October 28 2009
Lucia van der Post
The recession doesn’t seem to have done much to dent the hi-de-hi prices of what used to known as “It” bags. A trawl through the current offerings shows that price tags of £600 are pretty much everyday, while Yves Saint Laurent’s ponyskin version is £1,555, Lanvin’s Amalia Sac is £1,620 and Proenza Schouler has the chutzpah to ask £10,835 for its PSI crocodile satchel. It all makes vintage handbags seem a steal.
Take Hilary Proctor, who has stall number six in the Admiral Vernon Antiques Market at 141 Portobello Road in London every Saturday, where enchanting little numbers start at about £80. She specialises in crocodile handbags; mostly they seem in terrific condition, all refurbished and smartened up as much as a loved and used handbag can be. I bought a darling little crocodile bag (first picture) with a lovely crisp brass clasp and slim handles for £120 the other day. It goes to all sorts of events where the swanky designer numbers would seem somehow too much of a statement.
If you can’t get to Portobello, you could check into Birdynumnum, a website dedicated to selling nothing but vintage accessories, mostly handbags such as a vintage patent leather grab bag (£65, second picture), evening bags and clutches, but also belts, powder compacts, lipsticks and the like. These are the sort of props that remind one of the heyday of Hollywood when Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Lauren Bacall et al would whip out glamorous powder compacts and little mirrors to keep the starry image up to scratch.
But it’s the bags that caught my eye and though they’re a bit of a mixed bag (sorry!), in that not all vintage seems equal (I’m not much enamoured of secondhand bags from Coach, Charles Jourdan and Jane Shilton myself), there are lots of lovely evening bags and some very sweet little clutches at very good prices (a lovely 1950s crocodile clutch for £69). You just have to keep looking, but chances are it’ll be worth it.