History and Evolution of Purses and Handbags
Purses and handbags have their
origins in early pouches used to carry seeds, religious items and
medicine. Early on, both men and women carried pouches. In the 15th
century, a purse was a traditional gift from a groom to his bride.
The bags typically were elaborately embroidered with an illustration
of a love story. In New Guinea, centuries ago, both men and women
carry large knit bags which looked like nets decorated with
feathers, seashells and other mementos. The more shells a person had
was a sign that they had many people who lived by the sea.
Chenoune says that the similarity between an haute couture tote and
a satchel belonging to an African witch is that both bags hold a
secret of some sort. He says bags are very personal, it holds the
things you need for the day and the things you want to have, just
for comfort or hobby. People began carrying items from home when the
traveled, even on short trips. Items such as a deck of cards,
knitting, a diary as well as beauty and personal items could be
Traditional wallets began as early as the 16th century, as small
leather pouches which a drawstring tie could loop through a belt.
Also in the 16th century there were ‘sweet’ bags that women used
often as lavender bags to scent their handkerchiefs. Pockets, called
bagges were also introduced into clothes around the same time and
allowed people to carry small personal belongings.
By the late 18th century, women’s clothing was more form fitting and
pockets ere not easily accommodated into the garment. Women began
carrying small, often silk embroidered drawstring bags or purses
called reticules, or 'ridicules'. These bags often carried a
handkerchief, fan, dance card, perfume, or face powder. Reticules
were smaller version of what women used to carry their needlework.
This is likely the origin of the Dorothy bag which has since emerged
as shoe bags, dress bags, laundry bags and today, gym bags.
The Victorian period brought a large variety of bags. Bags often
were made t coordinate with the outfit and were now made of many
different fabrics. By the mid 1800’s, bags changed from simply
drawstring styles, to a popular flat style, that could be made in
either a circular or square shape and was generally heavily
decorated with beading and needlework. Patterns and directions for
making these types of purses became popular in ladies magazines at
There were also smaller versions, used as coin purses which often
included a metal fastener.
By the early 20th century, women were carry bags every time they
left home, even for short periods while hats were popular
accessories that began to loose popularity by the early 20th
century, handbags became increasingly popular. The success of the
handbag has much to do with the fact that it has adapted to the
needs of the time. Handbags held cigarettes, sunglasses rather than
seeds and medicines. Years ago, it was ladylike to carry as little
as possible. A small bag was typical. Today women are gone form home
for longer periods of time, frequently working or if not, often with
children along . The size of the typical bag has increased to meet
the need. Eleanor Roosevelt is noted as a sing of the time as a very
busy and active woman herself, she carried a large leather handbag
not necessarily typical of the time.
Shoulder bags became popular during World War II and twentieth
century technology opened up a variety of new f textures and
materials from synthetics to hand-woven straws. Casual bags were
made in rain proof materials and special tote bags for the beach
developed. The variety of fabrics carried over to all hand bag
designs and it has become common place for women to have many
handbags, to meet the need of the occasion. It became fashionable
for men to carry bags during the 1970’s though they were generally
hobo style casual bags and even today, while it is not unusual to
see a man with a messenger bag, hobo or some other form of tote, it
is surely not common place.
Designers and Companies
Coach began as a family run business in a Manhattan loft. The
company started with just a handful of artisans who made
high-quality leather goods. The founder of Coach was influenced and
inspired by a baseball glove when which he knew got softer after
use, thought he leather retained its beauty. The glove-tanned
leather continues to be used by Coach. Coach began with twelve
simple bag designs, focusing on classic designs for handbags. In
1988, Coach noticed a decline in sales as a more eclectic fabric and
mixed material bag became popular. Coach at the time, was vowed by
women as making more traditional and conservative design. In
response, Coach made some changes to the design and began using more
fabric and developed the signature “C” print.
That change as very successful and Coach continued to grow and
develop new designs. The company has since expanded to include
briefcases, planners, computer cases and a travel collection. In
1985, the Sara Lee Company purchased Coach and in 2000 the company
went public. Coach has found that some of the expansion and newer
designs have not been well received by some of the older loyal
customers. A move back to the classic handbag began recently to
address this concern.
Gucci Gucci began his leather goods company in Florence, Italy in
1921. He was very influenced by the years he spent working in
England before returning to Florence to open his own company. His
equestrian-inspired detailing such as the horse bit and stirrup
motif came from the English influences and became a long time symbol
for Gucci. The label was very successful.
