Creative Vintage Handbag Ideas

There are plenty of interesting designer handbags available, but when searching for a classic, vintage, or just unusual style of handbag, try looking at antique shops or estate sales. Here are some vintage items to look for when searching for a new purse, work tote, or school bag.

Doctor’s Bag

The sleek lines of a traditional doctor’s bag or satchel, with a rectangular bottom and sloped sides, is a classic handbag shape that many designers use in their work today. While it may be difficult to find a doctor’s bag that is in perfect condition, a well-made satchel with some cosmetic wear and tear can work as a functional handbag, weekend bag, or carry-on for years.

Some may prefer a shoulder strap to the small set of handles that most doctor’s satchels have. With a little time and effort, a shoulder strap can be attached to a doctor’s bag.

Suitcase or Carry-On Bag

Consider using a vintage or antique piece of luggage as an oversized handbag or work tote. Many luggage companies produce small or mid-size carry-on bags that are conducive to being used as a purse or tote. Some brands to look for online or in antique shops include American Tourister, Samsonite, and designers like Prada and Louis Vuitton.


Declare love for the accessories on Mad Men by sporting a briefcase handbag. Vintage briefcases in rich leather come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are a unique alternative to a laptop or messenger bag. Unlike many vintage bags, briefcases typically have interior pockets. Like the doctor’s bag, it is possible to add shoulder straps to briefcases for easy carrying.

Carpet Bag

These pieces of luggage evoke images from literary works like Anne of Green Gables and Mary Poppins. Carpet bags, which usually take either a tote or satchel shape, are sturdy, versatile accessories.

Even if a vintage or antique carpet bag is nowhere to be found, companies like Victorian Traveler or Z’Etiquette offer new carpet bags. These items usually cost over $100 due to the craftsmanship involved, but the sturdiness and reliability of these accessories offsets the higher price tag.

As with any antique or vintage purchase, it is important to examine photos of vintage luggage carefully prior to purchasing. Don’t hesitate to contact the seller with questions, especially regarding marks on the bag or suitcase that cannot be identified from a photo. Be prepared to deal with some stains, worn areas, and musty odors from some antique handbags.

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