What Is a Lucite® Purse?

V. Cassiopia

A Lucite® purse can be broadly defined as a vintage fashion accessory made either of Lucite® or a different material and having Lucite® handles. The material is a specialized form of plastic that was popularly used to make women’s accessories in the 1940s and 1950s, and which is now marketed for use with vintage accessories. Purses made of Lucite® can vary widely in price, from being relatively inexpensive to being highly costly.

Lucite has been used to construct joint replacement structures during surgical repair of damaged joints.
Lucite has been used to construct joint replacement structures during surgical repair of damaged joints.

Many individuals who are part of the retro fashion scene — using elements of vintage fashion popular in the 1940s and 1950s — want to own and display a Lucite® purse. These purses have been manufactured in many types of designs and styles. For example, they can be box-shaped, square, or oblong; they can be clear or made of various bright translucent colors; and they can be plain or decorated, as with beads or rhinestones. Some are made of materials such as wicker or straw, but they are included in the category of Lucite® purses since the handles are made of Lucite®.

Lucite® was created in the late 1940s as a plastic called polymethyl methacrylate. It is basically a strong, clear or transparent plastic that solidifies after being poured. The material is so strong that it has even been used to construct joint replacement structures during surgical repair of damaged joints. Since it is so durable, many purses made of Lucite® have survived practically intact for 50 or 60 years.

A purse made of Lucite® can be an expensive vintage fashion item. One reason that many of these are so costly is due to their being manufactured by famous design houses — many with unique designs, highly visible metallic colors, and silky finishes. The cost of obtaining such a purse can vary from being relatively inexpensive to quite costly, depending on the designer name, fame of the previous owner, rarity of the style, and its condition.

A Lucite® purse has also sometimes been handed down as a family heirloom and has wound up in the vintage fashion market after being appraised for its value. Such purses can be found at a wide variety of retail locations, as well as on the Internet at web auction sites and other sites specializing in vintage accessories. They can also be found at antique stores, and some have been known to wind up in thrift shops.

Some things to look for when deciding to purchase a Lucite® purse include knowing about their basic shapes, which are usually either square, rectangular, ovoid, or trapezoid. The purse will generally have brass fasteners. The handles can be be anywhere from ½ to 2 inches (1.27–5.08 cm) thick. It is believed that the rarest color is red, making it most expensive; less costly colors include aqua, emerald green, light blue, yellow, and pink. The least expensive colors tend to be tortoise and gray as well as purses made of clear plastic. Another element in the cost is the general condition of the purse, since one that that is cracked or warped cannot be repaired.

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