Last updated in March 2004
History and Background
Lucite handbags were created in the 1950s from DuPont's revolutionary new plastic. Shapely and structured, there was never anything like them nor has there been since. They came in an endless variety of odd shapes (beehive, pagoda, trapezoid, pail, log, oval, kidney....), colors (standard grey and white, obscure chartruese, creamy yellow, pale green, dark tortoise.....), textures and shades (glitter, pearly, opaque, shiny, transparent, metallic...). Best of all, they were fabulously imaginative.
handbags were sold in high end department stores and popular with the actresses and
showgirls. This market grew to develop continually higher quality bags consisting of
very thick plastics and heavy lids. Later, manufacturers also served the lower-end
market by providing handbags made of lighter, more fragile plastics that could be afforded
by teenagers at the local five and dime. Popular signatures included:
Cleaning Your Handbag
remarkable polishes make a Lucite purse sparkle! First, Simichrome metal polish
renews all the metal hardware to a shiny finish (though be careful--it also occasionally
turns gold hardware into silver! Still bright 'n shiny, though!). Next, Novus Plastic Polish #2 removes
minor surface scratches, making your Lucite slippery smooth. Finally, Novus Plastic Polish #1 sprays on to
create a truly lustrous and gleaming finish. Your 40-year old handbag will look
Storing Your Handbag
Don't fry that handbag! Aside from being breakable, smashable, and scratchable, Lucite handbags are also warpable, meltable, and shrinkable! Avoid heat. Do not keep your handbags in a room that tends to get hot because the handbag's structure will be altered! The lid may not fit so snuggly, the glue may unravel, the plastic may warp, the handbag may even sweat liquid Lucite, and who knows what other horrors will arise from your irresponsible negligence! These catastrophes can occur within minutes or over a very long period of time, but make no mistake, the damage is irreparable. Lucite handbags are sensitive sheets of wimpy plastic, so keep them in a cool place and make sure that air conditioner is cranked up during those warm and sunny days!
Yes, health issues. THIS JUST IN from my med-student pal Wendy-Jade!! Wendy has done her lab homework, so pay attention: That odor-emitting lucite bag you have lying around the house could KILL you! Wendy writes: "The gas stings eyes, causes allergic skin reactions, and repeated exposure can screw up your immune system. The medical jury is still out on whether it causes cancer." And what stylin' lucite gal needs bloodshot eyes, bad complexion, and terminal maladies?!! It's enough to throw that smelly lucite out the window!
While you may find a smattering of Lucite handbag photos in various 50's collectors books and vintage purse books, only two are actually dedicated to Lucite handbags. The first book, titled "A Certain Style: The Art of the Plastic Handbag" came out in 1988 and was written by Gottlieb and Maresca. This book is coffee-table-esque and depicts the handbags in the glorified fashion for which they were meant. But you'll have to scrounge around a while (if you're a collector, you should be used to that!) because this book is out of print. The second book was published in 1992 by Kate Dooner: "Plastic Handbags: Sculpture to Wear". This has more photos and is a great pictorial reference, though the price guide in the back is a bit questionable and the photos aren't nearly as beautiful as those in the Gottlieb/Maresca book. font>
courtesy of The Bag Lady