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A Look at the Costume Institute's Judith Leiber Collection

The Costume Institute hosts a dazzling display of items that span seven centuries of fashion from the 15th century to the modern day. This impressive exhibition of men's, women's, and children's clothing and accessories take you through past and present designs that inspire iconic and current trends. 

Behind the scenes, The Costume Institute is also home to a state-of-the-art conservation laboratory and study/storage facility that holds some of the most iconic and famous fashion libraries in the world. 

Due to the nature of the displays at The Costume Institute, the collections are not on permanent exhibition. However, you can enjoy fashion-focused tours that deliver insightful context about the items, including its history. 

Alongside these tours, you can also explore the pieces in The Costume Institute's online collections. Among the objects on display, you can view articles from Judith Leiber couture and learn about the history of our beautiful Judith purse designs. 

Take a look at some of our favorites in the Judith Leiber collection below:

1981 Evening Bag 

This spectacular Judith Leiber crystal clutch is a sparkling example of our timeless clutch purse designs. The intricate detail and craftsmanship are used in each modern piece in our current collections. The beautiful clear crystal stones are some of our most popular designs, and this style of Judith Leiber clutch would have complemented many occasion wear fashion pieces. 

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1962 Black Purse 

Classic black Judith Leiber handbags are a thing of beauty, and this example is no exception. The classic handbag design of the 60s is complemented by a small coin purse and a beautiful gold-tone timepiece that sits beautifully in the small side compartment. This handbag also featured at the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1995 and was titled "Judith Leiber: The Artful Handbag,"

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1978 Evening Bag 

Judith Leiber evening bags are a timeless accessory that accompanies all types of formal and occasion wear. This example dates back to the 70s and displays an iconic glimmering shell finish, which was popular in this decade. Its chic appearance is a popular example of Judith Leiber clutch bags and includes a gold-tone strap so the bag could be worn elegantly on the shoulder or the arm. 

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1990 Clutch  

Judith Leiber purses are synonymous with this classic clutch style handbag. Made in leather and with semi-precious stones, this piece is a beautiful example of the timeless nature of Judith Leiber's works. To accompany the clutch, the clutch also features a gold-tone hand mirror and comb engraved with Judith Leiber. 

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1991 Pink Roses 

Another iconic example of the Judith Leiber rose clutch design is this pretty clutch titled 'Pink Roses.' This cute animal design has become an inspiration for our classic designs and features striking crystals and gold-tone hardware. This piece also features a small gold-tone comb, hand mirror, and tiny purse, which all fit beautifully into the clutch.  

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1982 Minaudière 

This exquisite piece from the Judith Leiber collection is an example of the craftsmanship that goes into each of our statement handbags and clutches. Its iconic gold-tone and floral engraved design would have perfectly accompanied eveningwear and formal dress. Its name by the Costume Institute Minaudière means a small, decorative handbag without handles or a strap. It is also sometimes considered a piece from our Judith Leiber jewelry archive due to its delicate detail and nature.  

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FW 1992/93 Story Box 

Back in fall/winter 1992/93, this beautiful handbag titled 'Story Box' was an iconic part of the collection. Its box design is a striking piece that emulates the story that fashion can tell for the wearer. This piece is also accompanied by a small gold-tone coin purse, hand mirror, and comb. The red jeweled design is striking and exquisite and showcases the detailing of the small floral motifs within the overall design.  

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1991 Blue Aurum 

This dainty yet stunning piece titled 'Blue Aurum' features spectacular blue stones alongside gold hardware. This clutch is uniquely ball-shaped and has a rope-style handle to place on the wrist. Its unique style was showcased in an exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art titled 'Our New Clothes: Acquisitions of the 1990s' in 1999. Like many of the other pieces, this handbag is also accompanied by the signature gold-tone coin purse, hand mirror, and comb.  

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SS 1976 Evening Bag 

You will first notice the striking design of this spectacular Judith Leiber clutch alongside its beautiful colors and details. Created for the collection of spring/summer 1976, this bag was a showstopper then and now. This unique bag has been featured many times in museums and exhibitions, including: 

  • Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. "Judith Leiber: The Artful Handbag," in 1995. 
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution. "Ornament in the Twentieth Century," from 1978 to 1979. 
  • Corcoran Gallery of Art. "Fashioning Art: Handbags by Judith Leiber," in 2002. 
  • The George Bush Presidential Library. "Fashioning Art: Handbags by Judith Leiber," in 2004. 
  • Walton Arts Center. "Fashioning Art: Handbags by Judith Leiber," in 2004.  

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1991 Red Flame 

You can certainly see why this Judith Leiber piece was named the 'Red Flame.' Its unique red and black design creates an eye-catching accessory alongside its ball shape. This style bag was popular in the 90s and remains a classic look for clutch bags. It is an ideal accompaniment to formal and occasion wear and also features the traditional gold-tone accessories of the era. 

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These are just a snippet of the collection in the Costume Institute's collection. With over 100 clutch bags and handbags to view, you can see the whole collection here. The designs featured to give you an insight into the history and heritage of our brand and provide inspiration for your own accessory collection. 

Why not take a look at our current collection and explore the craftsmanship and details inspired by our previous collections.