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Vintage Womens Backpacks

March 18, 2015

With the current obsession with all things 1990s, vintage womens backpacks are definitely on the list as many people’s bags of choice.


Backpacks, or rucksacks, were of course around for a long time before the 90s, being used as sports bags or practical mountaineering requisites, since they left the hands free to do more important things than hold your bag.

Backpacks for women

Otzi's backpack (reconstruction)

Otzi’s backpack (reconstruction)


I mean, apparently Otzi, my favourite frozen ice-mummy, who is 5300 years old had a kind of backpack. It had a wooden frame and a hide sack was hung from it. Otzi was a very stylish individual, wearing goatskin underpants and a bear fur cap, as well as a stripy cape, so we can’t say for sure that the backpack wasn’t also the latest fashion, as well as being handy to carry his stuff around in. I like to think that it was.

90’s style Vintage Womens Backpacks

Vintage Womens Backpacks-Prada

So yes, backpacks = not a new thing. But as a fashion item in the 20th Century, backpacks had their moment in the 90s.


Prada released their range of black nylon totes and ladies backpacks in 1978 but they only started to chart about ten years later, and the minimalist black ladies backpack with tiny sleek Prada triangle was absolutely the statement (or anti statement) bag to be seen with by ‘92.


Copies and different versions abounded, including tiny mini ones in silver or fun colours, perfect for those nineties ravers because this time, you needed your hands free not to climb rocks but to twirl around in the air.


So you might pick up cute mini vintage womens backpacks, sports backpacks, or something elegant and streamlined in leather or nylon.


Backpacks were supposed to practical, capacious, and good for your back, although most teens preferred to wear them dangling over one shoulder, totally defying the point of the whole thing and probably giving rise to the cross body messenger bags that followed.


They were also festooned with pockets and zips which supposedly deterred pickpockets, although not really, meaning that if you were feeling particularly paranoid, or wanted to look like a lady with a baby bump you wore them on your front instead. It just looked weird though.


That still applies: a front back pack just screams “nervous tourist!” not “laid back fashionista on a 90s nostalgia kick” so, you know, avoid. But one thing is true: Womens backpacks are still practical and roomy, so they’re great for laptop lugging.

How to Style Vintage Womens Backpacks

If you’re going for the whole 90s redux, don’t wear dungarees. That’s my entire advice. Or, oh no, dresses over jeans. Leggings with little flower skirts, fine. Don’t forget the Doc Martins to go with them.


Crop tops, bomber jackets, even huge army surplus overcoats look great with your vintage womens backpacks, so go for it. I personally would love to see more Courtney Love-a-likes, with torn babydoll dresses and smeared lipstick, a wild look in the eyes and a special way with vintage fashion. But sadly, I haven’t yet. Fingers crossed, because this trend’s not over yet.