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Archive for ‘1950s’

Inheriting Vintage Purses: Keep Or Sell?

By , 12 August, 2009, No Comment

Kim’s still busy sorting through all the vintage purses her grandmother had, trying to decide which to save & which to sell…

Vintage Metallic Mesh & Lucite Handbag

Vintage Metallic Mesh & Lucite Handbag

Such problems! *wink*

One question she asked me was regarding how to decide what to save & what to sell.

That’s a really subjective question…

Not just because beauty is in the eye of the beholder (or the holder of the vintage bag), but because value is a tricky thing.

(Just like those MasterCard ads say. lol)

Certainly those purses which remind Kim of her grandma are “priceless,” as are any purses that Kim may have no memory of — like vintage handbags which are connected to special family occasions (worn to weddings, etc.), and/or those which appear in family photographs. But then again, purses in photographs may have stronger sales appeal because collectors like proof of the vintage item’s age — it’s a form of provenance which adds to its collectibility. So if you want to get the most bucks when the auction gavel bangs… I guess those are the ones to sell.

Rare purses will fetch the biggest bucks too; but then, will you kick yourself later for parting with such a rare purse that you’ll likely never see again?

Ultimately, what it comes down to is what would you like to get for them vs. how much they mean to you — or any other family members (including your children or future children!) who might skin you alive for getting rid of them.

Then again, whatever you keep had better be stored &/or cared for properly…

So the choices may not be so so easy, huh? *wink*

Though for me, it would probably be easy: Keep them all!

The photo shown here is another vintage Lucite purse that Kim would like some help identifying; this one is rather unusual: metallic mesh with tortoiseshell Lucite bottom & handles with rhinestones. Have any ideas? Please comment!

Was My Vintage Lucite Purse Originally A Different Color?

By , 6 August, 2009, No Comment

As promised, more of Kim’s fabulous vintage Lucite purses.

Yellow Pearlized Confetti Vintage Lucite Purse

Yellow Pearlized Confetti Vintage Lucite Purse

This one comes not with an identification question (it has a Myles sticker), but rather Kim has concerns about the vintage handbag’s conditions: Was it originally a different color?

The twist handled confetti Myles looks like a pretty pearlescent color in the pics, but it looks kind of yellow to me in real life – that is why I was wondering if the color sometimes changes in these. If it did – it changed evenly!

While vintage plastics are susceptible to damage from heat, Lucite in particular is more resistant to discoloration & damage from heat. You still should store Lucite items, especially vintage items made of it, away from sunlight and not in places of extreme temperatures, like attics, because it can be damaged.

Damages from heat include fogging, “smearing” or “smudging” of color &/or the transparency, but most often seems to show up as what’s called “sun shattering.” Sun shattering is spider-web or tiny veins of cracks within the Lucite that cannot be felt on the surface — signs of the stress within the Lucite, as opposed to an external force hitting it, causing cracks, scratches, or chips you can feel.

In theory, exposure to extreme heat from being stored in a very hot attic, for example, could result in a uniform changes such as fogging that would change the color of the entire piece. But it’s not very likely… You’d probably still find variations in color &/or transparency — and I’m betting that you’d find other signs of damages, such as sun shattering to indicate the purse has been stressed by such temperature changes.

So, if I was to place a bet on whether this vintage purse had changed color, I’d bet “no.”  But I’m not infallible — what do you other vintage fashionistas have to say?

Open Vintage Myles Lucite Handbag Showing Black Lining

Open Vintage Myles Lucite Handbag Showing Black Lining

Are Cracked Lucite Purses Worthless?

By , 29 July, 2009, 1 Comment

Continuing to help Kim with her vintage Lucite purse problems (oh, those are problems I’d love to have! lol), Kim wanted to know if any of the cracked purses had any value…

Obviously, conditions are a large part of the value of any vintage fashion &/or accessory or collectible in general, so whether there are modest signs of wear and tear or outright damages, the price will be affected negatively in proportion to the flaws. That said, I don’t think you can say that even cracked & chipped purses, or those otherwise deemed unusable, are valueless.

A lot will have to do with the rarity of the purse itself as well as the intentions of the buyer; there are other ways to use such vintage beauties.

Damaged vintage Lucite purses which cannot be repaired may have value as…

* Salvaged parts: Handles, metal hinges, etc. to repair other vintage purses.

* Entry level pieces for collectors: If the purse is fine to look at one one or more sides, beginning collectors or (like me) collectors with small budgets for buying may find a low price fine to pay to have such a pretty purse to display.

