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Whimsical wicker handbags for spring and summer

Vintage Marcus Brothers Novelty Rattan Horse Head Handbag.
Vintage Marcus Brothers Novelty Rattan Horse Head Handbag.
Photo by Wicker Paradise, CC License,

Now that the temperature is rising, it's time to put together your spring and summer looks. One great way to bring a sense of fun into your outfits is to accessorize with a wicker handbag. These bags have been popular since the 1950s. They include picnic-basket style handbags, figural animal-shaped bags, and classy woven bags.

You can find wicker bags at all price points in Austin. Opportunities abound to find new and vintage wicker at thrift stores like Savers, major chains such as Walmart, or department stores, such as Dillard's. While you might not think wicker is versatile, think again! Wicker bags can go anywhere, including the beach, a wedding or brunch, and on your daily trip to the office.

For the beach, look for a tote with fabric or plastic lining. This will keep the sand from getting into your valuables. You can go with a large structured tote, or find one with flexible fibers or a fabric-type texture like this straw tote by Michael Kors. Also consider buying a vintage vacation bag with bright embroidery to cheer up your beach ensemble.

For a wedding or brunch, you might use a tightly woven, lady-like hinged clutch. Or for a sense of whimsy, a sculptural bag can be a lot of fun. While Kate Spade has fruit shaped clutches and even a Volkswagen Beetle-shaped handbag, check out thrift and consignment shops, such as Second Time Around, as well.

You can wear wicker to the office! First, look for a structured shape. You can often find medium sized bucket bags (sometimes with a zippered lining), a medium sized handbag, or a large tote. Make sure the weave is uniform and without decoration for a more sophisticated look (aside from the handles or lining).

If you want to have your wicker bag last several years (regardless of price point), examine it in person before purchasing. Here's what to look for:

  1. Check the handles for durability. Many bags have woven handles of the same materials as the body of the bag, but most use some sort of wooden or leather handle attached with rivets. Make sure they are well-sewn on, and that there aren't any loose threads.
  2. Examine closures. Sometimes the bag is open, like a tote. Others have toggle closures or even fabric liners that zip across the top of the bag. It should operate smoothly. Zippers should not get stuck, or pull. Toggles should not pop open on their own.
  3. Examine the weave work. Just like a knitted sweater, there will be places that the "yarn" ends and a new a new piece must be attached to continue weaving the bag. If these ends are sticking out or frayed, avoid purchasing the bag. One exception: If the fiber end can be tucked into the rest of the weave and seems to stay put, the bag should hold up well.

Finally, don't be prejudiced by where the bag is sold. There are wicker bags at Walmart with many of the same finishing details as bags currently at major department stores and other retailers, such as Dillard's. There are also adorable bags from the 40s, 50s, and 60s, still available in thrift shops, such as Goodwill or Savers. Keep an eye on the design features you want and let that be your guide.

Enjoy your new wicker bag!

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