Handbags – A Historical Perspective

A recent study revealed that the average handbag and its contents are worth a whopping 900 dollars! That’s 120 billion dollars women are carrying around in handbags nationwide. And can you blame us, really, when there’s such an abundance of variety in the handbag market?

It could well be argued that handbags have overtaken shoes as the luxury collectable accessory of choice for celebrities and ordinary women alike.

But in fact handbags may have as long and controversial a history as the ubiquitous high heel, and according to handbag historians they were used in a similar way – to show the status of the wearer.

In the fourteenth century, the richer and more powerful the person the more jewels and embroidery festooned the handbag. Not much has changed in the handbag world, then.

Over the centuries handbags have gone through many adaptations and fashions, but the word ‘handbag’ was only coined in the 1900’s. That decade also heralded the type of handbag we would recognise today – with bags getting increasingly smaller and the introduction of handbag fasteners, inner compartments and locks.

But that’s enough history: clearly the most important time period in terms of handbags was the fifties, which saw the rise of the ultimate handbag designer houses; including Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermes.

Like Chanel’s Number 5 perfume, some of these handbags have become instantly recognisable fashion icons; signifiers of the rich and the famous. Sadly, though, this means that showing off your new Louis Vuitton at the office party, or having a stash of Gucci handbags in the wardrobe, is out of the price range of almost everybody.

We should be grateful for the Internet, for perhaps giving us mortals a chance to own a genuine Gucci handbag without having to win the lottery or shoplift. The web is so full of second hand designer handbag dealers that auction giant Ebay have branched out with their own dedicated handbag site, e bags.

Even better, high street shops are increasingly living up the ideals set by the designer houses, and its never been more likely that you can buy a handbag for 8 dollars and pass it off as a unique one-off! Truly his decade ought to be the decade of the handbag: and specifically the stylish and affordable handbag. Handbag fans rejoice!

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