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Judith Leiber

American, Hungarian, 1921-2018

When it comes to handbags, no designer can compete with Judith Leiber’s ability to create magic using opulent crystals and wildly imaginative and playful shapes. The Hungarian-born designer's lauded vintage minaudières (small, decorative handbags, often without handles or a strap) were made in the form of crystal-covered swans, cupcakes, lipstick, wads of cash, teddy bears and other delightful objects.

These dazzling objets d’art have been regularly seen in the hands of First Ladies, movie stars on the red carpet and even in the prestigious collections of institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And like many pathbreaking inventions in the history of design, Leiber's purses and minaudières were the result of a happy accident.

In 1967, Leiber began working on her first metal handbag. The piece in question was named the Chatelaine, and the design was a graceful drop-shaped purse in gold-tinted metal. But when the samples came in, Leiber saw that the bottom of the bag looked greenish and discolored as a result of the plating process. She had the ingenious idea of applying crystal rhinestones to the base to cover up the flaws. The fabulous bag was a huge success and would become her trademark.

Born Judith Peto in Budapest, Leiber overcame many hardships before her breakthrough. At the start of World War II, she was working at the Pessl handbag company in Budapest where she quickly climbed the ranks to become a master craftswoman. When the war escalated, she and her Jewish family were forced by the Nazis to live in a cellar of a ghetto, and several of her relatives were killed in concentration camps.

“I designed handbags in my head to get through the misery,” Leiber said.

After the liberation of Budapest, she married Gerson “Gus” Leiber, an American GI, and moved to New York. In 1948, she began working for the fashion house Nettie Rosenstein. One of Leiber's first major pieces was the handbag embroidered with glittering rhinestones and pearls carried by Mamie Eisenhower at the 1953 inaugural ball. In 1963, she finally set up her own company.

Leiber’s whimsical designs embellished with Swarovski crystals and semiprecious stones defied traditional notions of luxury handbags. She also created striking clutches and bags with leather and fine textiles from around the world. In her 65-year career, she designed over 3,500 bags, which have been worn by First Ladies including Nancy Reagan and Laura Bush, pop icons like Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez and celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Kris Jenner (who collects Judith Leiber bags).

In 2005, the Leiber Collection Museum opened in East Hampton, New York, as a permanent space to showcase her work. The minaudières remain coveted objects that are celebrated worldwide for their eclectic beauty and glamorous charm.

The value of a good handbag cannot be overstated — find vintage Judith Leiber shoulder bags, crossbody bags, sunglasses and other fashion accessories today on 1stDibs.

Average Sold Price
$1,237
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Judith Leiber 1980s Brown Snakeskin Embossed Clutch
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Judith Leiber 1980s Black Lizard Embossed Clutch
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Introducing the exquisite Judith Leiber 1980s Black Lizard Embossed Clutch, a luxurious and timeless accessory that exudes sophistication and elegance. Crafted from high-quality blac...
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JUDITH LEIBER Size 5 Black Suede & Patent Leather Rhinestone Flats
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JUDITH LEIBER flats come in black suede and feature a patent leather heel panel, and satin strap detail with rhinestone brooch applique. Made in Italy. Good Pre-Owned Condition. M...
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Judith Leiber Swarovski Crystal Embellished Bag With Matching Mirror &Coin Purse
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Judith Leiber Vintage Red Alligator Shoulder Minaudière Evening Bag, 1990.
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Judith Leiber Vintage Red Alligator Shoulder Minaudière Evening Bag, 1990. Exceptional and rare, this highly sought after piece of Judith Leiber history was produced between 1985 - 1...
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Gold-Tone Judith Leiber Metal Stretch Lion Belt Size US XXS
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Gold-tone metal stretch belt by Judith Leiber. Lion head buckle closure. 3" width, 23" length.
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Judith Leiber Swarovski Crystal Chatelaine Minaudiere Evening Bag
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Designers Similar to Judith Leiber

Judith Leiber fashion for sale on 1stDibs.

