The History of Handbags

The History of Handbags


Firstly, about the bag. When was the bag discovered? What was it used for over the years and how did the bag grow? 

Between 1500 and 1800 bags were purely functional items that were worn by both men and women. Because the clothes had no pockets at the time, people used bags and purses to take their money and other personal items with them. The bags from then were made from very different materials than the bags we know today.

Because the bag was used for different functions, there were different 'models'. So you had the brace bag, a leather purse and a pouch with a long drawstring. Almost all models were worn with a belt.

After the arrival of 'the inside pocket' around 1700, the bag era for men came to an end. The bag became a real women's item. The bag changed in appearance. For example, women wore their bag on a chatelaine: a hook with chains to which other accessories could be hung.

The chatelaine was a real status symbol. The 'ordinary' woman wore wide clothing and wore so called thighbags under her dress or skirt. Large sewn-in pockets that fit a lot of stuff. No one could see it. It would also take some time before the chatelaine and the thigh bags would finally make way for the handbag.


Women and bags

From the twentieth century, the bag has bestowed an increasingly large role. This was mainly due to the emancipation of women. From now on, women would work or travel to other places. They also imposed more and more demands on the bag.


That is why more and more different bags were developed: work bags with enough space for all kinds of documents, leisure bags made of leather or plastic, sophisticated and glittering evening bags and opera bags especially for the theater.


A number of brands set up a real bag line. Think of Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Hermès. Brands that have become big by the bag.

But fashion houses and their designers did not let the bag pass by. Chanel, Dior, Versace and, for example, Dolce & Gabbana, saw the bag as an essential part of the outfit.


Meanwhile, we speak of an accessory that is inextricably linked to fashion. And that every season a (subtle) metamorphosis goes through. And we do not mind that!



Written by Jane Heikoop

Edited by Vanessa M Dietzschold

Foto by @simplybysimone