Fashion, Lifestyle

1940’s Handbag Trends

Before Britney, Star Wars and even the Beatles, there was a time when Casablanca filled the silver screen, swing music was in and George Orwell was predicting the future. Female fashion was dominated by austere clothing, big curls and red lipstick. Let’s take a trip back in time to get a closer look at handbag fashion in the 1940s…

Handbag collection for a 1940s Sears catalogue The fashion of the 1940s was marked by the ongoing Second World War. Materials commonly used in handbag production, such as zippers and leather, were instead directed to production of supplies for the war effort. As a result, designers turned to wood, plastic and other synthetic materials.

In addition to the changing materials, handbags were also changing shape. Bags became more rectangular and sharp in appearance. This look served as a reflection of the new level of independence experienced by women as they entered the workforce during the war.

Wicker was one of the new materials used for purses in the 1940sAs WWII came to a close, new materials and processes developed during the war began to be used in handbag production. These advances allowed bags to be produced more quickly and for a lower cost, resulting in their spreading popularity.

As demand increased, handbags saw a “return to fashion.” Beading and other embellishments became more common and leather was once again introduced. Bamboo and straw were the new materials of the day, taking on unique shapes like the birdcage. Bags continued to become boxier in appearance and the military influence of WWII could still be seen through gold chains and insignias at the beginning of the 1950s.

For a look at the complete evolution of handbags check out our History of Handbags Timeline.

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