How have handbags developed in the past decades? We think it’s a fascinating question. In our journey through time through the past decades, we are looking for handbags that have become a trend and that have become indispensable in the historical development of women’s handbags. At our first stop, we look at which models women wore in the 1910s, 20s, 30s and 40s. 

The years 1910 to 1940 were marked by two world wars and the resulting social changes. These changes contributed significantly to the emancipation of women and gender equality. Accordingly, the fashion of women has changed over the decades. In the early 1910s, mainly influenced by Coco Chanel, the corset was abolished. Women were now wearing more and more pants – a big step in the women’s movement.

In addition, with the increasing mobility of women (and men) – especially due to the railways and a rapidly growing rail network – bags became more and more important. The bag designers, if you could call them that, now concentrated less on the production of saddlebags (for travelling on horseback or in a carriage), but rather on bags that could be carried by hand and thus more advantageous for train travel were. This is how the term “hand” bag was born.

Due to the increasing movement of women, this handbag fashion quickly developed in a new direction. For the first time, women carried a handbag for fashion and not for practical reasons as before.

Thus, due to the social changes in every decade, certain handbag trends and styles can be found that have become indispensable in the history of fashion. We have selected the most popular models from the first four decades and would like to present them in our time travel series.

Handbags in the 1910s

In the 1910s, the style of women was characterized by elegance and narrow lines. Fashion was mostly elaborately decorated with embroidery and, inspired by archaeological finds, provided with patterns from Egypt and the Orient.

One of the first and thus a pioneer of the style icons of the 1910s was dancer Irene Castle. At that time, she made a significant contribution to the emancipatory development of women’s fashion and thus also shaped the development of women’s handbags.

Handbags in the 1910s were lavishly embroidered with bright colours and patterns reminiscent of carpet motifs. Often, certain scenes and pictures were also shown on the bags to give them a special, prominent and unique look. In addition, the handbags were mostly bag-shaped, made of leather or fabric and were closed with an ivory or metal frame. Metal mesh bags (so-called because they were woven from filigree metal) were also becoming increasingly popular. Thanks to their mechanical production, they could be produced faster and more cost-effectively. Since the bags were mostly very small, the fashion-conscious women of the 1910s used them less as everyday bags and much more as elegant accessories for evening events.

Handbags in the 1910s: dainty, narrow and richly decorated.

Handbags in the 1910s: dainty, narrow and richly decorated.
Handbags in the 1910s: dainty, narrow and richly decorated.

Handbags in the 1920s

The 1920s were characterized by the Jazz Age – which required one thing above all: mobility. Women wore clothes in which they could move freely and well. The fashion at that time was exciting, dramatic and, above all, a drastic change in style from the Victorian era, which was not long ago, and its stiff and restrictive designs. Clothing was now embroidered with glitter and sequins.

Due to the First World War, leather became very scarce and expensive, so that synthetic materials were increasingly used for the production of clothing and accessories.

Even during this time, strong women shaped the progressive emancipation: Coco ChanelJosephine Baker and Pola Negri are considered the greatest style icons of the 20s.

Until the 20s, the handbag was not a must-have for women. However, that changed over the course of this decade. But which handbags did the style icons carry at the time? Small silver mesh bags were again particularly modern, some of which were provided with modern, geometric patterns based on Art Deco. The so-called “Dorothy Bag” for the evening was also very popular – a small bag made of fabric or leather with a short handle, lavishly decorated with pearls, sequins, precious stones or embroidery. The second most popular bag model was the “Pochette” – a kind of envelope bag that could be tucked under the arm. The design of the bag even lasted until the 50s. Art Deco but also Egyptian patterns such as golden cats or palm leaves were very popular as an ornament.

Another important pocket revolution in this decade can be seen in the development of the zipper. Originally taken over by the U.S. Navy, which used the new product for the first time on a large scale for weatherproof uniforms, the zipper very soon revolutionized bag production, influenced the shape of the bag and gradually replaced button and lace closures.

