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How to Find Unique Handbags and Purses for Fashion Accessories

Updated on September 6, 2017
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Suzanne is a qualified Beautician with experience as a freelance Make-Up Artist.

handbags and purses come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Be adventurous!
handbags and purses come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Be adventurous! | Source

Create Your Own Bag

suitcase style purse hand painted and decorated with fur trim, pearls and rhinestones.
suitcase style purse hand painted and decorated with fur trim, pearls and rhinestones. | Source

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 on offer 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

This bag consists of a buckram frame, covered in embroidered silk taffeta. Tiny black glass pearls from a late Victorian mourning dress highlight the design. The outside is covered in velvet. A bag such as this would have been "hooked" into the waist
This bag consists of a buckram frame, covered in embroidered silk taffeta. Tiny black glass pearls from a late Victorian mourning dress highlight the design. The outside is covered in velvet. A bag such as this would have been "hooked" into the waist | Source

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 1900’s 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 confectionary entrepreneur by the name of Samuel Parkinson ordered a set of trunks and cases for travelling 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

fancy a vintage Volkswagen bus  as your unique handbag?
fancy a vintage Volkswagen bus as your unique handbag? | Source

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

messenger bag made from old truck tarp and the shoulder strap is made from a seatbelt.
messenger bag made from old truck tarp and the shoulder strap is made from a seatbelt. | Source

Eco-Friendly Bags

colourful handbag made from recycled materials.
colourful handbag made from recycled materials. | Source

Eco-Friendly Bags

Did you know handbags are available made out of -

  • Vintage Automotive Fabrics
  • Tires
  • Seatbelts
  • Traffic Signs
  • Soda Pop Tops
  • Soda Bottle Labels
  • Candy Wrappers
  • Newspaper


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 1970’s and 1980’s, 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.

Bag Swapping

you may find a great one of a kind bag at a bag swap party so get swapping.
you may find a great one of a kind bag at a bag swap party so get swapping. | Source

Classic Vintage Style

Pavan III box bag, circa 1960s.
Pavan III box bag, circa 1960s. | Source

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!

Vintage Stores

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 compeditive 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

space-age purses at Salon des metiers d'art du Quebec in Canada.
space-age purses at Salon des metiers d'art du Quebec in Canada. | Source

Chanel Bag or Louis Vuitton?

fake designer handbags are readily available in markets such as this in Turkey.
fake designer handbags are readily available in markets such as this in Turkey. | Source

Craft Fairs

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!

Market Stalls

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

Source

Thrift Stores

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.

Small Boutiques

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?

See results

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
  • Wholesalers
  • Closing down Sales
  • Etsy
  • eBay

Source

© 2012 Suzanne Ridgeway

How to Find Unique Handbags and Purses for Fashion Accessories Comments

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    • profile image

      Linda-Rae 17 months ago

      No answer to the question on where to get the volkswagen bus bag????

    • profile image

      Audra Hoffman 21 months ago

      So are these bags not available to buy, I really like the Volkswagen Purse.

    • profile image

      Susanne Kent 21 months ago

      Can you tell me also where you can get the Volkswagen bus please

    • profile image

      Sharon Oberholster 22 months ago

      I will do everthing for a volkswagen bus handbag...please help me get one.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Glad you enjoyed this, appreciate your support!

    • economyk profile image

      Artur 3 years ago from Belarus

      Learned many new things from the article. Thanks for the info!

    • Rasimo profile image

      Rasimo 3 years ago

      Thank you for your tips

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 3 years ago from Germany

      Those are beautiful handbags and purses. I admit I´m a bit crazy when it comes to bags, but I don´t buy designer bag which is so dear. I rather buy those eco friendly ones. Voted up and shared. Thanks for sharing. Happy New Year 2014!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi fivesenses,

      Glad you enjoyed and have fun making your own designs! Appreciate your interest and comment!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi RTalloni,

      LOL, yep unfortunately it does mean a bit of pain but think of the pleasure you will get from a new one!! Making your own is so rewarding and you get such a buzz creating your own. I love taking inspiration from other designs, I agree totally. Keep on doing what you do! Thanks so much for your input and interest :-)

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Rebecca,

      Love that you dropped in on this one! The eco-friendly bags are fascinating and it is incredible what can be recycled and made into creative bags that work! Bag swaps I think are cool especially as sometimes we end up buying a bag that we really never use with the best intentions at time of purchase!Why not swap it for one you will use or give one as a gift. Appreciate you giving this the thumbs up!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Brandi,

      I am with you on the written diary and calendar. I have always used them in favor of the digital ones. My dad is the same. Love the bargain you got, that is serious discount! You should find a suitable bag as that shape is popular and functional. Good luck with the bag hunting . . . . . think I need to convince my other half it is time for me too! LOL

      Thanks for dropping in and for your input, always interested to hear personal experiences!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Christy,

      How lovely to have you comment on this one! I loved putting it together and it has a soft spot for me as I am such a bag fan! Markets I am nuts about and wherever I go you can sure I will be finding out the local ones! Cheers and thanks again!

