Greetings and Salutations! I am the Bag Lady, and I welcome you to my tasteful little corner of the Web. I have a large variety of fine vintage and collectible handbags, jewelry, and accessories available for your perusal and purchase. You will be dealing directly with the Bag Lady. My objective is to provide you with an enjoyable shopping experience. Please feel free to browse through my Emporium. Your comments and suggestions regarding this site are encouraged. Have fun!
Site Navigation: The navigation menu along the left side of the screen allows you to see newly added items, view the Special Collections, contact the Bag Lady, or return to this page. You can search the entire site by choosing from the Search categories and clicking the "Show Matches" button to display the results
Order Placement: The Emporium's shopping cart system allows you to place orders easily. When you find an item you like, simply click on the "Add to Cart" button and it will be added to your cart. You can then click on the "View Shopping Cart" link at the top of the screen to review your selections and place your order. Shipping is extra. You will receive a confirmation e-mail that your order was received. Following receipt of your order, I will contact you with the shipping costs and to finalize delivery and payment.
US Customers: We accept check or money orders from US customers. Credit cards are accepted only through PayPal.com, a FREE system that allows cash or credit card payments from one email user to another. If you would like to use this service, please click the link below and register free on PayPal.com.
Canada & Overseas Orders: Overseas sales are by bank draft, international money order or charge with PayPal Secure Online Payment System; Shipping is extra. We cannot be responsible for taxes or duties applied at receiving country.
Visit Bag Lady University! Since 1996, collectors have been asking me for information on the manufacturers of vintage bags and NOW IT'S HERE! In addition to the link in the navigation bar on the left, descriptors on items in the Emporium now link to research information on makers, materials and handbag history in the University. It's a work in progress and your input and comments are requested!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
What is your return policy? We only want happy customers, so anything that doesnt reasonably live up to expectations is returnable for a full refund. Just email within 3 days of receipt of the shipment and send it back. A refund check will follow shortly.
How are packages shipped? Packages are normally shipped US Postal Service Priority Mail.
Do you ship internationally? We certainly do! BUT PLEASE NOTE!!! Any IMPORT DUTIES charged are between you and your government. Also, due to heightened security concerns on US aircraft, metal handbags, vanity cases,compacts and other metal items that cannot be successfully x-rayed by postal inspectors demand special shipping arrangements internationally.
What is the value of this vintage bag I own? If there is a bag in the Archives that's similar, I can tell you the sale price and when it was sold. Since condition is so critical to valuation, I cannot value items without examining them.
Do you buy vintage bags? Certainly! But, because I believe it is a conflict of interest for us to price items we want to buy, PLEASE DONT ASK US TO PRICE, THEN PURCHASE. We do not look at picture of items offered for sale without accompanying prices!
How do I clean my Lucite and Bakelite bags and jewelry?
Believe it or not, the automotive section of your local hardware store is the place to get all manner of wonderful cleaning products for plastic. First, what kind of "dirty" are we talking about? Is it surface dirt or goo? Rust or scratches? I have found auto cleaning products are excellent for old plastics, as they are formulated not to eat plastic.
For general cleaning, I use Glass Plus. It is by far the best because it doesn't leave residue. It can be sprayed directly onto the body of the bag and rubbed with paper towel to remove. BUT don't over wet, especially if there is surface hardware like hinges that will catch dampness underneath. This can cause rusting in places that are visible but unreachable, like under the surface of a clear Lucite lid. For tight spots, it's best to spray on a Q-tip rather than directly on the bag.
To remove the "crud" around hinge hardware and in other hard to reach spots, use orange wood manicure sticks. Gently rub the stick around handle attachments to the lid, rivets, etc. This really removes the rings of dirt and accumulated cleaning materials. It's like detailing a car, it makes all the difference.
For goo from price labels or to remove broken mirror from the inside lid of a bag, use Goo Gone. A bit on a Q-tip is great for spots. For mirrors, position the lid so it will hold liquid. Pour just enough Goo Gone to cover and allow the bag to sit until the mirror begins to move. This may take several days. Then gently pry the mirror off the lid. Do not apply too much force, or you may crack the Lucite. If it's not ready, soak some more.
For scratches, try Turtle Wax buffing compounds. They come in 3 grits. Use the coarsest red for major scratches, then use the white and clear coat compound for returning that original shine. I sometimes use Armor-All protectant too for that added sparkle.
For rust, verdigris (that green gunk) and to remove damaged lacquer finish on hardware, try Tarnex or CLR. Just go easy and don't over wet, especially if there is surface paint detail of hardware that will catch dampness underneath. I've also found that emery boards (available in a huge variety of grits) are invaluable for sprucing up the metal bits that so often sufferthe most significant deterioration.
