Little Dooney Ducklings
The Dooney & Bourke duck logo is one of my favorite sightings when out thrifting. Like all good vintage foragers I live for a good bag find. But for a “find,” to be a find, it must fit a few criteria. Those after the jump.
Something Borrowed, Nothing New uses a few benchmarks to classify a great vintage bag. One: exceptional condition. The bag need not look like new, in fact, that is not what you are looking for in a vintage purse at all. What you want is “gently” worn with preserved character. Two: classic style. Now, there is always a place in your closet for a wacky period piece, but ultimately a vintage bag with staying power for day-to-day wear is something with a clean, classic look. And finally, the bag must have strong closures. The first thing to go on any bag is the closure; be it the clasp, zipper or the pull. Many vintage bags simply aren’t intact when it comes to their closures, and that just won’t do.
Dooney & Bourke bags hit all three marks. They simply hold up really well, both in material and style. Vintage D&B almost always meets all of the necessary criteria. Look at all these for sale in vintage section on Etsy:
That is why a few years ago I found myself with a closet full of vintage Dooney & Bourke handbags. So many that I had to put a moratorium on new bags altogether. (Except for the addition of a black, leather vintage YSL I found in Paris last year, which I could devote an entire column to. )
My Dooney & Bourke’s are the best everyday purses in my closet. They often pull double duty from day to night-wear.
Popular in the ‘80s, Dooney & Bourke defied the mixed and matched leather numbers that dominated back then. Interestingly, Peter Dooney and Frederic Bourke started their namesake company in 1975 as a men’s accessories line offering two introductory products: surcingle belts (the prep staple accessory) and classic suspenders. Out of South Norwalk, Connecticut D&B held onto their equestrian roots when they branched out into the handbag business, with the Tack Case and Equestrian Bag, both made from bridle leather. All of their collections, since the early ‘80s, have relied on leather-work craftsmanship and fine raw materials. (Check out their slide show of some of the more notable collections in D&B history here.)
That iconic duck logo with the russet leather trim came into being in ’83 with the development of their famous “All-Weather Leather,” that is 100% weatherproof, like water off of a duck’s back. Apparently, the weatherproofing process is a secret. Whatever the method, it makes the leather easy to clean and very durable, which is certainly why their bags make perfect vintage accessories.
Also, Dooney & Bourke handbags have always had a lower price point, from about $200-400. They call it “affordable luxury,” which helps explains why they are so readily available thrift.
I am not as up on their current day reputation. But I have, on occasion, seen a snooty 12-year old sporting a contemporary D&B, probably inspired by the company being rep-ed in recent years by the teen dream likes of Lindsay Lohan, and Michelle Trachtenberg. And, apparently, Hayden Panettiere made her own line of D&B’s.
I say stick to the vintage Dooney & Bourke. Their collections from the early ‘80s and ‘90s have more class then their current lines. And there are so many good finds. Check these that I spotted when out thrifting this weekend:
I have to admit that while trolling for photos for this post, I came across so many good vintage D&B finds that I practically doubled my collection today! I just bought this one :
Come on! A Dooney “doctor bag,”….. too good.
Don’t be fooled: The strange website, Horsekeeping.com, can help you identify the real deal Dooney.