Monday, February 20, 2012

Buying Guide for the Vintage Handbag

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to be posting about something very near and dear to my heart, the vintage handbag.  I am very passionate about vintage purses.  I have been collecting for about 10 years now.  I am not an expert, just a person who loves to acquire, utilize and care for my collection. Along the way I have found there are some tricks to buying, cleaning, and making general home repairs in order to keep my bags looking their best. There are some detrimental mistakes one can make with caring for vintage bags, which I will be addressing in the next post.  Today I want to share what I have learned about buying vintage purses.  Most vintage bags fall into, but are not limited to, these categories: beaded, patent leather, fabric, wicker/straw and leather bags.

Knowing what to buy can save you time and money. Here are some tips broken down into the above categories before you make that vintage purchase.

The Beaded handbag:

The workmanship on these kinds of bags are generally intricate. They are mostly used for special occasions. Before buying a beaded handbag, take a close overall look at the bag's beads, are there any missing? Would you be able to find a matching bead if one falls off?  Do you feel confident that you can sew or glue another bead on if needed? Is the bag in reasonable shape, take a look at the stitching, are there any stitches missing or loose? Does the bag have any odors that are strong that may bother you if you can't remove them? Are the beads smooth? Is anything catching your hand as you run across it? These questions will help you to make a quality decision and one you will not regret later.

Yes, they are all mine, this is only about 1/2 my collection.
 Patent leather bags:

 These are my favorite bags, but are more problematic than all the others in my opinion. Most of these types of bags have hard sides and bottoms to them. When looking to buy this kind of purse, first open the bag and inspect the corners of the flap area, are there cracks on the inside or outside of the bag's flaps?  Generally, the first sign of wear comes from this area where the hardware and patent material meet.

Cracking means that the handbag has been used a lot or stored incorrectly, these cracks will shorten the life span of the bag. Next, it's a good idea to check the tightness of the hardware, is it closing tightly?  Most bags have what is called the kiss closer that snaps shut.

Once the closer is loose, it's very hard to fix this problem, the result is that your bag may fly open on you at any time.  Before you buy, ask the sale associate if you can put a few of your items into the purse, can you close it?  I have noticed that if I over stuff a bag or if my items are heavy in nature, that the weight can make these purses pop open, even if they are not overstuffed.  It's good insurance doing this little exercise to know you have a bag you can rely on to stay closed.  Next, do you see any dents in the patent that bother you? If you look at a patent leather bag from the side you may find some denting and scratches.  Unfortunately, the dents do not remove completely, but there are so ways to make them less noticeable.   I have had some luck with scratches, but not tears in the patent, although there are repair kits.  Finally, take a look from the side of the handbag.  Does the handbag's lines still form a symmetrical shape or is it misshapen?  I have noticed that these types of bags warp over time. Which means they will not look like a perfect triangular shape from the side.

Some have been stored incorrectly and problems have occurred. There are a lot of great bags out there, but there are a lot that look wonderful at first glance, but are full of problems.



Straw/ fabric bags: 

Essentially you will be looking for tears, rips and worn out handles. Also, do the rub test, rub the fabric between your fingers. If there is a lot of disintegration, and the fabric is rubbing off into your hands the handbag may be in poor condition. Fabric does age over time and looses it's integrity. Weakened fibers generally won't hold up too long. Inspect these bags thoroughly and if they pass your test, You have a great find.


Leather:

 Leather bags last for years. Mostly with these types of bags they just need a good cleaning.  If there is any cracking/peeling or cuts in the leather, you may want to skip buying that bag. If you see fading around the edges of a bag, this can be fixed easily. I will be covering this in the repair post.

Linings:
Also, you may have noticed that I didn't speak about the linings of all vintage handbags. I never let that hold me back from buying one, because I replace them. Which I will cover in the repair post. If you are not into putting a new lining in, you will need to take a good look and sniff to see if this bags is going to be worth it. Stains in fabrics sometimes come out, other times they just won't.