* Something else: I’ve seen some topless vintage purses in antique booths holding hankies to purchase; I’ve seen some on counter tops at vintage clothing stores holding pens etc. It made me think of ways to salvage such pretty old handbags myself and use them to hold & display items on my vanity, on my desk, etc.  I suppose very crafty girls could think of hundreds of ways to recycle vintage Lucite purses.  (I’d love to do a post just on this — but first I’ll have to find some cheap damaged old Lucite purses!)

* Nostalgia: Never ever underestimate the sense of nostalgia in vintage things… A damaged old purse may be exactly like grandma’s or one seen in childhood and it may be worth money to own & display it, just to relive &/or retell the stories behind it.

So I don’t think, unless the Lucite is shattered into fragments, that old plastic purses are ever valueless. But naturally, the degree of their damages will lower their prices (and on the internet, with shipping charges, even more so); so adjust your expectations.

But that’s my opinion — please chime in with yours!

Also, dear experts & fans of vintage Lucite handbags, Kim is looking for some help in identifying the maker of this lovely carved caramel colored one. (If you don’t have any suggestions, I’m sure you’ll enjoy just looking at it!)

Can You Identify The Maker?

Can You Identify The Maker?

Know Your Vintage Lucite Purses? Help Please!

By , 27 July, 2009, 5 Comments

Kim & her family are cleaning out her grandmother’s home and she brought home about 20 vintage plastic purses she believes are Lucite (along with about 50 other vintage and antique purses), and after spotting my guide to vintage Lucite purses, asked for some additional help.

Like I told Kim, I’m not an expert; I’ve possess far more “book learnin'” & information from other collectors about these pretty babies than actual purses, so while I’ll share what I know, I ask that those of you in the know please add your two cents.

(Since Kim has so many purses (lucky ducky!) and even more questions, I’ll be breaking these up into smaller, more specific posts — so if you love these vintage purses, &/or have knowledge to share, please keep checking back!)

First up, Kim wonders if any of us can help her identify the maker of this confetti Lucite purse with metal handles, “It isn’t marked anywhere and I’ve not seen anything close to it in all the pics I’ve looked at.”

Kims' Vintage Confetti Lucite Purse With Metal Handles

Kims' Vintage Confetti Lucite Purse With Metal Handles

Personally, I’m at a loss; there were quite a number of makers, and as I said in the guide, if the purses were marked, most of the tags have fallen of with age… If you have any help or suggestions, please share in the comments!

Classic Come-Hither

By , 24 July, 2009, No Comment

There are few things as utterly glamorous than leopard print fashions.

Nina Leen Fashion Photo

Nina Leen Fashion Photo

We call such looks “classic” because ever since its debut, leopard print’s been incredibly popular.

Unlike it’s wild relatives (zebra print, faux snake, tiger and other big cats), which are fun, but can be loud, cheap & harsh, leopard has always managed to combine “wild” with a graceful, exotic class that’s both dramatic & seductive — more come-hither, than attention whore.

You might even have a difficult time guessing the year that Nina Leen took this photograph (1957) because leopard print really has never gone out of style; like red lips, it’s as glamorous as it gets.

“It happens every time, they all become blueberries.”

By , 22 July, 2009, 1 Comment

Remember in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory when Wonka’s showing off his new three-course dinner gum that’s flavored like tomato soup, roast beef and blueberry pie — and while he warns her not to chew it, Violet Beauregard does and she ends up looking like a giant blueberry?

Violet & Oompa-Loompas

Violet & Oompa-Loompas

Well, as a grown up woman with a sweet tooth of my own — and a love of vintage fashions — I dream of chewing such a gum and magically transform into wearing a dress like this full-skirted blue 50s chiffon novelty dress with fruit pattern:

Vintage 1950's Chiffon Novelty Print Full Skirt Dress

Vintage 1950's Chiffon Novelty Print Full Skirt Dress

The seller is confused by the “creative coloring” of the fruit, saying, “I have gone back and forth between peaches, lemons, limes, oranges, etc.” But I say why be confused? They are giant Wonka-esque blueberries! And I love it!

Vintage Novelty Fruit Pattern

Vintage Novelty Fruit Pattern

Stunning While Sunning

By , 22 July, 2009, No Comment

Remember when sunlight was simply something divine to sit in?

Elizabeth Taylor Sunning Her Stunning Self, 1955

Elizabeth Taylor Sunning Her Stunning Self, 1955

Tans aside (and certainly Liz was coveted for her pale skin), it not only felt fabulous but such natural lighting made for fantastic photographs. OK, having Liz’s looks, it was hard to take a bad photo, but still…

Now, even when you have slathered on a slew of sunblock, you’ll have a million people warning you of the damages of bathing in the rays of the sun. Just tell them you’re sunning your inner vintage Liz Taylor, and sunlight in a little moderation won’t kill you or anybody else.

