History of Handbag Fashion

11/23/2011 19:11

Early handbags ware more functional rather than being a fashion statement. They were typically small circular cut pieces of material that normally had a leather strap. The leather strap was sewn around the circumference of the handbag to maintain its' strength and security.


Ancient pouches were used by men to hold coins and other valuables. Frequently men tied this pouch near a sword on their safekeeping and added protection. These can be seen in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Pouches were more likely to be considered a man' item. Women had less need to carry pouches because they were not normally wealthy enough to require one.

Today handbags are a standard fashion accessory. Most women will normally have their favourite handbag and carry them with pride and are always wanting to show their handbag to others and have a chat about handbags generally. Even men will carry a form of handbag which they likewise take pride in.

Handbags began to become popular in the later part of the medieval and renaissance period of the sixteenth century. Handbags, which were larger in size, were worn by diagonally carrying them across the body by both sexes. These handbags were particularly considered important by travellers. The wealth or status of the carrier was normally shown by the adornment of jewelry. The seventeenth century saw more variety in handbags; they became smaller in size and took on a variety of complex shapes, embroidery made them more decorative.

The eighteenth century saw the use of reticules. Reticules was the name given to handbags. Reticules became a fashion statement. The functional element of handbags although remaining important started to give way to the design of the handbag in reasons why people chose a particular handbag for their wardrobe. Fashion magazines were primarily responsible for making handbags a fashion statement as they began to comment on the best handbags to use for specific events, occasions and locations. This led to the need to have different handbags for different conditions. Handbags remained functional but not just as travellers carry bag but to carry other personal items including a fan, perfume, smelling salts and make-up.

The term handbag rather than reticule began to be used in the early part of the twentieth century. Initially the term referred to a man's travelling bag but in time the term handbag referred to a larger bag used by women. Each decade of the twentieth century saw developments in the fashion of handbags. In the 1920s women carried a variety of handbags that did not necessarily match clothing. The war years of the 1940s saw the necessity to use a variety of materials due to lack of traditional resources and plastic and wood became popular. The 1950s saw the increase of designer fashion. Some special designers gained reputation for creating handbags that were outstanding being both beautiful and elegant in their appearance. Popular designers include Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Prada.

The last half of the twentieth century has seen progress in technology and the introduction of new materials and textiles for handbags including waterproof canvas, space age synethics and faux reptile skin. Improvement of manufacturing processes also meant that handbags could be produced at a lower cost, allowing people to buy beautiful handbags at affordable prices. Some designer handbags nevertheless can still cost in the thousands of dollars. A price some women will pay for the prestige of having a unique handbag that their friends and other potential admirers do not have.

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The history of handbags comes full circle. At first handbags were used by men, and then women took handbags as a fashion statement. Now there has been a return to men's fashion and increasingly men are wanting to have a handbag that matches their male ego and at the same time their new age image.