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The History of Handbags – Designer Handbags

Rod Stewart asked what would become of his lover when they stripped her off: ‘…the designer handbags and the glad rags that your grandad had to sweat so that you could buy them.’ Mrs. Thatcher called her her ‘trusty companion’ and the word ‘handbagging’ was invented to describe her browbeating tactics. Some famous handbags in the literature include the bag which contained Jack/ Earnest in Oscar Wilde’s play, The Importance of Being Earnest and Anna Karenina’s red velvet handbag which she threw onto the railway tracks before throwing herself onto them.

Chiara Ferragni Handbags – Photo from Farfetch

Expensive handbags confer status and certainly have an aura about them. Hundreds of women are on the waiting lists for the infamous Kelly and Birkin bags even though their prices are enormous. A vintage crocodile Hermes Birkin bag with diamond clasps recently sold for over $64,000.00. In the modern fashion sense, carrying a Chanel bag is a way of doing Chanel, without being clad in Chanel from top to toe. It is liberating, but it can also be ruinous, some women go into debt just so that they can carry a designer handbag!

Designer Handbags
Salvatore Ferragamo cross body bag collection 2021 – Photo from Yoox

The Origins of the Handbag

Ancient peoples probably carried bags made of leaves and wood. Later Egyptian hieroglyphs show men carrying bags around their waist. Surprisingly, bags were initially carried by men, not women. But by the Middle Ages, metal frames were developed and drawstring purses were hung from the waist or the hips.

Medieval Handbags

Men and women both carried bags during the Middle Ages which were worn slung across the shoulder or hung from the waist. They were especially important for traveling. Large bags were usually worn by peasants because they held many articles and often by workers in the fields, who carried seeds in their bags.

Small coin purses began to be used to give money away to beggars or to contain money for gambling, a popular pastime amongst the wealthy. Women wore bags that hung from girdles and carried personal items that they needed. Bags would often be given by men as presents to their ladies and began to be decorated with embroidery, beads, and other ornate embellishments.

Women often carried herbs and perfumes, such as lavender and lemon verbena, in their bags because of the evil smells in the atmosphere. Pomanders were also worn to combat these nasty smells.

Later Centuries

According to Carried Away: All About Bags by Vandome, the first versions of the modern purse came along in the late 18th century. Until this time, women wore separate pear-shaped pouches or pockets under their clothes, somewhat like the money bags some people wear today. Men however wore their bags separately.

The Regency period saw the rise of the reticule, which derived its name from the Latin for a net or a network of lines, ‘reticulum’.

This small purse became popular because of the figure-hugging design of Regency clothes that made it impossible to hide bags underneath them.

History of handbags – The beginning of handbags – Photo from Pinterest

The very fashionable Empress Josephine would not be seen without her reticule when she was in Egypt and its popularity soon spread to the rest of the Western world.

These very pretty items, carried on chains or drawstrings, were often beaded or embroidered and made of sumptuous materials like velvet and silk. Some, however, were simple and crocheted or netted. Women often enjoyed making purses and they began to judge each other’s status at the expense of their reticule. They still do this today!

Traveling Bags

. Until the 19th century, nobody used the word “handbag”. Surprisingly, it developed from small travel bags for ladies made in the 1860s. These were made of leather and featured locks and toilet compartments. Later Hermes designed handbags which were often revised saddlebags or bags that had originally been meant to contain horse-feed or horse blankets!

Bags went out of fashion for a while with the looser styles of clothing in the late 1800s but came back with a vengeance again in the 20th century when the hobble skirt became popular. The early 20th century saw the emergence of one of the greatest names in handbag fashion today: Louis Vuitton.

Louis Vuitton originally packed Empress Eugenie’s luggage and then started making travel trunks for the wealthy. It wasn’t until much later that his company began making handbags. The Louis Vuitton ‘keep all bag, designed in 1924, lived up to its name and was a very useful, streamlined travel bag.

The Twentieth Century

Handbags became a symbol of women’s independence in the 20th century, according to Handbags: The Power of the Purse by Anna Johnson. Chanel saw their potential and managed to increase their popularity to a great extent. They did this by introducing handbags that suited the times.

Always a mystery and a subject of fascination to men, women now use handbags to carry everything from lipstick to condoms, along with dogs in certain cases! In this century, we have seen every texture and material from space-age synthetics by Prada to hand-woven straws by Cavalli. There are rain-proof bags by Gucci, sturdy totes by Salvatore Ferragamo. There are the delicate fabric handbags by Cellini for the evenings out. and leather shoulder bags by Fendi: a designer handbag for every occasion. Moreover, hundreds of more affordable yet diverse bags from brands from all over the world started to appear.

