Have you ever wondered how the objects we use in our everyday life got its start? I have an uncanny desire to find the origin of certain items.
There's a show I like to watch called ‘How It's Made'. It gives considerable insight into all types of products and the mechanics behind their production. Today as I grabbed my purse to hunt for some lip moisturizer, I started wondering "Where and when did purses get their start?
For most women, we've been using some form of a purse since we could walk. My mom has a hilarious picture of me with a doll in one hand, red lipstick smeared across my face, and a purse straddled over my arm. Only God knows what I was thinking, but I was unquestionably influenced by a phenomenon that started many moons ago.
I did a little digging and here lies some of the exciting information that I've found;
Purses date back to the 16th century where early modern Europeans begin carrying them to house their coins. The bags were made of leather or soft fabric. Women, as well as men, wore them secured to their clothing. The guys wore theirs attached to a belt. Their 16th-century buckle bag had 18 secret compartments! (Talk about storage...geesh!!) For the aristocratic gentleman, bags were a status symbol. The Scottish ‘Sporran' (Scottish Gaelic for "purse) is a survival of this custom.
During the 17th century, girls were taught embroidery as a necessary skill set for marriage. They made their bags with jewels, beads, fancy threads, and remarkable design. However, by the 18th century, Neoclassical clothing became popular with a reduction in the amount of underclothing worn by women. Fastening a purse to clothing would often ruin the look, so trendy ladies of the era started carrying their handbags which were called reticules. The reticules were much slimmer and could be found holding makeup, small fans, card cases, or other petite items.
The term "handbag" first came into use in the early 1900s and generally referred to hand-held luggage bags usually carried by men. With the discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb in the '20s Egyptian art began to leap onto purses and by the 1940's we saw a rise in minimalistic clothing.
With WWII in full effect, metal frames, zips, leather, and mirrors were in short supply, so manufacturers used plastic and wood. Later on, in the '50s, the rise of more notable designer houses including Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Hermes came into existence.
With each new decade, we see the changes made to the purse/handbag scene. Each one brings it's vibrant creativity to light. Some dabble with vintage and rare gems that capture the heart of the generation while others experiment with shapes and patterns that dazzle the eyes.
Either way, I'm glad I took the time to find out the purse' path to my arm. Moreover, while you're here with me, check out Vous Belle's excellent selection of purses, totes, & handbags. I hope you find a gem worth carrying.
There is a Museum of Bags & Purses in Herengracht Amsterdam. Started by Hendrikje Ivo, an antique dealer from Amstelveen. She bought her first bag in the 1960s that inspired a lifelong passion for her. Together with her husband, she collected over 3,000 bags before opening her collection to the public. Today, the collection contains over 5,000 bags.