The History of the Designer Handbag
asked what would become of his lover when they stripped her of:
'...the handbags and the glad rags that your grandad had to sweat so
that you could buy them.' Mrs. Thatcher called hers her 'trusty
companion' and the word 'handbagging' was invented to describe her
browbeating tactics. Some famous handbags
in literature include the bag which contained Jack/ Earnest in Oscar
Wilde's play, The
Importance of Being Earnest
and Anna Karenina's red velvet handbag
which she threw onto the railway tracks before throwing herself onto them.
handbags confer status and certainly have an aura about them.
Hundreds of women are on the waiting lists for the infamous Kelly and
Birkin bags even though their prices are enormous. A vintage
crocodile Hermes Birkin bag with diamond clasps recently sold for
over $64,000.00. In the modern fashion sense, carrying a Chanel
is a way of doing Chanel, without being clad in Chanel from top to
toe. It is liberating, but it can also be ruinous, some women go into
debt just so that they can carry a designer
Origins of the Handbag
peoples probably carried bags made of leaves and wood. Later Egyptian
hieroglyphs show men carrying bags around their waist. Surprisingly,
bags were initially carried by men, not women. But by the Middle
Ages, metal frames were developed and drawstring
were hung from the waist or the hips.
Men and women
both carried bags during the Middle Ages which were worn slung across
the shoulder or hung from the waist. They were especially important
for traveling. Large bags were usually worn by peasants because
they held many articles and often by workers in the fields, who
carried seeds in their bags.
purses began to be used to give money away to beggars or to contain
money for gambling, a popular pastime amongst the wealthy. Women wore
bags which hung from girdles and carried personal items that they
needed. Bags would often be given by men as presents to their ladies
and began to be decorated with embroidery, beads, and other ornate embellishments.
carried herbs and perfumes, such as lavender and lemon verbena, in
their bags because of the evil smells in the atmosphere. Pomanders
were also worn to combat these nasty smells.
According to Carried
Away: All About Bags by
Vandome, the first versions of the modern
came along in the late 18th century. Until this time, women
wore separate pear-shaped pouches or pockets under their clothes,
somewhat like the money bags some people wear today. Men however wore
their bags separately.
period saw the rise of the reticule, which derived its name from the
Latin for a net or a network of lines, 'reticulum'. This small purse
became popular because of the figure-hugging design of Regency
clothes that made it impossible to hide bags underneath them.
fashionable Empress Josephine would not be seen without her reticule
when she was in Egypt and its popularity soon spread to the rest of
the Western world.
pretty items, carried on chains or drawstrings, were often beaded or
embroidered and made of sumptuous materials like velvet and silk.
Some, however, were simple and crocheted or netted. Women often
enjoyed making purses and they began to judge each other's status by
the expense of their reticule. They still do this today!
'handbag' wasn't used until the 19th century. Surprisingly, it
developed from small travel bags for ladies made in the 1860's. These
were made of leather and featured locks and toilet compartments.
Later Hermes designed handbags
which were often revised saddle bags or bags that had originally been
meant to contain horse-feed or horse blankets!
Bags went out
of fashion for a while with the looser styles of clothing in the late
1800s but came back with a vengeance again in the 20th century when
the hobble skirt became popular. Early 20th century saw the emergence
of one of the greatest names in handbag fashion today: Louis
originally packed Empress Eugenie's luggage and then started making
travel trunks for the wealthy. It wasn't until much later that his
company began making designer
The Louis Vuitton 'keep-all' bag, designed in 1924, lived up to its
name and was a very useful, streamlined travel bag.
became a symbol of women's independence in the 20th century,
according to Handbags:
The Power of the Purse
by Anna Johnson. Chanel saw their potential and managed to increase
their popularity to a great extent, by introducing handbags that
suited the times. One iconic Chanel bag was the lovely quilted clutch
with the chain strap, inspired by jockey's gilt jackets.
mystery and a subject of fascination to men, women now use handbags
to carry everything from lipstick to condoms, along with dogs in
certain cases! In this century, we have seen every texture and
material from space age synthetics by Prada to hand-woven straws by
Cavalli. There are rain-proof bags by Gucci, sturdy totes by Salvatore
by Cellini for the evenings out, and leather shoulder bags by Fendi:
a designer handbag for every occasion, not to mention hundreds of
more affordable yet diverse bags from brands from all over the world.
French and Italian handbags are regarded as the very best. They are
always excellent investments and even special heirlooms to pass on to
other members of the family. Gucci, Prada,
Cellini - these elegant, finely-crafted bags look wonderful and
inspire envy and admiration. As the great designer, Giorgio
said: "Accessories are important and becoming more and more
important every day. "