Elizabeth Taylor Sunning Herself on the Set of Giant (1955); photograph by Sid Avery.

Fashion News From 1950

By , 17 July, 2009, No Comment

In the July 31, 1950 issue of Quick magazine (sent to me by Deanna — who has more snippets from Quick here), fashion news: U.S. Fashions Go “Down Under.”

“American designer” fashions, running a gamut from a revealing bathing suit (l.) to a cover-up toga-ensemble (below), will be flown to Australia by Neiman-Marcus, Dallas specialty store, and modeled for the “Aussies” by typical American beauties.

Vintage Fashion News, July, 1950

Vintage Fashion News, July, 1950

Left photo caption reads, “$160 worth of swimsuit, by Cole of California, in fuchsia sequins.” Can you even imagine the decadence of a 160 dollar swimsuit in 1950’s dollars?! With inflation, what is that… like $1000 today? (Makes the prices on buying vintage bathing suits seem like a pittance!)  And certainly sequin-covered swimsuits were as practical as they are today too. *wink*

Cole of California was founded in 1923 by Fred Cole, a former actor at Universal Studios. Cole’s attitude toward swimwear design was not typical for the time; while most companies of the 1920s and 1930s concentrated on designing functional swimwear, Cole was interested in making it fashionable & gamorous.

A brief timeline for the ultra glam Cole of California swimwear company:

1936: Began collaborating with Hollywood costume designer Margit Fellegi.

1950: Signed Esther Williams to a merchandising-design contract; her designs & promotions made Cole of California the most popular and glamorous swim & bathing suits of the time.

1955: Began producing swimwear for Christian Dior.

1960’s: The company was purchased by Kayser-Roth, then sold to Wickes Company; Cole of California remains a recognizable name in swimsuits.

1982: Launched Anne Cole Collection; Anne Cole is the daughter of founder Fred.

1983: Licensing agreement with Adrienne Vittadini, until 1993

1989: Cole of California purchased by Taren Holdings,

1990: Juice junior line debuted.

1993: Cole of California acquired by Authentic Fitness Corp. and combined with Catalina to form Catalina Cole.

1997: Anne Cole introduced the “tankini.”

For more images & info on vintage Cole of California bathing suits, see Glamoursplash; visit here for more on Esther Williams & Cole of California.

The other photo caption reads, “Bonnie Cashin’s ‘on-the-go’ ensemble: suit dress, checked toga.” I find it interesting that the checkered wrap would be called a toga, as it does not look like it could drape and cover the whole body (or even the lower half); it appears designed to ensure visibility of the body — or at least other fashions, like the suit. But it’s interesting to note, especially if you’re searching online and need another keyword to try. *wink*

Cashin apparently made “toga” style fashions as early as 1947 in including toga or cape fashions for Neiman-Marcus into the 1970’s… But I’m no Cashin expert; for more on Bonnie Cashin, visit the Bonnie Cashin Foundation.

A Guide To Vintage Lucite Purses

By , 9 July, 2009, 25 Comments

I’ve long admired vintage Lucite purses — I say “admired” because these rare babies keep me at arm’s length with their hefty price tags and my fear of damaging them while using them. Don’t get me wrong; their rarity completely warrants the digits on tags. In fact, I don’t see them at antique stores or vintage fashion shops very often, and even online, they can be difficult to find. (All of this only reinforces my fear of using them.)

Anyway, because I don’t see them very often anymore, I was surprised to find not one but two sellers at my local antique mall selling multiple old Lucite purses; so I snapped some pics.

Vintage Lucite Purses

Vintage Lucite Purses

Shopping for vintage Lucite purses becomes even more thrilling when you consider the vast array of styles, shapes and colors these vintage purses came in. And that’s part of the challenge too — as with most fabulous vintage finds, when you fall in love with one, rest assured, finding another just like it is no picnic.

Of course, you can always fall in love again with another, right? (But trust me, your heart will still ache for that long lost love…)


Because I do far more longing for & playing peek-a-boo with vintage plastic handbags, I know more about them than a non-owner or non-collector should…

Here are Thirteen Things About Vintage Lucite Purses

1. While we collectively call these vintage purses “Lucite purses,” there’s a bit of irony to the name. Technically the purses are made of Poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) poly(methyl 2-methylpropenoate), a thermoplastic and transparent plastic first patented by German chemist Otto Röhm in the early 1930’s and sold under the name Plexiglass. Lucite is the registered name of DuPont‘s acrylic:

Both DuPont and Rohm & Haas licensed the process and began commercial production in 1936. Lucite®, however, never generated substantial earnings for DuPont. Since it was that company’s primary product, Rohm & Haas was able to commit more resources to Plexiglas® and it consistently undercut DuPont in price.

