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Celebrity Handbags: The History of this Iconic Accessory

From the time people possessed precious things they wanted to carry around with them, different styles of handbags appeared on the scene, although it was not until the 19th century that the term “handbag” was first used. But over time handbags became an essential fashion item for both women and men to have in their wardrobes. There are records of handbags being around as far back as the 14thcentury but the ancient Egyptians too, used a type of pouch which they wore around their waists which served the same purpose as that of a handbag.

Ancient Egyptians & Bejewelled Pouches

Naturally, in ancient Egypt these pouches were often embroidered with jewels and the richer a person happened to be, the more jewels were used as decoration on their pouches. Egyptian hieroglyphs show beautifully decorated and elaborate bags worn by the wealthy of times long past – these style pouches said a lot about the person who wore them.

16th Century Practical Handbags

By the 16th century, handbags were designed to be more practical items. They were made out of leather with drawstring fasteners, making sure treasured possessions remained safely inside them. Bags were also made out of cloth but these were larger and carried across a person’s chest. From then onwards, things started to change with bags becoming more and more fashionable, both for men and women.

17th Century Trends

In the 17th century, bags became fashionable items that both sexes carried around with them. Ladies clutched smaller, more delicate purses with some interesting designs and young girls were taught how to embroider so they became more desirable in marriage. Handbags became works of art with beautiful hand stitched decorations on them – again these handbags said a lot about the person holding them.

18th Century – Ladies Reticules

Ladies in the 18th century were no longer weighted down by layer upon layer of heavy garments. Women of the period were much freer with the advent of neoclassical clothing. As such purses would ruin a simple unencumbered look, so instead of handbags, ladies reticules were created, and a lady had a different one for every single occasion.

Fashion magazines at the time spent much time discussing just how reticules should be carried and women carried all they needed in them which included rouge, some face powder, the essential fashionable fan, some scent, visiting cards, smelling salts and a card case.

19th Century – Purses, Reticules & Handbags

It was only in the 19th century that people starting using the term “handbag” and this usually meant luggage bags carried by men. However, it was to become the inspiration for what women would come to adore, which were of course, fabulous ladies handbags with intricate fasteners, inside compartments and the first ever bag locks.

The Roaring Twenties & Subdued Forties

By the 1920’s things were in full ladies handbag swing with high fashion taking centre stage. The new and novel trend of ladies handbags not having to match an outfit was born! Then in the forties, handbags became a lot more austere because of the war. Bag makers used wood instead of metal for the frames and plastic instead of glass for mirrors because materials were in short supply.

Fifties Revival

Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermes made an appearance in the fifties and over the next ten years, these fabulous fashion houses created some of the most classic ladies handbags ever to stand the tests of time.

Designs, Styles & Fantastic Materials

From the sixties onwards, designers have never looked back, creating some of the most fantastical and practical ladies handbags a girl could ever need, and it gets better every season. The future of the handbag is exciting with newer materials and creations appearing all the time – making them a girl’s best friend all round.

Emma White is a fashion blogger with a taste for janeshilton.co.uk bags.

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