Five years ago I decided that I wanted to make my everyday style much more vintage. I have always been very interested in the Hollywood Film Stars of the 1940’s and 1950’s, loving the glamorous hair and makeup and wonderful clothes. The fashions of the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s spanned the style of my maternal Grandmother and Mother that I remember so fondly from mychildhood, have also been a strong influence .
I changed my hair colour to blond at the age of 50 and made Marilyn Monroe my style icon. This meant a return to a rollered hairstyle, which has evolved into the hairstyle you will see in my posts. At 60, it is now ash blond, thick, naturally curly and is my trademark. So to complement the classic clothes I like to wear I needed to mix in a number of things to get the vintage look. Firstly, three rows of pearls and secondly, a framed traditional handbag. These two items added to court shoes with a stiletto heel were enough to get started .
I have always adored looking for things to wear in charity shops. In my village at that time there were two. I went in my favourite one lunchtime, with a short time to look round and see if there was anything of interest. High up on a display was a framed handbag that looked as though it was from the 1950’s. I asked to see it.
It felt old, like nothing I had seen before and the tactile nature of the material was appealing and so different . I estimated that it was 1950.’s and I already liked it a lot.
The clasp was a rectangle of what looked like plastic and I opened it to find inside a label that I just knew made it very special.
I can still remember the thrill of finding that handbag and the overwhelming desire to own it.
It was marked £5. As it was old, I offered to pay more but was told it is £5, that is the price. I could not wait to get home and see if it would go with a brown pencil skirt and “Ladies Pride” tweed jacket I loved to wear.
That evening I started to research on the internet to find out about corde handbags and to understand this new treasure . As I sat at the computer it felt like an adventure was beginning, something was happening that would change everything!
I found out that the bag was from the 1940’s and was made of a fabric called Corde. Gimp strands of silk or wool were wound round a wire or cord core and stitched to a backing fabric in various geometric patterns. They were made in the 1940’s because due to a leather shortage other fabrics to make handbags had to be found or created. English corde bags are usually framed and American ones can be a miriad of shapes and designs often with zips and pulls made out of an early plastic called Lucite. They were made in brown, black , blue and taupe.
My bag was “Made in England”, framed and had a domed rectangle of Lucite at the clasp. Reading “Style Me Vintage – Accessories” by Naomi Thompson and Liz Tregenza, I found out that corde handbags were advertised as “dressy” and “hardwearing” in the 1940’s.
Mine was in remarkably good condition given its age and had clearly been a best handbag , lovingly looked after and brought out for special occasions. I felt a strong connection to my favourite era the 1950’s.
To find the pearls…well that took a little longer and is another story. Finding the Corde handbag and finding out about them made me want to find another one, perhaps in a different colour…This is how collecting starts.