May 17, 2017

Fantastic 1940's Clutch Bags and Where to Find Them

Let me tell you a secret...some of the best 1940's handbags are from the 1980's. Wait what? Well, what I mean is, you can find two very similar black faux leather clutch handbags that are nearly identical despite being made 40 years apart, and the 1940's bag can set you back 100$ plus- but the 1980's bag will usually be under 20$ bucks. So what's a retro gal to do? 

Now, I'll be flat out honest, I really don't like the elitist sec of the vintage community that looks down upon people who wear branded repro, sew their own repro, or wear thrifted items that may be vintage (70's, 80's, 90's) but not the "right" kind of vintage. That kind of discrimination within the community is really poisonous and mean spirited. While it's great that some people can afford to fill their closets with genuine 1930's and 40's pieces, not all of us can! Enthusiasts on a budget, or who don't fall into the usual sizes of most vintage clothing, shouldn't be looked down upon as in any way lesser than by anyone. It drives me crazy! ....more on this topic some other time, but for today I just want to say it loud, buy 1980's things without shame! The 80's re-made so many of the mid-century items all of us love and we can get them in better shape and for a better price than their #truevintage counterparts. I'm sure we would all love to acquire a wardrobes worth of real vintage handbags, but it just isn't realistic. Not to mention the supply of such vintage items is not infinite...

Anyways, how do we use the fact that handbag styles have been constantly recycled to our advantage and score some perfectly vintage style handbags for a steal compared to the real thing? Research my friends, research, and more research! Plus it's fun! Old catalogs, magazines, advertisements, and films all help you expand your vintage "eye" so you can pinpoint what designs have been re-issued throughout the years and snap them up to wear with your 1940's or other early 20th century looks. I am using a lot of "air quotes" aren't I? Must be extra sassy today I guess ;)

There are also the misinformed sellers out there, god bless them, who think they have an early 2000's boho crochet bag and list it for 10$, when in fact they have someone's grandmothers 1940's crochet fan shaped clutch. This is why it can be better to search "crochet bag" than "1940's crochet bag". You don't want to exclude the wonderful people who don't know what they have. So not only must we look out for newer pieces that are near repeats of earlier styles, but also mislabeled and undervalued pieces too. One can score true vintage at thrift store prices, even online, simply by knowing what to look out for. 

Today I wanted to feature a few of the most common styles I see for sale online and think "perfectly vintage!" or "what a steal!". Firstly, about those 1980's leather clutches...

1940's bags from vintage catalogs (1)(2)
$5, Etsy

$6, Etsy
$14, Etsy

When I first saw 1940's catalog pages of handbags I remember thinking many of the gathered and pinched leather clutches looked so 80's. This phenomenon is of course because the 80's was reusing many 1940's styles throughout the decade, from shoulder pads to...well, to big faux and genuine leather clutches! Searching "80's clutch" will give you pages of options like the three I chose above in various materials. Find one with some 1940's appropriate details and wear it with pride with your 1940's dress! Also, $5 is not bad right?

Clutches are great in the vintage wardrobe in general, as styles both simple or specific have been around for ages. Tooled leather fold over envelope style clutches were being used essentially throughout the entire 20th century, you can find examples from the 19-teens, the 1930s, and the 1970s. Simple solid color leather or fabric clutches with a top clasp or zipper from any era can work in the 1940's, just look out for the size as it seems like large clutches were popular for daytime in the 1940's. I have scored 1940's Plastiflex clutches on the cheap before because sellers see plastic and think it must be 90's modern, so keep your eyes open out there!

Besides availability now, it seems clutches were super in vogue during the 1940's. So many photos of both everyday and high fashion folks of the 40's rocking a great clutch handbag exist for our perusal today!


$40, Etsy
$26, Etsy
Some styles look very era specific it's true, but just because these shapes are more unusual doesn't mean you won't come upon something similar sitting lonely in a charity shop. Imprint these styles into your minds eye so you can snap them up when the time comes!

