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Monday, June 27, 2011

Purses -- Fun, Frivolous & Functional

Contributed by Valerie Battle Kienzle

Shoulder, tote, crossbody, hobo, luxury, clutch, drawstring, reversible, travel.

Leather, cloth, lamae, straw, canvas, wooden, beaded, embellished.

Designer, discount, fashion, wholesale, authentic, recycled, knock-off. Retro, evening, vintage, everyday.
Affordable, expensive, cheap, sensible.

From ancient times through today, bags, pouches, purses, pocketbooks and handbags have been used by both sexes to carry, conceal and transport necessary and precious items, and to make a fashion statement.
Ancient Egyptians wore pouches attached to their waists. So did some Native Americans.

In Medieval times, people wore drawstring purses called tasques, hamondeys, chaneries and seal bags. Later, people carried "swete bagges" -- bags filled with aromatic substances to mask the smell of unwashed bodies and waste-filled streets.

By the end of the 17th Century, drawstring purses fell out of favor as purses began to be made in different shapes and from various materisls. In the 18th Century, the English called purses indispensables or reticules. The 19th-Century Victorian era ushered in the popularity of highly embellished purses in various shapes and sizes.

The spread of railroads in 19th-Century Europe can be credited with the development and popularity of "handbags." Makers of large travel luggage and harnesses, like Louis Vuitton and Thierry Hermes, responded to the new demand for smaller, hand-held pieces that could be more easily transportd on trains. Muffs and matching robes and handbags also became popular.

After World War I, purses without handles, called clutches, became popular along with highly decorated purses.

Many of the purse styles still popular today, including the satchel and the shoulder bag, were introduced in the 1930s.
Metal and leather shortages during the World War II years resulted in purses made from plastics, wood and synthetic materials. New purses of the time were larger and more practical. Shoulder bags were popular and functional.

In the 1950s, purses made by designers like Chanel were viewed as accessories. They were smaller and manufactured in colors to coordinate with clothing and shoes.

Then came the 1960s. Like many aspects of culture and society, purses changed dramatically. Large shapeless fabric pouches and satchels became popular as all things traditional and conventional fell out of favor. By the 1970s, the large bags were embellished with fringe, zippers, metal buckles and fasteners.

In the 1980s, bags made from synthetic materials were designed to help with organization and order. The 1990s saw the explosion of high-end designer handbags. The name on the bags was as important as the materials used in their manufacture.

As the world enters the second decade of the 2st Century, unisex bags in both synthetic materials and leather are popular. Advances in the manufacture of materials have resulted in abundant handbag choices for men and women in a wide price range. And so their popularity continues...

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