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    

Antique Original Straw Bag For French Or German DollVintage Green & White Wicker Lewis Handbag, Straw Purse W/ Clasp - Asian Mod BoxNantucket Basket Straw Purse Sailboat Artist Signed 1986 Auth Coach Ladybug Straw Leather Boxy Tote~limited Edition~bonus Ladybug Charm!!Fossil Woven Straw Sydney Tote Shopper Shoulder Bag Purse Gray Black Ivory Michael Kors Straw Clutch, Gold HardwareCoach Appliqué Floral Straw Tote ! Wow ! L@@k ! Adorable!!!Michael By Michael Kors Deneuve Straw Large Tote 11 1/2" Bottom, 19" Top Of Bag,Michael Kors Rattan W/ Leather Black Straw ClutchFossil Large Summer Straw/canvas Tote, Never UsedIll Gear V2 Titanium Drinking Straw Survival Camping Edc Bug Out Bag Backpack Coach Amanda Silver Darcy Straw Clutch Bag 13592 Shoulder Chain Purse Euc LnBrahmin Vintage Straw W/ Leather Trim Shoulder PurseRare Buntal Palm Vintage Etienne Aigner Crossbody Clam Shell Straw Rattan Purse Eric Javits Purse Beige Tortoise Woven Straw Shoulder Handbag ToteThirty One Canvas Crew Mini Casual Beach Tote Bag 31 Taupe Straw Stripe Gift UPaloma Picasso Navy Blue Woven Straw Small Satchel Handbag Bn341Coach Alexandra Straw White Tote Beach Handbag Purse F21959 Vguc!!Fossil Long Live Vintage 1954 Handbag Tote Bag Pink Straw Leather Trim L BeachThirty One Canvas Euro Straw Crew Casual Beach Tote Bag 31 Coral Stripe Gift ACoach Handbag Purse Straw Design 14 X 9Coach Applique Floral Straw Shoppers Tote Shoulder Bag 15029Vera Bradley Straw Botanical Print Extra Large Tote BagVera Bradley Large Straw Tote, Straw Pouch, Clear Beach Cosmetic, Fanfare, LnwtFabulous Gretchen Scott Wicker/straw Handbag W White Mums On Front - Blue InsideCoach Natural Woven Straw & White Leather Legacy Shoulder Purse Handbag HoboKate,spade Purse, Pink Flower Straw Design, No Lid Included.Authentic Large Tory Burch Stripe Straw ToteJcrew Straw Clutch Bag EucChildren Toddler Girls Flower Straw Sun Hat Cap And Flower Straw Handbag OrangeBrighton Straw HandbagDarling Gretchen Scott Wicker/straw Handbag With Big Black Mum On Front -pink InCoach 42474 White /ivory Leather Park Straw Turnlock Small Clutch Wristlet PurseVintage Straw Flower Bag Wood Sides Raffia Flower Design Handcrafted Pretty!! Franco Sarto Beach/shell Natural Burlap/straw Metallic Shopper/handbagBrighton Straw Basket Tote Purse Brown Leather Hand BagPutu By J. Maclear Woven Natural Straw Summer Hand Bag With HandlesCappelli Straworld Crossbody Fabric Purse Lightweight Straw ~ Beads!! VgcCappelli Straworld Rooster Chicken Straw PurseWomen Summer Mini Straw Bags Beach Tote Shoulder Bag Handbag CherryGuc Banana Republic Straw Color Woven Purse Bag Black Leather HandlesVintage Wicker Straw Intricately Woven Floral Pattern Purse Hand Bag BasketBrighton Straw Crossbody / Clutch BagWomen's Purse Handbag Brighton Black Croc Woven Straw Lined Hangtag (bx#cl)Small Coach Straw Burlap Bumble Bee Purse, Handmade Natural Straw Shoulder Bag Large Black 14" 13" 6" Strap Drop 14"Donna Dixon Preppy Purse Handbag Basket Straw Woven Faux Leather BuckleBrighton Straw W Black Leather Trim Shoulder Handbag Medium SizeAmerican Girl Kit Doll Straw Purse Coach Straw And Gold Leather Shoulder/hand Bag Euc"brighton" Straw Studded Shoulder Bag Sactchel Hobo Croc Embossed Tote BagMaggie Barnes Woven Straw Faux Leather Handbag Shoulder Bag Butterfly HardwareKim Rogers Navy Blue & Natural Straw Large Tote/bag L@@k !!Cappelli Straworld Box Purse - Soft Woven Straw W/ Stitched Flowers Ladies Purse By Stone Mountain In Camel And Faux Straw W/ Silver Buckle AccentsColdwater Creek Wicker Straw Casual Bag Handbag Purse SummerItalian White Crochet Straw Purse HandbagAuthentic Coach Legacy Straw / White Leather Handbag M05k-105Kate Spade Oaxaca Peacock Reyna Embroidered Sea Grass Straw Tote Beach Bag RafLadies Purse By Stone Mountain In Straw And Leather Look. Black And Tan.