The Origins of Handbags

Posted by Carole Richet on

Where did the handbag come from?

It seems nowadays no woman can go without a handbag to stow away everyday items from the iconic iPhone or iPad, make-up, purses or wallets and of course the house and car keys. The range of collections on the market from the great fashion houses of Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Chanel and Mulberry lure woman from all over the world to part with their money. However, the handbag has a long history and humble origins.

You may be surprised to know that as early as the Ancient Egyptians, handbags, then more commonly known as purses, were part of daily life. We know this from the hieroglyphics showing men carrying purse-like pouches around their waists. In ancient texts from the Bible the disciples, particularly Judas Iscariot is noted for wearing a purse, a trend that seems to have continued to the peasants in ancient times where small bags would be worn to carry seeds. In Africa, priests were known to have used purses or pouches to carry beads.

In the 14th century as clothes design became more sophisticated, men and women's handbags took the form of a drawstring bag. At this time, men didn't have the luxury of pockets and would carry everyday items in these handbags. Women would attach them to their girdles with a long cord fastened to the waist, sometimes these "hamondeys" or "tasques" as they were also called, were very ornate. The pouch was often made from leather or soft material and was worn as often by men as women.

In the 15th century the handbag (still a pouch) was often given by a man to his bride, a very ornate accessory embroidered with love stories. As the 16th century drew in, fashion adapted to the fact that pouches dangling outside the body were subject to theft, and clothes were designed with pockets. For women, pockets were sewn into the folds of the skirt where she would keep her personal items, a quite intimate place which no doubt carries on the notion for the modern handbag being a personal and intimate accessory for women.

In the 17th century girls learnt how to embroider more complex patterns on their pouches and different pouch shapes came to light. The fact that girls wore more ornate and pretty pouches was deemed to make them more suitable for marriage.

By the 18th century, handbags were highly influenced by fashion. The bulky underclothes women wore previously gave way to more slender cut or tailored attire, women looked for less bulky handbags made from softer materials. Materials such as silk and velvet were used in the design of “reticules” with straps that could be attached to the wrist and popularised in France. When this handbag fashion crossed the English Channel (La Manche) they were adopted as “indispensables”.

The 19th characterised the travel era and bags developed to suit the needs of men and women on their excursions. The upper class would typically have a range of travelling bags to transport their belongings, ladies would have an array of bags from travel trunk to a form of clutch bag, something for all occasions. Indeed handbags were designed during this period to reflect the needs of men and women to transport or carry personal items for all situations.

The 20th century has become, in handbag terms, perhaps the most iconic. Every woman has either one or more of a series of bags be they; an athletic bag, baguette bag, bowling bag, bucket bag. clutch bag, duffel bag, envelope bag, fold over clutch bag. Hobo bag, laptop bag, messenger bag, minaudiere bag, Satchel, Shoulder bag, Sling bag. tote bag, wristlet bag.

Florence Leather Collection sells a full gamut of popular handbags with contemporary designs for all occasions. Working closely with manufacturer and designers to offer the most up to date trends in the market.

Handbag Heaven
Henriettas Handbags

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.