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It started with a …Corde Handbag

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.

corde bag brown 003 - Copy

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!

corde bag brown 004 - Copy

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.


About Gloriously Vintage

My name is Elizabeth. I am so thrilled to be learning how to write a blog about my adventures collecting vintage treasures. This new adventure is to mark my 60th Birthday this February in 2016 and to start this decade with something new. I have been collecting Powder compacts, 1950's costume jewellery, vintage handbags, silk scarves, vintage umbrellas and hats for over five years now. I try to wear and use as much of my collections as possible. This has added great enjoyment to my life! As a child my "best game " was always dressing up. I kept all my dressing up clothes in a large wooden banded trunk in the spare bedroom -the third bedroom. Creating outfits and characters, wearing jewellery always with a handbag and a powder compact I would play on my own for hours. Most of my treasures then came from jumble sales and bric a brac shops browsed with my parents on holiday. Life has a way of coming round full circle. In my fifties I found increasing joy in being able to just be myself and adopt the hairstyle I wanted and the vintage look that suited me. I source all my "top clothes" from Oxfam on line and charity shops Mixing new tops, shoes and sometimes handbags with my vintage accessories has given me a signature style that is unique. I have always tried to be an individual and not follow the crowd. I find most of my collections at vintage fairs, charity shops and going to Antiques for Everyone at the NEC has been a marvellous time for hunting out treasures and learning more about the things that have sparked real passion for me.

9 responses »

  1. Dear Elizabeth, it sounds like you have a lovely purse collection!:) My mother has 1940s black clutch purse that belonged to my great aunt. It looks like crochet and has a clear twisted Lucite zipper pull. I don’t know if it has a label. Now, I will be on the look out for Corde!



    • Dear Dee, I do love handbags! The English Corde handbags are usually framed , but the American ones come in many wonderful shapes and sizes. Good luck in your treasure hunting! The first Corde handbag has been really life changing for me. Best wishes, Elizabeth xx


  2. Pingback: A Really Big Adventure – Visiting the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow at Historic Baddesley Clinton | Gloriously Vintage

  3. I’ve been wanting one of these


  4. What an endearingly lovely story and foray into the endlessly exciting world of vintage. Corde handbags have been a firm favourite of mine since childhood (I bought – though no longer have – my first one at a consignment store when I was just 13 or 14 years old) and it’s always a pleasure to connect with others who share a passion for them.

    Warmest welcome to the world of vintage blogging. It’s great to see you here, my FB friend.

    ♥ Jessica


  5. Wonderful! Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person


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