Clothes transformed the bag
When clothes fashion changed, so did the bags. During the 18th century, the Ancient Greek or Roman attributes were popular when Pompeii was found and the Greek temples were rediscovered. Linen or muslin clothes with the bands raised to just below the breast replaced the huge wide dresses that used to hide the pockets. And voila, the “first” predecessor of the handbag took stage. Called the “reticule”, a drawstring or chain attached to it allows it to be held in the hand.
Bags that featured “silver buckles and hooks” and suspended from the skirt were used in the Netherlands and some parts of Germany. The silver-buckled bag was used in the Netherlands from the 17th century until the early part of 20th century. Often, the precious buckles were handed down by mothers to their daughters and were moved to new bags made of cloth or beads.
Secret Pocket Bags
Ingenious as they are, women also made less expensive personalized carriers for their “purse, portfolio, love letters, handkerchief, keys and sewing attributes”. They made bags that hid in their clothes when the fashion during the 17th, 18th, and much of the 19th centuries was broad skirts. The droplet- or pear-shaped bags (also called pockets) had ribbon on the top end that could be used to tie around the waist. The bags sometimes have intricate embroidery and were created with silk, linen or cotton cloths. Typically, a bag was worn on each side of the hip at a time. They were placed under the women’s dress (but on top of their underwear), and were accessible through a slit the dress.
Hand-held bag, “indispensable” “ridicule”?
The hand-held bag was in fashion for many decades. The English called it the “indispensable”. However the French mockingly called it the ‘ridicule’, since women walked with their precious possessions visibly in their hands! All the same, several home industries eagerly fashioned hand-held bags from different types of fabrics.
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