Designer Handbags
Gucci bag for carrying dogs – Photo from Gucci

Designer French and Italian handbags were all a person needed to be the very best. They are always excellent investments and even special heirlooms to pass on to other members of the family. Gucci, Prada, Fendi, Cellini – these elegant, finely crafted bags look wonderful and inspire envy and admiration. As the great designer, Giorgio Armani, said: “Accessories are important and becoming more and more important every day. “

Italian luxury designer bags

The Italian luxury designer handbags are handmade with high-quality materials by experienced designers introducing a multitude of classic and contemporary designs. All the handbags created by the prestigious Italian brands earned their place in the luxury fashion industry thanks to the craftsmanship they demonstrated over the years. Italians are well known for the unique prints, textures they use and for the love of bright colors they apply to all the designs. There are many Italian different fashion houses that produce these luxury goods.

Gucci Handbags

The Gucci brand produces handbags in a large range of styles and sizes, from small to medium models and they are prized by the customers as symbols of status. They use the highest quality materials and all the handbags are made of the best leathers around the world. Their statement about how the designer bags are made is “All the details on the handbags are made with extreme attention and true love”.

Designer Handbags
Gucci small shoulder bag collection 2021  – Photo from Gucci

Prada Handbags

The Prada Handbags are categorized as works of art and they become famous for the high-class elegance they express, as well as for the quality they show. They are made of the highest quality soft calf leather. The styles are often classic, printed, or studded and the colors are very smooth. The handbags are created from scratch to the end completely in the Prada house, always remained to the original designs with simplicity and functionality.

Designer Handbags
Prada Brushed leather handbag spring collection 2021 – Photo from Prada

Versace Handbags

The Versace brand identity can be described as being Bold, Ostentatious, and Daring as this is the way a woman is described while wearing one of the bags.  Their glamourous vision, iconic prints, and eye-catching models can’t be conquered so easily because of the sizes they offer, the several color combinations they mix.  Costumers are always pleasantly surprised with special editions like exotic skin or gold embroidery that would break the luxury challenges.

Designer Handbags
Versace La Medusa bag collection for summer – photo from Versace

Giorgio Armani Handbags

Giorgio Armani designer handbags represent the signature style of the iconic Italian designer as they are considered as being simple, elegant, and timeless. The combination of contemporary design with the charming approach, put together in delicate pastel colors and exclusive leather materials gives the bags a classic-clean style.

Designer Handbags
Giorgio Armani shoulder bag – New collection 2021 – Photo from Armani

Emporio Armani Handbags

Emporio Armani designer handbags are the most loved among the young adults of today. It is a label that uses the topmost quality materials in their products and the style is categorized as being chic and sporty, combining traditional elegance with trendy elements. The words that are highly used to describe this brand’s handbags are Extravagance, luxury, and the highest quality standards.

Designer Handbags
Emporio Armani  Handbag collection 2021 – Photo from Armani

Dolce and Gabbana Handbags

The Dolce and Gabbana Handbags are the expressions of the Mediterranean style. They are the symbol of eccentric luxury and true feminism, made of playful designs and prints that are in style for any season.  The extreme attention to important necessity details makes the essential key of the Sicilian brand. This makes them timeless, versatile, and functional, making them an icon among the classic designer bags.

Designer Handbags
Dolce and Gabbana handbag – Photo from Dolcegabbana

Bottega Veneta Handbags

The Bottega Veneta designer handbags are everything a woman needs them to be: soft, chic and heavenly, having a minimalist design, cool color palettes, and a classic aesthetic that defines the creativity put into the fashion-favorite pieces. They redefine innovation as the brand’s large-scale designs go from cassettes, pouches, mini pouches, twists, Jodie bags, and tote bags.

Designer Handbags
Bottega Veneta bag “The Chain Cassette” collection 2021 – photo from Bottegaveneta

Fendi Handbags

The Fendi designer handbags are considered sophisticated and romantic must-have handcrafted accessories made by using the best high materials. The Baguette and Peekaboo, as well as the shoulder bags and clutches, made the brand become one of the most formidable in-demand luxury brands. The brand has grown continuously through the years thanks to the world’s most skilled craftsmen and the brand’s ability to believe and inspire, having the objective of a more transparent and sustainable industry.

Designer Handbags
Fendi bag “Baguette” collection 2021 – photo from Fendi

Valentino Handbags

The Valentino Handbags are considered memorable fashion pieces that will last for many more trends. The designs they offer and the leather is what makes the customers completely quit on any other brands. The designs have subtle textures and are very compact, completed by the punctuations on the bags for all glam looks.

Designer Handbags
Valentino bag “Roman Stud The Tote In Nappa” collection 2021 – photo from Valentino

Original article by Lisa-Anne Sanderson

Re-written and updated by Roxi B.

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Reagan Ballard
4 years ago

I bought a vintage bag. It reminds me of a Hermes mini satchel bag. It’s sturdy and made with croc leather. One folded-over pocket on each side. One with a zipper that says arci. I was wondering if you know when or where this purse was made.