While DuPont claims poor earnings for Lucite, it’s the name we give to these beautiful vintage plastic purses.

2. Some people mistake Lucite for Bakelite. This is easy for novices to do, but once you’ve held both old plastics, you can more easily discern between the two. Deanna Dahlsad says:

[Lucite] has a slicker feel and is lighter than Bakelite. Like Bakelite, it would be rare to find a piece with mold marks or seams. Generally speaking, Lucite comes in bright colors and patterns that are not seen in Bakelite. Sometimes in darker colors it is confused with Bakelite. However, if you’ve done the Bakelite tests (and feel the piece does not have a damaged or altered finish), the piece is likely Lucite. “No smelli, Plexi” is what I say.

(Her article on identifying and caring for vintage plastics contains the referred to Bakelite tests.)

3. The most expensive Lucite purses were made by Wilardy of New York and once they were showcased in major department stores throughout the country, as a cheaper alternative to leather handbags. Some of the best Lucite purse designers were Rialto, Llewllyn, Charles S. Kahn, Gilli Originals, Patricia of Miami, Evans, and Myles & Maxim. Over time, of course, many cheaper versions, including knock-offs, were made. Most companies marked their handbag creations on the inside, with a stamp on the metal frames or by affixing a clear or paper label — but over the years many of the clear labels have fallen off, making identification & attribution difficult — both for Lucite purses by famous makers and even for identifying other makers of vintage Lucite purses.

4. There are many opaque or translucent colors of Lucite purses. While many agree the carved clear plastic is the most beautiful, it is far from practical in terms of use. Because it’s clear, you can see everything inside & most ladies prefer the contents of their handbags & clutches to be secret.

Vintage Clear Carved Lucite Purse From Iwannas

Vintage Clear Carved Lucite Purse From Iwannas

(You can see Marie Windsor displaying a clear carved Lucite purse — and the contents if it! — here.)

5. The most popular (and therefore pricey) color of vintage Lucite purses seems to be the tortoiseshell — followed closely by amber. My guess is that, along with being so pretty, the darker brown colors are more practical both in terms of keeping the purse’s contents hidden and, like brown leather, very easily mixed into one’s wardrobe.

Vintage Tortoiseshell Lucite Purse

Vintage Tortoiseshell Lucite Purse

Vintage Amber Lucite Purse

Vintage Amber Lucite Purse

Of course, the near rainbow of available colors, means fashionistas and collectors are always looking for the unusual shades, such as pearlized pastels and always-in-fashion black.

6. Vintage Lucite purses come in many shapes too. There are square & rectangular “box” styles, ovals, trapezoid, cylinders, “kidney” shapes, “beehives,” scalloped shaped “kidney” clutches… Some vintage Lucite purses will have “lids” that open, others open like “clams.” Most have Lucite handles, but some will have straps of chain or other material.

7. Along with the myriad of color choices & shapes, Lucite purses are often embellished with carvings, metal work (not just clasps, hinges & feet, but fancy filigree and woven metal work), and/or rhinestones, confetti, shells, flowers, lace, etc. embedded into or set upon it.

Vintage Cylindrical Lucite Purse With Carved Ends On Metal Feet

Vintage Cylindrical Lucite Purse With Carved Ends On Metal Feet

Tortoiseshell Lucite Purse With Open Metal Work ($96)

Tortoiseshell Lucite Purse With Open Metal Work ($96)

Vintage Clear Carved Lucite Purse With Large Rhinestones

Vintage Clear Carved Lucite Purse With Large Rhinestones

When it comes to some of the designs & themes, like this fantastic vintage Lucite purse with a poodle on it — or this wooden purse with a genie on the Lucite lid, you’ll be competing with collectors of poodles & genies.

Vintage Grey Lucite Purse With Retro Poodle

Vintage Grey Lucite Purse With Retro Poodle

Vintage Purse With Lucite Lid With Genie Design

Vintage Purse With Lucite Lid With Genie Design

8. One area of cross-collecting, and therefore pieces with higher prices, are the Lucite purses with built-in compacts. (These are my ultimate fantasy pieces.)

