Are you familiar with Caro-Nan bags? These handpainted basket bags were made in the 1960s and 70s and sold in dress shops throughout the South (and maybe beyond?). My mother had a few Caro-Nans in the mid-70s and I had totally forgotten about them until I stumbled upon one on eBay. It brought back so many memories - they way things from your childhood can when you see or hear them for the first time in several decades. But, the bags aren't just nostalgic - they are also cute and practical. You can guess where this is headed - I found myself bidding on one, then another one, on eBay.
The Caro-Nan signature bag has buildings painted around the bottom - these are labeled with the names of real places in the towns where they were sold. My large bag was sold at a shop called 'Lady Jane' in Savannah, hence the Savannah landmarks: The Herb House, Colonial Dames House, Independence Presbyterian Church, etc.). It also features one of the cornerstones of 1970s crafting - decoupage. (Remember Mod Podge?) Many of the Caro-Nan bags also had a penny, from the current year, decoupaged on the top. I'm keeping an eye on eBay for one that has a penny from my birth year.
The bags have gingham linings and are very sturdy and roomy and are signed on the inside lid. There are bags featuring lots of different cities and towns, plus many other charming motifs (turtles, golf, tennis, flowers) - I'm sure there's one that's perfect for you! (And, in these lean times, these bags can be a great deal - much cheaper now than when they were new! Watch eBay for a few weeks and you'll see several in great shape for less than $30 - if you're not worried about the condition you may find one for under $10.)
I've used the 'Savannah' bag the whole summer and am using the 'Turtle' bag to store stationery in my office. I'd love to find out more about Caro-Nan, but there is very little information online. Was she a mom who painted purses as a sideline? Did she visit all the cities represented on her bags, maybe for signings? Did she start out to paint a bag for herself and end up with a successful business? We may never know, but we can enjoy her work.
If you're hooked on other vintage bags, I'd love to hear about them!