Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Chanel, Gucci, Chloe, and Mark Jacobs. You can’t help but to stare at the designer handbag before you. You spend your days dreaming about the bag you want to add to your collection. You worship your handbag and its maker, but do you know where the designer received their inspiration? Are you aware of the handbag trends over the years? Did you know handbags were first seen in Egyptian hieroglyphs? The Egyptians had pouches that were attached to girdles around their waists. The pouches acted as a way to promote social status, judging on how elaborately the bags were adorned with embroidery and jewels. Little did the Egyptians know that they would start a trend that would last centuries and benefit us by satisfying our handbag fetish.
The 16th century marked at time when handbags were designed for practicality, instead of making a statement, and were large, simple and made from everyday materials, such as cloth and leather. Handbags were commonly used by travelers to carry their belongings and slung them across their bodies, worn similarly to satchels. As time passed, handbags become smaller and more fashionable with intricate designs and the use of more expensive fabrics such as silk and velvet. It was during the 17th and 18th centuries that men and women began carrying bags rather than wearing them. Fashionable women deemed that wearing their purses detracted from the way their clothing looked. In a bag belonging to a woman at that time, you could find a fan, rouge, face powder, smelling salts, and a scent bottle to hide rancid smells which had infused the air around them. While designer handbags were unavailable back then, they were used as a way to make a fashion statement and to declare social standing.
The term “handbag” was not used until the 1900′s. It originally referred to hand-held luggages carried by men. These luggage bags incorporated internal compartments, locks, and fasteners. These accessories acted as inspiration for designers and continue to be used on handbags today. It was in 1920 when a fashion revolution erupted and changed the fashion industry. Hem lines became shorter, styles became edgier and lighter, and matching handbags to outfits became a thing of the past. This new trend liberated women from their constrictive clothing and gave women a new found freedom. Coco Chanel may be the most famous person who emerged in the 1920′s when she wore trousers, rejected her corset, and cut her hair. Since then, she has become one of fashion’s biggest icons in the fashion industry. Nearly a century later, her designer handbags, clothing, jewelry, perfumes, and makeup act as a symbol of her greatness and her contribution to the fashion industry.
The 1940′s brought about a new asceticism in the world of handbags. Because of World War II, there was a shortage of leather, zippers, metal frames, and mirrors. Handbag designers had to resort to using plastic and wood as part of their bags. In comparison to what the women carried in their handbags back in the 17th and 18th century, women in the 1940′s typically carried one of two lipsticks, a compact, a freshly laundered handkerchief, a change purse, a hairnet, mad money, supermarket shopping list, and a fountain pen. Prior to 1947, the Paris fashion houses were closed due to the war. However, upon reopening, fashion headed in a new direction as designers, such as Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga, made their contributions in the fashion industry. Other major designers such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Hermes made a splash in the world of fashion as well with their eye catching and trendy designs. All of these designers have one thing in common. High fashion. From their clothing lines, designer handbags, jewelry, and perfumes, these designers have made a name for themselves and their empire continues to thrive as they dominate fashion.
Over the centuries, we have seen the evolution of handbags and have grown to need and love them for their unique qualities. We can choose from a wide variety of designer handbags that we can use an accessory or for utility or both. We can choose a bag to fit our mood and outfits. We are not limited to one certain type of bag. We can choose from tote bags, messenger bags, beach bags, hobo bags, shoulder bags, and purses. There’s cloth, leather, pleather, starburst wrappers, duct tape, and bags with designs- the infamous Dooney and Burke or Louis Vuitton. Handbags not only symbolize individuality but also mark changing times. Think about what is in your hand bag. Now, think about what was in a bag in the 17th and 18th centuries. In any given bag in today’s society, you might find a wallet containing credit and debit cards, a checkbook, a cell phone, an electronic organizer, multiple lipsticks/lip glosses, a makeup bag, hand sanitizer, pens, gum, mints, a brush, hairspray, tissues, and receipts that date back a year ago. We’ve become dependent on our handbags and feel naked without them. Fortunately, designers continue to amaze us with each new handbag that is released. Our obsession with handbags cannot be cured and Madonna hit the nail on the head when she said “We are living in a material world, and I am a material girl.” So, let’s make the most of it. Shop on.