Clutch Purses

Image of a dotted clutch purse
Vintage bags are always stylish.

Sophisticated ladies have been carrying clutch purses on their elegant evenings out for decades. Beaded or leather, boxy or soft, there is no more perfect evening accessory--besides your date, of course!

A History of Clutch Purses

The idea of the clutch purse originated in the Victorian era with the reticule, a decorative bag in which a proper lady stored her handkerchief and smelling salts. Reticules then went out of fashion, but came back with a roar during World War II when rationing demanded that things be smaller and women struggled to simplify their lives. After the war, the clutch purse became the evening bag of choice for elegant women everywhere. Sometimes made of Lucite or Bakelite, or silk, satin or brocade, the clutch purse could be tailored to match your dress and shoes and finish your look to perfection.

Until recently, most women would only be carrying a lipstick, compact mirror (which often came with the purse, sometimes cunningly attached), comb, and perhaps a single key or, if it was an evening out with girlfriends, some cash. Nowadays, what with cell phones and wallets and other necessities, it's much more difficult to go out with a tiny bag. For the nights when you don't need to carry much, you can still get a charming clutch that holds just what you need and sets off your outfit as well.

Styles of Clutch Purses

Whether you're more interested in a cute shape or a certain fabric, there's a clutch out there for you. Novelty styles, designer looks, and handmade clutches are all available. Some of the interesting styles currently on the market include :

  • Recycled Paper Clutch. Available at Uncommon Goods. This clutch made of woven recycled newspapers with a zigzag edge is fun, funky, stylish and perfect for you and every environmentally conscious and cool woman you know. Even the grab loop is made of recycled rubber.
  • Kate Spade Cannes Flower Adelaide. If you're more interested in recycling a classic look, this couture satin clutch is ideal. Italian-made, it has a pinched frame, interior slide pocket and 14-karat gold-plated hardware.
  • Artist-made Clutches. Want to support and carry the work of current artists? The bags you buy from The Artful Home will do just that. You can get unique pieces made of metal, leather, or feathers in a variety of shapes and hues.
  • Judith Leiber Jeweled Clutches. Carrie Bradshaw may not have cared for them, but if you like your elegance with a dash of whimsy, you're sure to find something in the Judith Leiber line that works for you. She specializes in novelty jeweled bags in delightful shapes, like animals or instruments. They can be very expensive, but you can find them at more reasonable prices with a bit of online browsing. Try looking at eBay.

Vintage Clutch Purses

Even if you're not into vintage clothes, a vintage clutch is still special. Nothing says "sophistication" like a beautiful bag from a more elegant era -- and a bag that is sixty years old is probably in much better shape than a dress of the same era. Plus, you know it will continue to look good, if you take proper care of it. Whether you're interested in the classic black crepe bag with a pink silk lining and chain or Bakelite handle, or a pretty little box made of Lucite, either lined or transparent, many bags have survived well and can be found at better vintage shops. Best of all, you can buy a bag online and feel confident in your purchase, because you know it will fit! Some good online sources for vintage clutch purses include:

  • Vintageous. They usually have at least two pages of bags on offer, plus a link to a 1958 article on the right way to carry your purse - yes, you can do it wrong.

Remember, real style never goes out of fashion!

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Clutch Purses