The History of handbags

Bags, or also known as purses, are handheld storage that can vary in sizes –from small to medium and large.

In today’s modern generation, handbags, much like dresses, come up with different styles, textures, colors, and designs, which later on became popular for women. It was not only for its primary purposes of carrying a lot of things in one bag -such as phone, make-up kits, money, and all other important stuff but also made an impact on fashion and an accessory for many women, and sometimes even to men.

Handbags Through the Ages

Ancient Teeth-studded Handbag

In the stone age era, teeth were not just an accessory for hair nor only used as beads in the necklaces of our early ancestors. When the ancient teeth-studded handbag which was dated around 2500-2200 BC, was excavated in Germany in 2012, the Archaeologist -Susanne Friederich, said that although the fabrics were long gone and now covered with dirt, the teeth were more likely an accessory, given how most of the teeth were all pointing in the same direction resembling a flap of a modern bag. Whether a man or a woman once used such a bag, teeth were probably a cool thing in the stone age.

Handbags in Hieroglyphics

Handbags were also seemingly popular even to gods and mythical beings. In the early discoveries of Hieroglyphics, ancient carvings in temples of Sumerians, Maori and Olmecs, have illustrated man, gods, and even mythical creatures holding a handbag -with its strap-like handle, and a rectangular shape that looks like the body of a bag.

Based on the study of the researchers, these handbags inscribed on the walls and stone tablets had something to do with their religious roots and beliefs. According to Assyrian arts, the basket or the purse contains magic dust, which somehow varies if you were to look according to unto the Maori of New Zealand, saying that the baskets hold wisdom that came from the home of gods. Following Olmecs of America, the handbags carry herbs, which differs from the belief of Ancient cultures of Africa, India, and China that the bag itself was the Earth or Cosmos.

14th Century Metal Bag

14th Century handbag –The Courtauld Metal Bag

From a purse embedded by dog teeth, it evolved to a much more detailed, exquisite, and well-crafted design of dashing silver and gold-colored motif. The Courtauld Bag, which was owned and made for a noblewoman of the II-Khanid Dynasty around 1256 up to 1353, was made of metal with a unique inscription of horse riders and a lion and musicians along with an elegant repetitive design engraved on the metal bag.

Ever since the early centuries, handbags are used for storage and carrying things, but did you know that the first handbags were also used by men?

16th Century Buckle-bag (Girdle Purses)

It was not until the 16th Century or the Medieval Era when buckled-bag or also known as the Girdle Purse, became handy since pockets are not yet invented until the 17th Century. Men in this era used this girdle purses as storage for their coins and even for their daggers. Who says men can’t have a bag?

This buckle-bag could have eighteen secret compartments suitable for the noblemen of the early centuries.

Chained Bag (Chatelaine Bags)

An elegant white and gold, floral motif –Chatelaine Bag

Chatelaine Bag is an ornamentally chained storage that varies with different elegant styles. It was hang on the women’s belt hook around the waist. Chatelaine was also considered as a status symbol jewelry and was more famous for women way back the 16th Century. These chained bags were use as storage for scissors, tweezers, sewing tools, and any other small things like keys, that were placed in small storage at the end of the chains or hanged on the chains itself.

17th Century Reticules

A mannequin dressed in white, with a purple reticule on hand.

Reticules first became famous in France and was known as ‘Indispensables’ in England. It was a small bag made of silk, satin, or velvet with an embroidered delicate pattern that has a drawstring as closure, which usually served as handles to hang on the wrists. A reticule is somewhat similar or resembled an evening bag. The exciting part of how the reticules were made is that women of the early centuries made reticules for themselves back then. Since they were taught how to knit and embroidered –A skill necessary for marriage, they were skillful enough to make their bags with different designs under their preferences.

20th Century: Road to Designer’s Bags

Louis Vuitton Malletier

Louis Vuitton designer's bag

Louis Vuitton is a famous designer’s bag present in today’s generation founded in 1854 in Rue Nueve des Capucines, Paris, by a French Designer and Businessman –Louis Vuitton. It started as a bag and luggage store inspired by the H.J Cave’s Osilite Trunks, famous for its first-ever designer bag that won several prizes in Paris way back in the 19th Century.

In the year 1930, Louis Vuitton designed one of the most iconic “Louis Vuitton Speedy” –A lightweight, and transportation-friendly bag that marked it’s way to the top iconic styles of bags of all times.

For over 166 years, Louis Vuitton’s brand has expanded to a luxury store selling the most prestigious and limited edition jewelry, accessories, shoes, and more. Garnering million dollars of sales, Louis Vuitton indeed made its way as one of the most reputable and distinguished brands present throughout the past centuries.

Hermès (Paris)

Hermès designer bag –Kelly Bag, named after Grace Kelly

This Fashion line was founded by Thierry Hermès in 1837, in Paris, France. Hermès became famous for the Apparel Collection for women in 1929. They was later on recognized for its ‘Sac à dépêches’ which was widely known as the Kelly Bag, named after a famous American Actress, Grace Kelly.

Although it faced a decline somewhere in the 1900s, Hermès is still one of the leading fashion brands and one of the top manufacturers of luxury goods ranging from bags, luggage perfumes, accessories, and jewelry, etc., alongside Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, and many more.

Chanel SA

Chanel's Leather White Handbag, "2.55"

Chanel was founded by Gabrielle, or also known as Coco Chanel –A Businesswoman and fashion designer in France. Founded in 1909, the store was initially call “The House of Chanel,” and later on changed to “Chanel.” Like the top-leading fashion brands, it is a high fashion company that sells fashion luxury such as clothes, bags, jewelry, etc.

Chanel was known for the “No. 5 de Chanel” perfume released in 1921. Then later in the year 1955 of February, “Chanel 2.55” –a black leather handbag was released, making it one of the most iconic and timeless bags in the world.


Logo of the famous fashion line –Gucci


Guccio Gucci founded the famous Italian luxury –Gucci Fashion line, in Florence, Tuscany way back in 1921. He was a former hotel worker that admired the grand luggage made by the H.J Cave Manufacturing. With the help of his three sons –Aldo, Vasco, and Rodolfo, they have expanded from Florence to Milan and Rome, then eventually worldwide, making their products became a status symbol.

One of the famous bags released by Gucci is their “Bamboo Bags” –Bags with strong bamboo handles. Released in 1947, It was an immediate success that even Princess Diana indulged in such a style.