Is That Flea Market Vintage Bag a Good One?
We have a lot of clients who send their vintage handbags to us for customization. It might be a family heirloom, but it might also be a flea market find. Sometimes you can get a great vintage handbag through flea markets and estate sales, but some pieces aren’t so great.
How do you know if a used vintage handbag is good enough to use before you buy it? Here are some tips for checking the quality of a bag (a separate issue from whether it’s a counterfeit!)
Does It Fit Your Needs?
Many 20th century handbags were made for style over substance. Today, large handbags are in because we carry so many things, but some eras dictated women should only carry a few essentials. Collecting vintage bags is an outstanding hobby, but if you’re looking for something you’ll use then make sure it fits your needs.
How’s the Hardware?
All bags have some sort of hardware for closing it, attaching a strap, keeping its shape, or keeping it off the ground. The material to look for is metal. Even if you choose an unusual material, like a 1950s lucite handbag, look for metal for the moving parts. Metal is far more durable than plastic.
Once you’ve confirmed the metal, check for fit and function. Do the zippers have all their teeth and move smoothly? Is there any rust? Is any internal framing complete and sturdy? If there is a magnetic clasp, is the magnet strong? Does the bag stay shut?
For some high-end luxury models, like Hermes or Chanel, you can sometimes find people selling replacement metal parts online.
Check out the Lining
The lining inside is the next place to check. No matter what the material is, you’ll want to check for things like:
- No holes anywhere
- No mold or mildew smell
- No separation on the seams, especially around the hardware and pockets
- Cleanliness of the interior
If the lining is sound, then you can assess whether the lining is good enough to meet your needs. Linings can be made of many materials, from high-end leather and velvet, to the cheapest thin plastic.
Check the Outer Material
Vintage handbags come in a truly astonishing array of types. While leather and canvas are our mainstays in our shop, you could run across beaded bags, metal mesh bags, lucite bags, straw, or even exotic leathers like ostrich or leopard skin!
Whatever the material is, first consider function. If you plan to carry a lot of weight in your bag, it must hold up to the strain and avoid stretching out of shape. If you’ll be outside with your bag often, it must also stand up to the elements.
If the material is a good fit, then look at the condition of the bag for cracking or missing pieces. Bags with damage may be cheaper to buy, but they may be difficult or impossible to fix. However, with the help of our designers, we may be able to repair or cover up the damage with embroidery, paint, and a little ingenuity.
If you find a vintage bag with a little wear and tear and want to customize it, connect with us and we’ll see what we can do to make it your own style, and make it something you’ll be proud to pass down through your family.