European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal Exhibitions

‘Bags: Inside Out’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum

accessoriesbagsfashion exhibitionfashion history

A major exhibition, exploring the “function, status, design and making of bags” to illuminate the past and inspire the future

Back in December 2020, the V&A opened Bags: Inside Out, the UK’s most comprehensive exhibition dedicated to one of the most emblematic – and necessary – accessories. The exhibition was curated by Dr. Lucia Savi, and explores the history of bags and their relevance throughout the centuries, with a focus on their symbolic power their role in contemporary culture.

‘From a lavish 16th century burse 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.’ Lucia Savi, curator of the exhibition

The exhibition looks both at the objects that have become icons, thanks to their form and association with celebrities or special design moment, and at the way they are able to ‘carry’ belongings, and meaning.

The exhibition is divided in three main sections delving into the significance of bags as a category and also into the different history each object bears. The first section is called Function and Utility and examines bags as practical objects designed to hold our belongings; the second, Status and Identity, looks at the central role of the bag in celebrity culture as well as its notoriety amongst the political and societal elite.

The final section looks at the Design and Making process from sketch to sample, sewing to selling. focussing also on the design process, this section examines experimental forms and artistic collaborations allowed by bags as item at the centre of a wide network of people, designers, artists, practitioners and wearers.

Many of the objects on show belong to the V&A collection, and can also be found in our archive. Have a look and dive into the whimsical, practical, amazing worlds of bags – or stay tuned here for more insights on iconic bags and their histories.

The exhibition will stay on until 21st September 2021. To learn more visit the V&A Website