In the early 1950s, the casual handbag emerged, as women demanded purses that were both fashionable and capable of holding all their cosmetics and accessories. Large shoulder shopping totes made from straw seemed to capture the spirit of summer and vacationing on the beach.

Soon, affordable and sprightly little baskets of woven rushes were all the rage, like those made by the likes of Los Doradas. These often resembled small handheld picnic baskets with ribbons and decorative elements on top, like plastic or fabric fruits or flowers. This down-market trend, started by Dorset Rex of New York, never appeared on the pages of Vogue, but were well-loved by the “dance hall crowd.” Such bright, colorful straw bags remained popular well into the '60s, when whimsy became the new black.

Straw handbags made of plaited raffia, rattan, rushes, willow, cane, and dried grasses didn’t remain the domain of the plebes for long. In the mid-1950s, sophisticated straw handbags appeared in southern France. Eaton Bag Company issued elegant raffia baskets, as well as trunks made of black-lacquered straw closed with a gilded lock and key. Elizabeth Arden even created a high-fashion take on a shrimp basket, outfitted with a compass in 1956. By 1958, giant hand-woven basket bags were finally staples of high-fashion magazines.

Nantucket, an American company that had been selling straw baskets since the turn of the century, began producing rattan purses, and these became status symbols for the wealthy yachting set who would sail between Nantucket Island and the Riviera. These bags were coveted for their tight weaves, tops and bottoms made of hardwoods like walnut, hand-carved bone ornaments and fasteners, and leather hinges closures wrapped in rattan. Coach, meanwhile, made the straw purse classy and affordable for office workers, adding durable leather trim and handles.

In the 1990s, the decade of the designer handbag, fashion houses once again turned to straw. Karl Lagerfield created purses woven from synthetic straw with Plexiglas handles, while British designer Sonia Rykiel put out a line of little bags made of real straw. Dolce & Gabbana made straw beach bags to go with their straw bikinis, Eric Beamon produced raffia-covered bags, and Lacroix issued wicker bags to match its suits with raffia fringe. Jean-Paul Gaultier even showed a straw bucket bag with real leather handles in 1992.

By 1994, straw bags were veering toward the silly again. Kate Spade explained that her burlap Hula bag for Todd Oldham, fringed with raffia, was meant to be “something Mary Ann from ‘Gilligan’s Island’ would have worn.” Models like Christy Turlington and Estelle Hallyday carried Jamin Puech’s Papou bag, which featured crocheted raffia and a grass-skirt-style fringe. Bottega Veneta took inspiration from a fisherman’s creel for its straw bag with leather trim, while Lulu Guinness created gorgeous straw bucket bags adorned with shells and starfish.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Bag Lady University

Bag Lady University

Bag Lady University is the place to learn about handbag makers from Adrian's, which made Bakelite bags, to Whiting … [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Gerard Darel Straw Tote Neutral As Seen On Olivia Palermo!Kate Spade Straw Tote Shoulder Bag Black Bow Black Stripes Roomy!Brighton Woven Straw & Leather Purse Bag Henri Bendel Brown Tan White Striped Straw Leather Barrel Bag Satchel Bag PurseAnne Fontaine Beige Straw & Patent Leather Floral Handbag PurseAuthentic Coach Straw & Leather Satchel14" Natural Tan & Floral Purse HandbagRare! Coach Ivory Straw & Gold Leather Lexi Butterfly Satchel Handbag F16584 NrHelen Kaminski Australia 100% Raffia Straw Shoulder Bag Sling Tote Multicolor# Enid Collins Of Texas Vintage Gay Birds 1960s Straw & Wood Large Handbag PurseEtienne Aigner Straw And Leather HandbagAuthentic Coach Legacy Straw Satchel Handbag W/black Leather Trim/m05k-113Kate Spade Red Birds Of Paradise Straw Large Tote Bag PurseSavaqe Titanium Drinking Straw Edc Survival Camping Bag Out *sand-blastedBrighton Camina Straw And Pink Leather Tote Handbag With Box And Dust CoverBrighton Woven Straw Red Leather Trim Bag Purse SummerThirty One- Canvas Crew Tote- Taupe Straw Stripe Michael Kors Woven Straw Black Patent Leather Handbag PurseMichael Kors Handbag Medium Hobo Black Leather And StrawAuthentic! Brighton Woven Straw Red Leather Double Handle Shoulder Bag W/ HeartCole Haan Cream Woven Straw Clutch With Gold Leather Flowers And AccentsVera Bradley Navy Blue Woven Straw Paisley Print Anchor Shoulder Bag ToteMichael Kors Authentic Straw Large Hand BagBrighton Wheaton Flora Straw Large Hobo Bag With White Leather Trim In BoxBrighton Corn Husk Straw Tote Scarf Tie Closure Dk Brown Croc Trim Nice!Vera Bradley Large Straw Tote Blue Bayou (#13619159) Brighton Straw PurseBrighton Black Tan Leather Straw Shoulder Bag Size MediumVintage Italian Straw Red Wicker Purse Pier Giorgio HandbagTory Burch Straw Tote - Pre-ownedKate Spade Purse Cabo Holiday Straw Raffia Green Tote BagBeautiful Brighton Straw Tote PurseBrighton Woven Tri Color "roxanne" Straw Jute & Leather Crossbody Shoulder BagEtienne Aigner Vintage Basket Leather Woven Straw Rattan Handbag PurseBrighton Black Straw HandbagBrighton Peggy Black & Straw Purse Handbag Etienne Aigner Straw And Leather HandbagPutu By J. Maclear Retro Woven Hand Made Tan Straw Bag!! Amazing Purse!!Michael Kors Natural Straw Vanilla Gold Studs Leather Large Tote Bag $228-Tory Burch Straw ClutchBrighton Straw Purse With Yellow Leather FlowersVintage Woven Straw Oval Box-style Preppy Handbag With Leather And Brass TrimVera Bradley Straw Bucket Tote In Blue BayouTory Burch Novelty Vintage Pandan Natural Yellow Woven Straw Tote Purse $250 IeCoach Cream/black Straw Small Handbag Style 4467Brighton Leather Brown Woven Straw Jute Shoulder Bag Purse HandbagCappelli Straworld Spring Summer Purse Straw Bag With Shells And Pearls WeddingAuthentic Fossil Large Straw Purse With Brown Leather Like Trim Hanging KeyTommy Bahama Women's Orange And Tan Straw Satchel HandbagBrighton Straw Leather Black And White Checkerd Silk Fabric Shoulder Bag PurseAuthentic Bosom Buddy Straw And White Handbag. With Turquoise Bee Key Ring.Coach Summer Straw PurseCoach Straw Leather Hamptons Large Tote Bag Purse Handbag 114 & WalletMichael Kors Straw & White Patent Leather Tote Handbag Denevue EucBrighton Leila Rose Straw Handbag EucMichael Kors "lilly" Straw Tote HandbagCole Haan Stunning Light Straw & Black Leather Summer Bucket Shoulder HandbagNeiman Marcus Multicolored Abstract Print Straw Woven Hobo HandbagVtg 70s 80s Boho Woven Jute Straw Hippie Market Tote Bag Bucket Leather StrapsRare Lilly Pulitzer Straw Purse With Bamboo Handles & Lilly Material FlowersThirty One ~canvas Crew Mini Tote ~ Taupe Straw Stripe ~ Handbag Purse Nip