History of Handbags, 19th to 20th Century
The 1920's were a revolution in fashion with lighter clothing and
varying hemlines. Fashion designer Coco Chanel is credited with the
invention of the shoulder bag for women. Inspired by the military
satchels and frustrated of hands encumbered by her bag, she attached
a thin leather strap to her ladylike bags
in black and launched them in 1929.
Fashion especially women's in the Forties and Fifties, were
influenced by the stars of the screen -Grace Kelly even truly
becoming a royal. She had the look of a grown up and glamorous and
fashions changed more slowly at that period, evolving rather than
leaping. Most handbag
designs, developed by famous fashion designers around this time,
became true classics that have endured to this day, includes the
Hermes Kelly bag and Chanel's 2.55 handbags.
The youth culture of Sixties and Seventies introduced a huge fashion
divide between what older women were wearing and the new 'hip'
fashions for the young and this divide showed up in handbag fashion
trends as well.
The fashion trends of the 1980's persuaded young women to look to
grown up styles with the smart suit and power dressing becoming
essential for younger people pursuing fast track professional
careers. The period emerged from New Romantic era and the fancy dress
of punk into a world of suits and shoulder pads, twenty year-olds
dressing up as seasoned professionals with smart look and to
complement that grown-up handbags made a come back. The practical
utilitarian look of the shoulder bag was still with women making
their mark in the man's world of the city, but smart women favored
the elegance and style of the famed quilted Chanel chain bags and work
bags had to be big.
The Nineties started with an economic slump and bags once again
became more utilitarian, casual and practical and small back packs
became fashionable again. The youth avoided big labels and instead
went for messenger bags and rucksacks, and big designers lost out on
a large section of the youth market, who were not interested in the
big fashion house labels, though older women continued to be loyal to classic
handbag styles, like Kellys and Birkins
It is said that our generation wasn't the first to adopt the big bag
fashion trend - it had two other major trends in the past century -
once at the start of the 20th century, though by McCall's November
1904 issue it was noted that: "the trend is decidedly in the
direction of smaller types; the day of the extremely large bag is
past. In its place have come models that suggest a partial reversion
to pocketbook types of olden times." With new prosperity
signaling towards the end of the Fifties, a return to consumerism
handbags grew in size from the more demure handbags of Fifties,
until they were almost big enough to carry the kitchen sink!