Introduction to Designer Handbags, Early to 19th Century

It is said that the evolution of handbag style, goes hand in hand with the style consciousness of the women using it. When the role of women in each society evolved, the handbag as a utilitarian item has evolved and adapted to their changing circumstances.

The first emergence of the modern women's handbag was in the beginning of the 20th century. But the first mention of a rudimentary form of hand bag was from written literature from the 14th century, even though it is believed that hieroglyphs of the Egyptian period showed pouches carried around the waist. These were adorned with Embroidery and jewels and were used to show status - the richer the person; the more elaborate the bag in terms of jewels and designs.

In the 16th century, handbags were more of practicality with the usage of everyday materials such as leather of high quality with a drawstring fastener on top. Also during this period, bags made of cloth were also used that were made larger and used mostly by travelers and carried in a diagonal fashion across the body. In the 17th century handbags came with more variety and both fashionable women and men carried small purses with more complex shapes.

In the 18th century wearing a purse would ruin the look of the clothing designs of these period so fashionable ladies started carrying their handbags which were known as reticules. Women had a different reticule for every occasion and each fashion designer had arguments on the proper carrying of these purses. In most reticules one would find face powder, rouge, a Chinese fan, visiting cards, scent bottle, a card case, and smelling salts.

The term of "handbag" first came into use in the early periods of 1900's and they were generally referred to as hand-held luggage bags most usually carried by men. These became an inspiration for new bags that became popularized for women, including handbags with complicated internal compartments, fasteners, and locks.