1960s Fishes Tote with a Nod to Bonnie Cashin

I bought this great tote a few months ago, and I fall in love with it again every time I see it. There are no labels, so it could be a crafting project. If so, it is very well made. The burlap bag is embroidered with white yarn to form the net. The fish are made of felt and are also embroidered.

I love how the fish are attached to the bag at only one place so that they swing free.

This McCall’s sewing pattern dates from 1963. It’s possible that my bag was made from it. The decoration possibilities are endless.

Photo from Bonnie Cashin: Chic Is Where You find It by Stephanie Lake

McCall’s didn’t design this bag; they copied it from designer Bonnie Cashin. Cashin designed the bag in 1955 while designing for leather maker Philip Sills. She called it the Cashin-Carry.

Those of us who were around in the 1950s through the 1970s probably remember Cashin and her work. Today she is highly regarded as an innovator among fashion history fans. In fact, her work is so influential that many of the things she did first are just accepted as commonplace these days. Things like latches that convert your shoulder bag to a handbag. or turn lock closures, or layering. Even the handbag shapes that Bonnie designed are still being “designed” today.

One of Bonnie’s big contracts was with Coach. It was Bonnie who made Coach what it is today, and they are quick to capitalize on her name. I was recently in a Coach store and the young saleswoman who greeted me at the door was eager to tell me all about Cashin. She said she had never heard of her before going to work at Coach, but that learning about the designer was part of her job training.

You do see Bonnie’s design DNA all over the products in a Coach store. I’m glad that in some small way they do acknowledge all she did for the company all those years ago.


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12 responses to “1960s Fishes Tote with a Nod to Bonnie Cashin

  1. thrifter

    I have that pattern. I’m glad to know about Bonnie Cashin and her relationship to Coach.


  2. I love this! It’s great that you found the pattern, the original designer and acknowledged the (probable) home sewest 🧵too!


  3. Wonderful bag! Thanks for reminding me about Cashin, I know I’ve read about her/Coach before and will go hunting for more.


  4. Christine Seid

    You find the most interesting things. I so appreciate that you have the knowledge to give us some background and details beyond the design. Thank you.


  5. jacq.staubss@yahoo.com

    Sleek chic to “koooky”! She did it all. A inovator not a follower ! Love her style! Thank you for this ,


  6. Laura

    It is cute! Can it be worn as a shoulder bag? Or is the strap too short for that. If you still have the bag handy, a set of measurements would be divine!!


  7. SewNoCo

    This pattern was my first project for seventh grade sewing class in Tucson in 1967! After completing the assignment, we were supposed to use the bag to carry our gym clothes home every Friday and back to school clean, starched, and pressed on Monday. So many domestic skills wrapped up in that sentence. The other class project was an apron. Happy homemakers in training!


  8. fitch

    My mother made me a bag from this pattern to carry my tap dance shoes to lessons around 1970! Thanks for the background!


  9. Vicky Loebel

    Fabulous! If it was made from the pattern, they should have hired the seamstress to create examples for the pattern book:).


  10. Pingback: 1964 McCall’s Needlework and Crafts Solves a Mystery | The Vintage Traveler

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