Some people think of them as a necessity, others an accessory, but there’s no denying that the mighty bag holds a substantial role in our lives. Ever wondered more about the history and what goes into the making of a handbag? Well, nows your chance to find out. Sponsored by Mulberry, Bags: Inside Out, which opened on Saturday at the Victoria and Albert Museum, features over 250 objects spanning nearly 500 years,
It is the UK’s most comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the ultimate accessory. From designer handbags to despatch boxes, vanity cases to military rucksacks, the exhibition explores our longstanding fascination with the bag.
Featuring innovative designs from Mulberry to Karl Lagerfeld, bags carried by Jane Birkin to Sarah Jessica Parker, the heritage of Hermès to the streetwear of Off-White, and an exclusive look inside the world of the factory and atelier; Bags: Inside Out provides an unprecedented look at this global obsession.
The first section of the exhibition on Function and Utility examines bags as practical objects designed to hold our belongings. The second of the three exhbition sectors, Status and Identity, looks at the central role of the bag in celebrity culture as well as its notoriety amongst the political and societal elite, whilst the final section looks at the Design and Making process from sketch to sample, sewing to selling.
Here is a sneak peek at just some of the many bags, and the story behind them…
Opera bag and contents
This small leather bag measures just 16cm when closed and was an essential opera bag in 1910. When opened, it reveals a spacious interior divided into compartments and pockets in which all the necessary accessories needed for a lady for a fabulous night at the opera could be neatly kept: a snap-fastening change purse at the
top, a scalloped pocket containing a leather-backed mirror, a bone notecard and a pencil. There is also enough space for opera glasses and a collapsible fan of embroidered white silk and a powder puff. So pretty!
Jane Birkin’s ‘Birkin’ bag
Courtesy of Catherine B Paris
Hermes’ chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas created this now-legendary bag for English singer Jane Birkin after they sat together on a flight and she complained of being unable to find a leather carrier with pockets that she liked. This ‘Birkin’ was the first-ever made and, unlike the ones that followed, it is also equipped with a shoulder strap. It was heavily used by Jane Birkin and shows residue of adhesive from the stickers she liked to apply to it. It is now a world-wide known staple for many!
Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton Autumn Winter 2006
Louis Vuitton’s Creative Director, Marc Jacobs (b.1963) debuted his ‘Monogram Miroir’ collection of handbags during the brand’s Autumn–Winter 2006 runway show. This example made from gold reflective vinyl is embossed with the famous monogram. Highly sought after, the mirrored bags were popularized by celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian during the ‘It bag’ craze of the early 2000s.
‘FabergéEgg’ evening bag
1983, United States
Judith Leiber’s (1921-2018) whimsical evening bag designs took on a variety of forms, from animals, to fruits or in this case a Faberge egg. Highly collectable, these bags were handcrafted and often encrusted with thousands of crystals.
The exhibition Bags: Inside Out, Sponsored by Mulberry, opens December 12 2020. Tickets from £12.