Let's start with the style bit!
Bags in the 50s and early 60s were an essential part of a lady's outfit; not many would have been seen dead without a handbag that matched their ensemble - and that goes for shoes and gloves as well. They were usually made of leather and had short straps worn over the forearm or carried by hand a la Jackie Kennedy or Grace Kelly. The classic design most people associate with the era is the small rectangular leather or vinyl bag with a frame clasp at the top. The box shape was a popular variation of the theme at the time, meeting the mid-century lady's love for a structured bag.
It's actually surprisingly hard to find photos of women with handbags in the 50s and 60s - perhaps the celebrities like Marilyn had people to carry their stuff and didn't need to trouble themselves with rooting around in the depths of a bag for their keys. So let's go straight to some vintage styles that you can buy yourself this very day, if you so wish to.
|White box handbag, It's Vintage Darling @ ASOS, £51|
|50s patent black box bag, handbaggallery.net, £57|
|Brown snake-skin box bag, handbaggallery.net, £42|
There are surprisingly few good modern styles out there to buy. But for years, I'd been regularly visiting a very special bag on the Lulu Guinness website thinking wistfully to myself that if I ever won the lottery (which, of course, like everyone else who says that I don't play) I'd one day own it. Because at £395, there was no chance it was coming out of my pocket money alone.
What was there not to love about Mary? She's boxy, she's leather, she has crocodile skin and silver lips for a clasp... AND she holds stuff. Oh, I wanted her.
And then one day when I went to see her, after 3 years of visiting like the besotted fool I was, she was knocked down in the sale to £125! And then she was mine...
I promptly bored everyone who would listen (unsurprisingly this was a very limited number of girls) about the story of our love affair and a year later she still goes everywhere with me. She comes to work and makes me look almost like a grown-up, she comes dancing and effortlessly pulls me a man (this really happened, I winded him with her while bopping a little too exuberantly). I'm sure if I ever went to anything more formal she'd be the finishing touch to a classy look.