By the early 1950s, plastic had become ubiquitous in American homes. Meanwhile, innovative handbag manufacturers started using a tough plastic, trademarked Lucite, developed in the 1930s.

American “Beehive” handbag, with body of ribbed and pearlized white Lucite, and top of clear Lucite with inset gold-plated bee motifs. 1950s

Basket-shaped Lucite purse with wavy ruff and gilt metal hardware. 1950s

For many women in the emerging middle classes, leather and fabric bags were too expensive; Lucite bags, though hand-made, were affordable and their novelty shapes fitted with post-war optimism. By the end of the decade, however, the availability of cheap, mass-produced bags, combined with a return to the fashion for leather, caused the Lucite craze to die out.

Marbleized silver Lucite bag, with carved leaf design, double handles, scrolling initials “RJG” to lid, and clear Lucite feet. 1950s

Sculptured red Lucite purse, the clasp decorated with rhinestones. 1950s

The major manufacturers were Myles Originals, Gilli Originals, Wilardy Originals, Llewellyn, Inc., Tyrolean, Inc., Rialto, Dorset Rex, Charles S Khan, Maxim, Majestic, Miami, and Florida Handbags. Most bags were labeled.

When buying Lucite bags, condition is important; cracks, or deterioration such as fogging, will reduce the value.