The evening bag was the accessory of the 1920s and 1930s — when Hollywood starlets and socialites began to frequently appear with handheld, structured bags at special events and on the red carpets. They were convenient, only carrying what was needed for a night out; and the absence of a shoulder-strap allowed for a standout outfit (typically gowns and fur) to get its due time in the spotlight. Generally covered in the nicest satins and velvets, bedazzled and bejeweled, statement-making evening bags were bags made to be seen.
Through the years, while the design du jour ebbed and flowed, evening bags were still prevalent, but relegated to mostly black-tie events — making appearances in many a high school prom photo circa 1990, or the Olsen Twins red carpet outings during their Our Lips Are Sealed era in the early aughts. In the last 20 years though, they’ve fallen off in favor of something a bit more transitional. During that time, they were generally cast off as dowdy, a generally impractical accessory only carried on fancy occasions.
But as of late, evening-style bags have been popping up more and more on the new arrivals pages of trend-driving e-commerce sites, like Net-a-Porter and Moda Operandi, and on the arms — and in the thoughtfully curated still-lifes — of influencers from all over the world, day and night.
“The evening bag is no longer just an evening bag, it’s a statement piece that tells a story,” Shouq Al-Marzook, one half of the Marzook design sisters, tells TZR.“The world today has turned into a global shared platform where exceptional products are recognized and celebrated.”
The evening bags of today don’t shy away from the characteristics that made them so glamorous in their heyday. Instead, they lean into the aesthetic. From spherical silhouettes and exaggerated box styles to delicate chainmail straps and extravagant top-handles, the styles of right now are just enough over the top — transforming them from a traditional accessory into something more like a work of art (and making them ideal for an Instagram shot).
“Women want to stand out and have their own personal style, says Al-Marzook. “For us fashion is all about the accessories; it’s what makes or breaks your look. The object d’art is a eye catching piece that will surely make any woman feel special.”
For designers, the reemerging popularity can be tied back in part to social media, but also to a movement towards a more transitional way of dressing. "We think that it definitely has something to do with the mini bag trend," offers Elke Ruge of the mother-daughter design team behind Montunas. "Every season bags seem to get smaller and smaller! Evening bags were defined by their size, so now when people wear small bags during the day there is an evening-feel about them."
As these new-age interpretations break the boundaries of how they perceived, and how and where they’re worn, these small bags have increasingly become part of an everyday uniform.
“There is a high-low moment that has been happening in fashion for quite some time and I think our bags really look as great with jeans as they do with a gown,” says Meredith German, creative director of Bienen-Davis, a brand originally founded in 1931, but was re-launched in 2018.
Bienen-Davis is not the only brand that artfully touches on the long history of evening bags. “There's a strong return to old fashion trends right now,” explains Cristina Roman, Communications Director of accessory brand Rosantica. “People love to combine classic styles with trendy and modern shapes. We wanted to lighten the “old” reputation [surrounding] evening bags by putting them in a fresh and young situation. Cool influencers have helped a lot,” she admits.
Roman and the rest of the Rosantica team utilized Instagram to build connections with some of the biggest fashion influencers, stylists, and celebrities in the world — with everyone from European super-influencer Camila Coelho to Beyonce coming to embrace the brand's statement-making designs. “It worked perfectly,” Roman adds. “They fell in love with the brand.”
Between the stand-out factor, versatility, and the ability to upgrade just about any outfit as soon as you pick it up, what more could you ask for in an accessory in 2019? Below, shop a few of the coolest evening bags (that you can wear any time of day) on the market right now.