Margaret Thatcher's Handbag To Go On Display At The V&A

Margaret Thatcher's Handbag To Go On Display At The V&A
Margaret Thatcher outside 10 Downing Street with the Asprey handbag, 1987. Photo: John Redman/AP/Shutterstock

The V&A Museum has released further details of its upcoming exhibition focusing on bags, with items including Margaret Thatcher's iconic grey Asprey handbag going on display.

While luxury leather goods brand Mulberry sponsors the exhibition, it's not all about high-end handbags. The exhibition focuses on our long-standing obsession with bags of all types, and Thatcher's arm candy isn't the only 'celebrity' item to feature in the exhibition.

Winston Churchill's Colonies Despatch Box, when he was Secretary of State. Image courtesy of Sotheby's

Winston Churchill’s despatch box and a Queen Mary's second world war gas mask bag are among the historical items to ogle.

Winston Churchill, Chancellor of the Exchequer, carries the dispatch box on his way to the House of Commons, in April 1929. Photo: Bettman Getty

Of course, there's plenty for fashion fans to mull over too, including a Fendi 'Baguette' bag worn by fashion-forward actress Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City. Innovative designs from Mulberry and Karl Lagerfeld, a Hermès 'Kelly' named in honour of Grace Kelly and a 'Lady Dior' handbag named after Princess Diana all help to chart the rise of the 'It bag' phenomenon.

Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel Lait de Coco evening bag Autumn/Winter 2014, Paris (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The exhibition is split into three sections — Function, Status & Identity, and Design and Making — covering the whole life span of a bag, from factory to shop, and from status symbol to practical item. Find out how the purpose of a bag — be it carrying make-up, confidential documents or holiday clothes — is reflected in its design.

Rhinestone encrusted metal 'Faberge Egg' evening bag, Judith Leiber (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

There's also an insight into the design process of a bag, from sketch to sample. Discover how the different materials and skills from different parts of the world have influenced the style of individual fashion houses.

Thatcher's handbag is one of many items to portray the bag as symbol of power, while slogan bags such as Anya Hindmarch's 'I am NOT a Plastic Bag’ tote depict the use of bags as a blank canvas for sharing opinions.

Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton, Speedy handbag, Autumn/Winter 2006, Paris (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The exhibition finishes with a look to the future, showcasing designers who are experimenting with innovative and environmentally sustainable materials. See a Stella McCartney backpack made from recycled ocean plastic waste and a bag crafted from decommissioned fire hoses by Elvis and Kresse.

Stella McCartney x Parley for the Oceans. Spring/Summer 2018, London (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The 300+ objects on display range in size from tiny fingertip purses to huge travel trunks, and in date from the 16th century to the present day.

Bags: Inside Out is at the V&A Museum, 25 April 2020-1 January 2021. Tickets, from £12, go on sale in early 2020.

Last Updated 12 December 2019

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