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 The History of Handbags

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Priscilla
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PostSubject: The History of Handbags   Fri 23 Jan 2015, 10:40

In the fascinating lingering  of old fashioned words that crops up in former colonies, Americans call handbags, purses. Henry V111 sported a leather purse - or so I thought - in the first episode of Wolf Hall. What he might have kept in it I can't guess. Methods of carrying ones stuff about was proably one of the first inventions of developing human kind. I was shown several 'man-bags' during the seasonal fever-buying time which made me reflect on the subject. Men probably began the trend which faded when pockets were fashioned. Any thoughts on handbags?
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PostSubject: Re: The History of Handbags   Fri 23 Jan 2015, 10:57



This one dates from around 1300 and originated in Mosul, Iraq, at the time of its takeover by the Mongols. It is generally regarded as the oldest surviving lady's handbag.

There's a problem identifying ancient handbags in the "lady's accoutrements" sense as they were almost indistinguishable stylistically and in terms of construction from ornamental saddle bags, used by both sexes. I often wondered how Romans managed - men and women - none of whom had much time for pockets and yet are never depicted lugging around their 2,000 year old equivalent of mobile phone, out of date discount cards, three tons of loose change, assorted cosmetic repair tools, cotton wool balls, paperback, extra reading glasses (three sets), match books from restaurants one has never been in etc. I suppose really rich people never used them. It was someone else's job to permanently dent their collar bones lugging junk around.
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PostSubject: Re: The History of Handbags   Fri 23 Jan 2015, 12:42

From the Glasgow Museums website:

This sporran is made from deerskin and may have been used by a Jacobite soldier to carry goods and gear. The sporran is secured with an incised brass clip, which was typical of sporrans of this period.

The sporran dates from the mid 18th century, and is one of a type which a Jacobite Highland soldier would have recognised and used. It would have been used to keep money and valuable personal possessions such as snuff boxes.


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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: The History of Handbags   Fri 23 Jan 2015, 20:46

Did the Romans not do as the ancient Egyptians did - wear a pouch at the belt? Presumably those wealthy enough to sport a toga used what was technically described as a "slave" to do it.
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PostSubject: Re: The History of Handbags   Fri 23 Jan 2015, 20:49

Even  Ötzi  the iceman had a pouch on his belt.
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PostSubject: Re: The History of Handbags   Fri 23 Jan 2015, 21:12

And there's that nice bit of Anglo-Saxon bling, the Sutton Hoo purse cover, the leather purse itself presumably being carried on a man's belt:

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PostSubject: Re: The History of Handbags   Fri 23 Jan 2015, 21:50

I think most romans carried their cash in a small leather pouch with a drawstring, attached to a belt or hidden away suspended on a cord around the neck. But for a bigger bag, more in the way of a shoulder bag or satchel, was the legionary's loculus - a flatish rectangular leather case, about 12" by 18" with diagonal straps and a bronze fastening or attachment ring - presumably used to carry rations, cooking/eating utensils and personal items. None have survived but they are depicted a few times on Trajan's Column, sometimes carried suspended from a shoulder carrying pole (the furca) along with the legionary's bedroll, cooking pot, water bottle, entrenching tool etc:



And I've just found this depiction of a civilian shoulder bag - the wall painting of Crates and Hipparchia (1st century AD) from the Villa Farnesina in Rome.

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PostSubject: Re: The History of Handbags   Sat 24 Jan 2015, 10:12

The Japanese had their solution to the no pockets in a kimono problem, the inro or sagemono, suspended from the sash with a netsuke. This was an opportunity to display wealth an taste in the variety of styles and materials used and I wonder if the Romans had anything similar or would that be a bit, well, girly for roughty toughty Romans?

                                                 


I started thinking about the social history of women's handbags though, the need for a means of carrying things around away from the home, as well as what might be carried, must reflect attitudes and the nature of their lives. Doing a bit of googling, not only is there at least one book, The Secret History of the Hndbag, there's a whole museum devoted to the sublect in Amsterdam. http://www.tassenmuseum.nl/en#_=_

The ultimate statement bag though, must surely be the recreation of Leonardo's sketch.

The original design and the modern version, try as I might, I can't find a price anywhere!                


                                                                       
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PostSubject: Re: The History of Handbags   Sat 24 Jan 2015, 10:35

I'd have sold my soul for that handbag when I was young, ferval. Bit too fussy for me now. Only 99 made, and, as you say, no price mentioned. I wonder if H&M would do a copy?

http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/news-features/TMG9021847/Leonardo-da-Vinci-handbag-sketch-brought-to-life.html

Da Vinci's drawing is thought to have been sketched at the end of the 15th century in 1497 when the artist was painting the tapestries in the Last Supper.

