Iconic handbags and Churchill's despatch box feature in the V&A's upcoming show

Bethan Laura Wood with her collaboration with Valextra. Photography by Anthony Lycett. All images courtesy of the V&A

For those of you who love a good bag, an upcoming exhibition at the V&A this spring will feature some of the most iconic designs from the last 500 years.

From Margaret Thatcher's "statement" handbags and Winston Churchill's despatch box to Sarah Jessica Parker and the heritage of Hermès, there'll be a whole host of accessories on display in Bags: Inside Out.

Launching on 25 April 2020, the show will explore the function, status and craftmanship of bags from the 16th century to today. The first section, Function, will examine bags as practical objects designed to hold our belongings. From holiday outfits to confidential documents, make-up to money and even gas masks. Here, you'll be able to see an attaché case belonging to Vivien Leigh, plus a striking Louis Vuitton trunk from the early 1990s, amongst other things. There'll even be gas mask bag owned by HRH Queen Mary during the Second World War.

Fashion plate showing lady’s walking dress from R. Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, 1 March 1815, England (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Fashion plate showing lady’s walking dress from R. Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, 1 March 1815, England (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Winston Churchill, Chancellor of the Exchequer, carries the despatch box on his way to the House of Commons, in London, to present the budget, April 29, 1929. Photo Credit Bettman/Getty

Winston Churchill, Chancellor of the Exchequer, carries the despatch box on his way to the House of Commons, in London, to present the budget, April 29, 1929. Photo Credit Bettman/Getty

Moving along the exhibition, you'll come to 'Status and Identity'. It's where you'll learn more about the celebrity culture surrounding bags. On display will be the Hermès 'Kelly' named in honour of Grace Kelly and a 'Lady Dior' handbag named after Princess Diana, giving you an insight into the powerful world of celebrity endorsement.

You'll then, of course, delve into the 'It bag' phenomenon that began in the late 1990s – the Fendi 'Baguette' bag being one of them. It was worn by and stolen from Sarah Jessica Parker in one of Sex and the City's most famous scenes. Sitting alongside the Baguette will be a gold Louis Vuitton 'Monogram Miroir' Speedy bag by Marc Jacobs popularised by Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian.

Grace Kelly's departure from Hollywood (Photo By Allan Grant/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Grace Kelly's departure from Hollywood (Photo By Allan Grant/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Model with Lait de Coco Evening Bag, Karl Lagerfeld, 2014 (c) Jason Lloyd Evans

Model with Lait de Coco Evening Bag, Karl Lagerfeld, 2014 (c) Jason Lloyd Evans

Fun-Mix Pebble Hector Bag, Thom Browne (c) Thom Browne

Fun-Mix Pebble Hector Bag, Thom Browne (c) Thom Browne

Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian with Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton 'Monogram Miroir' gold speedy handbags in Sydney, Australia, 2006. Photo by PhotoNews International Inc/Getty Images

Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian with Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton 'Monogram Miroir' gold speedy handbags in Sydney, Australia, 2006. Photo by PhotoNews International Inc/Getty Images

But it's not just the celebs and fashionistas who'll take centre stage; luxury handbags have also become synonymous with some of the most powerful and leading figures in contemporary society. The wardrobe of Margaret Thatcher, for instance, acted as her suit of armour and her handbag was essential to the image of the 'Iron Lady'. Thatcher's grey Asprey handbag will be one of the leading examples of the bag as a symbol of power.

Then there are the bags featuring slogans, personal statements and political messages, and how they have played a role in changing society – the 'My Body My Business' handbag by artist and activist Michele Pred being one example.

Margaret Thatcher outside 10 Downing Street with Asprey handbag, following a meeting with the Queen, 1987. Photo Credit John Redman/AP Shutterstock

Margaret Thatcher outside 10 Downing Street with Asprey handbag, following a meeting with the Queen, 1987. Photo Credit John Redman/AP Shutterstock

Rhinestone encrusted metal 'Faberge Egg' evening bag, Judith Leiber (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Rhinestone encrusted metal 'Faberge Egg' evening bag, Judith Leiber (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

In the third section, the V&A will explore the 'Design and Making' process from sketch to sample, sewing to selling. A 'maker's table' will allow us to get up close and personal with bag making processes and materials alongside newly commissioned interviews with designers and makers. Sketches, samples and prototypes from international fashion houses and UK brand Mulberry will show the innovative early stages of the design process.

Finally, the show will look to the future with designers experimenting with innovative and environmentally sustainable materials including a Stella McCartney backpack made from recycled ocean plastic waste and a bag crafted from decommissioned fire hoses by Elvis and Kresse.

Bags: Inside Out at London's V&A opens on 25 April 2020 and runs until the following January. To book tickets or find out more, visit www.vam.ac.uk.