In 1947, the company introduced the bamboo handle which has remained
popular. In the 1950’s, the trademark green-red-green became very
successful and remains one of the most familiar identifiers of the
brand. Gucci expanded and Stores opened in Milan, NY, London, Palm
Beach, Paris and Beverly Hills. In 1953, Guccio Gucci died in 1953,
and his son’s Aldo, Vasco, Ugo and Rodolfo took over the business.
Some of the best known Gucci designs include the “Jackie O” Gucci
shoulder bag. The Hobo bag became popular in the 1960’s with
celebrities such as Liz Taylor and Peter Sellers wearing them. The
classic Gucci moccasin with horse bit hardware became a part of the
permanent collection at the Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum
of Art. The interlocking double G logo was adopted by Gucci in the
1960’s. In 1982 Gucci became a public limited company and in1995
Gucci became a fully public company. Gucci was named “European
company of the year in 1998 by the European Business Press
Today, Guicci is recognized by a variety of details including, gold
hardware for simple understated luxury, braided or chain straps for
added distinction, accents such as tassels, charms, or studs,
detachable shoulder straps. Flap or top closures with either zippers
or magnets for security., a sturdy bottom feet to support larger
bags, interior and exterior pockets and of course the signature
interlocking double G logo.
Prada is an Italian company founded in 1913 by Mario Prada. His
granddaughter, Miuccia inherits the company in 1978, at which time
it was still a leather goods business. She has led the company to
huge expansion. Prada has 14 locations in the U.S. Prada acquired
Rome-based Fendi in the early 1990s.but later sold its shares to the
Moet Hennesy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) Company.
Prada has developed a newer, slight more affordable line called, Mui
Mui after Miuccia Prada which is targeted toward a younger market.
Prada purses are know for their sturdy, functional, and yet
fashionable design. Handbags often include leather, fur trim, gold
and silver hardware, contrasting stitching, magnetic snap closures,
zippered inner pockets and detachable identifications tags or key
rings. Of course the Prada logo plates always displayed. Prada
purses typically come in neutral colors that emphasize practicality.
They occasionally offer bolder prints and patterns.
Louis Vuitton began as a trunk manufacture in Paris in 1854,.
Luggage continues t be a major market today for the company. The
design is well known and recognized with the familiar beige and
brown LV monogram. The Vuitton line gained international When Louis Vuitton died in 1892, his son, Georges, took over and expanded the
company, developing, developing what is recognized as the first
"designer label" on a product.
The company's monogram canvas design was created in 1896 by
Vuitton’s son Georges and was intended to prevent counterfeiting.
However, , Louis Vuitton has become the most counterfeited brand in
fashion history. It is estimated that just over 1% of all items with
the Vuitton brand name on them, are actual Louis Vuitton’s. The rest
What started as Vuitton's luggage company has become a world leader
in luxury goods. In 1936, after Georges died, his son, Gaston-Louis,
took over the company. Vuitton merged with Moët-Hennessey in 1977
and became LVMH. Ten years later, in , 1987; LVMH bought Givenchy
.In 1998 Vuitton joined with designer Mac Jacobs and expanded the
company further into the high fashion market.
Fendi began as a leather and fur workshop established by Adele
Casagrande in Rome, in 1918. When she married, she changed the
company name to that of her husband. Fendi, like many of the luxury
companies, has been a family run and owned business. Today, the
company is run by the five daughters of the Fendi’s. They became
involved with the business after the death of their father in 1954.
The Fendi daughters moved the company from fur and leathers, to a
high fashion profile. In 1999 Fendi was bought by Prada-LVMH. Over
the decades the Fendi became more and more popular, and is now known
worldwide. Fur continues to be a major market for Fendi.
Today, a woman without her handbag feels at a loss. A woman's
handbag continues to hold her own personal tastes and her secrets.
Handbags are so personal, that it is clearly understood that one
just does not look into another person’s handbag.The handbag, and the fact that male handbags never quite
caught on, remains a huge difference between the sexes. Men continue
to carry everything in their pockets, and men’s clothing, unlike
women’s always has pockets. A man wearing a suit and overcoat can
easily have ten pockets at his disposal while women in a suit and a
jacket might have none, or only a couple shallow decorative pockets.
Women need the handbag.
The Psychology behind the Handbag & Purse
Some psychologists think that the way a woman carries her bag is
characteristic. The term "bagology" was coined in a 1940’s newspaper
article on handbags that attempted to explain he science t men. The
article claimed that, the way a woman carriers her purse tells a lot
about her. Handbags do say a lot about a woman .Just as you can tell
a lot about a person from their clothing, you can also tell a lot
about a person simply from the handbags they carry. Below is a
perceptive, though not scientific observation from Cathy Feldman on
·Under-the Shoulder – Handbags which are smaller and fit tightly
underneath the shoulder indicate class and sophistication. A women
working in an upscale office or someone of high stature would choose
this form of handbag.
