History of the Bag: Modern Bags and Revivals

Part 3: The Modern Bag Shapes and Revivals (1960s to today)

Rules regarding color coordination and matching in the 50s gradually felt quite restrictive and a feminist attitude soon expressed itself through an individualistic spirit in fashion. One by one these rules were proving to be irrelevant and the classics being created throughout design bag history were reinvented. Along with exotic skins, luxurious hardware, heritage techniques, and hand-crafting, mass-produced styles were gaining ground in the market. Humble materials became cool and modern aesthetics justified the extremes in terms of shapes, colors, sizes, motifs, and graphics. Bag trends started challenging the timelessness of the iconic pieces. Newness became the norm in the fashion industry; continuity wasn’t a thing anymore. Although the revival of the classics as well as recurring trends are still the fashion industry’s realities, it seems that every revival pushes the boundaries of creativity even more in fascinating ways.   

 

Cool Purse Styles

 

Classic quilted shoulder bags that were introduced in 1955 increased in popularity in the ‘swinging 60s.’ At the same time, mini A-line pocket-equipped dresses and white go-go boots were combined with structured geometric purses that came in bold colors, psychedelic motifs, inexpensive materials (including PVC), whimsical shapes, and smaller sizes. More often than not they were top-handle styles such as the Alodie purse. There was a playful touch to these affordable, almost decorative stunners crafted from woven straw, cotton canvas, wood, and more. With the hippie culture blooming in the 70s and a party-ready ‘youthquake’ attitude already cultivated from the previous decade, fashionistas adopted a variety of bohemian styles including roomy totes and the slouchy crescent-shaped hobo purses. The wartime messenger bags evolved into narrower silhouettes, which, rendered in soft suede and printed fabrics, sparked the revival of the loose shoulder bag often decorated with artisanal embroidery and fringes. Straw baskets and fisherman net bags were trending in the French Riviera. Less structured bags like the Emilie exuded confidence and a sense of comfort. Some sporty styles even carried inside a similar smaller pouch for the essentials. Jetsetters and party-goers rocked in the evening bejeweled micro bags that continued well into the disco era.                

 

Logos & ‘It’ Bags

 

In the 80s after a long period of design freedom and open-ended experimentation, the first round of ‘logomania’ takes place. Besides no-name envelope clutches for the evening, ladies are obsessed with logos engraved, printed, stamped, or woven onto the bags. Designer bags become a loud status symbol and ladies who afford them are enthusiastic about heavy price tags that make them stand out from the crowd. Designers found the opportunity to promote novelty bags made of expensive and inexpensive materials as must-haves and investment pieces. By the end of the decade, some customers were willing to pay a lot of money for surrealist designs proposed by many prestigious brands in the market. This consumerist spirit gave birth in the 90s to the notion of the ‘it’ bag. Every year a new ‘it’ bag was making the previous one obsolete. Women with serious fashion credentials were almost brainwashed to buy into the next one. Short-strap shoulder styles were trending and stylish sizeable totes like the Miranda purse were adopted by the new generation of ‘it’ girls.   

 

 

 No-Logo Trend & Versatility

 

'It' bag obsession that remained alive in the early 00s was gradually fading into a demand for more timid, less showy styles. By the end of the decade, designers were popularizing the no-logo trend. Only those knowing fashion could recognize signature designer styles in which logo was either hidden in the interior or omitted altogether. Famous coveted styles included satchels, motorcycle-inspired bags, roomy totes, saddle-shaped bags, and retro bucket bags. Minimum hardware was used in these structured or loosely shaped bags, making them quite comfy and lightweight. They acted as sleek neutrals that polish an outfit in the same way the Sophi purse does. The revival of the classics proliferated into a huge variety of styles and styling options adjusting to different preferences, lifestyles, daily schedules, and profiles of women. Versatility in styles inspired in the 2010s a wide range of trends. Today no bag style seems to be wrong or outmoded; or put it differently, there are so many shapes, details, shades, effects, and materials seasonally trending, that you will definitely find more than one for yourself, fitting your wardrobe and personality. 

 

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