Handbags in the 1920s: Art Deco elements and Egyptian decorations are very popular.
Handbags in the 1920s: Art Deco elements and Egyptian decorations are very popular.

Handbags in the  1930s

In the 1930s, the focus in fashion was on elegance. Clothing was now a bit more figure-hugging and feminine. Long dresses that were cut more tightly at the hips but had a wide and bell-shaped hem were particularly popular. For the first time, shoulder pads, which were popular until the 1980s, also came into fashion. Women who shaped the fashion and therefore also the trends of the 30s were: Marlene DietrichGreta Garbo or even Jean Harlow.

At the beginning of the 1930s, the world was in an economic crisis, which also affected the development of women’s fashion in general and pocket fashion in particular. The majority of women couldn’t afford high-quality bags, so most opted for models that at least looked expensive. The focus of fashion attention was richly decorated, almost exaggerated glamorous bags, which were made of inferior material. Bags were, as in the previous two decades, rather small and light. At the end of the decade, however, the bags got bigger and the straps got longer. In addition, geometric patterns and shapes were replaced by playful, ornate and artistically high-quality designs. A popular bag model, which was already established in the 1930s and is still indispensable today, is the Noé model by Louis Vuitton.

Noé model by Louis Vuitton.
Noé model by Louis Vuitton.

Handbags in the 1940s

The 1940s fashion was very similar to the fashion of the last decade. Due to the prevailing Second World War, hardly any new designs or trends were developed because fashionable exaggerations or inappropriate clothing were not desired. It was only after the war that women began to become more fashion conscious again and in the late 1940s, new trends developed again.

So what developments could you see in handbag fashion? The bags became increasingly angular and box-shaped in the course of the 1940s. The envelope-like bag “Pochette” from the 1920s was most likely the model here and was further developed. The needs of women, who are increasingly pouring into the labour market, also had to be taken into account. Functionality determined that time. Bags were bigger, more practical and had a long strap that the women put over their shoulders to have their hands free.

Handbags in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s

In the next part of our journey through time through the decades, the topic “Handbags in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s” awaits you with all trends and important topics related to the handbag of the various decades. Stay tuned – and have a look at our shop, because here you will find the hottest handbag trends!

During our second stopover of the journey through time through the decades, we continue to search for handbag models that women loved and wore during the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s.

From 1950 to 1980, society developed in new directions: After the war, people took advantage of the newly gained opportunities and campaigned for structural change.

As society changed, handbag trends also developed in a new direction. We present the most important bag models in more detail and give an insight into the development of the handbag.

Handbags in the 1950s

The emerging economic miracle in the 1950s caused an increase in financial capacities and a positive change in the minds of people after the war.

The younger generation rebelled against their parents’ existing values ​​of virtue and virtue – a generation conflict emerged.

Fashion in the 1950s was also characterized by contrasts: for example, skin-tight skirts and wide petticoats were popular. Nonetheless, over the course of this decade, a kind of uniformity developed in women’s wardrobes. Wide, calf-length and wide-flared skirts that were combined with tight-fitting blouses were particularly modern. Trousers were seldom worn by women in the 1950s, if only during the day and mostly for practical reasons. Fashion was, therefore, more classic and elegant. Style icons that shaped the 50s were well-known personalities such as Audrey HepburnGrace Kelly and of course Marilyn Monroe.

Until the late 1940s, bags were made from fabric, cowhide or other animal skin. In order to bring more variety to the world of women’s handbags, the designers experimented with various new materials such as Lucite, an easily malleable type of plastic. This resulted in particularly light models in unusual shapes and colours. Another trend arose from the scarcity of raw materials after the war: Since leather was scarce, the designers used straw and bamboo to make wicker bags.

The rock’n’roll of the 50s was also very influential for the fashion and handbag trends. The bags were angular, had a large and sturdy base and a short bow handle, which was mostly made of plastic.