·Big and Bulky – Big, bulky and oversized bags are casual and are
often associated with younger individuals. These are used for
individuals who carry a number of things (binders, books etc) and
require a lot of space. Down-to-earth, lower-maintenance women would
carry this type of handbag.
·Designer – Designer handbags often cost an arm and a leg and
therefore are usually associated with high-maintenance females.
Females who are confident and require top of the line accessories
will settle for nothing less than a name-brand designer purse. Guys
– watch out for these girls, they tend to be a handful.
·Cigar Box Purses – A women who carries a cigar box purse likes to
be unique and stand out from the crowd. These women have minds of
their own and cannot be told what to do. They are comfortable in
their own skin and tend to be very independent.
·Leather with Buckles and Zippers – Women who choose leather purses
with lots of buckles and zippers are leashing out their wild sides.
These women tend to act before they think and are always ready for a
good time. The extra buckles and zippers tend to signify a “bad
·Bright Colors – Bright colored handbags like pink, purple, bright
blue and green indicate that the woman is fun, friendly and
approachable. Women who are out-going and sociable will tend to
choose these colors. This is the type of woman who will strike up a
conversation with a complete stranger.
·Black and Brown – Women who choose black or brown handbags tend to
be more reserved and are often mistaken as being snobby or
restricted. These types of handbags are often associated with
down-to-earth women, who are shy at first, but open up after a
while. They tend to exude a shy confidence, which is sometimes
mistaken as someone who thinks she’s better than others.
·The Bucket - as its name implies, is shaped like a bucket with four
rivets for two short straps so that the purse sits just under the
shoulder. This is a roomy, slouchy style. They provide a lot of room
and often have pockets. The drawback of this style is that it can be
hard to find anything in a deep bucket style bag
The Envelope - also as the name implies, is shaped like an envelope
and is a popular, basic purse that is smaller, neater and feminine,
often used for more formal occasions thought these are available in
casual designs also.
·The Satchel - an extremely popular design as it can be an
attractive handbag, but is big enough to carry everything you need
for the day. The satchel is a bit like a suitcase with two short
handles so t can be carried with hands or over the cook of the
elbow. This design is easy to set down on a floor or table without
the contents spilling out of the bag, which makes it seem neater
than some of other bags.
·The Hobo Bag - traditionally, is a casual design that can be carried
by both women and men. Hobo is now an actual brand name.
· The Clutch - a small, square bag like large wallets and is often
used as evening bags. These are generally small bags, so just hold
the absolute necessities.
·The Shoulder Bag - It has of course, a longer strap so the purse can be
hung on the shoulder. This design is hand for everyday as it allows
you to keep your hands free for other things.
·Messenger Bags - are more like backpacks, and in fact many students
now us these instead of the traditional backpack for books and
school supplies. This design grew from the actual bags that
messengers on bicycles in the cites used. This design is also
popular with men as an alternative to a traditional briefcase.
·The Shopper Style Bag - is a big bag for carrying everything you
need for the day, plus what you might buy along the way. This bag
can actually be used as an overnight or weekend bag as well.
Today handbags are not just a fashion statement and they are not
just for practical purpose, the need to be both. And sometime, women
carry more than one bag at the same time, especially those with a
long day ahead and a need to be prepared for the office, the gym and
a dinner party all by the time they leave the house in the morning.
The variety of handbag and purse designs keeps getting bigger and
more unique and interesting. Current rends are towards cloth and
monogrammed bags. Dog bags have become poplar as we note many
celebrities carrying their small dogs with hem at all times.
The recent trend is away from backpacks style and toward and
oversized handbags. Women want a more fashionable handbag that can
also be used as a as a briefcase, laptop case and handbag, and even
baby bag. The bags are getting bigger and bigger to meet all of the
needs, and carry all of the stuff. This means of course, that
carrying a bag is getting more problematic as the bags get heavier.
The toll on women's back, neck and shoulders is a problem doctors
and physical therapist are noting more often. Some of these medical
professional warn of the effects of overloading the bags with heavy
items and professionals are lobbying to have manufacturers place
warning labels on the handbags.
Handbags go back to the beginning of time and have become a
practicality and a fashion statement for women of all ages. With
suppliers of handbags has grown to include very high end and very
low end markets, and copies of designers trends common place,
everyone can find a handbag for them.