Friday, March 26, 2010

Handbag à Trois

When ingenuity from Mars meets vanity from Venus, the results can be a vintage novelty that absolutely deserves to be out and about again . . . have you ever heard of 3-in-1 bags, whose clever hardware and reversible, detachable panels convert a simple frame handbag into three different looks?

The genius behind the technology--and I don't use either term lightly--was Edward R. Lowy, who obtained US patent 02809685 for the system in 1957. The 3-in-1 bags were marketed at different times under the name Lowy and Mund, Edwards, and L & M. All featured the double-sided sheath that could be removed and/or flipped to reveal a surface of leather (sometimes stamped), cloth faille, and a more elaborate covering, possibly needlepoint, tweed, or metallic vinyl.

Others followed, namely the Andre bag company in the US and Elgee in England. All three makers show up with some regularity at online auction sites and shops, and they're worth looking out for, because the prices are typically quite low. I'm especially fond of the bag pictured from Etsy seller quirkyworkstudio, especially since the instructions (above) come along.

Practical, functional, versatile, cute. Where have these great old values gone?

(Many thanks to the always comprehensive Bag Lady Emporium for the Lowy story--here you'll find other examples of Edwards bags, representative labels, and everything else you need to know about vintage bags totalement).

Update: It doesn't stop at three! EBay seller VivalaFrance kindly provided these scans of her mint Lowy Bag, which offers five different looks in one. Up for auction here.


  1. I have one of these! Mine channges from black patent to tortoise shell. Thank you so much for the information!

  2. A pleasure, Lesley Ann---I enjoyed discovering these--If you have the time and inclination, send in a jpeg; I'll include it in the entry . . . thanks for commenting, best, C

  3. I am not sure how to do that. I do not own a proper digital camera and only have a camera phone. I will see what I can do!

  4. I had one from my grandma--the same tapestry/vinyl cover on a grosgrain faille bag (with awesome lucite handle). the downside was DON'T LEAVE THE VINYL SIDE NEXT TO A PAINTED WALL. Something about the old vinyl chemically bonded with my (possibly latex?) wall, and pulled paint off the wall, stuck permanently to the vinyl bag.

    just fyi.

  5. Wow, Robin, that's what I call a helpful tip. You might try petroleum jelly to ease off the paint, or, if that doesn't work, very very careful dabs of nail polish remover (which might disturb the finish on the vinyl). Or you could keep the vinyl side in. Thanks for posting!!

  6. I have this bag with tapesty, black cloth and brown metallic patent. I did not realize that it changed to the other covers until finding your website, I will send a picture.

    Nancy Patterson