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Archive for ‘Accessories’

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!

Vintage Wardrobe Building With Accessories

By , 23 July, 2009, No Comment

When it comes to building a wardrobe — a real, honest-to-goodness working wardrobe — ladies used to insist on a few high quality dresses and then make the most of accessories.

Vintage Photo: Basic Dress & Accessories For Change

Vintage Photo: Basic Dress & Accessories For Change

There were collars (to go over & peep out from under), bows & belts, clips & jewelry, gloves & handbags… Matching & contrasting color combinations… So many styles & combinations, making one dress go from day to night & always seem new (or at least not the same old thing!)

When we made the switch to separates (tops & skirts, as opposed to one-piece dresses), we somehow became more dependent upon more garments rather than accessories. It’s rather a shame, both in terms of our budgets and our devotion to our wardrobes… You have to ask yourself how many times our modern garments actually are worn — or how much they are truly missed and need to be replaced. Having fewer dresses — but those you love — oh, that was not only more economical, but more about finding a dress that fit you well and that you loved.

And playing with the accessories is certainly a lot more fun than the Garanimals dressing we do today.

Photo, Basic Dress & Accessories For Change, by Nina Leen for Life Magazine, 1947.

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…)

pretty-vintage-lucite-purses

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.

Let Audrey Hepburn Go To Your Head With Accessories

By , 24 June, 2009, No Comment

When most of us think of or visualize Audrey Hepburn, we see her simple elegance (at least when she wasn’t playing roles wearing period costumes) But Audrey did use accessories; she just wore less of them at a time and let each speak boldly. For example, head scarves.

Audrey Hepburn Scarf

Audrey Hepburn Scarf

Few today think of head scarves as a beautiful way to frame your face, but these practical pieces are found on the cheap — often for less than a dollar!

Audrey (and her costumers) made use of scarves on hats too.

Audrey Hepburn In Breakfast At Tiffany's

Audrey Hepburn In Breakfast At Tiffany's

Audrey Hepburn In Funny Face

Audrey Hepburn In Funny Face

We sure don’t wear fashion hats like we used to, so such dramatic statements are usually reserved for very special occasions, but just think of the extra life you can get out of your hat if you consider working it with a scarf from time to time? (Your wedding hat won’t look the same year after year if you change it up!)

These last two are stretching “scarves” a bit… But what is a wrap but a very big scarf? *wink* And you sure can’t beat these looks when it comes to bold fashion statements! Makes one reconsider raincoats & even cloaks to go for a dramatic wrap.

Audrey Hepburn In War & Peace

Audrey Hepburn In War & Peace

Audrey Hepburn Bold In Red

Audrey Hepburn Bold In Red

Joan Crawford Makes Me Want To Sew

By , 3 April, 2009, No Comment

Every year I tell myself, “This is the year I learn how to sew — really sew.” You know, the kind of sewing where you, eventually, can look at a photo and reconstruct what you see. So far, I’ve just not mustered enough time & dedication to master sewing like that. And when I see an outfit like this one, I nearly weep with regret that I never paid enough attention in home ec when we made that dumb fabric purse (with the handle that was ridiculously too long) and the peasant skirt (three tiers of unevenly gathered sections). *sigh*

Joan Crawford Publicity Photo For Dancing Lady

Joan Crawford Publicity Photo For Dancing Lady

According to the information on the back of this vintage Joan Crawford photograph, used to promote Dancing Lady (1933), this stunning polka dot ensemble was part of Joan’s personal wardrobe:

The use of linen for formal wear is introduced by Joan Crawford, glamorous Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer star appearing in the picture, “Dancing Lady.” She selects a bright red model with white embroidered dots. This frock is trimmed with an edging of white scalloped pique. Linen gloves, pique trimmed, made of the same material sets off the costume.

Joan Crawford's Personal Wardrobe Publicity Note

Joan Crawford's Personal Wardrobe Publicity Note

Oh, how I want to recreate every detail — including those matching polka dot gloves!  It would be worth it to hand embroider every dot onto red linen myself (and that’s about all I would know how to do!)

