History of Handbags and Purses

Ever wonder where the iconic must have accessory, our handbag, ever came from? How did purses evolve to the celebrity “it” bags we all covet today? Well the very practical and useful genesis of the handbag is thought to go back centuries with evidence of their existence in Egyptian hieroglyphs. Hieroglyphs are formal writing systems that included various symbols, characters and numbers used by ancient Egyptians. Archeologists tell us that numerous pouches with straps were found on these hieroglyphs and were believed to carry money and essentials needed for survival.

If we think of the status that exudes from one’s handbag carried today; this is first traced back to Europe in the 1400s. While the contents were typically the same, the pouches had evolved into decorative, small handbags. The more embellished your bag, the more prominent you were believed to be in society. Fast forward a hundred years. Handbags are now more and more popular having reached the mainstream of society. In the 1500s the resemblance of the handbags we carry today was starting to take shape. The bags were bigger and constructed largely of leather or cloth material. The added details of straps, drawstrings and closures allowed the bags to be carried over the shoulder or cross body. At this time, bags were still carried by both men and women.

The use of such bags by men declined in the 1600s with the introduction of pockets in trousers. However, fashionable bags referred to as “reticules” carried by women were well on their way to becoming a top fashion accessory by the 1700s. They were now appearing on the arms of prominent aristocrats who had numerous bags for various occasions.

By the turn of the 20th century, handbags and purses were much like we know them today constructed with various handles, straps, compartments, and zippers and adorned with beautiful embellishments. Top fashion designers including Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton and Gucci just to name a few now launched full scale operations dedicated to the design and production of handbags. Handbags were now commercially available to everyone and very much in much demand.

With our celebrity obsessed culture of today, the sight of an A-List celebrity carrying just about any handbag or purse sends sales of that particular bag skyrocketing. The irony is that the very people who carry this bag few could afford rarely pay for such luxury. Designers know one photograph is all it takes for that handbag to become a household name. The Fendi Spy, Marc Jacobs Stam, Christian Dior Lady, Hermes Birkin, Chloe Paddington and Jimmy Choo Mahala just to name a few. Whether your budget is large or small, your tastes Grande or not, most every gal carries a handbag and this has stood and will stand the test of time.