HELP!! My Lucite/Bakelite bag is smelly, the edges are distorted, embedded metal bits and hardware are turning green, and there is liquid oozing out of it!!! Whats the problem and what can I do??
I'm sorry to hear about the problem with your bag. It sounds like a case of Bakelite disease. As far as I know, there is no cure. I have been in touch with some museum curators in Europe and there is some work going on to reverse this chemical process in early 20th Century sculpture, much of it Russian Constructivist work from the teens and 20s.
What I do know is that the process is an acidic change in the Bakelite, brought on by exposure to heat, dampness and sunlight, and possibly a reaction between the Bakelite and fumes from the plastic used in the lid, evidenced by crazing and fogging of the inside of the lid. The process causes the softening agents in the Bakelite to bleed out. The plastic becomes distorted and brittle and will eventually shatter. I've seen beautiful bags succumb to this problem, entire sections of the bag fracturing into tiny shards.
A similar but slightly different problem occurs with Lucite embedded with metal glitter and strands. In the presence of dampness, the metal will begin to form verdigris (that green stuff) and the acidic transformation will produce a similar vinegary smell. I have seen several bags ruined by this. It changes the color of the strands and can make discolored spots on the bag. Again, dampness and heat are the enemy.
I avoid contact between bags and any form of plastic. Try to store the especially vulnerable bags in fabric sacks, like pillowcases, or those old quilted fabric handbags.This avoids condensation, dust and scratching in storage. I put packets of silica gel that frequently come in shoes and other imported clothing inside susceptible bags to absorb dampness in storage.
All I can suggest is to place your problem bag, open, in a cool area, out of sunlight with air moving around. Sometimes the surface will dry, if the process has not progressed too far. Usually, it will not. Inhale deeply and REMEMBER THAT SMELL! Never buy a bag with this smell, as the process has begun and will likely progress. Don't store smelly bags with those not affected.
What Reference Materials Do You Recommend on Vintage and Collectible Handbags?
Visit Bag Lady University my online handbag reasearch center!
"Plastic Handbags: Sculpture to Wear" by Kate Dooner
Lots of photos and some details on Lucite and Bakelite handbags like those in the Emporium. It's the only text on the subject that is widely available. (The other book on the topic is out of print, but available on Amazon.com. The title is "A Certain Style" by Robert Gottlieb.)
"Handbags" by Roseann Ettinger
(out of print - available used on Amazon.com) A good general overview of handbags from the earliest into the 1950's. This one is a must.
"A Century of Handbags" by Kate Dooner
Lots of pictures and a little text. Special attention to alligator bags which are so collectible now. Features bags into the 1980's including Judith Leiber, Louis Vuitton and Gucci.
"Vintage Purses At Their Best" by Lynell K. Schwartz
Deals extensively with beaded and mesh bags of the late Victorian era to early 20th Century. Special attention to Whiting & Davis, Mandalian metal mesh bags, steel beaded bags and a section on home made bags: kits directions, etc.
"Judith Leiber: The Artful Handbag", text by Enid Nemy
An amazing exposition of the imaginative and delightful bags designed by Judith Leiber. It's a real eyeful! There are examples from the 70's into the 90's.
"A Century of Bags" by Claire Wilcox
A good overview of collectible bags with special attention given to recent and current designers.
"Restoring and Collecting Antique Beaded Purses" by Evelyn Haertig
The only reference I've been able to find that specifically deals with vintage materials and processes, with specific details on finishing and original terminology. Contains magnificent photography.
"More Beautiful Purses" by Evelyn Haertig
"Antique Combs & Purses" by Evelyn Haertig
"Vintage Vanity Bags & Purses " by Roselyn Gerson
"Purse Masterpieces: Identification & Value Guide" by Lynell Schwartz
"Whiting & Davis Purses: The Perfect Mesh" by Leslie Pina & Donald-Brian Johnson
Ladies' magazines of the period you are exploring
These will often contain patterns and designs for bags with directions. If you are interested in techniques, this might be an interesting area of exploration.
Your local public or university library
These may have period magazines available in microform.
Museums, antique shops, thrift shops, and flea markets
Any of these may be a source for examples. If you have never handled a metal mesh, Dresden mesh, steel beaded bag, etc., it is a real experience!
Emporium Archives: This portion of the Emporium is still under construction. Hundreds of items displayed in the old site's archives will be moved to this site in the future. Feel free to visit the old store to view the old archives until the move is complete. Use the search feature on this site to research your collection.
Catalog Requests: This website holds our entire catalog of items. You can print any screen by selecting Print from the File menu of your web browser.