    • fivesenses profile image

      Leena 4 years ago from new delhi

      You make it sound so easy to find funky bags and to add your own touch to them, great info.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      Hmmm, a bag swap means I have to give up one…painful. ;)

      Thanks for this neat look at finding unique handbags. My favorite way is to design and make one, but the ideas that develop from others' designs are inspiring!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Very cool Hub! You are making me want to look for some unique and interesting handbags. I like the eco-friendly ones, and I love the purse swap idea. All votes up!

    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 4 years ago

      I love interesting handbags. I've gone through 3 this past year though because I'm looking for one that stays stiff upright to hold a heavy calendar. I travel to doctor appointments with my son at least twice a week, so having a calendar is a necessity for me to keep track of everything. Some people use technology for that, but I like to write things down. It helps me remember. My current purse was a bargain at $15 marked down from $88. It looked like it would retain it's stiff shape, but it has become soft. Once again, I'll be in the market for another handbag soon. (I like that pink one. That's probably the style I need.)

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I have bought many purses at market stalls - I find that is where you can find some unique ones! Vote up!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Silva,

      Lovely to meet you, many thanks for the follow and great comments. So you paint, how fabulous. My mum was an artist and I love dabbling in some abstract designs on pottery and greeting cards mostly. Looking forward to hearing how you go with your hidden away bag stash, sounds like a great project!! Appreciate your visit!!

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 4 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      Wow, a museum? That's so cool. My favorite handbag is a Jane Yoo. It is a beautiful work of art and I've had it for years. I am a handbag fan, I've some hidden away in closets to "do something with" such as painting - you've inspired me to give it a try.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Bill,

      I think the man bag is right up your street in Italy Bill. So many Italian men carry them, even my partner wants a man bag when there! They look great and are practical with so many things men often carry. Go on Bill, get yourself one on your next visit and enjoy!!! Many thanks my friend for your constant support and interest, you are much appreciated my friend.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Ge Suzie, how did I miss this one? I do like the VW Bus bag! I think my niece would love that one. Great job as usual but you probably won't be seeing a picture of me with a handbag?

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Georgie,

      Good to see you! New pic again I see :-) Thanks so much for commenting here. The Chatelaine is lovely and amazing that it is so old, you could easily see it used today. Appreciate your input and support Georgie :-)

    • Georgie Lowery profile image

      Georgianna Lowery 4 years ago from Lubbock, TX

      I really love unusual "pocketbooks," but I rarely carry one. This makes me kind of glad, because I could spend enormous amounts of money on them. I really like the Chatelaine Bag, and could totally see myself with one like it, if it had a shoulder strap!

      Thanks for the interesting Hub!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi vox,

      LOL, glad you liked that - a line of vox bags would be cool in the shape of your signature glasses or use the glasses logo as your label :-) Look forward to the range!!!

    • vox vocis profile image

      Jasmine 4 years ago

      My line of vox bags! That sounds good :) You're full of great ideas!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi vox!

      Good to have pop in and take a look, glad you enjoyed and look forward to your line of vox bags!! Appreciate your VU :-)

    • vox vocis profile image

      Jasmine 4 years ago

      The Volkswagen bus handbag is a hammer :) I've always wanted to make handbags myself, but never really got on to it. Thanks for the motivation, voted up!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Sam,

      Another bag fan I see! Definitely do some of your great crochet work and create great unique bags!! Thanks so much for the comments, much appreciated my friend! :-)

    • followthestray profile image

      Samantha Harris 4 years ago from New York

      Ohhh! I love these! This is really inspiring. Now I want to go make some haha...

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Bill,

      YEH!! score one for Suzie's hubs!! LOL, of course I would be upset Bill, no.1 comment is now reserved with your name on it (can we reserve them, emmm . . . . , have to look into that one!!) for sure! Glad you did your bit for the bag world, thought you'd be a "man bag" type, it's all the rage in Italy so we will kit you out for your trip Bill, no worries!! Maria's cafe on our local piazza has a seat firmly reserved for you (and the lovely Bev of course) with coffee of your choice on tap! Thanks Bill, you always brighten my day, in fact I haven't been to bed yet, it's now 6.39am Sunday!!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Admit it, you would be disappointed if I didn't show up first for this hub! LOL Okay, I admit that the history of the handbag was interesting, and I thought the handbag swap is a cool idea, and you rock with the eco-friendly handbags. Whew! That's more than I have ever said about handbags in my entire life. :)