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    

Vtg Sisal Raffia Hand Bag With Leather Straps Straw Bucket Festival Rattan BohoLilly Pulitzer For Target Straw Boom Boom Tote Beach Bag Sold Out! In HandMichael Kors Handbag - Gold Woven Straw Tote HandbagBottega Veneta Vintage Woven Straw & Beige Leather Crossbody BagTory Burch Soft Straw Multi E/w Shopping Tote Msrp 325.00 Navy / Red MultiMichael Kors Beach/summer Straw Bag With Goldstone HardwareTory Burch Lydia Straw Canvas Tote Shoulder Bag $275 #18-17Sensi Studio Woven Toquilla Straw Tote Rrp £145Coach Legacy Striped Straw Basket Tote/bag/purse #10749 $398Michael Kors Handbag Wicker Straw And Leather ClutchBoutique Coach Ladies White Natural Straw Gold Chain Wristlet Bag-$208+weddingCole Haan Gorgeous Large Straw/ Brown Leather Bag / Summer Tote!Brighton Basket Weave Straw Purse Floral Bow Tote Bag Purse 9x113x4"Kate Spade Summer Straw Leather Turnlock Clutch Tan Brown Blue Gold Brighton Straw Purse With Leather Flowers, StrapsAuth Lancel Logos Hand Bag Straw White From Japan 299-2-eMichael Kors Light Brown Straw Espadrille White Leather Trim Shoulder Bag ToteFossil Beach Straw Leather Tapestry Vintage Floral Brown Large Tote Bag PurseCoach Straw And Leather Mini Tote Bag. Ivory & BlackAuthentic Coach Straw Flower Tote Bag 13373 Handbag Purse 12" Summer BohoCoach Hobo Legacy Straw And White Leather Trim Large Pocket Shopper 113 Tote BagBrighton Straw Purse Never Used In BoxHelen Kaminski Australia 100% Raffia Straw Handbag Satchel1set Pink Kids Girls Summer Beach Red Flower Straw Sun Hat Cap Handbag Bag SuitMichael Kors Berkley Soft Straw Clutch Bag Nat/nav Look @ Pics Before BiddingBrighton Straw And Red Leather Large Tote Shopper Shoulder Bag Cappelli Straw Hobo Purse FuschiaWomens Summer Weave Woven Straw Shoulder Tote Shopping Beach Big Bag HandbagKate Spade Straw Tote "cabo Holiday"Michael Kors Santorini Straw Woven Bag With Bronze Leather Trim TurnlockLarge Brighton Straw And Pewter Leather Bucket Shoulder Bag Women Summer Straw Weave Woven Shoulder Tote Shopping Beach Bag Purse HandbagRebecca Minkoff Full Size Mac Crossbody Clutch Natural Leather Straw Black BagCoach Hamptons Archive 10th Anniversary Straw Purse Flowers Satchel 13531Coach Original Straw Purse Trimmed In Red Leather Hobo Handbag Mok-8159Kooba Large Straw Leather Camel Tote Bag Bohemian Straw Handbag Fashion Women Shoulder Bag Summer Beach Bags PurseSwiss 4 Pc Beach Tote Bag Set W/bamboo Woven Straw Yoga Mat Rug Camping-sky BlueSwiss 4 Pc Beach Tote Bag Set W/bamboo Woven Straw Yoga Mat Rug Camping-orange Burberry Straw Degrade Leather Gardening BagMichael Kors Santorini Straw Tote BagOryany Ashley Woven Raffia Large Tote, Leather Trim & Straw TextureCoach Bonnie Tangerine Straw Leather Kisslock Bag Clutch 13396Emma Fox Blue Leather And Straw Brighton Tote Beach BagSummer Coach 10278 White Natural Straw Handbag PreownedVineyard Vines Straw Tote BagCoach Pre-owned Straw Rare HandbagBrighton Woven Straw Shoulder Bag Lois Hill Straw Rafia Tote Shoulder Bag RareWomen's Handbag, Straw W Leather Brown Straps Trim Satchel Bag, Purse Frame BoxVtg Ginny Ginger Straw Hat, Plastic Hat Shoes, Glasses Purse MuffieThirty One Bags Xl Canvas Crew Tote Taupe Straw Stripe Rv$65Vintage Lesco Straw Clutch - Perfect For The Spring And Summer!Swiss 4 Pc Beach Tote Bag Set W/bamboo Woven Straw Yoga Mat Rug Camping-violetLight Pink 1set Kid Girl Child Straw Sun Beach Hat Cap Tote Handbag Reticule Coach Alexandra Chain Straw Tote W/python Detail Style# F21959 100% Authentic!! Coach Straw Purse Adorable Great For SummerFrancesco Biasia Blue Patten Leather Straw Weave Hobo HandbagJohn Romain 1-70 Small Summer Straw W/leather Handbag So Much Vintage CharmWomen Shoulder Straw Bag Woven Bag Cowboy Teddy Bear Handbag Bags Summer Travel