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Handbags are the vogue these days and it has been so for ages now. But, have you ever wondered how this whole phenomenon came into existence? How did people especially women that they need to have separate purses to carry their precious items? Well, nobody exactly knows what clicked that but we sure do have an account of how the modern handbags came into existence. Here’s how it all got started…
We can’t for sure say when this phenomenon started. But, by taking some biblical references and some ancient Egyptian pictures into consideration, we can easily say that people have been using leather pouches or cloth pouches for centuries. The Bible draws the picture of Judas Iscariot as a person always carrying a purse with him to hold his coins. So, well, we can say that Judas is the first identified person carrying a purse!
The Uprising Against Pockets and Underwear in the 18th Century…
Heavy and long skirts of the ancient regime became less popular among women after the French Revolution. Women started opting for slender and narrow dresses which were considered more comfortable. However, the downside faced was that these slender dresses had no room for pockets or under-the-skirt purses. So, they became outdated. This was the time when women again started carrying purses in hand. However, many of the elites didn’t really consider this a good practice and women carrying purses were often marked and mocked.
Handbags at a Rise in the 19th Century…
During the Victorian era, science and industry flourished greatly giving way to new fashions and styles. New and unique fabrics were introduced and things started changing overnight. Purses came into fashion and even though pockets were back in the 1840s, women preferred using handbags.
Later in the time railroads were created. This is was the revolutionary era for bags. In 1843, around 2000 miles of railway lines were built in the Great Britain. More and more people started traveling by train and women became starting going out more often. Luggage makers, those who used to make bags for horse travel, were now making bags for training traveling and this is when the term handbags came into the scene. In fact, it’s surprising to know that most of the popular handbags today were started as luggage makers. A general example would be of the Hermes bags that were founded in 1837 by Thierry Hermes. Thierry Hermes was a saddle and harness maker. Similarly, the all famous Louis Vuitton was a luggage packer for the Parisian rich.
The Egyptomania and the Swinging Pochette in the Early 1990s (1900 – 1920)…
In the early 20th century, handbags became a fashion accessory. They were no longer considered mere luggage carriers but an essential for every woman. The Dorothy bags were used back then with matching robes, compact leather bags with opera glasses and folding fans attached to them. On the other hand, working women by this time still preferred larger handbags such as leather shopping bags, briefcases or the Boulevard bags.
Furthermore, after the WWI more and more travel opportunities opened up for women. During this time, an important development was seen in the handbag history which was of the pochette. The pochette is a handless clutch embellished with bright geometric. Women used to tuck these under their arms as it became the fad. Later on, with the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1923, the Egyptomania started which gave birth to purses with exotic motifs.
1930 and Onwards…
Most of the bags we use today were created by the 1930s such as the shoulder bag, the classic handbag, the clutch and the satchel. Most of the bags of the 1930s depicted the Art Deco fashion. The Art Deco fashion is one in which abstract art and new industrial materials were highlighted such as zippers and plastic.
The WWII affected the fashion of millions around the world. The 1930s industrial fashion changed into more of a military fashion. Delicate and artistic bags transformed into larger, square and more rugged bags. People liked the military look. Some liked it because they wanted to show the patriotism for their country while some thought it was cool back then. Wood or plastic frames became more popular compared to leather, mirrors and zippers. The drawstring bags were back in fashion and they were being homemade widely. In the Great Britain, such bags were made to look sleek and match the outfit as well to have enough space to accommodate gas masks. In the USA and France, more and more women were joining the work force and they preferred shoulder bags to handbags.
It was during the 50s when handbags became the cult. Several top notch designers including Hermes, Channel and Vuitton enjoyed an era of diversity and colors in fashion. Moreover, Christian Dior’s newly introduced style in 1947 highlighted skirts and tiny waists. Of course, this was the era of a new feminine look in contrast to the previous tough military look and more and more female went for it. It was an era of beauty and exquisiteness. Small handbags were in fashion and were thought of as being more chic than the larger shoulder bags.
The rise of the youth culture and the women’s movement during the 1960s emphasized more on what we call now ‘casual dressing’. Rules and regulations of appropriate and formal dressing began to fade. The age of informality was on the rise. It was the era when everyone wanted to look youthful and punk and so tiny handbags were in. Also, small shoulder bags with long chains or thin long straps came into the scene.
On the other hand, since the world was becoming smaller, travelers from India and other similar regions brought in the fashion of large satchels and fabric shoulder bags. Afghan coats and bags, embroidery, patchwork and army bags started becoming popular and machine made goods were on a decline. Later on after a decade, individual expression was the hype and psychedelic patterns came into the scene. But things were changing too rapidly at this time. By the end of the 70s, slung shoulder bags were back but with more buckles and zippers to make them look more punk.
By the 1980s, handbags were being widely used. However, the hype of conspicuous consumption took over. The concern of health and fitness sports shoes and bags came into the scene. Even though the produced goods were merely introduced as sports goods, they later became fashion accessories. This was the age of the unisex bags. Miuccia Prada, in 1985, introduced the black nylon backpack as the first ever completely unisex bag ever produced. On the other hand, Vera Bradley’s quilted bags showed up taking the market and the fashion industry by storm. It made sales of more than $1 million in just 3 years making it the most sold bag of that time. 1990s started with a gush of small designer handbags with large alphabets on them such as H, A and the like.
Finally, here we are in the 21st century with manifold styles and shapes of handbags. Today, not only women but even men love carrying handbags. Handbags have become an important accessory and no one can deny this fact. Waterproof canvas bags, space age synthetics and even reptile skins are used for making handbags. It’s a whole world of fashion itself where designers are busy coming up with newer ideas and shapes and people are looking for better and more exciting thing to carry!
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