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The Absolutely Fascinating History of Bags

Updated on October 14, 2014

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Bags

Bags have been essential to our daily life ever since people have had something precious to carry around with them, but the items that the bags have contained have changed over time.

People carried bags because they could not effectively hold everything they needed to transport in their hands. Bags allowed them to carry a lot of things at once.

Sit back and enjoy this absolutely fascinating review of the history of bags.

A combination of fashion and history with absolutely fascinating content and beautiful pictures, which will fill you with a wonderfully enjoyable feeling of real temptation.

Welcome To The Absolutely Fascinating History of Bags

A Review of Bags Throughout History

Understanding Egyptian Art - The First Mention of Bags In History

Reading Egyptian Art: A Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Egyptian Painting and Sculpture
Reading Egyptian Art: A Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Egyptian Painting and Sculpture

Egyptian hieroglyphics gave us the very first mention of bags in history and it is worth understanding Egyptian art and hieroglyphics because they both contain other interesting facts about the history of the commencement of many of the articles and items that we now take for granted.


Egyptian Girdle Pouch

The first mention of bags in literature was in the 14th century, Egyptian hieroglyphics showed pouches carried around the waist. Different jewels adorned these pouches which were used to show the person's status - the higher the wealth, the more elegant the pouch.

16th, 17th and 18th Centuries

Bags Took Shape Over The Centuries

It Soon Became Fashionable To Carry A Bag

In the early 16th century, the bags became much more practical with the use of materials such as leather with a drawstring to fasten. Also during this period, large bags made of cloth were used by travellers who would have them fitted diagonally across their bodies.

The 17th century brought more variety and both men and women carried very fashionable small bags in complex shapes. The use of embroidery increased the beauty of the bags with its unique artwork.

In the 18th century the fashion conscious ladies began to acquire many types of bags. Women had a different bag for every occasion; the bags were used for rouge, face powder, a scent bottle and smelling salts.

Antique And Vintage Bags

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Take A Look At The Complete Collection - Absolutely Beautiful Pictures

The Handbag: An Illustrated History
The Handbag: An Illustrated History

A picture says a thousand words and every picture in this illustrated history of bags does just that and at the same time it provides an absolutely beautiful picture collection of bags throughout history. Take a look at how bags have changed across the centuries, not only in style, but also in the materials that were used to create them.


Handbags Started In The 1900s

The Inspiration For Handbags

They Were First Used By Men

The term 'handbag' first appeared in the early 1900s and it referred in general to the hand carried luggage bags that were used by men. This started the inspiration for new types of handbags which became popular with women. The handbags had complicated fasteners, internal compartments and locks. With this new fashion came the creation by jewellers of unique compartments for opera glasses and fans.

The 1920s exploded with a revolution in fashion with changing hemlines and lighter fabric clothing. There was no longer the need for the bags to match the ladies outfit perfectly and the ladies of style would carry a doll dressed exactly like them, complete with a bag that matched.

The 1940s brought new austerity in the clothing and handbags because of the war effort. Metal and leather was understandably in short supply, so the handbag manufacturers turned to the use of plastic and wood.

The History of Bags Makes A Fascinating Read

Reading About The History of Bags - I Highly Recommend This Fascinating Book

If you are into the history about bags then this title is a must read for you. Fascinating facts and details about the progress of bags in our everyday lives. It provides a different dimension to the way bags have been designed, produced and used over the past few centuries. I really enjoyed reading it and gained a lot of insight from it in my research into bags.

Inside Story of a Handbag

This article was printed January 21, 1945, in the New York Times, by Anita Daniel

A woman without her handbag feels as lost as a wanderer in the desert. And she wants it large. If she cannot get it in leather, now growing scarce, she will take it in fabric, fur, or even plastic. The handbag is the movable base of her supplies, the depot of her expected needs. These eventual needs may reach out to a degree far beyond any man's power of imagination. A woman's handbag is a mysterious dungeon. It's the key to her real self; the prosaic answer to many poetic conceptions.

A magician does not want to explain his tricks. There is an aura of taboo about a closed handbag. Every woman has an uneasy look if somebody glances into its sacred privacy. A decent man should always tactfully stare at the ceiling whenever his companion opens her bag. He will, of course, have to concentrate on that ceiling pretty often.

The typical handbag of a typical woman contains a certain number of fundamental things, plus her own individual touch. It is that individual touch that fills the bag. Some item is pretty sure to roll out the moment the bag is opened.

Every woman's handbag is a lost and found department in itself. It is strange, but things actually disappear there, as by magic. They finally reappear on the surface after three or four investigations and complete pell-mell of the contents. Every bus driver is fatalistically resigned to having a lady barring the passage while searching for a nickel in the depths of her handbag.

And every man knows about the two-minute drama ever repeated: "Heavens, I must have lost my watch, (or my twenty-dollar bill, my keys, that important letter)!" It usually has a happy ending. Nothing gives a man more self-satisfaction than such an experience. The whole myth of the superiority of men is built on the fact that a man never carries a handbag. Men keep women in eternal dependence by buying them beautiful handbags. What female heart would not melt at the sight of a luscious alligator bag, or soft suede or brocade?

A man carries everything in his numerous comfortably deep pockets. It is estimated that a man wearing a suit with a vest and an overcoat has twenty pockets. No wonder he can never lose anything!

Women have also adapted pockets to their suits and coats. But the most genuine are just fit to put hands into. The others are good enough for a chiffon handkerchief to peep out of or they are faked. No woman's suit pocket is meant to hold her belongings. Every bulge would endanger the slim line and the smart effect. So women continue to carry handbags. As long as women do not wear men's suits with pockets, they will remain women. And men will continue to feel superior. The first thing Adam purchased for Eve was a handbag. It was his sweet revenge for the apple.

