The V&A’s new designer handbag exhibition includes the first ever Birkin bag

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  • The first-ever made Hermès Birkin bag owned by Jane Birkin, the Fendi ‘Baguette’ bag worn by and stolen from Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City and Mulberry handbags worn by Kate Moss and Alexa Chung are just some of the standout pieces you’ll be able to see at the V&A’s new fashion exhibition Bags: Inside Out, which opens on 21st November.

    In case you hadn’t guessed, the exhibition is dedicated to all things to do with handbags over the last few decades, from despatch boxes, vanity cases to military rucksacks, as well as behind-the-scenes of how they’re made.

    As well as the aforementioned famous handbags, you’ll be able to see historical styles up close, including include a large embroidered burse used to protect the silver matrix of Elizabeth I’s Great Seal of England, a gas mask bag owned by HRH Queen Mary during the Second World War and Winston Churchill’s red despatch box.

    But perhaps the most iconic of all, one that to this day is still so in demand that it has its own waitlist, is the Hermès Birkin bag, created specifically for actress and singer Jane Birkin. She met the former executive chairman of Hermès, Jean-Louis Dumas, by chance on a flight from Paris to London and complained about how she could not find a bag suitable to carry her belongings and to fit her needs as a young mother.

    Dumas proceeded to sketch on an aeroplane sickness-bag, and the rest is history. That first Birkin bag from 1984 bears Jane’s initials, and was so heavily used that it shows residue of adhesive from the stickers she liked to apply to it.

    Lucia Savi, Curator of Bags: Inside Out at the V&A said: ‘The ‘Birkin’ is one of the most sought-after and celebrated handbags of the 20th and 21th century. We are thrilled that we will display the very first piece made for Jane Birkin which started this long-lasting fascination. This is a truly unique bag which was used and reused by its former owner and shows signs of wear on its surface. These very personal details remind us that bags are status symbols, but also practical companions to our everyday life.’

    Meanwhile, you’ll also discover one of the first Mulberry Bayswater launched in 2003, favoured by Kate Moss, as well as the Mulberry Alexa, launched in 2010 and inspired by British style icon Alexa Chung. She was often photographed carrying a well-loved Mulberry Elkington satchel, which caught the eye of the Mulberry design team.

    Other bags on display include the Chanel 2.55 bag, the Celine Phantome bag and the Dior saddle bag amongst many other iconic styles.

    Tickets for the exhibition are now on sale, with the museum also increasing opening hours to 5 days per week (Wednesday – Sunday) , following popular demand since reopening.

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