What Makes a Handbag 'Vintage'
Published: Sep 4, 2020
You probably hear it all the time. Having been a prevalent fashion buzzword for the last several years, “vintage” is being used so often to describe so many things in the fashion world that many people don’t really know its true meaning. It means ‘old’ doesn’t it? The answer is yes and no, and really depends on what kind of piece we are describing. When it comes to handbags in the secondary market, vintage takes on a whole different meaning.
What is a vintage bag?
A vintage bag is a unique or unusual bag, a real find, a piece of both art and history that often will outlast a modern bag because of higher quality workmanship and materials.
To delve deeper, let’s separate the terms “vintage” and “consignment”, because the two are very often used interchangeably and this can be confusing. The term “vintage handbag”, refers to those bags made at least 10 or more years ago. When it comes to their value, the designer plays the biggest role. Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Gucci handbags from times past remain very valuable and in demand for a number of reasons.
How are ‘consignment bags’ different from ‘vintage handbags’?
The term “consignment handbag” refers to any handbag being consigned in the secondary market and that bag is most likely not readily available in boutiques brand new. This could be a handbag from one or more years ago that you cannot necessarily buy new, but that may remain contemporary chic. What makes consignment handbags attractive is a lower price point and that they are no longer available in the designer boutiques. What makes vintage handbags so special is that one-of-a-kind, unicorn effect: they represent an era’s style and you will wear something that is unusual and very hard to come by.
Caption: A Vintage Louis Vuitton 60 Brown Duffle Bag in the signature monogram canvas and vachetta leather trim. Due to the highly durable nature of LV’s monogram canvas, this vintage example is in excellent condition - only minor wear around the corners and darkened leather handles exists.
Characteristics of a Vintage Bag:
Say you walk into a luxury designer resale boutique, or browse their online collection of handbags. How do you know if what you are looking at is vintage?
Vintage Chanel Handbags:
Let’s start with Chanel bags for example. Experienced Chanelistas will know an original, vintage 2.55 Flap Bag when they see one, compared to the contemporary Classic Flap by examining the lock and chain. The hardware may have a different tinge to it than you’re used to seeing (this is because vintage Chanel bag hardware was made with real gold plating!). While holding a modern Chanel bag you will still feel the quality, the vintage Chanel bags have a distinct heft and solidness to them that is no longer the same. They simply don’t make them like they used to, and this is true for most designers.
Caption: A vintage Chanel Chevron Quilted Classic Flap Bag. The interlocking CC logo is a feature first introduced by Karl Lagerfeld during his tenure as Chanel’s Creative Director. Such examples of Chanel Flaps in black and gold hardware retain their value incredibly well, due to their timeless silhouette.
Vintage Louis Vuitton Handbags:
You can easily tell if a Louis Vuitton is vintage because over time, their signature LV monogram canvas takes on a patina (one that many Louis lovers go crazy for!) This is the same for their leather handles. Vintage Louis Vuitton travel trunks and suitcases are also extremely popular because of their high quality materials and durability keeping them in excellent condition over the years.
Caption: Looking closely at these examples of vintage handbags will give you an idea of how they age. Chanel bags from the 80s and 90s hold their contrast and luster very well through the years. This is partly because of the quality of the leather workmanship, but also because the hardware used real gold plating. On the two vintage LV examples - the monogram Ellipse bag (center) and the monogram Alma bag (right) - you can see how the leather ages and acquires a patina over time. This rich honey-mustard hue gives the bag more contrast and, in many LV lovers’ eyes, makes the bag more desirable.
Where Can I Buy a Vintage Handbag?
Oftentimes, the best things in life come when you are not looking for them. This is especially the case with vintage designer handbags - few, besides avid collectors, actually set out shopping for a specific vintage handbag. The more likely circumstance is you are browsing a designer consignment boutique either in store or online and come across something that catches your eye. That said, the most important quality of a vintage bag is its authenticity, so the best place to look is always with a reputable designer reseller that provides an authenticity guarantee - that way, you can rest assured knowing the bag is real. Such retailers will often have a “Vintage” category on their website, so if you are browsing one be sure to check it out. You never know what treasure you might find.
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