Handbags in the 1960s

Written by ruby martes
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Fashion in the early part of the 1960s was a continuation of the fashion of the 1950s. Clothes and accessories were elegant, formal and glamorous. By the middle of the decade, the youth revolution exploded. Mod fashion, coming out of Carnaby Street in London, took the world by storm. Miniskirts were in. Colourful bags in unusual materials replaced the prim and proper purses of the past. Hippie fashion brought ethnic fabrics and homemade designs to bags.

Structured Handbags of the Early 1960s

Jackie Kennedy's ladylike handbags epitomised the look of the early 1960s. Handbags were usually made of leather and had short straps, which women held in their hands or draped over their forearms. It was an era when women wore hats and high-heeled pumps, and their handbags often matched their shoes and/or hats and sometimes even their gloves. Bags typically had a defined shape -- they were stiff rather than slouchy.

New Materials

Starting in the mid-1960s, fashion made a decisive break with the past. Handbags were made in unusual materials such as clear plastic and splashes of bright colours. Soft, unstructured bags, made of cloth, knit wool or suede, were popular, with long suede fringe sometimes hanging from the bottom. People were fascinated with Eastern culture, and Indian fabrics showed up in handbags, sometimes adorned with small mirrors and bells. Handmade items were prized. People often decorated their bags themselves with embroidery or paint.

The Dainty Look and the Military Look

The mod and the hippie looks often had an innocent, childlike quality. Small, delicate shoulder bags with long skinny straps also seemed childlike and innocent. They went well with minidresses and peasant blouses. Military bags were also fashionable. These were often authentic, purchased in army-navy surplus stores. Since the hippie culture was vehemently opposed to the Vietnam War, using military items for fashion was a way of symbolically repurposing them for peaceful uses.

Big Bags

Hippie handbags were sometimes huge. Giant cloth bags might be worn over the shoulder or slung across the body. The big bags were often bright and multicoloured, often made in then-exotic ethnic fabrics. Where handbags in the past had been demure accessories that provided accents to an outfit, these big hippie bags drew attention to themselves, often overshadowing anything else that someone was wearing.

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