The mini handbag, which had been in fashion decades earlier, made a big comeback in the 1950s. They symbolized a rediscovered femininity. Small, slim and elegant bags looked more womanly than those large, coarse and practical shoulder bags that were preferred in times of war. All in all, women wore the small handbag for almost every occasion this decade.

Wicker bag. Basket bag from the 1950s.
Wicker bag. Basket bag from the 1950s.
Lucite bag from the 1950s.
Lucite bag from the 1950s.

Handbags in the 1960s

In the 1960s one could see a structural change in society. Student movements and civil rights unrest caused a change in political ideas among the population. This structural change also had an impact on the fashion of the time.

For the first time, the youth became the broadest group of buyers for fashion at the time. Fashion trends were mainly based on the tastes of young people. The different musical styles of this time also influenced the fashion trends of the time.

At the beginning of the 1960s, women mainly wore masculine clothing such as dresses with straps, dungarees or trouser suits. From the mid-1960s, fashion became increasingly provocative, eye-catching and unconventional. Following the current trends has become a way of life. At the time, women wore wide skirts in combination with see-through blouses. The cuts of the clothes were striking and often decorated with colourful flower patterns. Well-known style icons such as TwiggyJackie Kennedy Onassis and Uschi Obermaier also shaped the trends here.

Bags at the time were mostly box-shaped and angular. As in the 1950s, bags were made from materials such as nylon, PVC and other types of plastic as an alternative to leather bags. Designers were increasingly discovering different types of metal for their bag design – unusual embossing and unusual closures or handles made of plastic were particularly popular.

Handbags in the 1970s

The 1970s were also marked by political protests and young people who campaigned for social change.

The hippie movement that emerged in the 1960s shaped the young fashion of the 1970s. Another fashion trend of the 1970s was knitwear. Both women and men started knitting themselves. In addition, the so-called folklore style was very popular with women. They wore floor-length dresses and skirts, shirt blouses, pleated or tweed skirts. Even handbags could not protect themselves from this trend, so there were numerous crocheted bags with eye-catching patterns. The handles of these bags were mostly short and made of a wide variety of materials such as bamboo or plastic.

With the opening of the first discos and clubs, disco fashion also became increasingly popular. Clothing made of glittering and shiny synthetic fibers were particularly popular. Because of the disco fashion, figure-hugging cuts have become indispensable. Women who shaped the fashion and trends of the 70s were Romy Schneider and Jane Birkin.

The 1970s were an eventful decade for the handbag. From the 1970s onwards, major designers such as GucciChanel and Prada offered handbag collections to go with their designed clothes for the first time. So everything became uniform and the handbag became more and more important when it came to a complete and suitable outfit for women.

Just like the decades before, box-shaped bags made of leather or other materials were modern. In contrast to the previous decades, however, the bags in the 70s were often colourful and provided with eye-catching patterns. Large shoulder bags that one wore around the upper body celebrated their comeback. They were equipped with a variety of straps and zippers, which should give them the appearance of high practicality. They should show that their wearers in the age of feminism are equipped for every eventuality and thus independent.

Handbags in the 1980s

Birkin Bag from the 1980s.
Birkin Bag from the 1980s.

Even today, the 80s are considered years of upheaval and change. This decade was shaped by an economic upswing and increasing medialisation of society.

This had a strong impact on fashion and associated trends. Film, television and music also influenced the development of fashion and handbag trends at this time.

Fashion in the 80s was characterized by wide tops, tight jeans, leggings and, above all, bright and bright colours.

Brands played a particularly important role in this decade. True to the motto: “Dress for success”. Distinctive shapes and a clear silhouette determined the fashion. Fashion-conscious women, therefore, wore blouses, tops or jackets with shoulder pads and tight skirts with a narrow waist. Well-known style icons of this time were: Grace JonesMadonna and Paula Yates.

In terms of handbags from the 80s, there was a comeback in this decade – the basket bag from the 50s came back. This time, however, with more details, more conspicuous and in a wide variety of materials and shapes.

