June 22, 2024


Fashion takes it to the next level.

Historical Handbag Trivia

3 min read

Purses and handbags have been traced back to the 14th Century, and have always been an indispensable practical necessity, a symbol of the feminine mystique, and eventually evolving into a fashion declaration for all. It is difficult to imagine not having these marvelous objects of clothing accessories that come in so many styles of fashion, creating a unique statement! The history of the handbag is quite interesting and an enjoyable bit of information.

Imagine arriving in style with medicines, a prayer book and rosary beads or guns, daggers and keys? In the 14th-15th Centuries this is what you would have carried in your girdle, girdle pouches, hamondeys, tasques and chatelaines or chaneries. They were linked with love and marriage as a traditional betrothal gift. In addition, in the 16th-17th Centuries your pockets, swete bagges, drawstring purse would have held your seeds, spices and herbs, precious jewels and gems, gold coins and food stuffs. It is important to realize, all under your skirt!

In fact, during the 17th Century, the bag or purse was an intimation of the womb.

Arriving in style in the 17th and early 18th Centuries your “over the skirt” reticules or indispensables (if you resided in England) would have carried a few essentials such as beauty aids and smelling salts. Interestingly, at the end of the 17th century, designs moved from simplicity to become more sophisticated and complex in nature.

Finally throughout the 18th Century, your dance card, fan and handkerchief, rouge and face powder, perfume, needle and thread, and calling cards would have been your important necessities.

Indeed, during the 14th through 18th Centuries, men carried their valuables, coins and many of the aforementioned items, as befit to their station in life and needs, in a “purse” or pouche made of leather.

Opera glasses in the 19th Century, and during WWII, gas masks were a very important part of pouches, handbags, Dorothy bag (also known as the dotty or marriage bags), doll bag, clutch, satchel, shoulder bag, luggage bag, duffle, tote or tiny handbag. However, you wouldn’t find a gas mask in the clutch or tiny handbag, which were of course for evening.

Furthermore, the 20th Century revealed your handbag, purse, designer bag, knockoff, knapsack, unisex bag, fitness bag or sports bag containing such items as cosmetics, emergency items, books, sports equipment, protein and power bars, energy drinks and clothing. During the mid-20th century in the ’60’s “Flower Power” and “Free Love” era it was not unusual for men to carry some form of purse. Actually, before the 60’s in the early 20th century, the word handbag became popular with its use by men, referring to the leather bags they carried. During the 1920s was the emergence of the modern handbag carried by the female sex.

Enter the 21st Century with the inclusion of the man purse, the messenger bag gaining popularity with men as a briefcase alternative; and the hobo purse, envelope, cigar box purse, hands-free bag and shopper bag. Here you will Arrive in Style with PDA’s, cellular and iPhones, business cards, money, credit cards, briefs, files, white papers, vitamin and mineral waters, whatever you may need for the day or along your way. In addition, the shopper bag is superb for overnight or weekend treks.

Therefore, Dorothy bags, hamondeys, tasques, reticules, tiny purse and clutch are all small and decorative representations of femininity and sexual messaging. Similarly, handbags were linked with love, betrothal and marriage and in the 15th century was a traditional gift from the groom to his bride. Indeed, handbags are not merely just the feminine mystique, or female accessory. Handbag fashion accessories are unisex and masculine with leather, canvas, suede and zippers that encompass duffles, totes, shoulder bags, luggage and brief cases. All historically used by the male sex, too. Show off your creative mystique for arriving in style at the office, airport, spa, fitness club, gym or a night on the town.

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