History of the Handbag
The ways in which people have
carried themselves and their belongings throughout history have reflected the eras in which they lived. The earliest historically
verifiable handbags-little sacks containing pomanders (scented oranges), flint and money-were carried by
gentlemen and known as "pockets". These were hung by thongs from the back of the girdle and were often cut from behind by
thieves who knew how to capitalize on a friendly pat on the back; hence the name "cut purse".
By the 1400's both men
and women were wearing purses, and as times prospered and the little sacks got fuller, they were ornamented with
gold or elaborate embroidery.
A century later, the drawstring bag was a status possession. Paintings of that era show
flat bags gathered by tasseled strings. By the end of the century, however, fashion went undercover, as women preferred to
wear their pouches under their skirts.
In 1670, breeches with built-in pockets came into fashion and men dispensed
with their handbags. But they did continue to carry a little netted "purse" for money inside the pocket.
In the 18th
century, pouches for both men and women disappeared. After the French Revolution, however, the style of women's clothes was
so delicate that it was impossible for them to contain a pocket. Out into the open came the handbag, then known as a reticule
(and occasionally a "ridicule" by men whose idea that was of a good joke).
Skirts became more ample, and pockets won
the next round. Even when dresses grew tighter in the 1880's, handbags were slow to return. The real renaissance for bags
came around the turn of the century, with the advent of the hobble skirt. A pocket was an impossibility, and very large handbags
carried by long strings or chains became popular.
In the 20's, as dresses got skimpier, handbags became indispensable,
and have remained so until the present, both as a utility and as a fashion item reflecting a personal style. Now every fashion
has its handbag and every woman can have a wardrobe of shapes and colors.
In addition, a new chapter in handbag history
is being written, as men's fashions become leaner, and more and more men discover the convenience of toting their belongings
in a handsome hand or shoulder
Twentieth century technology has opened up a treasure of textures and materials
from space age synthetics to hand-woven straws. There are rain-proof bags for stormy day, sturdy totes for the beach, delicate
fabric for evening, and squashy shoulder bags for casual wear. In short, a fascinating variety of handbags for every mood,
every outfit and every occasion. When you sell a handbag, sell the color and fun of a handbags wardrobe. Remember; fashion
is in the bag.