Repairing a vintage handbag

Can you repair a vintage bag (or vintage purse, if you're American)? I’m going to find out the hard way if I’m able to! Anyway, before I attempt anything, I thought I’d ask your opinion.

Sod’s law dictates that it’s my most expensive bag, my lovely Riviera, that is in need of repairs. The line of stitching that holds one of the folds in the W-shaped bottom together has gone. The rest of it is fine, so I think it’s because thanks to the shape of bottom the bag can fold flat, and stress from folding over the decades has caused the thread to disintegrate. The bag is constructed in such a way that each piece of the lining was attached to a face and then the faces joined, the lining was not made separately and then attached at the top of the bag. When the bottom seam gave way, it meant the whole bottom of the bag had a split in it.

Now, one way to repair it would be to re-stitch the bottom. I can’t do this myself, it would have to be a professional job with a machine in order to go through the suede covering and cardboard inner, and I’m not sure how possible it would be to do this neatly, and in such a way that the bag still opened and closed properly. If you know a pro who could make a good job of this, please do say. The suede appears weakest along the base edge, with a tiny bit of wear, so I don’t think the stitching could be right on the edge, it would have to come a little way up the side, perhaps half a centimetre or so from the base edge.

The other option, and the one I currently favour, is to get some wide black satin ribbon, iron a fold in it lengthwise, then apply Gutermann fabric glue to the outer sides and carefully position it in the bottom of the bag, effectively creating a lining at the bottom. While this would mean the inside of the bag is no longer pristine, it would nonetheless be very hard to spot, and invisible from the outside. The Gutermann glue is fantastic stuff, it dries quickly and holds well. I’ve used it to repair other (much cheaper!) vintage bags in the past.

Have you any other ideas?


  1. I'd be inclined to hand sew it first of all, using the original needle holes. This is the usual technique for leather or suede, as extra holes are A Bad Thing.

    I'd also consider splitting the lining (or unpicking it from a top seam, and placing a third new layer of bag between the current two. This would be sewn from scratch as whole new bag, probably from silesia or other thin, strong fabric, such as would be used for pocket linings. This then becomes the entire strength of the bag. The outer is sewn up by hand to hold itself together, to have outer wear resistance and to look neat, but no longer has to carry weight. NB - the new inner layer must be small enough to be taut, without loading the outside.

    Then re-assemble the inner liner, so as to be slightly looser than the strength layer.

  2. Ta for that, Quercus. Having had a good look under sunlight, I think the suede has also gone along the line of stitches. The front and back panels of the bag are okay, it's the base that's the problem. Deffo looking like a glue job.


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