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Article: From utility to worship or how handbags made it to our days

From utility to worship or how handbags made it to our days

From utility to worship or how handbags made it to our days

A fashion accessory and a faithful companion of women, a handbag, was not always an iconic object and status item that it is nowadays. This functional accessory is so vital that it deserves to be traced back to its origins. Historians claim that the history of women's handbags began as a pocket bag, which was a separate accessory and was attached to the belt of men's and women's clothing. They were used to store and carry money and various small items.

Since the XIV century, the bag-pocket began to perform not only a practical function, but also became an element of the dress. Nowadays they are made of various materials; most people can afford to buy them and ladies are able to purchase handbags in an online store, without leaving one’s house. Shape and volume of bags frequently change in according to changes in fashion trends. Both male and female models started to appear. In the Middle Ages, women usually wore wide skirts with numerous folds that could easily hide the hanging pocket, first of it's kind. Later, they began to be attached to the waist with a chain or a cord. The accessory was named "homoniere".

At the Burgundy court in the XIV and XV centuries, a pocket-bag was an accessory to the court’s uniform. The quality and the decoration was an indicator of the lady's status: the higher the position in society, the more expensive materials and decoration (gold threads, pearls, silk, gemstones) were used in sewing.

By the XVII century, with the invention of pockets, men stopped using the pocket-bags and other similar accessories. There is a theory that the first person who thought of replacing bags with pockets was Louis XIV, since first clothing items with pockets are attributed directly to him. As for the women's handbags, they have become even more diverse and sophisticated. From the Rococo era until the 19th century, women wore richly decorated, embroidered, knitted and woven handbags, and purses.

The first handbag was first discovered in 1790. Marquis de Pompadour is regarded as the founder of a new fashion trend. At that time, a ladies' trapezoidal bag made of textile on a long-tied silk lacing started to appear. The product was decorated with embroidery, beads, lace and so on. This accessory has become an essential part of women's overall outfit. Women’s handbags often contained perfume, and a handkerchief.

In the XIX century handbags slightly increased in size and have adopted the most diverse forms. They have got additional sections. A handbag received its first frame lock. A bag with this clasp became known as "reticule".

Bags began to be classified according to their purpose: for promenades, celebrations, visits, dates, going to a theater and other occasions. They were decorated with pearls, embroidery, ribbons and so on.

By the mid-1850s, with the development of railways and cruise ships, people began to travel a lot. There was a need to carry more things at once, creating a need for bigger purses and handbags. Louis Vuitton suitcases became very popular. The suitcase became widespread: it was widely used for traveling by both male and female population (it was first created in France in 1826).

Most of the traditional handbags known today were invented by Paris' famous curtain houses in the late 19th century.

Louis Vuitton's "Steamer bag", created in 1901, was a predecessor of the tote bag. The updated version of this model remains in production even these days.

In 1932, Gaston-Louis Vuitton, at the request of the champagne manufacturer, created the Noé bag, which was designed to carry exactly five bottles of champagne. Later it became the prototype for all modern bucket bag models.

Emile Maurice Hermès was able to convert the saddlebags into a stylish travel accessory.

The prototype for all sports bags, including a tennis bag from Adidas (1980) and a bowling bag from Prada (1990) was the Bolide created by Hermes back in 1923. The Plume bag created by Hermes in 1933 was based on the design of horse boxes.

The term "handbag" itself came into use around the 19th century and was used to describe a small travel bag. At the end of the 19th century in Britain, the “handbag” title was extended to any lady's bag worn by hand or on one’s shoulder.

In 1923 the first clasp was invented. And a little later – a "zipper", which remains the most popular option until today was introduced. Handbags were made of velvet and leather, embroidered with fringes and needlework. Art-Deco style has been brought into fashion. Many archaeological discoveries were made at that time, and the Egyptian style became very popular. Besides, the designers began to draw inspiration from other ethnic motifs - for instance African ones. Ultimately, these patterns became a part of the fashion handbag décor.

Another example of art deco style was the miniature dressing equipages made by the famous jewelry firm Van Cleef & Arpels. An expensive handbag with exquisite design became an indispensable accessory for a woman of high social status. A distinctive feature of these bags are the gems and metals that are used in their creation.

In the late 1930s, handbag designs started to reflect the spirit of surrealism and eccentricity. Elsa Schiaparelli became the icon who was the best at embodying this spirit. She invented a black velvet phone bag with an embroidered gold disc. This idea was suggested by the legendary painter Salvador Dali. She also created bags in a form of an apple, an upside-down bouquet, etc.

In the 1950s, small, stylish, and (due to the emergence of new technologies) frequently fully transparent handbags became trendy. During this period, the trend to wear small handbags contributed to the elegant and feminine style of Christian Dior. From the 1950s onwards, virtually all fashion houses started to create expensive handbags. As a result, abundance of choices drove down the prices of elegant handbags.

The 1950s were a period of time when a heated battle was happening between functional bags and handbags being just a status thing. In 1956, the Hermes fashion house released the Kelly bag. This model existed back in 1892 and was used as a saddlebag, becoming an every-day handbag during 1930s. A direct role in the promotion of the Kelly purse was attributed to a photo of the movie star, which has just been crowned - Grace Kelly, which was published in the magazine "Life". In this picture, she covered her slightly rounded belly from the paparazzi’s lenses with a handbag. This handbag instantly became the object of desire of all fashionistas and was officially named the "Kelly Bag", thus the cult of handbags was born.

It is also a fact that Jean-Louis Dumas Hermes, a chairman of the Hermes house, sat next to her, and years later designed a convenient bag especially for her. The new accessory was called "Birkin" and since then it has become an indispensable symbol of status.

In 1955, Chanel created the infamous quilted "2.55" bag. The name of the bag "2.55" reflects the month and year of its creation: February 1955. Coco was very observant; she saw that handbags that women wore, either under their arms or in their hands, did not provide any freedom to move. Chanel replaced the handles with chains of flat links or links intertwined with strips of leather. This model could be worn on one’s shoulder, and one’s hands were free. The Chanel 2.55 bag became a standard of functionality: it has pockets for a mirror, lipstick, and make-up, a special compartment closed to the public and an external pocket where you can store tickets and small bills. Around this period of time, the first boutiques that specialized exclusively in handbags appeared. By our time, such stores have grown so big that there are departments for almost every single brand and type of handbag. For example, sometimes you need to walk several hundred meters along the corridors of a store to buy a backpack.

In our fast-paced age, fashion of handbags is changing as rapidly as any other piece of clothing and what a pleasure it is to know that you do not have to go anywhere physically to shop for beautiful handbags, you can just buy designer handbags online at

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