Where to Buy the real thing:

Vintage purses are not like vintage clothing, they are easy to spot. Vintage purses feel heavy, the linings  and inside zippers give them a way too. If you are unsure, ask. As you shop for vintage, you'll get a eye for it. Finally, even though I have bought several vintage purses online through Ebay and Esty, I have learned this is not always the best way. In general, I have limited myself from buying handbags off the internet because a picture can't really tell the whole story. I bought one expensive bag online and it was warped and wouldn't sit on the counter without falling over. The pictures looked great, but they hung the bag from a hook and never disclosed that the bag was warped. So I am sticking with going to antique shops and vintage stores. I haven't had a lot of luck at the thrifts.

It has been such a joy to carry a vintage purse everyday.  Next post will be cleaning and storing your vintage bags.

Have a wonderful Vintage day!

Gina

43 comments:

  1. I would love to see how you store vintage bags. I have SO many of them and many are box bags so I'd like to see how to store them so they don't take up a ton of space and are protected from being crushed! Now, mine are stored on the top shelf of my dress rack.

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    Replies
    1. I understand your need for storage, it's hard to limit yourself to a few vintage bags, they are like potato chips. I'll include a picture of where some of my bags are.

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    2. We are a company dealing with vintage fabric bags in India, we are currently making bags out of these Vintage quilts...
      We are exporting to various countries such as Europe, Canada, Middle East and Australia.
      If you are interested you can send me an email and I can then send you some pictures in these Vintage bags.

      My email : amit_impressions@yahoo.com

      thanks and regards
      amit sharmaa

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    3. It will no doubt be understood that HANDBAGS manufactured by Thia are Stylish & Fashionable. Handbags for Women made by leather are just awesome

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  2. You have such lovely hangbags. I have started collecting them and I am really excited to see the rest of your posts in the series (I hope you do one on cleaning wicker, because My favorite is wicker and I tried cleaning it and ended up discoloring my test patch and now I am scared to do anything else)

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    Replies
    1. Interesting Brandy, what did you use? Is the wicker painted? I just cleaned my wicker bag today after you wrote this to see if I had any problems. It came out okay, mine has a poly coating on it. Hopefully, my tips will help, I will be included them in the next post. :)

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  3. Such a fantastic, informative post! :) I'm going to include it in my links round up on Sunday. ;) I have a fairly massive collection of handbags (both modern and vintage), and I wish I had known some of these tips when I started collecting them 8 years ago! ;) *sigh* Most things have been learned the hard way... And I'm still learning! The majority of my finds have come from thrift stores (for some reason mid Atlanic region thrifts tend to be vintage handbag heaven!) and estate sales. I have one little leather one I bought a good 6 or more years ago that I use constantly and is still going strong! (Although I need to repair some stitching on the handle.) Can't beat that kind of quality!

    Looking forward to the rest of your series!

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    1. Thanks Casey, a lot of my bags have lasted many years too, thanks for putting me in the round up too. Lucky you finding them at thrifts. I find some 70's, but not 50's.

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  4. Very interesting and useful post! Thank you!

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  5. Wow! I'm definitely disfrutanto this post, Gina! You and I share the same passion for vintage bags, with the difference that here, these bags are unavailable, I will be attentive to the next Posts about this to learn more. Thank you for taking your time to share all this information and .... I am literally drooling over my keyboard!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Rosy, it's too bad that you can't find purses in Spain. It's sometimes hard finding them here in good shape, I've been collecting for a while and buy whatever I find.

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    2. Hi, just in case anyone is interested a collection of quality vintage handbags/clutchbags is being sold at auction on 24th April. Lots 73-78. You can see the catalogue and photos at www.burstowandhewett.co.uk. Thanks.

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  6. Hello,
    You have a beautiful collection. I especially like the blue (black?) and white one and the pastel coloured ones, pink and blue. Some of the black ones remind me of my mom's and grandmother's. Pitty they were not appreciated at the time, and were thrown away :(
    wishing you fun with your collection and thank you for all your precious information.

