Thursday, July 9, 2009

My Love/Hate Relationship with Lucite Purses

Whenever I go out with one of my beloved lucite purses, I get comments and compliments. Lucite purses are striking, and quite frankly they are unlike anything that you can buy at the department store. Sadly, they just aren't terribly useful. Most are small, making it hard to stow keys and a wallet inside together. They are often pricey, so when I do use mine I often worry about cracking the lucite or damaging them somehow. These drawbacks haven't stopped me from acquiring quite a few lucite purses.

My most useful lucite purse is a Rialto model. Rialto Products, formerly known as Rialto Button and Wood, was a New York Company that became known for its lucite purses with heavily carved lids. The Rialto that I have sort of resembles an ice bucket, but it is large - it is one of just two lucite purses that I can actually fit my wallet into. Sadly, the clasp is broken so it doesn't close properly. Since the purse is tall, it is prone to tipping, which results in everything spilling out. This purse is my "beater" lucite purse, as I purchased it at a large discount due to its existing damage, so I don't mind if it gets banged around a bit. While a fine Rialto purse can run well into the hundreds of dollars today, they retailed for between $11.00 - $15.00 in the 1950's.

On the other end of the spectrum is my Majestic. My Majestic is a clear lucite purse with a tan basket weave embedded into the plastic. This purse was never used, and there is not a nick or scratch on it anywhere. In fact, it came with a pristine booklet touting the quality of Majestic products. I'm absolutely terrified to use this lovely purse, so it adorns a shelf.

In between, I have a number of other lucite lovelies. I have an unlabeled "picnic basket" style tortoise purse with a clear lid - there are usually about 5 of this particular model for sale on eBay at any given time.

I have a delicious carmel colored purse with broken handles - I'm hoping to find a mate for it that has pristine handles but a broken purse so that between the two of them I can have one nice carmel purse. I have a lovely gray purse with a delicate metal filigreed clasp - that one wins the "most useless purse" award because it is ridiculously tiny. My favorite is a gold-trimmed tortoise colored purse that I found in pristine shape at an antique store. That was the most I've paid for any lucite purse ($120) although I suspect it is worth more.

It isn't hard to see why these purses fell from fashion. They are striking, colorful, and they do turn heads, but at the end of the day, it is so much easier to cart your goods around in something more flexible and less prone to damage.

Want more information about vintage purses? Check out Bag Lady University, or see my review of BLU's site!

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