Another style of clutch that was popular in the 1940s, or at least evidence for them is prevalent, were crochet and rayon corde bags. These could either be bought as finished products or made at home from the many patterns available. The same is true today, as these patterns still exist and if you have the ability to crochet then you're able to make your own reproduction/new 1940's clutch! For those of us with less nimble fingers, many clutches of this style are to be found out in the wilds of thrifting and vintage shopping. Again, make sure you search "crochet clutch" or "corde clutch" and don't be era specific in your search terms as raffia, crochet, and cord styles are extra liable to be labeled as 60s/70s/or early 2000's as they are perceived to be hippy or boho styles by modern sellers. Certainly the style could have been made well into the 70's, but if it looks 40's and that's what your after, go for it! I find when correctly identified as from the 1940s, both crochet and corde tend to vary wildly in price from $100+ to $15 depending on the condition of course, but sometimes you just need to search through many pages in order to get a great deal!


$20, Etsy
$32, Etsy
$23, Etsy
Another style I had seen often but didn't realize could be dated back to the 1940s were straw clutches. Straw clutches again seem like they they might be a 1970's invention, but check out this add from 1945...

$36 (I've often seen them for half that), Etsy
Most of these straw and raffia clutches online seem to be labeled as from the 1960's or 70's, but the style itself certainly started earlier and I think a clutch like this would be just perfect for summer!

I could go on and on, but I suppose my basic premise is clear by now- don't feel like you must restrict yourself to only authentic 1940's handbags when the styles are readily found replicate din other decades! I would rather have a rainbow of clutches in replicated styles than just one original 1940's handbag any day. Besides, you never know when you might come across a real 1940's bag hiding amongst the rest!

Have any of you got 1980's accessories or clothing masquerading as 40's with ease? Ever scored a genuine article from someone who didn't know what they had? Tell me about it below :)


  1. I don't think I've ever managed to buy an authentic one masquerading as something else, but I do think snobbery has no place in the vintage scene. Some people can't afford authentic 30s/40s, some people can't wear it because they have an atypical body (very big or small, amputee, all sorts of reasons). It doesn't make their love of the style any less - and having to work so much harder, they're often extra-creative in their styles.

    1. Exactly! I totally agree, it's an attitude I really wish would go away.

  2. Sage advice indeed for the budget conscious!! I have a nice modern clutch that can pass for '40s, it only cost me £5 thrifted and is leather. I really don't mind whether something is actually from a certain time point, it's the aesthetic I like. Might have to have a peek on Etsy now... x

    1. I am really going to miss the large local thrift shops (both just closed down!) for finding nice leather bags and silk scarves for inexpensive prices. I need to find new thrifting haunts!

  3. Great information, thanks! I didn't realise that some of the styles I'd thought were much more modern are actually throwbacks to the 40s.

    1. I am constantly surprised when coming across old catalog pages and the like how many times i have that exact realization! They really recycle styles!

  4. Some of my best "vintage" are pieces from the 1980's that masquerade as other eras. And I definitely agree with your evaluation of the snobbishness of some people regarding authentic vintage. While I am always happy to find true vintage pieces, my main focus is in the style of pieces, regardless of when they are from!
    Thanks for sharing these lovely vintage/80's comparison photos!

    1. Me too! :) I don't think people even always realize the language they are using when talking about vintage is very exclusionary, but then others are really nit-picky about authenticity so...blerggg, not cool.

  5. Lots of tips here and it is so true, you can find the shapes for your period of interest popping up elsewhere if you know what to look for. I don't like vintage snobbery either, for all the reasons mentioned so far.

  6. Nice collection of Clutch Bags!!

    Specially historian collection of clutch women bags and combination of modern clutch bags make it outstanding blog. Unfortunate, I do not know the store where I will shop all type of clutch bags and suggested to my friend.


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