Do you ever come across a fabric or material at the thrift-store and think “What the heck is this?” I sure do. So, in an attempt to get a bit more educated about the vintage I buy (and resell), I thought I’d start up an irregular series that defines and illustrates materials I often see (and wonder about) at the thrifts. Today, let’s talk about metal mesh, also known as duramesh!
Although mesh handbags have been around for ages, it wasn’t until 1909, when A.C. Pratt of Newark, New Jersey invented the mesh-making machine, that these slinky accessories became widely available. When you’re out and about thrifting, look for these three brands: Whiting & Davis, Mandalian Manufacturing and Duramesh. Some Mandalian bags, like the one below, also bear the Lustro-Pearl mark, so keep an eye out for that name too.
After WWII, Duramesh became a major competitor to Whiting & Davis in the mesh purse game. Duramesh focused less on the artwork applied to outside of the bag (popularized in the ’30s), and more on shape and style of the purse itself. Here’s an ad for the brand that ran in the October 1955 issue of Handbag & Accessories, a trade magazine for buyers, inviting them to visit Duramesh showrooms in Chicago, Dallas and L.A.
It’s common to find accessories and jewelry that are made out of duramesh at thrift-strores and estate sales, including…
♥ Denting is common in duramesh purses. Hold the bag at an arm’s length and check the exterior.
♥ Examine the lining, making sure it is free from holes and discoloration. If you’re looking at jewelry, make sure the clasp is in good shape.
♥ Read the label/product details! Lots of Etsy sellers tag items “Duramesh” when it’s really not. (Take this halter top for example.) If you’re looking for vintage duramesh, you need to check the label!
Here’s what a vintage Duramesh label looks like…
Whiting & Davis purses can be identified by their stamp inside a bag’s frame…
or by their tag.
Modern Whiting & Davis labels will look more like this…
♥ To get a feel for judging the era, rarity and resale value of duramesh pieces and styles, window shop online. A quick search for Whiting & Davis on Etsy turns up thousands of goodies to sort through! Since duramesh bags and products have been mass-produced since the early 20th century, it might take a while to get the hang of knowing what’s vintage and what’s not…don’t stress, that’s part of the fun!
CARING FOR VINTAGE DURAMESH!
♥ Once you’ve found a piece you love, avoid contacting it with sharp or abrasive surfaces that might pull, poke or dent the mesh.
♥ Avoid exposing duramesh to hairspray, perfume or alcohol, too. If you do spill your drink on your bag (been there, done that!), wipe it up promptly with a soft cloth.
♥ Buff your bag occasionally with a clean, soft cloth to remove dirt and restore it to its original dazzle. Use a light hand; elbow grease isn’t required when cleaning this delicate material!
Now that we’ve tackled duramesh, I’d love to hear from you. Is there a fabric or material you wonder about when you’re at the thrift store? If so, please drop me a line!