Handbag: From a Simple Leather Contraption to Designer Creations


Today, every woman must own at least a few handbags, and in fact this accessory is an important (if not the most important) part of her wardrobe and it is also at least as important as owning exotic shoes and fancy apparel. Originally, this accessory seems to have originated in Egypt.

There are many references to these ladies’ accessories and which were also depicted in early Egyptian hieroglyphs. It is also not wrong to presume that the earliest handbags were simply made out of small pieces of animal skins into which the primeval humans of the time placed their stuff and then tied the corners with perhaps a leather thong or something equally inventive.

Paucity of Material

Another aspect to the early handbag is that in those early times, there was a paucity of materials from which to make them and these accessories also were very limited in their functionality. However, somewhere down the line, someone must have come up with more innovative ideas and thus would have given birth to the idea of creating a handbag that was unique and quite different from the usual ones and thus fashion became another important feature of those early women’s accessories.

In fact, in an era spanning the fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth and even seventeenth centuries, the handbags of the time depended to a large extent on a few materials and to a limited manufacturing process. In fact, it would not be wrong to also presume that only the rich could afford the more exotic handbags of the time.

That is, until the eighteenth century when women began to wear daintier clothes and did away with their bulky undergarments as well. This in turn, led to considerably constraining the number of places where they could hide their pouches. This meant that they needed to have a separate bag thereby, in effect giving birth to the modern handbag.

From the eighteenth century onwards, it has become commonplace as well as fashionable for women to sport handbags that not only helped them carry a few prized possessions, but which also had to match with the dress that they were wearing. It was a major event in the world of women’s fashion as well as in the evolution of the handbag.

The fifties in turn saw a mushrooming of designer handbags. Although today the very concept of what a handbag means to a woman has changed quite radically from what it was in those early days when they simply were the most convenient means of carrying a few odds and ends and of course, to also carry whatever coins one possessed.