Vintage lucite bags are one of the more collectible vintage accessories, especially for the mid century modern crowd. Lucite bags are for the most part both highly beautiful and highly impractical. I have found that if one is going to carry them, they have to be extra careful, and if they are clumsy like me lucite bags are probably left better on the shelf. My lucite bag (as of this moment, I only have one) prefer only to come out on special occasions, preferably in the evening.
So how did this whole trend start? With a man named Will Hardy. Vintage folks might not know his name, but if they know lucite, they might know his brand, Wilardy.
Hardy who had an affinity for all this plastic thought it would be a perfect medium with which to construct a woman’s handbag. He wanted to create a indestructable hand bag, one that would be as strong as an automible that would theoretically last forever. In the 1950s plastic was all the rage, it was seen as new and very futuristic.
Hardy took over his father’s handbag business and shifted its focus directly to lucite. Pretty soon after he was decorating the hand bags with rhinestones, colored glass and fancy filagree hardware. His bags were both expensive to produce and to purchese. Despite their hefty price tag, they were also highly sought after, especially by Hollywood starlets.Some Wilardy bags could cost as much as $75, which was more then the average cost of rent in many parts of the country. Hardy’s bags inspired many knock-offs when other handbag lines wanted to jump on the Lucite bandwagon.
According to Wilardy.com, a site run by Will Hardy’s son, the company stopped production of the bags in the 1970s.
Today Wilardy’s bags are some of the most collectible on the market often selling for several hundred dollars to thousands depending on the style and rarity of the handbag in question. The knock offs are still fairly expensive, but cheaper then the average Wilardy bag.
Today, designers still make bags from lucite, although today the plastic has come to be known as “acrylic” or “persplex.” Lucite is a name given to the plastic by Dupont who had a trademark on the name.
Many fashion design houses from Chanel to Gucci have come out with their own versions of lucite bags over the years. Two British designers, Charlotte Olympia and Edie Parker regularly use acrylic to make their hand bags which are just as pricey and sought after as Will Hardy’s bags 60 years ago.
For more information, check out Wilardy.com