If you could use just one word to describe the handbags of the British designer Lulu Guinness (1960–), it would have to be feminine.

Whether in the form of flower buckets, birdcages or quaint English cottages, or in more conventional or conservative shapes and styles, these are the purses that revel in prettiness and charm – miles away from the brassy ostentation of many of Guinness’ contemporaries. One of her inspirations was her mother, whose handbag rituals involved gloves, the smell of powder and putting on lipstick 15 times a day. In a Lulu Guinness bag, the clipped, meticulous glamour of the 1950s is reborn.

British Model Agyness Deyn with a Lulu Guinness Lip Clutch

The Lips clutch is an apt leitmotif of the Lulu Guinness brand, evoking as it does the bee-stung mouths and hyper-femininity of 1950s stars such as Marilyn Monroe. Feminine glamour, however, is not the whole story here. As in much of Guinness’ work, the Lips clutch also shows the designer’s love of surrealism, of the most playful and light-hearted kind.

Salvador Dalí’s Mae West’s Lips Sofa from 1936

It is not too much to see in this glossy, dainty evening bag a tribute in microcosm to Salvador Dali’s infamous, outrageous Mae west lips sofa, a creation of he late 1930s.