You rarely see a woman without a purse or handbag, From huge tote bags that hold everything to diminutive purses that only hold cash, keys, phone and a lippie, a bag is an essential accessory. Today's bags come in a truly impressive range of types and styles and colors, but how did we reach this kaleidoscope and eclectic state?
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In the society of Ancient Egypt, it was totally common and normal for men to carry around purse-like pouches that they could tie around their waists to carry different items in.
Early medieval times across Europe saw peasants fashioning small bags to be able to transport things like seeds and from market places back to their homes.
Skipping forward, in the 14th century drawstring bags were a common accessory used to carry coins, and at the same time wealthy women began to wear them simply as accessories to events like balls.
Interestingly, handbags in this century were very often linked to marriage, with an ornate pouch being presented to a bride on her wedding day. It was also common during this time for Knights to carry ‘hunting purses’.
Although drawstring bags were still the most common, women began to wear what they called girdle pouches, which were bags that could be concealed underneath petticoats. Cloth bags that could be worn over one shoulder were also popular with peasants and travellers.
In the 17th century, embroidered carry bags began to become popular with women and young girls, and bags like these became a common and sought after gift to give on a birthday or similar occasion.
As clothes became more slender and more simple, bags started to become something more of a fashion symbol. In Europe they were called ‘indispensables’, which gives you an idea of how popular they had become. Drawstring bags were still popular and were called reticules.
Technological advancements in this century saw the handbag being fashioned out of a wide range of fabrics in a wide range of sizes. The increase in train travel meant that people wanted a handbag to carry their valuables in safely. We saw the introduction of the carpet bag.
The early 1900s saw the creation of the leather briefcase and the leather shopping bag. Small drawstring purses and Dorothy bags became an essential accessory for any woman who could afford to buy one.
After WWI, fashion became more relaxed and a woman’s bag no longer had to completely match her outfit. Also, Egyptian art and designs became increasingly popular as a result of the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb. Woven metal thread purses became a trendy item.
Satchels, clasp bags and clutches become the most popular form of handbag around the world. The inclusion of plastics and zippers start to make everything a bit more practical. Art Deco styling hit its peak.
After WWII, there was a change in design to make bags larger for women as a symbol that they were being more self-sufficient and independent.
This was a massively important era for the world of handbags as design houses like Chanel, Hermes and Louis Vuitton all entered the fashion world and started to take it by storm.
To match the style of the swinging 60s, there was a move to a smaller, more slender and dainty style of handbag, such as the iconic shoulder clutch with long chain.
With world travel becoming increasingly popular, there was a move towards popularising the big, fabric satchels and messenger bags that are so convenient when going a trip to several different countries.
A big world push on personal health and fitness saw the fast popularisation of the handy sports bag, perfect for taking all of your sports clothing with you to the gym.
Handbags are more popular now than they have ever been. They come in all shapes and sizes, styles and fabrics. The most significant advancement in the 21st century has been the rise in mainstream use of handbags for men, or ‘manbags’ as they have been nicknamed.
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