9. As I said, I’m very worried about damaging vintage Lucite purses. Along with cracks, of which no elegant & effective repairs are known (the glue discolors &/or muddles the old plastic), Lucite scratches rather easily. These scratches are especially noticeable on clear and lighter shades of Lucite. Use soft cloths and avoid products with abrasives when cleaning them; extra caution should be taken with tortoiseshell purses because the pattern can be muddled or removed. Novus Polish Kit: Plastic Polish & Scratch Remover is highly recommended for cleaning & minimizing scratches in Lucite. (A metal polish, such as Simichrome Polish, is recommended to clean & keep the metal hardware in good condition — just keep it confined to the metal.)

10. If you find a lovely vintage Lucite purse with a missing rhinestone or two, they can be replaced with care; Sparklz has very detailed information on how to replace missing rhinestones. You’ll have to consider if the vintage purse is worth saving in terms of price, other conditions issues — and your dexterity to make the repairs. (Do not replace/repair and then sell without disclosing that you did so!)

11. Clutches especially have metal frames which should be inspected for damages; if they are too bent to clasp properly, I’d avoid them. Likewise missing or damaged clasps, handles etc. Sure, if you search diligently enough, you can find replacement Lucite handles and metal fittings. (Some are old store stock; others are salvaged from purses too badly damaged to rescue.) Purse-onally, I’m not sure I’d try to tackle all the varying metal fittings — risking cracking the purse. But there are those who claim to be able to make such repairs. (Exercise extreme caution & investigation in these persons/companies before entrusting your vintage purse in their care; see my other vintage guides for more on evaluating professional repair services.)

12. The myth that antique shops and vintage fashion boutiques (real stores or virtual ones) price their items higher than eBay is false. The purses I found & photographed at my local antique mall were priced from $60 to just under $300 (for the torti), which when compared to eBay prices is fair if not actually lower than current auction prices (and recent past sales). Of course, prices will depend upon the conditions & attributes mentioned above. And if you’re looking for something specific or quickly for a special event, online searching will produce more options & more quickly than hunting in physical locations.

Vintage Lucite Box Purse At Antique Mall ($64.50)

Vintage Lucite Box Purse At Antique Mall ($64.50)

13. If you love the look of vintage Lucite purses, there are folks making reproductions & “vintage style” Lucite purses. These vintage styled Lucite purses (found via The DebLog) are beautiful, and if you fear using an authentic vintage purse, it’s an option…

Vintage Style (Reproduction) Pink Lucite Purse

Vintage Style (Reproduction) Pink Lucite Purse

Carved Lucite Top and Handle on Reproduction Lucite Purse

Carved Lucite Top and Handle on Reproduction Lucite Purse

The prices on the modern made Lucite purses are in the same range as their vintage inspirations; but, again, you won’t have the worry of having destroyed a potential one of a kind vintage piece. However, please note that even the new Lucite will be prone to scratches (and cracks).

For more on these fabulous vintage pieces, pre-order Carry Me: 1950’s Lucite Purses: An American Fashion by Janice Berkson.

More Thursday Thirteen participants can be found here, and here.

Monday Movie Theme

By , 8 June, 2009, No Comment

I’m new to the Monday Movie Meme (I found it via Kitsch Slapped), so I’m not sure if there was a mistake in offering two distinctly different themes in one day — or if it was done to allow options in your posting. But since Deanna dished on the 80’s films, I thought I’d take a stab at the Alfred Hitchcock movie meme — even though I’ve only seen two of his films. (Which reminds me, since I’ve seen so few Hitchcock films, that I’ll have to add him to the Classic Schmassic list.)

My favorite — and the first Hitchcock film I’ve ever seen — was To Catch a Thief (1955). Even though I didn’t even realize that was a Hitchcock film! I just fell in love with Cary Grant (as John Robie, The Cat) and Grace Kelly was pretty enough to make me wonder if I was a lesbian.

Cary Grant & Grace Kelly

Cary Grant & Grace Kelly

Eventually, I just figured it was the fashions. New Look fashions just drop me to my knees. Always have; probably always will.

Talk about suave; who even cared if there was a plot? But of course there was, and for a little while, I even found myself (gasp!) routing for Danielle (Brigitte Auber) to catch The Cat.

To Catch A Thief Still With Auber On Left

To Catch A Thief Still With Auber On Left

I’m not sure if that was routing for the underdog, or just more of the fashions and their fit (Brigitte Auber wasn’t built like Audrey Hepburn, but she wore similar styles — and Auber’s build was more “real,” more like me than ultra-waif-like).

In any case, I did swing back to the more aloof Kelly — but was there really a choice? *wink*

Catching A Thief

Catching A Thief