Crystals are a Girl’s Best Friend

Lorelei Lee, the adorable character played by Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Howard Hawks (1953), had an obsession for diamond jewellery and she was lucky enough to marry a her very rich fiancè, who surely fostered this passion. Nowadays girls still love diamonds, but sometimes they can also be pleased by equally glittering and precious objects, Judith Leiber‘s amazing crystal minaudieres. The brand, founded by the Hungarian Leiber in 1963, means incomparable quality and craftsmanship, because all the pieces are hand-crafted and decorated by Swarovski crystals.

Generations of American ladies (and First Ladies) have carried these minaudieres since the launch of the brand, but Leiber became really famous thanks to Sex and the City and its costume designer, Patricia Field. I cannot count all the trends launched by the iconic tv show (just think of Fendi Baguette and Hermès Birkin bags, Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik shoes, nameplate necklaces, flower corsages and leather opera gloves), but the unique style of its characters is still lingering everywhere. For this reason, anytime I spot a celebrity carrying a Leiber clutch, Carrie’s swan-shaped bag comes to my mind.

I am referring to The Caste System, the tenth episode of the second season, where Mr Big gives Carrie what he thinks is the it bag par excellence, a Leiber animal-shaped clutch.

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Carrie is literally puzzled by this present (and so we are),but she fakes a smile for him, doesn’t know what to say about the bag and says she loves him instead.


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The following day, the clutch stands out on the table of the restaurant where Carrie and the girls are having lunch. Miranda comments her mother has a similar bag, but squirrel-shaped!

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When Carrie and Big go to a private party in the Upper East Side, she realizes Big has bought that bag not because it was trendy among Upper East Side ladies, not because it would have been the perfect present for her. Everywhere she turns, she notices Leiber bags, all in different shapes and colours. In the screecap below a bunch of flowers and a fruit (I couldn’t identify it) are visible.

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In the foreground there is a watermelon slice, which I actually like.

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The woman sitting on the couch has a pig-shaped bag on her lap, while the one in the background has an aubergine-shaped bag (this is quite creepy, in my opinion).

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It’s funny that Carrie decided to carry her swan at a party where everyone else is sporting the same kind of bag.

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Patricia Field picked an important Leiber piece for Sex and the City – the Movie (2008). The infamous cupcake-shaped bag has got an important role in the plot, because Lily, Charlotte and Henry’s adorable daughter, puts Carrie’s mobile phone in her bag before Carrie and Big’s wedding, and this causes all the drama of the movie. Leiber created a custom-made version of the cupcake bag for the movie, because Carrie’s phone didn’t fit in the regular version of the bag.

sex and the city movie cupcake

Katy Perry hosted the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2008: during the show and backstage she sported crazy and colourful outfits, including this weird satin “eye” satin dress by JC de Castelbajac. All my attention is focused on her sweet cupcake-shaped bag, because it is exactly the same as seen in Sex and the City – the Movie. I’m not a fan of Perry’s over-the-top and pin-up style, but she looked amazing in this ensemble.

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TV personality Rocsi carried the same precious bag (in chocolate version) at 2009 Bet Awards pre-event, and paired it to a strapless white dress and white lace-up peep-toe booties. I don’t care about the outfit, because it’s quite boring, but the bag is so cute!

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The actress Katie Cassidy, among the protagonists of Melrose Place, attended a Nylon Magazine party in August 2009, sporting a leopard-printed dress and hot pink pumps; she carried a Judith Leiber leopard-shaped minaudiere. I think the minaudiere is nice, but it doesn’t show on Katie because it has the same pattern of the dress. The lying-down leopard is very elegant, in my opinion.

katie cassidy leopard

One of the celebrities who has been recently spotted with a Leiber animal-shaped clutch in hand is Mary-Kate Olsen, who attended a CFDA reception in October 2009 sporting a black and white outfit. She accessorized it with a gorgeous elephant-shaped crystal clutch. This looks like a maharaja’s elephant, with that colourful carpet hanging from his back. I’ve never thought Mary-Kate was a Leiber girl, but it’s clear she loves statement accessories.

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Girls are not the only fans of Leiber’s dazzling bags. Richie Rich, the former Heatherette designer who has now turned to a solo career, sported one of my favourite minaudieres, owl-shaped, during the launch of Heatherette for MAC collection in 2008. Leiber’s style is very different from Rich’s unique taste, but this owl bag somehow works with his outfits.

