History of Handbags by Elsanna Portea

A brief history of the handbag

As handbags play a significant role in the lives of women, let’s have a brief look into its development over the centuries. Here is a concise overview of the history of the well beloved accessory.

1. Pouches

From ancient paintings and writings we know that both men and women have used little pouches. Valuable belongings such as coinage were carried along in public. These bundles often had a drawstring and were mostly girdled around the waist. Up to the modern era, pouches were commonly used by men and women alike because of their utility. After the invention of trousers pockets in the 18th century, it largely became a women’s accessory.


2. Reticules

Since trousers pockets concealed personal belongings from the public eye, it thus contributed to the emerging concept of privacy in the typographic age. Therefore, women primarily carried their bag with cosmetics beneath their gowns and close to the skin. The so-called reticules were embroidered and decorated bags that should demonstrate the craft of a woman qualified for marriage. However, carrying the reticule on the outside in public was considered a scandalous and frivolous act of exhibitionism, as if one’s undergarment was revealed. For this reason, the reticule did not only develop in size, shape, and decoration, but from underwear to outerwear.


3. Handbags

By the turn of the 20th century, the railway has created a demand for functional luggage bags, which eventually replaced the reticule. Those miniature suitcases featured sturdy handles and a snap closure. With the rise and popularity of designer houses, handbags were manufactured in a variety of ways and promoted by celebrities. Advertisement in an image-based culture ensured that in the second half of the 20th century handbags have become much more than a mere functional item. A woman’s purse has developed into a status symbol and fashion accessory that expresses one’s personality.

With the emergence of social media, the demand for luxury fashion and accessories has increased and new brands such as Elsanna Portea offer quality handbags at affordable prices. For specific information regarding various bags, visit our store and check out our handbag collection.

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