Lorenzo Braccialini, marketing director of Braccialini, Gherardini's holding company, said: "It's a very chic handbag. It is also very functional and capable. Indeed, it embodies the best Florentine tradition of leather work."

Just 99 of the bags have been made. They will be on sale in Gherardini boutiques at the beginning of March.
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PostSubject: Re: The History of Handbags   Sat 24 Jan 2015, 10:40

Did Da Vinci intend this design as a handbag for ladies?
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PostSubject: Re: The History of Handbags   Sat 24 Jan 2015, 13:42

@ferval wrote:
I started thinking about the social history of women's handbags though, the need for a means of carrying things around away from the home, as well as what might be carried, must reflect attitudes and the nature of their lives.                                                                        

Quite, what is it that women had to carry that men did not, or maybe needed to carry out of sight, or felt they uniquely needed to carry?

Before the introduction of pockets in breeches in the later part of the 16th century, I seem to recall there are plenty of references to the things men routinely carried in their waist pouches besides their ready small change: a small knife to eat, plus maybe a fork if they're a bit classy ... personal hygiene stuff like combs, tooth-picks, nail-files and ear-spoons, sometimes even cosmetic rouge ... small books of hours, prayer books, bibles ... rosaries and lucky charms ... dice and packs of cards ... if they could write a small note book or tablet ... breath pastilles, throat lozenges and small pots of salve ... a handkerchief.   But all of these things are equally applicable to women, so why did the rather more capacious hand-bag develop as a mostly feminine accessory?

Weapons? Certainly it was acceptable for a man to openly wear a sword and/or dagger, or when travelling to carry a pistol on his belt ... while it was more usual when a woman travelled, if she chose to go armed, for her to have just a small close-range pistol secreted in her bag or about her person, but such things are not really everyday accessories.

Or was it the needs of "feminine hygiene"? But that's only once a month, and given all the other historic constraints on women's lives, that alone surely can't have been responsible for the development of the feminine hand bag.
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PostSubject: Re: The History of Handbags   Sat 24 Jan 2015, 17:25

Considering the weight of the girl Siduri's handbag, surely a pistol would be de trop since being caught a fourpenny one with that, swung at the full range of the strap, would fell an ox.
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PostSubject: Re: The History of Handbags   Sun 25 Jan 2015, 12:44



Is this the style she favours, Gil?

                                                                         


Ah, it appears to be uni-sex.


                                                                         
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PostSubject: Re: The History of Handbags   Mon 26 Jan 2015, 15:13

So what did these gods keep in their lttle handbags? I assume they are gods - Assyrian? - and that the are handbags. too small for  grenades as in the other paw..... and just a passing thought,t how were their stockings held up? Foot wear is as interesting as handbags.
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PostSubject: Re: The History of Handbags   Mon 26 Jan 2015, 15:27

Reticules appear to be the first handags for assorted small gubbins - coins, sewing kits, smelling salts and such. The very poor having no need - though today, in the east, very poor women tie stuff  in the corners of cloth wraps.
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PostSubject: Re: The History of Handbags   Tue 27 Jan 2015, 09:49

No discussion of handbags would be complete without this. One of the funniest scenes ever written:



Lady Bracknell:  Mr. Worthing. I must confess that I feel somewhat bewildered by what you have just told me. To be born, or at any rate bred in a handbag, whether it have handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life which reminds one of the worst excesses of the French revolution, and I presume you know what that unfortunate movement led to?

Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: The History of Handbags   Tue 27 Jan 2015, 10:11

PS If you haven't the time or the inclination to watch the whole scene, here is the crucial word:


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PostSubject: Re: The History of Handbags   Mon 18 May 2015, 09:41

Just come across this ... The Museum of Bags and Purses in Amsterdam, described by the Guardian as: "... an indulgent private collection of bags, pouches, suitcases and purses from the past 500 years. Founded by Hendrikje and Heinz Ivo, who began collecting after finding a 19th-century turquoise handbag in an English village, the museum now holds over 5,000 items. Among the collection is a goat-leather pouch from 16th-century France, a 1970s Gucci bag with a bamboo handle, and contemporary examples such as a bright red lip-shaped clutch by Lulu Guinness."



Tassenmuseum - Museum of Bags and Purses
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PostSubject: Re: The History of Handbags   Tue 03 Jan 2017, 00:06

Was the handbag always a status symbol?  
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvh-5JmJQkY
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