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    

Tory Burch Metallic Stacked T Natural Gold Straw Tote Purse Bag $295 Gva227Excellent Radley Natural Straw Pink Shoulder Spotty Tote Spring Bag - Up G13 Coach Straw Woven Brown Satchel Shoulder Bag 10728Francesco Biasia Brown Woven Straw Faux-crocodile Leather Designer Tote HandbagTory Burch Thea Straw BagTory Burch Mint Condition Straw Tote Michael Kors Straw BagBrighton Rectangular Straw Rattan Yoyos Leather Shoulder Bag Ornate Silver Tory Burch Straw 'saddle Jane Tote' In Natural/pink PatentLilly Pulitzer Straw Handbag Prada Handbag Light Brown Straw & White Leather Euc! W. Dust BagUsed Coach Straw Summer Purse Tote Coach White Leather & Natural Woven Straw Satchel Handbag Tote Purse Bag 4419Pre - Owned Coach Straw / Leather Shoulder / Tote Bag # Mok -8157Lauren By Ralph Lauren Striped Straw Woven Tote Bag$348.00 Michael Kors Hamilton Straw Lg Tote Nat/van Handbag/purse~gorgeous~Michael Kors Santorini Woven Straw Tote LargeMichael Kors Santorini Straw White Leather Shopper Tote Purse Bag EucAuthentic Coach Alexandra Chain Natural/python Straw Shoulder Bag Tote 21959Lilly Pulitzer Small Pink And Straw Handbag With Gold AccentsKate Spade Cobble Hill Straw Little Minka Handbag Purse Cole Haan Red/beige Straw Tote BagBrighton Straw Black Leather Shoulder Bag PurseAuthentic Michael Kors N/s Raffia Straw Tote HandbagJ. Crew Brompton Hobo Bag Straw Look Leather Trim Vtg Woven Rush Straw Leather Jute Bucket Shoulder Beach Bag Purse Tote BohoCole Haan Woven Straw & White Leather Large Double Handle Tote Bag SatchelMichael Kors Soft Natural Straw Black Leather Gansevoort Purse Bag - Flawless!!Micheal Kors Straw & Leather Trim Tote/shopper/bag Med Sz Free Shipping!!!Brighton Daisy May Straw & Leather HandbagAuthentic Coach Natural Straw Gold Leather Satchel Tote Bag Purse Handbag 114Kate Spade Fiesta Park Quinn Straw ToteDarling Brighton Woven Ivory Straw White Leather Purse Bag BasketMichael Kors Straw Santorini Purse In Blue!Large Woven Beach Tote Shopper Bag Neverfull Color Blocked Straw Reversible Wow Easter Rare Brighton Hand Made Leather Flower Straw Silver Ladybug Handbag Michael Kors Straw And Leather Handbag Vintage AuthenticKate Spade Ny Straw Clutch Juicy Couture Blue Straw And Sequin Beach Tote Bag Mermaid/naturalVintage Ladies Little Red Straw Purse With Ribbon Drawstring Center ClosureFossil Sidney Straw Shopper/toteGorgeous Fossil Canvas Straw Flower Print Purse & Fossil Red Wallet Shoulder!!Francesco Biasia Faux Straw BagBrighton Straw & White Leather Trim Clutch Handbag ~ Euc!Brighton Straw Sand Brown Croco Trim Zip Dual Handle Shoulder Bag Purse HandbagOpen Crown Navy Straw Cloche Combo 50's Style Hat & Bag Cissy RevlonCoach Straw And Leather Wristlet Clutch With Large Flower AppliqueCoach Large Straw ToteMade In Italy Woven Straw Tan Leather Tote Shopper Excellent Perfect For SpringEric Javits Woven Straw & Leather Shoulder Bag Purse! Still Nice!Ladies Womens Large Straw Woven Tote Shoulder Raffia Casual Black Beach Bag Gorgeous Helen Kaminski Two Toned Raffia Straw & Leather HandbagMichael Kors Beige Lily Medium Straw Tote, Natural/marigold Retails $248Women Coach Spring/summer Straw/baby Blue Leather Trim Tote Bag/purse & WristletCoach Straw And Red Leather Trim PurseCoach Poppy Straw Bumble Bee PurseVintage Purse-hardcase Light Beige Straw Clutch/shoulder Purse With Chain StrapBrighton Brown & Tan Straw Shoulder Bag Handbag With Silver Hearts Chanel Cc Logo Leather Straw Woven Gold Chain Bag Satchel Clutch $1800Coach White Straw Basket Flap Top Satchel Hobo Tote Clutch Handbag