Handbags by the decades; What was the iconic handbag the decade you were born?

With our fashion nostalgia stronger than ever, our consumer choices are having major affect on the trends making their way into the fashion industry. Everyone is hunting down vintage pieces like gold dust these days and mimicking the looks of decades past.

One of the easiest ways to add a little retro to your closet is through your accessories. We've all seen it with scrunchies and chokers making their way back in, but what about handbags? What decades are currently being explored in the handiest accessories going? 

Tommy Hilfiger Chain flap crossover bag

Chic and versatile, this crossover bag has polished monogram detailing, and a chunky chain top handle for two ways to wear. It reminds us of the neat and detailed little handbags that became majorly popular in the fifties. With the economy recovering from the war, more and more diverse fabrics and materials became available to designers and bags became a key part of women’s outfits, as important an accessory as the outfit itself. Chanel made big noise in this era with quilted bags that hung on gold chain straps – a classic and a staple in most wardrobes nowadays. Tommy Hilfiger recreates the iconic look and gives it a modern punch of attitude with the bold lettering and bright white textured finish.

Zara Mini Crossbody

The sixties handbags were all about statement, soft leather and clean lines. Neatness was key, so there was no bulky handbags here. This is the era that worshipped Twiggy and the rise of the high street affordable fashion brands meant that women could imitate her. This Zara bag nods to Louis Vuitton’s miniature version of the classic ‘Speedy’ design, making a neater, more day-to-day version of the traditional handbag. With the introduction of deeper pockets in women’s clothing, bags could afford to be less practical, which is what we see in this teeny but stunning Zara handbag that doubles as a cross body, a handy modern upgrade to an iconic piece.

Parfois Tote Bag

The seventies brought with it a crafty element, offset by elegant materials in leather and suede. The more relaxed, less structured look was in line with the flowing silhouettes and natural materials popular in clothing at the time and these bags were designed to be soft and easy to scarry, The longer strap allowed for more freedom as it was designed to be worn over the shoulder with a long strap, leaving your hands free. The seventies are back in a major way this season and Parfois’ printed tote bag is channelling it to perfection with its natural materials and earthy tones.

Oasis Textured Shopper

Textured Shopper Bag | Oasis

The eighties brought out the maximalist in all of us and was a truly decadent time in fashion, with everything becoming bigger, brighter and bolder. The biggest change with bags in this era is the dismissal of the flap handbag to be replaced by the clasp and twist lock handbags. The Birkin bag was also massive in this era and set the tone for big, shiny bags with lots of hardware. Hard lines and structure can in again but this time they came back bigger instead of the miniatures of the sixties. These consumers wanted practical and they got it. Oasis’s chunky shopper bag is exactly the kind of flashy material used at the time, with the large and structured shape also nodding to the era. Missing some of the metallic hardware makes it less dates and more understated than the fashions of the eighties.

Zara Animal print chain bag

The 90s are iconic for more reasons than we can count, but one of the major symbols of this iconic time is the baguette bag. Coined by Fendi, the ‘Fendi Baguette’ was intended to fit neatly under your arms and was designed as a party piece. Impractical in size, it wouldn’t carry much, but it quickly became synonymous with the era as a status symbol thanks to iconic shows like Sex and the City adopting it whole heartedly. Zara plays with the 90s nostalgia that is rampant these days by putting a sophisticated twist on the iconic 90s ‘It girl’ bag. The deep emerald green and animal print texture modernize this bag bringing 1990 into 2021 and giving it a makeover worthy of Carrie Bradshaw.  

River Island Crossbody Satchel

The 2000s brought about a wave of innovation in bag design, from the neat, structured little saddle bag to the soft and weighty motorcycle bags that Kate Moss single-handedly started the trend with. Bags went through a phase of being highly decorative, loudly pattered and varying in shape and style, but none was more iconic than the ‘It Bag’, created by Paddington that were weighty, intricate and heavily padlocked in classic 2000s detailed style. This River Island satchel purse mimics the iconic Dior cross-body satchel that dominated the early 2000s, with it’s neat, clean lines and preppy pink pop of colour.

Fiona Murphy is a freelance writer, specialising in book-related content, fiction and poetry. She can be found drinking tea, craving tapas or attempting to finish her never-ending-novel.

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