Just like in the apparel segment, brands were especially important for women with handbags. They paid particular attention to quality, classic designs and well-known brands. A bag classic that dates back to the 80s and has been indispensable ever since – is the Birkin Bag by Hermés. On a flight from Paris to London, the then Chairman of Hermés, Jean-Louis Dumas, met Jane Birkin and spoke to her. Based on this conversation, according to stories, the first design ideas for the Birkin Bag arose.

Birkin Bag from the 1980s.

In addition, Prada introduced a nylon backpack for the first time, which became the world’s first unisex bag.

Handbags in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s

In the third part of our time travel through the decades, we go in search of the big handbag trends of the 90s, 2000s and 2010s. Stay tuned for the last part of our series – and stop by our shop for a long time, because here you will find the hottest handbags!

The third and final stop on our handbag journey through time deals with the most important handbag trends that excited women during the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s.

The development of society progressed faster and faster in the years from 1990 to today due to the rapidly increasing digitalization. Life was and is moving faster and is changing in almost all areas.

Due to the advancing digitization of society, the various handbag trends have developed much faster in the last few decades and changed more frequently than in the previous decades. In order to give you an exact insight, we present the most important trends and give you an insight into the development of the handbag in our time.

Handbags in the 1990s

The 1990s were mainly shaped by the generations who were born between 1965 and 1985. The advancing developments of the cell phone and the Internet set important milestones for the following decades.

Numerous social upheavals occurred in the 1990s, which ultimately also influenced the world of bags and fashion. Major events such as the reunification of Germany and the introduction of the euro in the early 2000s shaped this decade.

On the catwalks of the fashion capitals, fashion followed the motto “less is more”, while fashion on the streets was more adventurous.

In the development of newly emerging fashion trends in the 1990s, young people, in particular, played a major role. New collections have been adapted to the tastes of young people.

Music also had an impact on current trends during this time, with techno in particular, with its loud melodies and bright colours, becoming a trend-setting element in the fashion world. Clothing made of synthetic fabrics in bright and bright colours was very popular. As a contrast, clothing was also decorated with natural patterns such as flowers in this decade.

Wide flared trousers and platform shoes experienced a small renaissance and it was impossible to imagine the wardrobes of trendsetters without them.

In addition to prominent actresses, style icons of the 90s were mainly supermodels such as Kate MossClaudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell.

But which handbag trends caught on in the 1990s? Right at the front were bags in bright and bright neon colours with eye-catching patterns. An apparent counter-trend to this was casual jeans pockets, as well as bags made of synthetic fabrics that were completely transparent. In the time of boy and girl bands, teenage swarms and series stars, bags that testified to personal fan affiliation were not far away. No style or design could be too crazy. Handbags were on the small side in that decade and were increasingly made from synthetic materials. In this decade, as in previous years, the box shape was the predominant handbag shape.

In addition to the classic handbags, backpacks and bum bags were also very popular in the 1990s. Neon, silver and gold: in the pocket fashion of the 1990s, the colours couldn’t be exciting and dazzling enough.

Handbags in the 2000s

Immediately after the turn of the 21st century, life and everyday life in society began to change. The advancing digitization has made many processes faster, easier and raised to an international level. A clear trend could be seen: people had great expectations for the coming decade and everyone was in a spirit of optimism.

The increasing use of social networks such as MySpace or Facebook, which were becoming increasingly popular, especially among young people, resulted in a network of different cultures around the globe. As a result of this networking, emerging fashion and handbag trends also spread increasingly faster.

Through digitization and globalization, fashion became more fast-paced over the course of the decade and trends changed at shorter intervals. This particularly short-lived period created enormous diversity. Trends from previous years served as inspiration and new and unusual combinations were created.

As in previous decades, music influenced fashion. In the 2000s, hip hop and metal were the starting points for various youth cultures and clothing styles.

