Vintage Handbags

Vintage inspired kiss clip purse bag

Although handbags have probably been used in various guises for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, the modern  "ladies handbag" or purse, as we know it, really only came into vogue at the beginning of the 20th century. Handbags are so incredibly popular it would be hard to find a woman who didn't own one. Of course, men use them too, in a "manbag" form but by far the most avid fans of the handbag are women. 
Vintage inspired purses to make yourself from Victorian Purses by Sue

A lady and her reticule
They are such a handy item, I wonder how most men can do without them - the right sized bag can hold tech stuff, pharmaceuticals, make-up, money, notebooks, pens, hairpins, brushes, tarot cards, a kitchen not really but you get the drift. The precursor to the modern handbag was the reticule. a type of drawstring handbag that was carried by elegant ladies in the 19th century - very Jane Austin. Prior to this, most women had used large pockets to store their essential items, such as perfume, a handkerchief, smelling salts or a needle and thread. Interestingly, these pockets lay under a womans skirts, suspended by a belt and the wearer could access it via a slit in the outer skirt. As slimmer cut, under the bust empire dresses made it difficult to access pockets under the outer clothing, the reticule became a necessity.

The term "handbag ' didn't come into common usage until the 20th century and then it was used to describes a man's bag or satchel. things change, as these days few men would be prepared to say "pass me my handbag". By the 20s however, the handbag had become an accessory for independent women about town. In previous centuries, it wouldv'e have been considered a definite no -no for a woman of style and substance to lug around anything bigger than a reticule - after all, that's what servants were for.

Bags in this era were very much influenced by the Art Deco style - geometric lines, often with motifs and/or decorative beading. Art deco favoured the use of earthy and dramatic colours such as black, cream, green red, and orange.

Fabulous 20s/30s handbag from
During the 40's and 50s, the popularity of handbags grew exponentially and they came in a variety of styles - clutch, evening, drawstring, shoulder strap, purse, tote, pocket book, although the traditional short strapped, clasp bag remained the most ubiquitous. In the 60's and 70s the more traditional bags went out of vogue somewhat and new designs tended to more androgynous.. The mod era, with it''s ironic use of traditonal icons,  ushered in a "rebellious" look that was carried into the 70's. Young women often carried army surplus bags, leather satchels and later, back packs.

A woman on her wedding day in 1941, holding a clutchbag

With the 80's glam, the classic handbag made a return, with a distinctly glitzy, lush look. Clutch purses featured on TV show like Dynasty and the big, roomy bag was also popular. "Designer bags", with their distinct brand styling and hefty price tags became a status symbol, for the aspiring yuppy.  In the 90's funky little box bags made an appearance, as everyone wanted to look like Audrey Hepburn or Jackie O. Handbags are really so versatile and now so multifarious, that in the 2000s, women can wear any style in any size...there's no single defining style.
A modern bag in a retro inspired style. From
Modern vintage. Love it.