How to Find Unique Handbags and Purses for Fashion Accessories
Accessorize With a Handbag
One of my guilty pleasures has always been sourcing and buying unique handbags. I have bought them abroad, online, at market stalls and in eclectic shops that many by-pass as weird and kooky looking. Ah yes, the mere mention of the word handbag or passing my kind of shop sends shivers down my partner’s spine. Will it be a coach bag, tote bag, or maybe one of the vintage handbags increasingly popular? Why is one handbag not enough for her?
I love originality, be it in clothes, crafts, jewelry, or bags. Where to find unique handbags and purses requires some thought, but fear not, help is on hand if you are looking for something a little different, a bit more individual and a funky fashion accessory that will be a statement piece, screaming flair, and creativity. With so much variety in bags, you have no excuse if handbags and purses are your weak spot!
Handbags or purses have been around a fair few years, in fact centuries, so let’s have a look at how and where they began.
Chatelaine Bag of 1875
How the Handbag Began
First, I need to clarify the differences between American English and British English here. The “handbag” is known as such in British English and known as a “Purse” or “Pouch” in American English. A purse was used traditionally in England for carrying small coins and is still used as such today for carrying currency.
The word handbag appeared during the 1900s and believe it or not referred to men’s hand luggage. Women’s interest and demand for bigger variations grew, and handbags became a word associated with women as a major fashion accessory.
The modern handbag or purse originated in England during the Industrial Revolution and the introduction of the Railway as a popular form of transport. A well-known industrialist and confectionery entrepreneur by the name of Samuel Parkinson ordered a set of trunks and cases for traveling by train, insisting that ones for his wife be made too.
He stipulated that he wanted bags of different sizes suitable for different occasions to be made out of the same leather being used in his own cases. He wanted bags to be suitable for carrying at all times so they needed to be lightweight yet sturdy.
H J Cave undertook this task, and the first modern handbag was born. Two of the bags he made, a tote bag, and a clutch bag can now be seen at the handbag museum in Amsterdam.
H.J Cave continued to make, sell and advertise this style of luxury handbag against critics who claimed these bags were too heavy and would damage women’s backs. They decided to focus on making trunks instead and stopped promoting their handbags in 1865. Today they still make the occasional handbag for celebrities, royalty, and a recent example was to mark the 2012 Queen’s Jubilee in England.
Stylish, Hip and Individual Bag Design
Unique Handbags and Purses
What is it that draws us to a certain handbag? Is it the shape, design, originality, color or label?
I personally love a variety of bags which is demonstrated in my own assorted collection of lovelies.
Yes, I have my favourite designers but not a chance would I ever pay the price tags that match them.
A bag will often grab our attention with practicality forgotten about.
Here are some of my suggestions on where to find a unique bag.
They will not be at designer prices but will provide you with your must-have fashion accessory that is quality, stylish and individual.
Recycled Auto Parts
Did you know handbags are available made out of:
- Vintage Automotive Fabrics
- Traffic Signs
- Soda Pop Tops
- Soda Bottle Labels
- Candy Wrappers
Kim White Handbags are the place to shop for all petrol head bag lovers! Yes, all her creations use vintage automobile fabrics that were originally destined for American cars, trucks and vans but were surplus to requirement. What I love is the fact each bag has a stamp with the year and make of the automobile! As she specialises in the 1970s and 1980s, how cool would it be to have a 1978 Ford Mustang as your label?
Ecoist are an online company dedicated to eco-friendly products for men and women. Inspired by the Mexican artisans making bags from recycled chip bags and sweet wrappers, Ecoist use recycled materials for their extensive range of bags from totes, clutches, satchels, iPad holders and shoulder bags. Fantastic ideas and totally original, they are worth checking out.
Classic Vintage Style
Handbag Swap Night
This is a great idea to do with some friends. You all bring along a bag or two that you don’t want or don’t use.
Put all the bags on a table and everyone can choose a different bag they like. Make it a fun night with the girls over a glass of wine, a few nibbles and even a face treatment or two if the mood takes you!
A handbag swap is a great way of recycling a bag you never use so try it out!
These are a great place for picking up a truly unique handbag or purse that is all about flair, individuality and style.
Vintage fashion and accessories have seen a big increase in appeal since the 1990s. Worn by many top models and celebrities, fashion and fashion accessories of bygone era's like the 1930s and 1950s have become fashionable once more.
Vintage is a statement and my favourite place for handbags is Vintage in Style online. A fabulous selection of bags are on offer at competitive prices.
Check them out if vintage is your must-have fashion accessory but if perfection is what you want in a handbag, then vintage is not for you!
Bags of Style at Craft Fairs
Chanel Bag or Louis Vuitton?
Many large cities and towns will hold large craft fairs that run for a few weeks to a month long.
Often at Christmas, I have found some really unique handmade bags made from different materials.
There are many well known Christmas markets in Europe that attract visitors for long weekends and Christmas gift buying.
The top locations are Barcelona, Berlin, Prague, Copenhagen, Brussels, Budapest, Vienna, Dublin and Stockholm. Take your pick if planning a winter break!
As a market trader myself, this is dangerous territory for me! Any profit I used to make would be spent on another handbag that caught my eye.
Markets are a great place with a vibe all of their own. Many items are handmade, which makes them totally unique.
I love supporting the independent traders so next time you want inspiration or ideas, check out your local market.
Unique Stylish Fashion Accessory
Often forgotten about, but if you have an eye for taking something and adding to it to make it different and ultra-hip, this is the place for you!
Plain bags can be jazzed up with buttons, beads, jewels, diamantes, wool and fabric.
Any thrift stores or cheap high street chains like Primark (Penneys in Republic of Ireland) or Walmart are great for grabbing bargains that are easily transformed into your own signature piece. Why not add a few embellishments and give it as a gift?
There is plenty of help available online with tutorials and guides on making your own unique bags so don’t dismiss a plain bag if you plan on being creative.
These will usually buy handbags in smaller quantities and often buy unusual bags from up and coming designers or cottage industry sources.
I have found many bargains in these small boutiques that have great fashion accessories.
Small boutiques will stock a selection of accessories such as jewelry, hats, scarves and hair clips to encourage link sales with garments, so are always worth checking out for bags.
Do you buy unique handbags or purses?
For a Unique Bag, Try
- Craft Shops
- On Holidays Abroad
- Ethnic Stores
- Charity Shops
- Make Them
- Designer Swap Shops
- Fashion or Handbag Museums Gift shop
- Accessories Stores
- Closing down Sales
© 2012 Suzanne Ridgeway