Items of clothing that were indispensable from the 2000s are, for example, skinny jeans, which can still be found in most women’s wardrobes to this day.
The trend colours of this decade were characterized by contrasts: on the one hand, neon colours were still very popular, on the other hand, clothing was often kept in muted and soft pastel tones such as light blue, rosé or light yellow tones.

Well-known style icons and role models for women of this decade were Jessica AlbaGwen Stefani and Sarah Jessica Parker.

In the field of handbags, trends can be defined in this decade that was particularly formative for this time.

A particularly characteristic trend of this decade were small handbags based on the motto “the smaller the better”. Small handbags were worn by the women in all possible colours and combined with every outfit. The bags usually had a short or a long handle, but there were more and more models that combined both variants. Leather was making its comeback as the material of choice for designers for their handbags. They liked to combine large buckles and other more conspicuous fastening systems. The box shape of the handbag, which was so popular in the 90s, faded more and more into the background. In bag fashion, the motto was: what you like is modern. And so new and old pocket models stepped into the spotlight of the fashion world: Bucket bags, shoppers, shoulder bags and shoulder bags.

The so-called baguette bag from Fendi became increasingly popular in the 2000s. It is still an absolute classic today. The small, elongated bag became famous through the US hit series Sex and the City, in which it was carried on the arm by series heroine Carrie Bradshaw in the third season. It quickly became a cult object. To date, the bag has been brought onto the market in 700 different versions.

Fendi Bag Jeans from 2000.
Fendi Bag Jeans from 2000. 

Handbags in the 2010s

In the 2010s, digitization, which began in the 2000s, is making rapid progress.

Life is increasingly taking place online. Many processes, such as the purchase of clothes or handbags, which previously mainly took place in brick-and-mortar retail, are shifting to online business. Online shops become more and more important in the following years. Designers and customers react faster to trends, follow them digitally and shop trend-consciously in online retail.

Another trend that has strongly influenced the fashion industry in recent years is fashion blogs and social networks like Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. So-called influencers present the latest fashion and lifestyle trends on their online blogs or social media profiles and influence the young readership in terms of trends and must-haves.

More and more brands are now using this advertising opportunity for themselves.

When it comes to fashion, the boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred. And so numerous contrasts are modern at the same time: tight trousers and wide trousers, feminine men’s fashion and masculine women’s fashion and much more. Buzzwords that have become indispensable in recent years: boyfriend look and unisex.

Style icons of the 2010s are no longer just actresses and models, but increasingly also fashion bloggers. Chiara Ferragni from The Blonde Salad (Italy), Jessie Weiss with Instagram profile Journelles (Germany) or Andy Torres with Stylescrapbook blog (Mexico).

The handbag trends of the 2010s are just as diverse as the selection of online shops and fashion blogs.

Large shoulder bags and shoppers in various shapes and colours, mostly made of leather, are particularly modern at the moment. The bags are mostly box-shaped with long and short handles, which are usually carried in the crook of the arm or over the shoulder. The fashion colour white, which had long disappeared from the bag trends, is celebrating its surprising comeback this year. At the same time, colourful shoulder bags that could have come straight from a summer festival site are absolute top sellers.

But also trendy bucket bags with a drawstring and mini handbags have become indispensable these days. Box-shaped bags in various colours and a wide variety of materials, such as leather, PVC, synthetic leather or fabric, are also particularly popular here. Even the small handbags usually have a long and a short handle to make the bag versatile.

Conclusion of the time travel through the world of contemporary handbags:

– As in all times, society and fashion are constantly changing.

– Fashion is based on society, changes go hand in hand.

– Pop culture, music and celebrities (politicians, actresses, models, influencers) have a great influence on fashion.

– Every decade offers a variety of fashion and trends (shape, colour, material), but also creates It pieces that shape the decade and are still known to us.

With our last part of our time travel series, our search for the most important handbag trends of the various decades comes to an end. However, in order to stay up to date with the future handbag trends, be sure to stop by our shop and let yourself be inspired.

If you want to learn more about leather backpacks and travel bags you can check our article.

Written by Elena Taylor