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Victoria Stowe Collection

Handbags History Through Vogue

"Drop-dead gorgeous collection and the book - design, illustrations, content - like the era it depicts,"  Carole Lynn Franks, Washington, D.C. 

As wrote one of my favorite handbag historians, Ms. Anna Jonson, the very first skin bag was probably put together by a resourceful cave woman, when she tied up a couple of snake skins to a stick with a grass string, in order to create a small provision carriage. From those simple beginnings, the handbag has blossomed into every form, color and material imaginable. Over the centuries, from a primitive sack it has first evolved into a drawstring bag made from various materials. Later in the Middle Ages, a metal frame transformed it into a more structured pouch that could be worn on the body. In the 16th century, a tiny, lavishly embroidered and gem-encrusted purse was all the craze among ladies of means. They hid it in the folds of their voluminous skirts or up their sleeves. But by the 17th century, a spacious yet discreet separate pocket with an opening in the middle, worn under petticoats, had emerged as a prototype for the modern purse. That was the important turn in the course of the handbags' history, along with the introduction of a sheer Empire-style dresses in Paris in 1790, which made it impossible for ladies to hide it under their skirts any longer. As a result, the pocket was put on a string to carry—and a handbag, as we know it today, has been finally born. In the 19th century, it was called a reticule. Since then, over many decades, it has been transformed into a great variety of styles, as reflected in archived Vogue and Harper's Bazaar issues, which among other period fashion magazines, such as merchandise catalogs Montgomery Ward and Sears, were used in our research.  Welcome to the Handbag History through Vogue!  



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