I got to thinking about why purses, handbags, clutches, totes, etc. were so diverse and how each one serves different purposes. How did fabric, leather & metal come together so we could move around better? When did this happen? What I wanted to know was how it all developed. When did our appetite to carry all our stuff in a handsome carryall begin?
Here’s a brief history. It’s simple really. Ever since men began needing to carry coins there has been bags & purses. Originally worn from the belt they provided a means for carrying personal items. In the early 1700’s people began sewing pockets into trousers and ever since then the purse has been a women’s domain.
From the 1700’s up until the 20th century women continued using bags made of metal hung from the waist. They were small and didn’t hold much. Even for traveling, women’s bags were often heavy and ill suited. In the 20th century the handbag was born. Until women began doing their own shopping, carrying items that were formally done by servants did the supply and demand meet up. Of course it was a woman who picked up on the early shifts in need.
Coco Chanel was credited as the marketer of the handbag. Her first designs called 2.55 (flap bag) out in 1929 was one of the first to market. It was designed to free up hands by adding a shoulder strap, inspired by the straps found on a soldier’s bag. The major luggage manufacturers followed with Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior all launching handbags in the ‘40s and ‘50s.
As women worked, owned their own property and took on more and more responsibility, the uses and designs of handbags grew. We now have satchel, sling, tote, backpacks, duffel, baguettes, miniaudiere, bowling, buckets, doctors, hobos, messengers, saddle & envelopes to name just a few.
Originally bags were made from metal and as they grew larger, fabric and leather was used. Now a days we use cork, vegan leather, leather, fabric, metals and upcycled materials such as ReWilder's beer cloth.
So next time you want to buy a new handbag, think about the need because there is a bag for you and you can put it down to a celebration of equality. And we can never have too much of that!