Service of Vintage Handbag Styles that Don’t Work Today

February 25th, 2019

Categories: Fashion, Fashion Accessories


I’ve tossed a lot of things in my various and far too frequent moves but out of nostalgia I’ve kept a few of my mother’s handbags. I’ve not worn them because they are impractical and too small for all my stuff but they make me smile when I see them.

My real issue is with their short straps or handles. To carry them I need to use one hand that has other things to do like answer a phone, carry a bag of groceries or hold on to a subway railing when the steps are slippery. Unattached to me I envision leaving the bag behind in busses and cabs.

Saks Fifth Avenue window

That’s why I like long straps that hang from my shoulder or slip over my head and across my chest.

The windows at Saks Fifth Avenue that I passed last week celebrated the iconic handbag and some were reminiscent of my mothers’ in that they also sported short handles–much shorter than those on my mother’s bags. If I had a car and driver and the deep pockets required to pay for them and the handbags, I would be tempted because they are attractive.

Saks Fifth Avenue window

I’ve seen removable straps attached to small-handled bags that clip to metal loops on each end, but they ruin the bag’s silhouette and look awkward especially on a small bag.

Do you hold on to things you don’t use, even if space is at a premium, because you can’t let them go? Do you favor handbags with straps or are you comfortable with compact bags with short handles? Are there other vintage styles of clothing or accessories that you find best fit a previous lifestyle?


10 Responses to “Service of Vintage Handbag Styles that Don’t Work Today”

  1. Anonymous Said:

    My commute involves a ferry so I need my hands free to steady myself in rough waters. So I need long straps for sure. I recently won a designer bag at a charity event. It has short straps but looks nice. And it is totally impractical, as it has one lonely snap at the top keeping it together. I tried to think of scenarios where it would be useful but I failed. I need to know that my wallet, keys, phone are securely stored or what’s the point? And it isn’t only pickpockets I’d have to worry about. I thought of using it as a beach bag but even then I’d risk getting sand in my phone or, worse, losing the phone altogether in the sand. I hung onto it because I can’t bear to get rid of it. And yet I don’t want to give it to someone because it is problematic.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I imagine if you drive to work or to meetings, get out of a car and remember to get the handbag back in the car at the end of the day or the meeting it would be a viable carrier for precious things.

    There was a time–and no doubt some still do–when women changed handbags depending on what they were wearing. It never worked for me. I’d leave a crucial thing behind as I tend to be in a rush. That fashion got stale quickly. If attending a dressy event I will change handbags though I leave half my life in my everyday one and am not thrilled.

  3. ASK Said:

    I am hooked on shoulder bags or those that have shoulder straps — they are just so convenient and easy to wear. A relatively tall person, I don’t like small bags unless they are evening clutch bags…and while I have many such clutches, I use them infrequently. Still, I don’t like to get rid of them; they take little space to store. And, there is always the “what if” factor. If I did need an evening bag, finding a replacement for one of my older bags would cost a lot more than they once cost me. They also don’t make them the way they used to…

  4. EAM Said:

    I have accumulated a mound of handbags. When I moved a few years ago, I purged and gave some away, but I still have an accumulation of them. I also like to put it over my shoulder so I can keep hands free. My Mom has a certain style over the shoulder (Vera Bradley) that she likes to carry and coordinates a purse with her outfit. I do like leather bags but often find them heavy to carry. On the weekends, I prefer to just carry my wallet or just keep it simple.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’m of average height but carry the world in my handbag and no matter how hard I try I can’t fit everything into a stunning small bag.

    I also have my now rarely used evening clutch bags. You never know when you might need one!

  6. Kathleen Said:

    We’re all on the same page. I’m guilty not keeping some of my mother’s good handbags and never use them. I also have a few lovely evening clutches and won’t ever use them. And I tend to use the same few handbags with over-the-shoulder straps. And yes, I don’t keep a few things I’ll never use but can’t discard. Maybe there is or should be a name for this syndrome!

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    I haven’t used handbags in ages, and in winter, everything lives in coat pockets. An existing collection cries out to be donated — but where? Most have little to no sentimental value, but it’s a shame to throw out attractive/useful items. The exceptions belonged to my Grandma. They appear on special occasions. Should a spirit world exist, she might enjoy being remembered!

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    The answer then is to move. It’s the opportunity to literally clean house. What I hate is that in spite of all the tossing and giving away there’s still no room for things. Sigh. That’s where I currently am. Decisions must be made!

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Are we pack rats? I’m not as bad as some but others with a more Zen or Japanese approach to life would consider me atrocious.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’ve been taking bags and bags and bags of good clothes and accessories to Goodwill Industries. The days of picking up things in NYC at least are long over. I wrote about this in a previous blog. Friends ended up tossing flawless items. Their work and travel lives simply don’t permit them to drop off things. Such a shame and a waste.

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