Find an extraordinary range of authentic Judith Leiber fashion available on 1stDibs. If you’re browsing our collection of unique vintage and designer fashion to elevate your daily look or to introduce new colors to the dazzling formal wear in your wardrobe, this designer’s body of work includes elements of red, blue, green and other tones. Most of the items here were designed during the 20th Century, but you can find examples that were created as recently as the 21st Century and Contemporary. Customers who are interested in this designer might also find the work of Whiting & Davis, Carlos Falchi, and Harry Rosenfeld appealing. On 1stDibs, find haute couture, vintage and designer Judith Leiber fashion from top boutiques around the world. Judith Leiber fashion prices can differ depending upon time period and other attributes. On 1stDibs, the price for these items starts at $132 and tops out at $6,200, while the average work can sell for $1,198.
Questions About Judith Leiber
  • 1stDibs ExpertMarch 22, 2022
    Judith Leiber was a designer who specialized in creating imaginative handbags. She was born on January 11, 1921, in Budapest, Hungary, and died on April 28, 2018, in Springs, New York. You'll find a collection of Judith Leiber on 1stDibs.
  • 1stDibs ExpertMarch 22, 2022
    You have many options for where to buy Judith Leiber. If you prefer to shop virtually, browse the brand's official online store or find the brand's bags on reputable online platforms, including 1stDibs. Numerous brick-and-mortar stores around the country also carry Judith Leiber. You'll find a selection of Judith Leiber handbags and accessories on 1stDibs.
  • 1stDibs ExpertMarch 22, 2022
    Models for Judith Leiber change from year to year and season to season. Valentina Sampaio was the face of the brand for photo shoots in 2020. In 2019, Emily DiDonato posed with Judith Leiber bags for the designer's spring campaign. Find a variety of Judith Leiber bags and accessories on 1stDibs.
  • 1stDibs ExpertMarch 22, 2022
    How you wear a Judith Leiber handbag is a matter of personal preference. Many of the brand's bags have playful shapes that allow them to work as well with jeans as they do with evening attire. Some people prefer to keep their jewelry understated when carrying a Judith Leiber to keep the emphasis on the statement bag. On 1stDibs, shop a variety of Judith Leiber.
  • 1stDibs ExpertMarch 22, 2022
    Where Judith Leiber sunglasses are made varies. Match Eyewear produces sunglasses for the brand. An in-house factory in Italy manufactures some of the company's eyewear, and third-party factories located throughout the world receive contracts to produce some models. On 1stDibs, shop a selection of Judith Leiber sunglasses.
  • 1stDibs ExpertMarch 22, 2022
    Yes, Judith Leiber handbags are handmade. Skilled artisans hand sew the bags to ensure quality. In addition, the team of craftsmen applies the brand's signature rhinestone and crystal beading by hand. On 1stDibs, find a variety of Judith Leiber handbags.
  • 1stDibs ExpertMarch 22, 2022
    To clean a Judith Leiber handbag, follow the care instructions printed on the label inside the lining or on the care card that accompanied the bag. Most bags require use of a soft, dry cloth. On 1stDibs, find a selection of Judith Leiber handbags.
  • 1stDibs ExpertApril 5, 2022
    Judith Leiber is famed for her eclectic clutch bags. Her designs range from crystal-studded flamingos and ice cream cones to standard, sparkling rectangle shapes. On 1stDibs, you can find a collection of authentic Judith Leiber clutches from some of the world’s top sellers.
  • 1stDibs ExpertMarch 22, 2022
    The best way to tell if a Judith Leiber bag is original is to check the designer's stamp usually found along the metal frame or above a seam. The style of the stamp varied over the years, but usually included the brand name. On a genuine Judith Leiber bag, the stamp will appear evenly spaced. Find a selection of expertly vetted Judith Leiber handbags on 1stDibs.
  • 1stDibs ExpertMarch 22, 2022
    Generally, the lining of a Judith Leiber Minaudière purse is genuine leather. Skilled artisans craft these statement-making mini bags by hand, and the designs often include rhinestone and crystal beading. On 1stDibs, shop a range of Judith Leiber Minaudière purses.

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