Money is the thing you will miss most frequently in a woman's handbag. Nowadays it is hardly worth while for pickpockets to steal it, except for the fact that an astonishing number of women carry their precious belonging in handbags. They do it for fear they may be stolen from closets or drawers. That is why we read so often of handbags lost in taxicabs, containing jewels worth thousands of dollars. It is a strange time when women wear junk jewellery around their necks and carry their precious jewellery in the zippered department of their handbags.

Some psychologists think the way a woman carries her bag is characteristic. "Bagology" is quite a science. There is the strap type, the shoulder-strap type and the woman who tucks her bag under her arm. There are a great number of women who hold their bags both by the straps and pressed under the arm.

Seen from the psychologist's angle, the way a woman carriers her purse demonstrates the entire scale of characteristics, from light-mindedness and generosity to caution and greediness. One analyst warns men against women who keep their bag rolled around the wrist and the hand firmly clasped around the lock.

In the good old times, when the definition of a "lady" covered very definite limitations, it was ladylike to carry as little as possible. In sentimental English novels of the last century, whenever a lady opened her bag it was to give money to the poor. Or to take out a small prayer book, an embroidered handkerchief or a tiny bottle of smelting salts, as it was considered very ladylike to faint once in a while. Today's ladies have a far more varied program.

The first time I saw Mrs. Roosevelt I was deeply impressed by the sight of her bag. There stood the First Lady, very tall, very straight, very distinguished in her grey tailored suit. In one hand she carried roses that had been presented to her; in the other, her bag. What a bag! It was of dark leather and of tremendous dimension, practically bursting with invisible contents. It clearly spoke of the activities of the First Lady. One glance and you knew the President's wife had a full-time job.

Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Chanel

Famous Handbag Designer Houses Started

And Imitation Followed

With the 1950s came the rise of some influential and important designer houses such as; Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Chanel.

The 1960s saw the breakdown of the old ideas of what was supposed to be classical in bags and it was a time for the emergence of a new youth culture.

The wonderful modern world of bags now has a huge array of different designs, some of the most famous and therefore most imitated are the bags produced by Kate Spade, Gucci, Coach and Dior.

Bags have come a long way from the early centuries until modern day and they have an absolutely fascinating history.

Where would we be without a bag today?

Top Designer Bags

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Bags Bring Color Into Your Life

Colorful Bags - They Make You Feel So Good

There is something about color that brings out the full detail in handbags and creates a unique easily identifiable character for the person that is using it. Color plays a big part in our lives, in clothes, home décor and in fashion accessories like these handbags. Put some color into your handbag collection and make yourself feel good.

Whatever Shape They Make It

All Shapes And Sizes - With Absolutely Fascinating Detail

This is a small selection of the many shapes and sizes that handbags are now made in. There are now handbags made in just about any shape and size that you can imagine. Each one is beautifully crafted to give you intricate detail and provide you with an absolutely unique fashion accessory that will be admired by many.

Over Time Handbags Have Contained Many Things

Throughout History People Have Made Their Own Bags

The Art of Handbag Making - If You Are Into Making Your Own These Are For You

Making your own handbag is quite easy, especially if you have the right material and instructions. There are many books available to choose from, but I would definitely recommend all of these. Putting your own personal touch to making a handbag is fun and you will finish up creating something that is uniquely your own.

Using Materials That Last

Bags Have Been Made of Many Things

Some Materials Proved Good, Some Not So Good

The materials that have been used to make bags have constantly varied over the centuries, depending on the availability of resources.

Quite a lot of the materials that were used seemed to be ideal until they got wet or showed wear and eventually had holes or just broke up.

Bags over time have been made of cloth, canvas, leather, wood, plastic, wool, metal and cork.

The delightful handbag that is illustrated here is made of cork.

The Craft of Handmaking

A Beautiful Handmade Bag - Given That Personal Touch

Bags that are handmade are generally found to be longer lasting in both durability and looks. A handmade bag has been given a personal touch by someone who really cares about how the finished product will be created. These are only a selection of the many beautiful handmade bags that are now available.

This is a FANTASTIC page! You have done a great job!

Tell Me What You Like About The Absolutely Fascinating History of Bags - What Is Your Favorite Bag?

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    • profile image

      cottonprint 5 years ago

      Showed this to my daughter - an avid bag (and history) fan - and she gives a thumbs up!

    • profile image

      Kali-Shay 6 years ago

      Very interesting. When it comes to anything about handbags, my mind is a sponge. I'm still new to fashion and handbags. I love that little metallic looking bag in the 16th century bit. Very cute.

    • profile image

      poutine 7 years ago

      Fascinating story indeed and well presented.

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 7 years ago

      Interesting journey of bags through time!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I absolutely adore handbags, I have a large collection and I absolutely love this site, it just makes me feel so good. Bookmarked of course!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      This is an exceptionally beautiful site and it has given me a strong temptation to want to buy a new handbag.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      WOW! What a fabulous way to present the history of bags. I knew one or two things about bags, but now I know a lot more.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Love the pictures, great review, have bookmarked this site, now off to buy the red handbag that I have just seen.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      History was never this interesting before, beautifully presented, I love it.

    • profile image

      inkserotica 7 years ago

      I adore bags especially the unusual ones! Great images :) 5*

    • myraggededge profile image

      myraggededge 7 years ago

      Beautifully presented information and fabulous pictures!

    • Charlino99 profile image

      Tonie Cook 7 years ago from USA

      I love this! Then again, ladies love their hand bags. Thank you for sharing this information in such a lovely way.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 7 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      Interesting AND very pretty to look at. Great job! (And that's coming from someone whose "handbag" is usually a backpack.) :)