The start of the 1960s carried over most of the 1950s purse and handbag styles. 1960s handbags were sold in matching sets with shoes, belts, gloves and other accessories. As the decade progressed and the formal or classy look was replaced by the youthful mod style handbags became minimalist and futuristic with new plastic materials. The natural leather bag ending the decade was inspired by luggage with heavy buckles and straps.
Traditional women carried the small handle handbag in the pouch style. Updates included the leopard fabric trend as well as using chains instead of leather straps.
The envelope or frame bag was also a traditional bag that was especially popular in white by the mid 1960s. Shoulder strap bags too were as appreciated as ever.
The youthful Mod style had young women shifting away from classic bags into new bags with new textures, new colors and new fabrics. Fabric handbags that were previously used for beachwear and casual dressing were now being made into dressy bags. This included a lot of raffia straw, woven straw effect cloth, linen and tapestry fabrics.
The Pucci print, ie “Stained glass” fabrics, influenced many clothing and handbag fashions to mix brighter colors and geometric patterns together. “Flower power” prints and swirling Psychedelics matched those found on mini dresses. Read more about designer handbags from Vogue.
Handmade handbags for hippies included tie dye bags or African and Indian prints. The tapestry bag experienced a revival as well.
This 1960s handbag history is rather brief. I will circle back at a later time to go into more details. In the meantime, here are more examples of purse trends.
The frame bag was a mainstay in the 1950s and well into the 1960s. A solid frame created the shape with a brass or gold clasp on top. A short handle kept them classy. Updates were to make them in shiny patent leather for daywear and velvet for evenings.
Reptile Skin Purses
Between 1963 and 1965 reptile skin frame purses were exceedingly popular. The larger the texture of the skin, the better. Bold colors such as red or green contrasted with the natural tans and deep browns.
The straw bag and basket purse was common throughout the 1960s. Both traditional women and new mods were using them to dress up or down an outfit. Especially in white they paired well with afternoon attire while the natural raffia straw colors looked best with casual outfits.
Straw bodies were accented with leather straps and buckles and pockets to make them easier to carry and closer in style to luggage.
The jet set age was in full flight and natural leather handbags took note in the late 1960s. Tote bags and handled soft bags were resembling luggage with heavy buckles and straps. Antique tanned leather gave them a rustic, been around the world, look.
Some of the key styles of luggage bags were totes, soft handle double strap bags, hobo bags, drawstring bags, small duffels, and shoulder bags. These were the main styles of purses going into the 1970s.
Any purse in white with matching white accessories was very mod! Young trendy mods also went back to some retro box purses that were intended to carry makeup. Other mods embraced the mini bag to go with mini skirts.
Mods at the end of the decade jumped on the shiny vinyl trend with two tone handbags. Black and white, red and blue, yellow and white, navy blue and white, brown and ivory were friendly pairings. Clear backs with contrasting vinyl were also cool again.
Speaking of vinyl bags, all ages embraced this futuristic fabric. Vinyl or the also very shiny patent leather was used on classic style frame bags and totes but even more commonly on uniquely shaped barrel bags, box bags, mini bags and luggage styles.
The evening purse traditional embraced the small clutch bag in matching fabrics for most of the decade. Earlier evenings bags included the velvet chain handle purses.
In the absence of a matching purse, a clutch or chain pouch bag could be made in rich fabrics such as gold or silver brocade, glittering rayon, shiny satin, lace and reptile skins. Nearly any daytime frame bag or barrel bag could be used in the evenings as well.
Or browse these favorite stores:
- Unique Vintage– Day and evening handbags, clutches, purses
- Modcloth- Quirky handbags
- Ecosusi – Cute handbags, backbacks, briefcase and tote bags
- Top Vintage (UK) – Mixed bands, mixed styles. Quick USA shipping.
- Collectiff (UK)- Fun, 50s and 60s style handbags
- Rock N Romance (UK) – Classic frame bags, faux reptile skins
- Etsy – Handmade Retro Top Shop – Leather 1950s bags. The “Charlene” also works for the 60s.
- Amazon – Can be a goldmine for vintage style purses depending on current trends.
Debbie Sessions has been teaching fashion history and helping people dress for vintage themed events since 2009. She has turned a hobby into VintageDancer.com with hundreds of well researched articles and hand picked links to vintage inspired clothing online. She aims to make dressing accurately (or not) an affordable option for all. Oh, and she dances too.