Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Handbags: Then and Now

From ancient beaded bags to the haute couture handbags of today, personal carryalls have been both the containers of secrets (rule to live by: never go in a woman’s purse) and the mark of power, status, and wealth.

Pouches and bags have been used since humans have needed to carry precious items. And surprisingly, “handbags” of ancient times were for men. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs show men wearing purses around their waists.

14th and 15th century handbags, utilized by both men and women, were also worn around their waists. The drawstring type purse would hang from the waist of the wearer and would vary according to fashion and status. Perhaps this is when the handbag hang-up, for women, began. Women of the day preferred a decorative style known as hamondeys.

16th and 17th century handbags brought big time change. As women’s clothing style changed, the small medieval waist purses gave way to swete bagges, which were worn inside their undergarments.

Toward the end of the 17th century, purses became increasingly sophisticated, moving away from a simple drawstring design to various shapes and materials. So, handbags came back out and into the form of reticules or indispensables. (And the beginning of my gender’s insane dependency upon our handbags.)

That transition from 17th to 18th century and a woman’s dependency upon her purse spawned the rise of the handbag. 19th century handbags brought the whole, “match your handbag with outfit,” deal. During the Victorian era would create handbags to coordinate with the rest of their outfits and women placed massive efforts embroidering their handbags to show off their “domestic” skills to potential husbands. (Barf)

By the time we get to the 20th century the stage was set for Hermes and Louis Vuitton, which are to this day amongst the top coveted handbags of women. Unless you’re this writer … who prefers the elegance of Furla.

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