If ever there was a fairy tale material, Lucite is it. Safer and less fragile than glass, Cinderella would have loved it.
Lucite was invented in 1931 by chemists at DuPont. It was crystal clear, resistant to water and UV rays, and was low density yet stronger than previous plastics. Lucite (like its rivals Plexiglas an Bakelite) were used extensively in war supplies during WWII. After the war, the plastics were used for jewellery, shoes, shoe clips, handbags and handles.
Early 30s bags often have Lucite handles, zipper pulls or clasps, even when they are made of fabric or crocheted. Lucite was ideal for use as decorations, and for boxy style handbags, either opaque or translucent.
The best of the designers were Rialto, Llewllyn, Gilli Originals, Patricia of Miami, Evans, and Myles and Maxim. The most expensive Lucite purses were made by Wilardy of New York and were showcased in major department stores throughout the country. You can see a copy of the original 1950 catalogue here.
Lucite handbags became the ultimate in novel fashion statements. Each bag was also made well by craftsmen - strong, lightweight, large enough to hold everything a girl needs – many even came with a vanity mirror, and sometimes a built in compact, comb or cigarette casse. In the clear handbags, a scarf was often used to hid the things you didn’t want seen.
This clear Lucite purse on the left was owned by Janine in the early 1960's. Her red, red Elizabeth Arden Lipstick is still inside. Find it here. The purse on the right is a Wilardy, in clear lucite, with black diamond netting and metallic gold glitter. Hinged to easily store and find all a girls beauty needs. Find it here.
With popularity came replication and many cheaper versions were made. The reputable companies marked their handbags on the inside with a stamp on the metal frames or a clear label. These bags are now collectors items that sell for large sums but, unfortunately, some of clear labels have fallen off with age making absolute identification difficult.
My favourite would have to be the confetti Lucite bags, or compacts, which look like sparkly confetti suspended in the resin. I am sure Cinderella would have carried one of these!
All the items seen here can be found on etsy. Lets go shopping!
Have a sparkly vintage day,
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