Collecting fashion items has been popular for a long time. While Imelda Marcos may have been fascinated by shoes, others prefer hats, jewelry or handbags. Many prefer the beaded purses from the '20s. We are a little more modern. In the 1950s, plastics made in-roads into all aspects of American life. The fashionable thing became hard molded purses. The sides of the purses were made in a wide variety of shapes and colors, with the tops in a clear acrylic. You could see what's inside the purse without opening it.
Most of the purses were made in either New York City or Miami. The were about two dozen manufacturers who identified their designs by engraving their name or affixing a label. But there are other purses that just have no designation of origin at all. Some were made to look like tortoise shell. These were made with formaldehyde. Besides giving off a tell-tale odor, they have the habit of warping and suddenly decomposing into a pool of goo. Fortunately, others have held up very well. Some warping and occasional cracks but many can be found in near mint condition.
There have been two books published covering plastic purses. Since they came out, a niche collectible went mainstream. While we rarely find them in flea markets in rural America, they can be found at the major antique and collectible shows in metropolitan areas, like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. We've also seen them in markets in Paris and Florence where they are even more expensive than here!
Have you ever seen a plastic purse? Maybe you forgot. Here's a few to jog your memory. The small pictures below show individual purses. Click on them to get a better view.
The beehive purse is a well-known classic. While this one is gray, these is another version in brown. Besides the rough resemblence to a beehive, the lucite top is very unusual. The typical etching is augmented with three metal bees.
While many purses have a single top, this one has two. Style? Function? Inquiring minds want to know.
Finding purses from the 1950's is tough enough but to find them with their original tags is quite unusual. This one made by Myles Design somehow survived the decades. Was it ever used? If it was, was the tag inside or out?
The variety of shapes must have taxed both the imagination of the designers as well as their manufacturing skills. This purse shows the complexity.
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