Today you can hardly imagine a woman of any age and profession leaving the house without a hand-bag. Students and mothers of many children, business ladies and house wives – all of them choose this accessory according to their own taste but none gets on without it. There are so many secrets ladies share with their permanent companions! Sometimes clutches and reticules tell about their owners as much as diaries do.
The famous Mary Poppins kept all you can pack in several suitcases in her bag: personal cleansing, night-dresses, shoes, a dominoes box, a post-card album, a folding chair and even a truckle-bed with a duvet. Of course, she was a fairy-tale character but sometimes the tiniest purse can amazingly fit things for all occasions.
A hand-bag has never been a merely a lady’s item. The sterner sex has long been using backpacks, murses and brief cases. But hand-bags are the ones which are extremely diverse in forms, colors and materials.
The main requirements for the remote ancestors of today’s bags were durability and good size as they were not accessories but carrying containers. A bag has resulted from a long evolution from a grass-net and leather tied in a knot to something slightly similar to the one we wear today. The very name of the bag hardy appeared at once – such words as “kalita”, “pouch”, “feedbag”, “sabretache”, “knapsack” and many others were formerly used.
The more well-off and comfortable human life became, the more time and effort he spent on decorating things around him. Bags were decorated with cut-outs, fur and leather pieces, claws and tusks, appliqués.
There were several ways to wear a bag: it could dandle either on a strap on your shoulder or neck or on two straps behind your back as a nowadays backpack does. A saddle-bag consisted of two joint sacks and was thrown over the horse back. Since the advent of money, appeared one more type of bags lately known as a purse – a tiny drawstring bag, tightened with laces or a plain box with a flap either of them belted.
Well-off citizens wore bags made of leather or velvet, the peasants had canvas ones.
For centuries and centuries women used no hand-bags at all – in Rus for instance long bag sleeves were used as a pocket of the kind. A comb, scissors, a pocket – mirror, a bunch of keys were most often attached to the belt, and the most precious things were hidden on the chest under the dress or the corsage or in the stoking.
Aumoniére – a bag in the shape of a Gothic cathedral – popular at Burundian court in the XIVth century was the immediate predecessor of the hand-bag. Both men and women wore it. Only almost fifty years later the “pompadour” – the first hand-bag in a very real sense occurred. The velvet or lace bag named after the famous favorite of the king was primarily intended for handcraft – the etiquette of the time enjoined women to embroider during high society gatherings. A handkerchief, vinaigrette and a box of rouge were put inside along with threads and needles. After slight transformation this bag was later called a reticule and became classical up to the early XXth century. The same name related to beaded or silk-embroidered bags with dense backing cloth with metal structure and a two-ball buckle. Modest ladies often used shreds of cloth left after the dressmaking to sew their reticules themselves.
On the turn of the XIX-XXth centuries steel or silver-net bags were in great request. Most of fine ladies used hand-bangs only in the evening – to go to the theatre or go out on a visit.
A binocular, a scent-bottle and a bonbonniere with sweets were essential attributes in the bag. In a day-time, everything you could need when walking – a handkerchief, a powder box and a purse could be easily fit inside the hidden pocket of the skirt. People didn’t carry keys, as a doorkeeper or a lackey would open the door and purchases were brought home directly from the shop.
By contrast, after the World War I when most of women got some work except handcraft, really handy and practical bags became the most in demand. Rigid leather bags, rather big and capacious occur. In course of time, business women adopted such strictly male equipment as hats and brief cases.
A real bum in the bag industry occurred in the 60th of the last century. Laconic cut of that time dresses required expressive additions, and a bag had to be not only a utilitarian but also a decorative element.
There seemed to be no bag shape left that was not applied and no material that was not used. Items made of coco-nut and turtle-shell are exhibited in the Amsterdam Bag Museum.
Birkin bag by French Hermes fashion house became a real legend among women, you can see it in celebrities’ and first ladies’ wardrobe. Named in the honor of an actress and singer Jane Birkin, this bag is completely handmade, and you may have to wait for your order in a tailor shop for several years. The price is from several thousand dollars to infinity – in some cases all details including zippers are made of gold. Traditionally veal leather is used but recently there occurred bags made of exotic animals’ leather such as iguana or alligator ones. Backing of the soft goat leather and a zipper shaped as a lock with a delicate key are genuine parts of the bag.
Whatever the bag is – luxury or democratic, extravagant or modest – it is one of the most important elements of its owners’ image. It is exactly the bag where women put everything most valuable and essential. And that’s exactly why the proper bag care will assure an overpowering beauty of its owner. Leather bags are very capricious and cannot be washed or otherwise cleaned in water. Textile or suede bags drycleaning will preserve your favorite accessory in the best condition for a longer period of time.
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