The History of Women’s Bags & Purses

The History of Women’s Bags & Purses

28/06/2021 Off By ameuorderadmin

Since the early 20th century, fashion has started dictating what we should wear in terms of clothing. With the advent of fast, affordable communication methods like the telephone and easily distributed print, fashion has become a worldwide phenomenon competing for its place among the other, more classical arts like music and the visual arts.

And if there is one staple of women’s fashion it would have to be the bag. Be it a handbag, a purse, a tote, a clutch bag – they all serve the same bottom-line purpose, which is to allow a woman to store, transport and organize her belongings.

Aside from the practicality of owning a bag, however, bags for women also have another important role: they are a fashion statement and can be used to complement and enhance a certain look. Furthermore, using certain colours, specific shapes and designs, women can portray a certain image and send out the message they want.

Bags and purses are not just another piece of the perfect woman’s outfit puzzle. It’s the tip of the iceberg in women’s looks.



Clutch bags and Totes also have a practical side to them along with the fashion aspect which can add to ladies self-esteem and dictate a certain reaction from others. Last but not least, choosing the right clutch bag or the right big tote bag is important to establish prestige, especially when it comes to luxury bags that consequently boost morale for the woman holding the bag like a queen.

“I think there is beauty in everything. What ‘normal’ people would perceive as ugly, I can usually see something of beauty in it.”

Alexander McQueen

A Brief History of Women’s Bags

While men’s clothing evolved to incorporate pockets in which the boys could store their belongings and organize them, women’s clothing focused more on looks rather than on practicality.

So when women started to carry out household chores and needed to go out to do the shopping, they also needed something where they could store their coins and later on, their wallets and paper money.

This became the main reason why handbags started getting popular back in the days of early Europeans – 16th to the 17th century. Back then, women were consistently taught embroidery and so they could tackle their own handbag designs.

What primarily started out as a piece of apparel exclusively used to just carry coins, turned into what essentially a bag is today along with the industrial revolution. It was during this time that train travelling became popular and women needed something in which they could store and transport more than just currency, things like personal belongings and hygiene items. Thats the first use of travel bags.



The modern handbag or purse was thus born and what changed was in terms of sizes and designs to this day, serving the same basic purpose and adhering to the same basic principles as back then in the late 1800’s. But times change, and so did the bags. They became much more detailed over the years and the bags designs started becoming more complex.

“I don’t do fashion. I am fashion.”

Coco Chanel

Totes, Clutch Purses, Leather Bags, Crossbody Bags were born. Crocodile Bags were discovered later on along with multiple colour bags: Silver bags, Gold purses, Pink clutches. The first designs of bags were not that beautiful. Cute bags and bags for work appeared later.

Modern Day Women’s Bags — Occasions, Types, Colours and Uses

With so many types of bags out there, fashion trendsetters decreed that certain bags are better to be used for certain occasions. It’s the designs that dictate which bags go with what and where. So, for instance, evening bags are perfect for special occasions, such as wedding parties and going out to a fancy restaurant.

These are usually elegant bags, being more stylish and mid-sized compared to others (crossbody bags, large totes, gym bags).

Tote bags are on the more practical side of things but they also come in many colours, such as gold, silver, red tote bags, green, white, grey, black and with little to no extra embellishments.



Totes serve their main purpose of holding lots of things and accessories inside them while they do not overwhelm the fashionista’s looks while they are also able to give a subtle touch to the whole women’s ensemble.

“Make it simple, but significant.”

— Don Draper

Clutch bags – Small in Size but Large in Heritage

Clutch bags, on the other hand, are far smaller and can easily be transported in a single hand. Clutches and handbags come in different sizes. Clutch bags can be pretty small and cute holding a liptstick, a crayon, keys and some more accessories. Their size allows them to be used more like a fashion accessory, as their practicality is lacking in terms of space and what can be carried around with them. Many other types of bags, such as leather bags, shoulder bags and fashion bags can be used for a similar fashion-driven purpose, while crossbody bags will serve a sportier outfit and can come in more vibrant colours than their elegant counterparts.

All in all, each and every single type of bag can serve a very specific purpose, so it is no wonder that most women will have an array of different options for either black bags, a clutch purse or a red leather tote bag that go with certain outfits and be your bestie in all circumstances. Everything is a matter of taste and fashion choice and as Lauren Hutton said

“Fashion is what you’re offered four times a year by designers. And style is what you choose.”

— Lauren Hutton