MARKET TRADER, JULY 6 - 19, 2018

to clothing. Made from wonderfully embroidered leather, linen, silk and velvet, they contained compartments for carrying money and other personal necessities, (though no pockets for credit cards or iPhones, which must have been frustrating). With the advent of inside

pockets in men’s clothing at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th century, the bag for men gradually fell into disuse. With the exception of the briefcase in the centuries to follow, says Ivo, the bag became the exclusive domain of the woman (though she doesn’t specify which particular woman). Even back then, it seems,

the fairer sex had a lot to carry round with them, including purses, keys, pomanders, thimble holders, needle holders, pincushions and sheath knives. (If they got their bags searched nowadays they’d probably get arrested). In the Netherlands and some

parts of Germany, a common alternative for carrying one’s personal belongings was a bag with a silver buckle and hook that could be hung from the skirt band. The buckle bag was worn in the Netherlands from the 17th century till the beginning of the 20th century, and the priceless silver buckles were often handed down from mother to daughter.


The discovery of Pompeii and the rediscovery of the

The handbag In line with its new role,

Greek temples popularised the Greco-Roman style during the course of the 18th century, and big voluminous dresses suddenly became straight. There was no place now for the pouches and bags women used to carry under their frocks, and so entered the reticule, the first real predecessor to the handbag. The ret i cule had a

drawstring or chain so that it could be held in the hand, and the French referred to it as a “ridicule”, because who in their right minds would walk around with all their possessions in their hands? The English, however, called it the “indispensable”. This probably speaks volumes about the two nations.


Next up, around 1830, was the chatelaine, a kind of cross between a pocket and a bag which ladies used to hang from their skirt band. Also around this time, the increased popularity of travelling resulted in a wide range of bags for the modern globetrotter. Small hand luggage for train travel became increasingly popular, and it wasn’t long before women started to carry these bags on sightseeing trips and shopping expeditions as well. From there, of course, it was but a small step to the evolution of the next phase in the history of bags.

the small bag now being commonly carried by women whilst they were out and about, began to be referred to as the handbag. The start of the 20th century saw the handbag definitively taking over the role of the chatelaine, and it wasn’t long before women began to demand a bag for every occasion. The manufacturers and retailers, of course, were happy to oblige.

Influenced by the film stars

on the silver screen, the use of cosmetics and cigarettes increased tremendously. In a range of new materials and with various compartments for Lucky Strike and lippy, handbags became small works of art. Suddenly women with wealth could buy designer bags costing thousands, while women without wealth could go to their local market and buy similar items for a fraction of the price. As the century progressed

all kinds of new synthetic materials such as PVC, Perspex and nylon were invented, but it was only after World War II that they were noticeably incorporated into bags. In the swinging 60s shoulder bags for men once again became acceptable, and new materials began to be used in the manufacture of travel bags, creating alternatives to the old fashioned suitcase. And suddenly, here we are

at the 21st century again. Happy packing.


Ethnic and boho have been popular for quite a while now (Photo: Robert Schrader) Some fascinating facts about bags

• The first luxury leather handbags as we know them today were created in 1841 by London’s H J Cave

• The word luggage comes from the verb “lug” which means to drag • Miuccia Prada introduced the first totally unisex bag – a black nylon knapsack – in 1985 • According to Egyptian hieroglyphs, in ancient times carrying a bag was entirely a “man thing”

• The average woman owns six handbags • The average student carries a book bag weighting 25 percent of their body weight – the recommended weight is no more than 15 percent

• The most expensive handbag ever made, with a platinum clutch and over 2,000 diamonds, was created in 2008 by a Japanese designer and cost over $2m

• Shakespeare (who else)? was the first to use the word luggage, in the play Henry IV • Gucci began using its cane handles on handbags in the 1940s during WWII, because of the leather shortage

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