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Bags: Inside Out at the V&A

December 12 2020 - September 12 2021

Bags: Inside Out
Winston Churchill, Chancellor of the Exchequer, carries the dispatch box on his way to the House of Commons, in London, to present the budget, April 29, 1929. Photo Credit Bettman Getty


Practical, sometimes necessary and often wholly understated: Bags: Inside Out celebrates the history, status and power of the humble handbag. From luxury designs – think Mulberry and Karl Lagerfeld – to Winston Churchill’s despatch box and those worn by Margaret Thatcher and Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City, delve into the depths of fashion’s most functional accessory…

Divided into three equally compelling sections, the exhibition begins with Function, an exploration of the bag as a practical necessity, featuring Queen Mary’s gas mask bag fashioned during the Second World War and Winston Churchill’s red despatch box (pictured above).

The second section, Status and Identity, examines the ‘celebrity’ status of the bag in a luxury and pop-culture context; think of the gold Louis Vuitton ‘Monogram Miroir’ Speedy bag made popular by Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, and the ‘Lady Dior’ inspired by Princess Diana. Finally, Design and Making will look at the process of bag-making in which Mulberry will demonstrate the beginnings of the intricate process.

Curator of the exhibition, Lucia Savi said: ‘From a lavish 16th century purse made for royalty to the everyday tote bag, this exhibition offers an understanding and insight into the function, status, design and making of bags across the world and throughout history. These portable, yet functional accessories have long fascinated men and women with their dual nature that combines private and public. By exploring their continuing importance in our lives and as part of the history of design the exhibition highlights the V&A’s mission to illuminate the past and inspire designers of the future.’

Mulberry CEO, Thierry Andretta said: ‘As the largest luxury leather goods designer and maker in the UK, bags have always been our passion. We are pleased to support this wonderful V&A exhibition that explores the unique status of these objects in our lives. Bags can be functional and beautiful, public and private; they carry cultural and personal meaning as well as our belongings and they are iconic pieces of design, worth celebrating in their own right.’


12 December – 12 September 2021


The V&A, Cromwell Rd, Knightsbridge, London SW7 2RL




December 12 2020
September 12 2021
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Cromwell Road
London, SW7 2RL United Kingdom
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