The word “purse” has been used to refer to bags of varying designs and sizes since the 14th century and handbags have been a popular accessory of choice for centuries. Even today, fashion trends come and go, but the handbag is one accessory that continues to hold its own in the fashion world. But what is the fascinating history of handbags and why do we use them? In this article, we’ll explore the history of handbags from purses to clutches to totes, and see how this iconic accessory has changed over the centuries.

History of Purses as Handbags 

One of the earliest references to handbags as a fashion accessory can be traced back to the 14th century. During this time period, purses were often made from silk, velvet, and other luxe fabrics, and were used by the aristocracy to store coins, jewelry, cosmetics, and other items. Purses continued to be popular into the 18th century, when they were often decorated with intricate embroidery and decorated with beads and sequins.

During the Victorian era, purses began to take on a more practical design with metal frames. These bags were typically rectangular in shape and had compartments for keys and coins. Women of the time also began to accessorize their purses with beaded tassels and trims. As the Industrial Revolution advanced, handbags became less ornate and began to take on a more utilitarian design. With the invention of the zipper, purses could now be securely shut, making them more reliable for storing valuables.

Popularity of the Clutch 

Clutches first gained traction in fashion in the 1920s, when they were seen as a fashionable and convenient way to carry small items. These bags were typically small and thin, with minimal ornamentation and a simple top snap closure. They were also made in a variety of materials, including beaded fabrics and even metal mesh.

Clutches did not reach their peak of popularity until the 1950s, when they were adopted by designers such as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, and Givenchy. During this time period, clutches were used to accessorize eveningwear and they were often made in bold hues and intricately detailed designs. Clutches remain popular today, but have been updated to suit contemporary styles.

Rise of the Tote 

Totes have been around for centuries, but it was not until the 1960s that they began to gain popularity as handbags. Totes at the time were typically made from durable fabric, such as canvas or cotton, and were used to carry everyday items. However, it was not until the 1980s that the tote gained popularity as a fashion accessory.

In the 1990s, designers adopted the tote as a way to accessorize both casual and formal looks. During this time period, totes were often decorated with colorful prints and embroidery and were used to carry everything from cosmetics to laptops. Today, the tote is still a popular accessory, but has been updated with bold colors and patterns to suit contemporary styles.

Functionality of Handbags 

In addition to being fashionable accessories, handbags are also practical items that are used to store and transport everyday items. Purses, for example, are often used for storing keys, coins, credit cards, and other small items. Clutches, on the other hand, are typically used as evening bags and are used to carry small items such as makeup, jewelry, and other personal items. And finally, totes are used to carry everything from groceries to beach items.

From the sophisticated designs of the 14th century to the bold trends of today, the history of handbags is incredibly fascinating. Not only have handbags always been a popular accessory when it comes to fashion, but they are also an incredibly practical item that is used to store and transport all sorts of everyday items. From purses to clutches to totes, the handbag remains one accessory that continues to be a favorite of fashion-lovers everywhere.