Sunday, June 7, 2015

"As the purse is emptied,

the heart is filled.
    ~Victor Hugo

If you love to shop, that 19th century quote may apply to you and your stash of cash.  Even though I carry a large purse because I am usually dealing with my Mother's "stuff", shop "stuff", and my "stuff", I envy someone like the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton...check the neat clutches...
Of course, I am sure she has an entourage to carry the "stuff"!

I did get some neat vintage purses in...small neat clutches...and so today...a look at purses...

Historically, the term "purse" originally referred to a small bag for holding coins. In British English, it is still used to refer to a small coin bag. A "handbag" is a larger needed accessory, that holds items beyond currency, such as a woman's personal items and emergency survival items. American English typically uses the terms "purse" and "handbag" interchangeably. The term "handbag" began appearing in the early 1900s. Initially, it was most often used to refer to men's hand-luggage. Women's accessory bags grew larger and more complex during that period, and the term was attached to the women's accessory. 

While “handbags” as a term did not exist until the mid-nineteenth century, ancient pouches made of leather or cloth were used mainly by men to hold valuables and coins. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs show men wearing purses around the waist, and the Bible specifically identifies Judas Iscariot as a purse carrier.  By the Middle Ages, men and women carried pouches attached to their clothes.  Pockets had not been invented yet, and so the pouch held rosaries, Book of Hours, scented oranges, chatelaines, and daggers. 

By the 16th century, aristocrats would carry "swete bagges" because personal hygiene was virtually non-existent.  These bags held sweet-smelling herbs and spics, like lavender, or perfumed balls of cotton.

The modern purse, clutch, pouch or handbag came about in England during the Industrial Revolution and the increase in travel by rail, and bags were about to experience a revolution. In 1843, there were nearly 2000 miles of railway lines in Great Britain. As more people traveled by train and more women became more mobile, professional luggage makers turned the skills of horse travel into those for train travel, and soon the term “handbag” emerged to describe these new hand-held luggage bags. 
Many of the top names of today’s handbags got their start as luggage makers (in contrast to the previously made purses and pouches which were made by dressmakers). For example, Hermes bags were founded in 1837 by Thierry Hermes, a harness and saddle maker, while Loius Vuitton was a luggage packer for the Parisian rich. Modern handbags still allude to luggage with their pockets, fastenings, frames, locks, and keys.

Handbags in the early twentieth century became much more than just hand-held luggage, but Britain continued to dominate the market.  According to my research, women could choose from small reticules, Dorothy bags (now called dotty or marriage bags) with matching robes, muffs, and fitted leather bags with attached telescopic opera glasses and folding fans. Working women often used larger handbags, such as the Boulevard bag, leather shopping bags, and even briefcases which could be worn around the shoulder.  Handbags also included folders for the newly invented pound note which replaced the gold sovereign in 1914.

The 1920s saw the introduction of a pochette, a clutch decorated elaborately. By the 1940s, the war impacted design as the smooth contours of the 1930s changed to a more military look. Bags became larger, squarer, and more practical, reflecting a desire to appear self-sufficient.  This bag from my stock has a neat look...it has a overlocking clasp, and the inside is suede.  I love the handle on the outside also.  It is shown here with a little purse...there is a long chain that is tucked behind the small purse.


As zippers, mirrors, and leather became scarce, designers turned to wood or plastic for frames and employed new synthetics such as rayon. The drawstring bag reappeared and was often homemade. Bags in Great Britain were made both to carry gas masks and to match an outfit. In France and America, as more women entered the workforce, they turned to shoulder bags.
The 1950s brought designers back, and femininity ruled.  Small bags implied beauty and sophistication, and, when thinks about it, a small purse is a much more demure look.

Then, the 1960s ushered in a variety of styles from the long clutch to the shoulder bag with long chains as well as the Bohemian satchels.  Army shoulder bags also became popular (and are very much back in vogue now).  The 1970s saw shoulder bags remained popular, and they also added
buckles, pockets, and zippers.

The brightest star of the 1980s was the Vera Bradley classic quilted handbag with sales of over $1 million in just three years. By the early 1990s, small designer bags with giant Hs and CCs were all over London and New York, and only the trained eye could tell the real from the fake.

Today, women can carry anything from a large bag to a small clutch, but I thought this quote from 18 year old actress Rachel G. Fox may predict where the younger generation will go:
    "I never carry a purse.  My iPhone is always with me, a credit card, and a piece of mint chocolate     chip cookie dough ice cream gum."

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