Handbags have become an integral part of the fashion industry today. However, did you know that they have a rich history? You might be surprised to know that the history of handbags dates back to as early as the 17th century. Today, in most of the English-speaking countries, handbags are still known as purses or money bags. They have gone through an incredible journey of evolution to become the fashion hits that they are today. Here, we will take you through the incredible history of handbags so that you can appreciate your small fashion accessories better than before.

Early history and purpose

In the 17th century, the clothes of men and women didn’t have any pockets or compartments. Therefore, they carried purses predominantly to carry coins. At this point in time, these leather purses were quite big and the people who carried them didn’t care a whoop about the fashion statement that they created.

However, by the 18th century, women started to yearn for handbags that were compact and stylish at the same time. This gave rise to one of the earliest styles of handbags ever created – reticules. Silk and velvet were used to create these reticules that women used to carry attached to their wrist straps. Though these bags were originally created in France, their popularity spread across many parts of the globe by the late 18th century, making them an integral part of women’s fashion.

The clutch style of handbags was introduced during the Industrial Revolution Era in England. The main purpose of this bag was to carry it easily while traveling by train. This time was around the early 1900s.

An interesting style of women’s handbags that were used during the 16th century was the Chatelaine handbags. These weren’t considered as handbags but as accessories that women wore at their waist with a waist chain attached to the bags. In these bags, women used to carry their essential household accessories such as scissors, sewing tools, keys and the like. The best part of these bags was that it was made from precious and semi-precious stones and worn by the rich or royal women only.

The birth of luxury handbags

It was in 1914 that an industrialist named Samuel Parkinson from Doncaster wanted special and customized handbags for his wife so that they could stand unique from the rest of the handbags for other passengers who traveled by train. This was when the first ever luxury handbags were created for Doncaster by HJ Cave. These were produced in minimum quantities and had only the elite class as the target audience.

Modern day handbags

By the 20th century, women’s handbags were no more limited to leather, silk, precious stones or velvet. Thanks to the popularity of these bags, many manufacturers started to make these handbags from cloth, yarn, rayon, raffia and the like. These handbags were made in all sizes and shapes, so that women could use it as per their convenience. This was the time when the youth culture was in full swing. Today, there are hundreds of stylish sling bags to match the trousers, mini-skirts and modern attire that women started wearing.


As you can see from the above, the beautiful handbags that you carry every day have evolved beautifully to reach where they are today. Choose them wisely to flaunt your personality well before others.

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