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The History of Handbags

The bag has a history almost as long as humanity itself. As early as 38,000 BCE, hunter-gathers used pouches to store and transport food and tools. From the period of Ancient Rome through the Renaissance, men and women wore drawstring purses on belts. The women’s handbag, however, is a much more recent invention. For many years, women wore separate pockets underneath their dresses, but in the last decade of the 18th century, high-waisted gowns with a slimmer profile became popular and rendered these pockets obsolete. The solution was the precursor to the modern handbag: the reticule. Sometimes called an "indispensable," the reticule was a small bag that allowed women to carry essentials like rouge, powder, a fan, perfume, and a few visiting cards. By the late 19th century, larger and more functional handbags began to replace the reticule. The earliest versions were essentially mini-suitcases and were manufactured by luggage creators like Louis Vuitton. As they became more and more entrenched, handbag styles began to reflect the time period – for example, simple bags were popular in the 1940s, while flashy bags reigned supreme in the 1980s. It is remarkable that just a few centuries after their creation, handbags are now considered an essential item, with new designs and trends constantly being created.

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