Elegance personified is not a description thrown about lightly, but we think it’s quite safe to use it in reverence of Anna May Wong, seen above in a LIFE magazine photograph from 1922. The legendary actress was noted for a number of impressive accomplishments, not least for being the first Chinese-American movie star and being named “the world’s most beautiful Chinese girl” by Look magazine in 1938. Despite being typecast during a period when Chinese characters were often portrayed by heavily made up Caucasians, Wong rose above industry prejudice to become an iconic figure.
It wasn’t just her professional feats that made Wong so memorable, though. The actress is remembered to this day for her extravagant beauty, significantly so thanks to her magnificent bone structure, cupid’s bow pout and sweet, captivating smile. Her sense of style was no less mesmerizing, and it’s intriguing to note that many of her favorite looks – long, sensuous evening gowns and sleek sheaths – are considered completely relevant right now.
To call Wong a woman before her time, then, seems fairly apt. She was just as much a style muse of her period as today’s most beloved fashion mavens are. It wasn’t unusual for papers to describe her every garment and accessory. She was fond of carrying a handbag knitted with the words “Huang Liushuang,” which was her Chinese name, but there is little doubt she also had a taste for richly embellished, intricately designed bags that exhibited her flair for accessorizing. (One need only glance at her elaborate headpieces, as in the above image from Film Noir Photos, for evidence that she was no wallflower.) Here, a few modern handbags worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Wong:
Blooming embellishments perk up the lavishly luxe Y&S Beaded Flower Clutch. Sweet and ladylike, it delivers instant charm in the form of soft taupe satin and a sprinkling of posies. Find it for $26.95 at DSW.
Had Wong wed, she likely would have carried something akin to this Nordstrom Pleated Silk Frame Clutch. Awash in nothing but pure, champagne colored silk and discreetly accented by demure rhinestones, it’s an inarguable beauty. Find it for $88 at Nordstrom.
The Savanna Beaded Satin Flower Evening Bag all but screams vintage inspiration, from its exquisite floral decor to its metal clasp. It’s charming in its antiquity, and a wonderfully modern interpretation brought to life. Find it for $29.60 at eBags.
Would Wong be a Valentino lady? We daresay yes, what with her penchant for all-out refinement and a taste for luxury. The Bow-Embellished Satin Clutch is a favorite for the ages, one that could easily be passed on for years and adored for generations. Find it for $795 at Net-a-Porter.