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  7. Love your collection! I inherited a black beaded purse from my mother-in-law. I love it and it's in good condition...except...it has lost the 'triangle' shape. It sits flat but one side is caved in. I have tried stuffing it with tissue in hopes that it will reshape itself...but, not so far. Are you going to be including a post in the future that will address this problem? I enoy your blog and look forward to every posting. Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Pattyrae, Sounds like you got a nice bag with a little problem. You are doing a good thing to keep tissue in the bag. Hopefully something will help. You may also consider a shoe repair place if the bag is in really bad condition. I understand that these things can mean a lot to us, so it may be worth the price to have it restored.

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  8. What a super post and an amazing, beautiful collection - wow that's a lot of bags! I can see how you might get the collecting bug with them, they are so beautiful! I will certainly keep your tips in mind if I'm lucky enough to find a bag like these - will your next post cover how to care for them properly? Looking forward to reading about replacing linings! xxx

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    Replies
    1. Hi Mrs. Exeter, next purse post will be cleaning/storing. Linings will be under repairs. They are easy with these hard sided bags.

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  9. Ooh, interesting! I only have a couple of vintage purses, but the one does indeed have a loose close. Good tips!

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  10. Your collection is delightful...Sigh... I have rather a few vintage handbags (too many my husband would say!) and I love and use them. My reasoning is that every woman has to have a collection, they are useful and they will always fit me. I have had mixed success buying off Ebay and etsy, you are right about a picture not telling the whole story, I now prefer to buy my vintage bags in the flesh so to speak. Your cleaning post was brilliant and I haave some new tips to use. I have also found myself an old fashioned shoe maker who repairs leather handbags and he was priceless in getting a dodgy etsy purchase to look shop new (Evans Leather Repairers in the Block Arcade for those Melbourne Australia readers). Now I will just go off and look at your lovely pictures again.....

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  11. Hi Gina:
    Just came across this post on your blog about vintage handbags. I think your article is wonderful. I too am a collector and also a seller of vintage handbags and recognize many of the potential problems. Your bags look bee-u-ti-ful. I wanted to add that on patent bags with small dents, I sometimes take and point a blowdryer on medium heat at the problem areas and often the dents will come out. Be sure not to use a very hot setting or for too long.
    Kind Regards,
    JK
    thevintagehandbag.com

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  12. I'm having a terrible time identifying a 7 inch (including purse and triple chain handle) micro-beaded, ivory silk lined bag I picked up at an estate sale for $1. The frame is stamped MADE IN FRANCE. Pastel threads appear to be silk. It's absolutely exquisite. Do you have any suggestions where I might look for information? Doing a google search didn't turn up much.....just more beaded bags for sale but no advice.

    Thanks a million! Charlene

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  13. Thia offers smart options to Buy Bags Online in India through online transactions that are safe and trustworthy. Thia stocks ladies’ designer handbags, Travel bags, Shoulder Bags, as well as accessories for women.

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  14. Just found this post while Googling. I found a great bag that I've fallen in love with but the problem with this and many bags with this frame is that the bag does not open very wide. The sides are all stiff which could be the reason but is there any way around this? I love the bag and would love to add it to my collection but it would be rather pointless if the bag itself is hard to get in and out of.

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    Replies
    1. I am just wondering if the hinges need some oil, maybe that's the problem. Or if you feel the bag itself is stiff, the material most likely has dried out over time and isn't as pliable. So you may need to investigate a little more. If you see cracking in the material, don't buy the bag, it won't stand up over time. If the hardware feels tight, that can loosen up with using the bag and maybe a little WD40 placed on the hinges with a Q-tip could help. Good luck, there are some great bags out there!

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  15. What a beautiful purse collection!! Such a useful and insightful post! I am glad I stumbled upon your blog after some googling and can't wait to check out your other posts too! Have a lovely week my dear!
    May x
    www.walkinginmay.com

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  16. I just love this post. All bags are stylish.

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  17. Great information on cleaning vintage purses. I greatly appreciate this and very well done.
    Sandy
    Graceful Antiques.

    ReplyDelete
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    I simply love their handicrafts (specially bags), My friend introduced me to this store me and she and me buy in wholesale for our boutique all the time :)

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  24. What a fantastic article. I didn't know there were so many things to consider when buying a vintage bag, you have opened up my eyes. Thank you for posting this.

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