Bags: Inside Out

Sponsored by Mulberry, Bags: Inside Out is open to the public at V&A Museum in London until 16th of January 2022.

From the tiniest coin purse to a hulking trunk, all bags variations are featured in the exhibition. It features the glamorous and practical items from the 16th century; from being worn inside clothing to keep valuables, to becoming an iconic showpiece or status symbol. The exhibition also looks at innovative modern ways of making bags more ecological or as a vessel for political statements.

Lucia Savi, the curator brought together bags varied in appearance and function up until today. With around 300 objects display, Bags: Inside Out highlights a sturdy container for a second World War gas mask, a Versace rich puncture with safety pins, a rhinestone-encrusted Fabergé Egg evening bag, to a restored Louis Vuitton’s travel trunk from the 1900s. The exhibition celebrates the unique status of bags for our lives, looking back into the history and its craftsmanships. Here, we could see Winston Churchill’s red dispatch box, Kate Moss’s Bayswater iconic Mulberry bags, and Kim Kardashian’s beloved monogram mirror bag.

Taken a broadly thematic approach, Savi set three sections differently. Downstairs are for bags devoted to status and travel, everything about Function and Utility, like the sequinned Carrie’s Fendi Baguette bag in Sex and the City. Here it explores practical bags with specific purposes. The beautiful and playful bags are laid out behind glass cabinets in rows. The Churchill’s red box from 1920s is displayed in this section.

Function and Utility


Then the Status and Identity section explores the central role of brags in celebrity culture. Here we can see the first Hermès Birkin bag created for Jane Birkin also an Hermès Kelly named in honour of Grace Kelly and Lady Dior named after Princess Diana. From the 2000s era, here we can find Kate Moss’ Mulberry.

Status and Identity

Meanwhile, the upstairs are more on craft and construction, everything about Design and Making. Set in a light open area, stock books are displayed with copperplate writing and compact pen sketches as if an area to design and manufacture. Tools for working on leather are lined up and the ‘makers table’ area is designed to engage the visitors in the construction process from paper patterns to real hardwares. Bag designs sit alongside displays of whimsical bags, here is the section of handbags and arts. There are Vivenne Westwood’s clutches and Prada Lucite bag with real embalmed insects.

Design and Making

Bags: Inside Out
features the historic forerunners bags like a 1740s tie on pocket that was worn under the petticoat and hoops, a chatelaine from 1863, and a Paris made opera bag in 1910. Those acted as an adornment for women fashion back in the era as well as an exquisite triumph wrested from duty. While from the 20th century, there are bags with zips, buckles and inner pockets. In this period, bag still acts as a power signifying as some are priced crazily high. Then there are also small bags for credit cards only, medium bags like Launer’s, to big bags, they are all outlaid enticing the spectators and bag lovers.

‘From rucksacks to despatch boxes, Birkin bags to Louis Vuitton luggage, Bags: Inside Out explores the style, function, design and craftsmanship of the ultimate accessory.’ 

‘Fabergé Egg’, evening bag, by Judith Leiber, 1983


Despatch Box owned by Winston Churchill, by John Peck & Son, about 1921




Grasheli Andhini