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Handbags: A Representation Of Fashion Through History

Handbags: A Representation Of Fashion Through History


Handbags: A Representation Of Fashion Through History

by Phil Zertisky

The first handbag that showed up in written word was in the fourteenth century, but since the beginning of time people have needed something to carry their things in including Egyptians who have pouches attached to them in ancient hieroglyphics. Pictures from the Medieval period showed both women and men wearing a girdle that was like a large belt gathered about the waist and you would see a bag attached to it and hanging down. This ancient handbags were often ornate with embroidery or had sparkling jewels attached to them. They did not use them just to carry possessions but also for carrying food for their falcons, a popular pet of the era or they would hold supplies they needed for playing certain games. The Seals Bag was carried by the Lord Chancellor and it held relics of the church that were used during the mass.

Handbags became much more practical during the 16th century and were made of either fabric or leather and had a draw string that would enable them to be opened or shut. Travelers would wear large bags made of fabric that slipped diagonally over the shoulder. In the 17th century women would create beautiful samplers of their abilities in embroidery and this transferred to some of their purses to let gentlemen know she had these skills and would make an excellent wife.

Women carried their purses under their voluminous Elizabethan skirts so they were out of the way. Men also concealed their purses under their breeches. Other types of bags were carried and one was the sweat bag. This bag was a fabric bag usually embroidered that was stuffed with sweet smelling herbs and flowers. It was thought that bathing was detrimental to the body at this time so many fragile aristocrats carried these bags to their noses to make the overpowering scents of the city better.

In the eighteenth century the poofy skirts with multitudes of undergarments went out of style and women did not want to distract from the clothing they wore. Women had become dependent on a hand bag by this time so they began to carry bags called reticules in which where stored face powder, hand fans, perfume, a card case with their visiting cards and smelling salts. Each outfit had to have a matching bag.

Things called handbags came about in the 1900's and referred to a smaller piece of luggage that were carried by men. Some were made by popular women's purse designers of the present day like Theirry Hermes and Louis Vuitton. Women liked the look of them because they had internal compartments, locks and more complicated fasteners. Bags were made for women that had compartments for cosmetics and fans.

In the 1920's matching bags were no longer in style and you could carry any bag with any outfit. The clutch that did not have a handle and was tucked under the arm was invented and it was decorated with beautiful geometric designs. The Boulevard Bag and Briefcase became popular for working women. The Bag could hold groceries that you would get on the way home and the briefcase could be worn over the shoulder.

The 1930's gave women all the styles of bags they have today including the classic bag with handles, the clutch, the shoulder bag and the satchel. They were made from all kinds of materials but this is the first time they started to be made of plastic. This was the Art Deco Style period of time and purses reflected this in abstract patterns that were placed on them along with the variety in color. That all stopped in the 1940's when bags took on a more military look and became larger. Soon there were designer bags made by designers like Chanel. It was thought that the more feminine woman used a smaller bag while a woman who was independent and worked outside the home used a larger bag.

Since then the handbag has gone through the same evolution and women's clothing. When the leather cowboy look with suede fringe was in so was the fringed hand bag. The hippie era with bright colors and flowing fabrics also took over that same look in women's hand bags. When women became obsessed with health and fitness the handbag also reflected that looking somewhat like undersized gym bags.

Today we find handbags in any color or made from any material from plastic to wicker and leather. They are made from small to very large and not only women enjoy using handbags but also men have come up with the Man Purse. You can find cheap reproductions of just about any designer bag out there on any street corner in every town. You would be hard pressed to find a woman that does not carry a bag or have several of different colors. They come plain and simple or bedecked with zippers and multiple pockets. Handbags today are utilitarian yet look smart and have come a long way from the small drawstring variety used by women of yesterday.

About the Author:
Today we find handbags in any size or made from any material from plastic to wicker and leather. They are made from small to very large and not only women enjoy using a handbag but also men have come up with the Man Purse.

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