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Leiber’s greatest fan is Jennifer Lopez, who often carries gorgeous crystal minaudieres. On Valentine’s day in 2009, she carried Heart n’ Soul, a heart-shaped clutch beaded with red hot crystals. I think she picked the perfect accessory for an amazing outfit – a Marchesa chiffon dress and Christian Louboutin Carnival satin D’Orsay pumps.

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In October 2009 she attended a Miami Dolphins vs. Buffalo Bills game [1], during the Breast Cancer Awareness week. She wore a flowy orange dress and carried a lovely Leiber clutch: it was dolphin-shaped as a homage to Miami’s team and pink as a homage to the symbolical colour of the breast cancer awareness. I love it!

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Most of Leiber’s crystallized minaudieres have animal shapes, but the range of precious pieces include other fancy shapes,such as fans, fruit, flowers and Buddhas.

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Here are some of my favourite pieces. I love this Red Delicious apple-shaped bag. I think it could be the perfect accessory on an all-black outfit: this can be said for most of Leiber’s creations, because they’re so bright and sparkling, that it would be very difficult to pair them with colourful clothes.

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This pink finch is adorable, isn’t it? I know Leiber’s creations are surprisingly expensive, but some of her pieces would be perfect for young girls because their shapes are so funny and cute, but definitely not for adults (I would never carry a bird-shaped clutch).

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Bianca, my daughter, adores cats, so this black cat clutch immediately makes me think of her.The shape, the attitude of the animal, the eyes are so nice and so true to life that I would love to carry it for a special occasion. I love cats, too, and I’ve always thought black cats are magical and mysterious, so this clutch would be an amazing accessory for any black cat lover.

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I know these accessories are really peculiar. They’re so peculiar and expensive that they’ve never become a real trend, but this doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love to have one of those (the black cat and the owl) in my small bag collection. What are your thoughts? Do you think they’re just divertissement bags?

[1] Jennifer’s husband, Marc Antony, is minority owner of Miami Dolphins.

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10 comments

  1. I like the owl, the apple and the watermelon ones (and I agree with you that the aubergine- shaped bag is truly creepy!), but to be honest they don’t really do the trick for me- I mean I can’t see them as more than just ‘divertissement’ bags. Some of them would indeed make a statement, especially if worn along a rather classic/ understated outfit, but most of them seem to me as toys for grown-ups!
    After this comment though, it’s only fair to say that I am a bit “special” with animal simulacra. More often than not I find them sad…such are the mysteries of human mind! :)

    PS: It’s so cute that B. loves cats! I adore them too- especially black ones!

    1. Do you really find animal-shaped accessories sad? I’ve never had an animal-shaped accessory, but I wouldn’t mind one of these bags, they are so cute!

      The aubergine is hideous!

      PS: B is crazy for cats. A family next door has two cats (one grey and white, one brown and beige), and she always wants to go there to say them hi :)

  2. I’m an huge black cat lover! Since my beloved black cat Nick Cave (I swear he was always as gloomy as the real Nick Cave himself) is dead (RIP) I took Ernio, another black cat, home with me. He’s all black with white socks just as the Leiber Cat Bag which, obviously, is my favorite one (but I wouldn’t say no to the snake shaped one…Even if snakes are not so cute to me! Covering them in crystal is the answer to make them look prettier I guess!).

    1. I wish I could keep a black cat at home, but unfortunately I am allergic to cats’ hair :(

      I don’t really like the snake-shaped bag, but I agree with you when you say it looks prettier if it’s crystallized.

  3. Can i join the club of black cats lovers? I am obsessed with them after I met an amazing cat called Gizmo.

    What a pity, you are allergic! I have at least three friends with the same problem!

    Being a snake phobic the snake bag is a no no for me, although I am fascinated by some snake shaped jewellery.

    So, the black cat, red delicious and, of course, the cupcake clutch are my picks!

    1. Of course you can :D

      I’ve always loved cats but I’ve never owned one, so maybe that is the reason why I’ve developed an allergy to their hair (you know, some say you should have cats as pets even if you’re allergic, because that is a way to make the allergy less severe, but I don’t feel like trying).

      I love snake-shaped jewellery too, especially rings and bangles. Rachel Zoe has an obsession for snake-shaped rings, which she collects.

  4. I don’t necessarily find them sad, it’s just that sometimes animal shaped accessories have some sort of ‘gimmick’ feel that makes me feel slightly uncomfortable or in a way sorry for the animals. Weird stuff!
    This of course does not apply to *every* animal shaped accessory – just to make an example, I have no problem at all with your octopus shaped brooch! :)

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