Dating Vintage Handbags – Zips

I have heard and seen comments, suggesting that vintage handbags cannot or do not have plastic or nylon zips and that for a bag to be vintage it should have a brass zip. This is unfounded and in fact many vintage bags do have zips which are not brass.

Zips as we know them have been in existence since 1913 in fact  the idea was first developed and patented by Elias Howe (the inventor of the Sewing Machine) in 1851.

Howe, received a patent in 1851 for an “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure”.   it is believed that because of his success with the sewing machine, he did not try to seriously market his congruous closure thereby missing the recognition that he might otherwise have received.

Plastic or nylon celluloid zips have been around since the 1930s, however they were often unreliable and had frequent breaking issues. The problems with early plastic zips was also compounded by the fact that some of them did not have zip pulls.

Older vintage bags dating from the 1930s through to the 1950s are usually furnished with brass zips, however due the brass shortages caused during  World War Two,  some bags were fitted with nylon zips.

From the 1960s, bags seemed to have a good mixture of both nylon and brass zips; nylon zips becoming more popular, firstly with woven nylon zips introduced in 1963, followed by nylon coil zips in 1968, the latter is still in use today.

Vintage Girl Nicole



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