Where do handbags originate from?
Handbags have been essential to mankind since prehistoric times to carry items and have been recorded in fashion history for a very long time.
The purpose of a bag is to carry precious or useful around even though the items have changed over time. We find mention of such an item first in written literature of the 14th century; however the Egyptian hieroglyphs papyrus show pouches carried around the waist. Bags were attached to "girdles", an item of female underwear, and fastened to the waist. The bags were enriched with Embroidery and jewels and demonstrated the social status of the wearer - the more elaborate the bag, the higher and richer the person that carried it.
In the 16th century, handbags became more practical and were made with the use of everyday materials, i.e. leather and fastener at the top with a drawstring. At the same time, travellers’ bags, made with cloth and larger than normal bags were made and were carried diagonally across the body. In the 17th century bags and small purses became more fashionable both for women and men. Embroidery was becoming fashionable among young girls and this saw the rise in beautiful stitched artwork used on handbags.
In the 18th century, women started to wear less underclothing. Wearing a purse could ruin the look of the clothes and ladies started carrying their handbags. These were called reticules.
Women had a different bag for every occasion and fashion magazine argued on the proper way to carry them. Reticules were used to carry rouge (lipstick), face powder, a fan, a small bottle of scent or perfume, visiting cards, smelling salts, dance/appointment card.
The term "handbag" was first used in the early 1900 and generally referred to a hand-held luggage bag usually carried by men. This inspired for new bags that became popular with women.
In the 1920's a fashion revolution saw shortening hemlines and lighter item of clothing. Bags no longer needed to match the outfit worn and it became fashionable for rich women to carry a doll dressed exactly like themselves, complete with matching bag.
With the 1940's clothing and handbags suffered the all around effect of the war. Metal frames, zips, leather, mirrors were all in short supply and manufacturers used plastic and wood instead. In the 1950's designer houses like Chanel and Louis Vuitton started to see a rise in importance and with the 1960's the hippy and youth culture overtook the old classical styles.
Of course! Fashion fads, new textures, materials and perhaps shapes will come and go. Some of the ‘classics’ will stay, like the Chanels and the Louis Vuittons, however in my opinion the bag or handbag is here to stay whatever we will come to call it.