Putting Zebra Stripes On Your Spring-o-lator Steps

By , 23 March, 2009, No Comment

Currently I’m lusting after these 1950’s Spring-o-lator heels with a wild zebra print — and the matching vintage handbag.

Vintage Zebra Pring Heels & Handbag

Vintage Zebra Print Heels & Handbag

What a fabulous way to change the look of any little black dress!

Going Garbo

By , 16 March, 2009, No Comment

Continuing my salute to the many hats of Greta Garbo…

This fantastic headpiece isn’t really a ‘hat’ — but I do have a great story that goes with it.

Garbo in headpiece as Mata Hari

Garbo in headpiece as Mata Hari

I saw this photo (or another like it) of Greta as Mata Hari when I was about 14 or so, and was so smitten, that I tried to create such headpieces myself. I began by draping necklaces & pendants from my hair (securing the chains with bobby pins) onto my forehead. Yes, even out in public. I’m sure I looked ridiculous, but the vision of me in my mind’s eye was soooo beautiful that I didn’t see what others saw.

Once I spend an entire Saturday trying to make a headpiece like this with one of those safety pin and beads kits… After spending so many hours unable to even complete what was supposed to be a belt or a choker — and knowing I’d need several of these kits to make what I envisioned in my mind to be the equivalent of Garbo’s headpiece, I let my friends talk me into going to the mall and hanging out. Whatever they did there must have been some sort of intervention, because I never resumed making the headpiece or even wearing the necklaces strung in my hair.

I know I should be a bit embarrassed that I did all that; but honestly I’m mostly just sad that I stopped trying to recreate the look.

Now all I need is another free Saturday.

(I haven’t had one of those since I was 14!)

Hats Off To Greta Garbo!

By , 12 March, 2009, No Comment

A pictorial salute to the many hats of the legendary & beautiful Greta Garbo.

This photo is of Garbo in The Painted Veil, where she trades the sophisticated turban of a bored & cheating wife for better habits – if not a literal nun’s habit and veil.

Garbo wearing a truban in The Painted Veil

Garbo wearing a turban in The Painted Veil

Garbo as Anna Christie in a (probably not raspberry!) beret. (For some reason, I always look like a frumpy, sloppy mess in a beret. *sigh*)

Greta Garbo as Anna Christie

Greta Garbo as Anna Christie

Garbo sure looks like she has a “cloche” relationship with her mom. *wink*

Garbo and mom 1933

Garbo and mom 1933

This photo of Greta on a yacht could be from The Single Standard

Greta in yachting cap

Greta in yachting cap

The Single Standard is one Garbo film I’ve yet to see, but considered by many to be one of her best films. I’m guessing the reason the film is only available on VHS (and pricey too yet) is because too many folks don’t like the silent films. But I adore them and was hoping the film would be in a Garbo Signature Collection, or TCM’s The Garbo Silents Collection. I continue to hope that TCM or someone puts out a DVD of The Single Standard soon… That would be something to take your hat off for. *wink*

Wrap Your Mind Around Wearing Turbans

By , 19 January, 2009, No Comment

Few things say “vintage glamour” the way turbans do.

Gloria Swanson Wearing A Turban

Gloria Swanson Wearing A Turban

We don’t see turbans often today, which is rather surprising because they are practical — especially in winter and on bad hair days. Look how cute Solanah is in her pink velvet turban!

Solanah Wearing A Pink Velvet Turban

Solanah Wearing A Pink Velvet Turban

A fun 50’s floral turban with blue bow.

1950s Printed Turban

1950s Printed Turban

A turban-inspired sculpted metallic 1930s hat with gold tone metal buttons down front.

1930s Metallic Turban Inspired Hat

1930s Metallic Turban Inspired Hat

If you can crochet, there are even vintage turban patterns — I love this striped one!

Vintage Turban Crochet Pattern

Vintage Turban Crochet Pattern

Want Cufflinks? Well, Hop To It!

By , 16 January, 2009, No Comment

A pair of vintage sterling silver cufflinks featuring frogs on lily pads:

Vintage 3D Sterling Frog Cufflinks

Vintage 3D Sterling Frog Cufflinks

Vintage Sterling Silver Cufflinks

Vintage Sterling Silver Cufflinks