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Fashion History: How the Bag Was Born.

The Bag is the king of Accessories. It represents a status symbol and practical objcect that no woman can do without. But do we know its story? Have you ever wondered about the origin of handbags and purses?

The Dawn of the Bag

Well yes. The bag is actually born as a male accessory!

It was used since prehistoric time when men discovered that, by crumpling up a “skin”, you could get a bag, convenient for carrying tools and chipped stones. In fact its name derives from the Greek word “byrsa“, which meant leather.

Since the earliest time, Bags have been useful implements for both women and men.

From the late Middle Ages until the 17th century, people used bags and purse to carry coins, papers, letters, alms bibles and holy-relics because clothing as yet had no inside pockets. These bags were usually worn on a strap or belt and were often made from unadornes leather or cloth.

From this moment on, the bags faithfully accompany historical changes, adapting to the needs of those who wear them.

That it to say that, while in the Middle Ages shoulder bags and waist purse are much appreciated because they leave hands free, in the 16th century the bag adapts to the taste of era covered in brocades, velvets, fringes, appliqués, embroidery and bows.

As skirts grew voluminuous in the 17th century, women secreted their valuables in their rich garments and the bags disappear for a period. The sleeve is also born, with the dual function of heating the hands and containing small goods.

At the end of the 18th century the empire-line dress fashion became popular; dresses became plain and the waist was raised, so there is not longer space for pockets under the large women skirts, and their contents were moved to the Reticule.

They were made from all kind of textiles and carried in the hand on a cord or chain.

Modern Times

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, new materials were used to manufacture bags, such as iron and cut steel. In addition, with the increase in travel, new bags for the modern traveller born. Infact, the term “handbag” first came into use in the early 1900’s and generally referred to hand-held luggage bags usually carried by men.

A 1800s travel illustration.

During the 1900s, the bag changed further under the influence of a rapid succession of art trends and materials but the emancipation of women was quite possibly an even greater influence.

Because of women’s increasing partecipation in the working world and, partly as a result, their growing mobility, the number of practical demand on the bag grew.

Leather briefcase appeared for work, top handle bags for daytime, sophisticated shimmering evening bags and clutches for evenings.

In contrast to previous centuries, in which models could remain the same for decades, the bag has now become a caprice that changes every season.

We can therefore say that the bags evolution goes hand in hand with the various historical events and with the change in the role of women in society.

The Designer Bag

After the bad period of the Second World War, the taste for social life was rediscovered and a refined and chic style was born, whose icon, Grace Kelly, is well.

We can say that she lanched the whole “It Bag” trend. It is no coincidence that these years saw the rise of important designer houses including Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Hermes.

Louis Vuitton most wanted “Keepall” which is rough words is a large version of a “Speedy“.

Unlike previous centuries, when bag fashion evolved much more slowly and the same style was use for years.

nowadys the bag is a fashion statement that changes every season, and in which fashion labels have a domininat position.

So, well-known fashion have always come along with new models or put classical models into production again. One of this classical model is, for example, the Chanel quilted bag with the interwoven chain. The Birkin Bag and the Kelly bag are other classical models. Another famous model is the Lady Dior bag, named after Lady Diana. These model are considered “It Bags”.

In conclusion, every label hopes each season to come up with the”It-Bag” – the one worn by every film star, pop star and supermodel , the one destined to enter history and become timeless.

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OPHERTYCIOCCI Team
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