Lucite Purses - Popular Bags of the 1940s

When many ladies hear “Lucite handbags”, they stereo-typically associate them with plastics (PVC), meaning low-price, cheap, economical, or low-integrity.

How far from the truth!

Created by Viryabo@Polyvore
During the prosperous years that followed the end of the 2nd World War, the boom years to be precise, a thermoplastic product was the rave. From interior and industrial design where plastics were used for furniture and geometric forms, to fashion and style where designers created fashion accessories like jewelry, handbags, clutch bags, and purses using strong and durable thermoplastics.

Vintage Lucite is sturdy and was a much better than Bakelite, an earlier plastic of the 1920s used in radios and jewelry.

Lucite bags became popular in the 1940s with purse lines which include:
  • Rialto
  • Maxim
  •  Shoreham
  • Tyrolean
  •  Llewelyn
  • Venzer
  • Charles Foster
  • Wilardy Originals


Lucite hand bags and purses came in so many forms and variety including the trendy shell-shape purse, the flashy rhinestone studded birdcage bag, and the regal blue-beaded bag inspired by the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

There were also handbags with their casings pre-filled with anything from smooth pebbles, seashells, raffia and artificial flowers, to glitter, ribbons, and even pressed butterflies.

Some feature embroidery and hand painted details, with embellishments like faux pearls, diamanté, beads, and metals. Many Lucite handbags had matching compacts and/or cigarette cases often mounted directly onto their lids but then in some way, these handbags originated from designs of women jewellry boxes created by Will Hardy, son of Wilardy founder.

According to history of fashion, “After he designed a Lucite jewelry box for buyers at Saks Fifth Avenue, they recommended adding a strap to turn the box into a handbag. This led to Hardy’s entry into the world of plastic purses, and by 1951, the Wilardy business was producing 64 styles of Lucite bags in 14 different colours”.

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