As readers of Alligators know (and Hooti shoppers, too), our Mom has had her stylish moments for many decades, even when money was tight and her shopping time was limited by six kids. Mom had—and still has—a great eye, and in the 50s and 60s her absolute favorite brand of handbags was Koret. Their designs were classic and materials were top-notch, and that's why we still put that brand at the top of our list when we are hunting eBay, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. A good Koret sells quickly at Hooti, and if you've ever seen one, you know why.
But even a Koret can be a tricky vintage purchase, so here a few simple guidelines for buying vintage purses; if you follow them you should have very satisfying results. Plus we've listed a bunch of other great purse labels you might want to watch for. Keep in mind, though, that some of the most beautiful vintage purses out there, including great gators, have no label at all.
1) Look closely at the handle. especially where it attaches to the body of the purse! Leather handles often break first at the metal hardware, and often this is not an easy repair. (But if the body is great, you can cut off the handle and replace it with an old beaded necklace...but that makes it a whole different purse.)
2) Loose stitching is often fixable. If a purse is well priced, and the leather or vinyl isn't dried out or rotten, a shoemaker should be able to repair the problem.
3) Does the clasp work? If the purse doesn't close easily and tightly, pass!
4) Indentations are tricky. Vintage purses that have been stored poorly often have "dents" in them. Decide what you can live with because we don't know of any way to fix that...On the other hand, we don't worry all that much if a handle doesn't stand up straight because of poor storage. After all lots of these purses have been around for 50 years or more, and that's a long time to keep perfect posture.
5) Avoid fabric purses, especially satins, with exterior stains. We like to think we are stain masters, and we've had our successes with white and off-white purses, but, overall, purse stains are tricky business. Buyer beware. That said, we figure that almost every purse lining has been exposed to some abuse over the ages. If the exterior of a bag is good, we don't worry about the lining unless it is torn, rotten or plain ugly. Lipstick and ink stains are just too common to worry about.
6) If you are spending a lot of money on a reptile bag (lizard, gator or crocodile), educate yourself before you make a purchase. These bags can be incredibly durable and beautiful OR one short step from the garbage can. A dried out bag with split skins isn't worth your effort, and quality of construction is also a big factor to consider.
Finally, here's a sampling of the purse labels we love, in addition to Koret. Not every design is a keeper, of course, but we always keep our eyes open: Moskowitz (or MM), Dofan, Whiting & Davis, Lewis, Theodor of California, Vassar, Bellestone, Garay, Lou Taylor, Deitsch, Geller, Berne, Meyers, JR, Dover, Lucille de Paris, Revits, Calderon, L&M and Jay Herbert. As we said, this is just a sampling.
Good luck with the hunt.