From the glamorous geometric styling that is a hallmark of 1930s Art Deco bags to the practical roominess of wartime bags, this was a time of contrasts. Beaded and embroidered bags continued to be popular – especially home-made bags when wartime shortages meant new ones were hard to come by – while box bags made their first appearance.

Anne Marie of France and the Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli added novel and surreal notes to handbag design, which would echo for years to come.

Beadwork bag with cream and white floral design, beaded clasp and catch, and gilt metal chain strap. Cream silk lining is labeled “K&G Charlet Bag.
Beadwork bag with curling thread motif, and with beaded catch and clasp. Lining is labeled “Bags by Josef Hand Beaded in France.” 1930s
Evening bag with hand-beaded and enameled frame and clasp. Labeled “The French Bag Shop, 1116 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, Florida.” 1930s