Pillbox Style and Influences

Handbags and clutch purses are a staple fashion item in any closet. Some of the most iconic designs originated in unique places, and pillbox purses are no exception. As the name suggests, pillboxes were designed to hold small items such as medicinal products. The most famous pillbox design influences are often thought to be from around the first and second world wars. However, pillboxes date back to ancient times. They have played an essential part in the storage and portability of medicines and treatments for many years.

The history of pillboxes

It is suggested that pillboxes date back to around 1500 BC. The size of the box determined specific dosages and administered treatments as accurately as possible. While modern medicine has diminished the need for storage like this, they are without a doubt a collectible item.

Wartime design and influence

In the past century, another type of pillbox also has influences on this simple design. The military constructed pillboxes on both German and English soil to strengthen the line of defence. English forces named these structures pillboxes. The design and layout were similar to the shape of the box that chemists used to store and administer tablets during the war effort.

Pillboxes can still be seen across the landscape in both countries and vary in design and shape. Most commonly, circular constructions were formed, but hexagonal and square pillboxes are also prevalent in some locations.

Style replaces function 

Over time, pillboxes became a fashion statement, and some designs were kept on a bedside or dressing table. Other styles were created for portability, and miniature versions were adapted for convenience and accessorizing. As the pillbox clutch purse got smaller, it was recognized as a fashion piece rather than a functional item. 

Designers created pillboxes to compliment a women’s handbag collection and designed a range of styles to suit personality and style. Examples such as the Judith Leiber collection pay homage to the individuality of pillbox design.

Pillboxes are often considered a personal and luxury items such as pocket watches, fountain pens, and cuff links. The beauty of these items adds a personal touch to an outfit. However, they are not used for everyday occasions.

Simple design and functionality

The influence of the design of pillboxes can be compared to the simple yet functional use of the constructed building during war times. The interior was basic yet adapted to fit the exact use for which it was designed. The miniature pillbox is the same. Inside these small pillboxes, you’ll find a basic hollow area that holds a small item. In modern fashion, this could be simply used as a showpiece to complement your handbag.

Antique pillboxes

After pillboxes were recognized as a fashion piece rather than a functional item, the designs changed to accommodate this new use. Around this time, pillboxes were often engraved or adorned with stones or jewels. Different materials were also used to create pillboxes, including designs in precious metals and ceramic.  

Antique pillboxes are a collectible item, including those from pre- and post-war times. The different designs and shapes each have unique characteristics and a story behind them, making the cost of antique items more expensive than modern collections. 

Modern miniature pillbox designs 

The appeal of pillboxes is still prevalent today. These small yet beautiful clutches are perfect for adding to your collection. Small pillboxes are popular examples of the influences of a bygone era. Examples in the Judith Leiber Couture collection highlight the delicate yet dazzling addition this style of accessory can have in your handbag or purse. Popular pillboxes such as the Lipstick Pillbox Smooth and the Train Case Pillbox also create a beautiful display on a dressing table or vanity space.

Novelty pillboxes

As pillboxes progressed from practical uses to stylish small clutch bags, novelty designs became a significant feature in Judith Leiber evening bag collections. The whimsical styles and cute designs showcase a fun way to elevate your outfits. The use of crystal to produce glitzy and unique styles is a twist on the traditional functionality of this iconic box.

Pillboxes design to complement your style and interiors 

With crossovers in the design and function of both building and medicinal boxes, it’s no wonder these small yet spectacular designs can pair beautifully in your handbag and on your vanity table. These versatile and striking pieces can be kept on a bedside table or close to store small items such as rings and brooches.

While the miniature versions are designed to be portable and are an ideal complement to your handbag, they also make cute collectibles at home.

Clutch purse design and influence

The pillbox design was a significant influence on the creation of the clutch bag. Pillboxes are small, compact, and designed to be carried by hand. Clutch purses are very similar, just larger in size. The style of a clutch purse such as this beautiful Soho Satin Clutch is an example of the simple yet chic elegance of basic design with improved functionality. 

Made popular in the 1920s/30s, the clutch bag was designed to be held under the arm or close to the body. As we moved in the late 30s, 3D styles came onto the market to improve functionality further. The size of a clutch was perfect for small purses and pillboxes. It became a popular fashion item for occasionwear and formal looks.

When women started entering the workplace, clutch purse designs with finger loops and handles became a feature. Examples such as the Enchanted Clutch showcase the style of bag popular during this time. 

Iconic design never goes out of fashion 

While bags have increased in size over the past century, our love for beautiful design and unique style never wanes. Pillboxes and clutch purses are an iconic style that has stood the test of time. The simple and functional design of a bygone era may not be as practical in the modern day. However, this clutch purse style is becoming increasingly collectible and complements eveningwear with its simple construction yet dazzling embellishments.


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