Tuesday, 1 May 2012

I Love Lucite

Lucite and Bakelite are plastics that were developed in the early 1900s. Bakelite was developed in 1907, whereas Lucite came a bit later in 1928. Both of these plastics have a myriad of applications (even used in machine gun parts!), but as a girl with an appreciation of vintage fashion, my favourite use of these particular plastics is in the form of a handbag. Hardly surprising.

Your grandmother probably owned something similar to this.
I absolutely adore the craftsmanship of these vintage purses. They are just superb in detail.
Many of these vintage purses are carved in clear lucite to achieve a jewel-like effect. The only potential issue I can see is that the contents of your bag are on display to the world. e.g."Mummy, what's that...?" Well, you can see where I'm going with that comment. An old fashioned trick was to line your beautiful bag with a coloured scarf. This smaller purse can be found on Etsy.

Another popular look was the confetti lucite purse. Some of these confetti purses actually contain real glitzy bits of confetti, others achieve a similar look with metallic threads running through the lucite. Also available on Etsy.

Some are encased in spectacular filigree frames, like this beauty found on Etsy.  It has that 'gilded cage' look minus the  unpleasant analogy.

The marbled lucite purses were very popular. They have a pearlescent look to them which adds greater depth to the overall colour. Common colours in this style are white, red and grey.
In my eyes, this is the mother of all lucite purses. Yes, because it's purple, lucite, purple, carved, purple, dainty... Did I mention purple? Unfortunately it's not for sale as it belongs to a personal collection. Sigh. You can check it out at Vast Vintage.

Here are some great places to buy vintage lucite purses:

A few things to be aware of when buying a lucite purse:
  • Cracking and scratches - check the bag around the handles, corners and areas where the metal is used to attach parts. Some bags are not stored nicely or treated well by their owners. In addition, plastic becomes brittle with age, leading to fragility.
  • Patina - this is a layer of film that develops on surfaces due to oxidisation. As these purses are joined together with metal screws and hinges, the may have developed patina over time. An acidic smell usually gives this away.
  • Discolouration - happens with old things, ha ha! On a serious note though, some of the plastic may have yellowed.
  • Price - some brands of lucite bags are highly sought after. The book Carry Me! identifies some of the popular brands and iconic styles. 
Don't let these things put you off buying a vintage lucite purse though - it just pays to do your homework and inspect your purchase thoroughly. 

If you still aren't confident investing your pennies in what is potentially an expensive vintage item, there are some modern equivalents. 

''Ice Queen' available at Miss L Fire

'Jitterbug' available at Miss L Fire
'Prom Date' available at Miss L Fire

'Paris' available in red, white and black by Lux De Ville. No longer in production, but some can be found with a little online searching. The white 'Paris' purse is available at Sears.

Hope you enjoying perusing the purse porn.
Happy Tuesday x


  1. I have an enormous collection of fine lucite purses and needed some leads as to who or where to sell them. I don't want to sell them on ebay or craigs list so that is out. Any info would be helpful. I have 80 purses total, but I am keeping a lot of them that are sentimental to me.

  2. Wowee! That is quite the collection!
    I would try: http://www.824nothingmore.com or http://www.etsy.com

    Have you considered taking them to a vintage fair or antiques dealer?

    Don't suppose you have a purple one? If so, I'd be happy to take that off your hands... He he!