The History of Handbags

Contrary to popular belief, handbags did not start as a female accessory. As early as ancient Egypt, men had been depicted carrying pouches around their waists in stylelized picture and handbags were identified as men’s suitcase.

It was only in the eighteenth century that handbags have been appropriated as part of women wear. 

As a terminology, handbags were not called “handbags” until the nineteenth century. It originated from the purse, also called a small money bag because it was a small bag used to hold coins. Purses were also soft fabric or leather worn by both men and women.

The Scottish Sporran was the first man purse – a traditional part of the male Scottish highland dress. It functions as a pouch styled by a chain or strap which extends at the rear side of the kilt and fastened at the back. Made of leather or fur, sporran’s ornamentation is made to complement the formality of the dress worn with it. 

In 2012, the oldest purse, estimated to be from 2500 to 2200 B.C., was found in Germany studded with dog teeth. 

Purses evolved into a larger size and were then called a handbag. Northern American English uses purse and handbag interchangeably as it is today are technically medium to large bags used to carry personal items. 

Handbags were not just simply for storage spaces. They also signified power, status, and beauty which were above than its utilitarian use. At some point in history, handbags also signified marriage and formal engagement to be married which made way for embroidered handbags used to depict love stories.