses are a favorite among fashion hounds because they are both stylish and utilitarian. Buyers should consider how a purse will be used prior to making a purchase. It's important to remember that some materials used in vintage purse construction, such as beads and Lucite, can become very brittle with age.
Individuals who wish to find vintage purses can do so by visiting online retailers or by going to brick-and-mortar antiques stores. In some areas, thrift stores and clothing exchanges also carry vintage merchandise. Remember that products bought at antiques shops and clothing exchanges tend to be more expensive than those bought online or at thrift stores.
Before embarking on a search for a vintage purse, buyers should become familiar with the different types of purses available. Buyers may wish to shop for purses by era or by materials used in construction. The basics of both are explained below.

Vintage Purses by Era

Reviewing the types of purses produced during different decades is a great first step for buyers who are interested in vintage purses. Remember that styles tend to be resurrected and refreshed every 20 to 30 years.


The majority of purses manufactured prior to 1920 were made by hand. Many of the purses available on the market today were made during the Edwardian Period, which ran from 1901-1910. Handmade beaded purses were extremely popular during this time period.
Many of the purses made prior to 1920 feature metal handles and frames. Buyers should carefully evaluate the condition of these metal pieces. Buyers may also encounter hand-crocheted purses from this period. Such items tend to be quite valuable so long as they are in good condition.


Beaded purses continued in popularity throughout this time period. Art deco purses were also popular well into the 1930s. Buyers may be able to find homemade leather or crocheted purses that were made by women during the Great Depression. These pieces tend to feature handles and beads recycled from earlier purses. Individuals who wish to buy a purse with an interesting history should consider these homemade items.


Designers and manufacturers working during World War II dealt with the rationing or disappearance of many popular textiles. Tapestry purses became very popular during this time period. Such purses could be made by weaving colorful threads into otherwise inexpensive fabrics.
Many women also opted for purses adorned with embroidery and needlepoint. As the war came to a close, purses in velvet became very popular. Velvet purses in animal prints are a favorite among vintage purse collectors.


Between the end of World War II and the early '60s, styles evolved considerably into something often called the New Look. Leather purses were especially popular during this time period. Many women preferred tooled leather. Tooled leather purses feature designs that have been carved or burned into the fabric itself.
During the mid-1950s, manufacturers also began releasing purses made from a wide variety of plastics. Lucite was one of the most popular materials in use during this time period. Purse handles and frames were often made of manufactured plastics such as Bakelite.


Hippies, mod kids, and discos were all the rage during this time period. The vibrant designs of Enid Collins were particularly popular at this time. Featuring bright colors and jewels on a wood or paper mache surface, Enid Collins purses are a favorite among collectors. These bright purses encompass both mod and hippie fashion sensibilities.
The late '60s and early '70s also saw purses from around the world gain popularity in the U.S. and Britain. Mexican and Guatemalan purses in particular were very popular. The bright, multicolored textiles used in the construction of these purses fit the overall aesthetic of the era.


The '80s will always be remembered for their unique and sometimes outlandish contributions to the world of fashion. During this period, patent leather and vinyl purses were very popular. The '80s aesthetic tended to combine simple black or white textiles with bright, neon-colored accents.
During the 1980s, many famous fashion designers became household names. Thanks to increased buying power in the middle class, high-end designers manufactured many of the vintage '80s purses available on today's market. Such purses can carry hefty price tags.


The 1990s saw punk, grunge, hip-hop, and preppy styles make a big splash. Designer leather purses took off during the 1990s. Many of today's popular manufacturers, such as Coach and Dooney & Bourke, first gained widespread notoriety in the '90s. Some designers chose to incorporate classic tooled leather accents into purses during this time period.

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