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The Handbag’s Evolution…

“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to
use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will
every see it. You’ll know its there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood
on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be
carried all the way through.”

– Steve Jobs

As Beau Satchelle launch nears, we wanted to pay homage to the leather creators and innovators of our past. The evolution of luxury handbags have a rich and storied history in Europe; many trends and designs grew out of the fashion styles of the French and English, although America designers have put their unique influence on this beautiful accessory.

So let’s take a look at the evolution of the handbag…..

In Ancient Times, (evidenced in both Nubian and European civilizations), pouches were used by both men and women as a fundamental part of our development as humans to collect food and to transport items. The earliest were made from animal skin, cotton or woven plant fibers.

During the Middle Ages, the purse, was made more so with round pieces of leather and a drawstring, had another utilitarian purpose (storing coinage) for men long before women adopted them as a fashion accessory and the need to carry personal items. Many of the early designs for women had to do with the style of the dress (including wide skirts, material in the back of the skirt, slimmer skirts) as to whether these early bags were worn underneath or outside the skirt.

In the New World, European pilgrims discovered Native Americans used leather pouches for medicine bags and other pouches of all sizes to preserve and transport items from food to tobacco to relics. By the 18th Century, women carried “pocket bags” that were worn under their skirts because women’ clothing had no pockets and these bags attached to a waistband and tied underneath petticoats. In the early 1800’s, “reticules”, handbags made out of cotton, silk or velvet and closed with a drawstring. These bags were embroidered, stenciled, or geometrically beaded (known as miser or stocking bar) and could also have wrist strap attached.

Although drawstring pocket bags and reticules continued to be popular in the early to mid 1800s, Bags and purses increased in size and metal frames and clasps were introduced. By the end of the century, the use of hand carried purses and bags varied according to the style of the women’s skirts as it ranged from wide skirts with a lot of fabric to more slimmer dresses that couldn’t conceal a bag underneath the skirt.

The term “handbag” was born out of the increasing growth of train transportation in the 19th century, made of leather or heavy fabric. This innovative design was born out necessity for women travelers to have a bag durable and large enough for more personal items but small enough for a woman to handle on her own. Shout out to H.J. Cave & Sons, the 1839 founded London based leather goods company is regarded by some as the inventor of the luxury leather handbag.

By the early 20th century, the evolution of handbags introduce the invention of the handbag, satchel and clutch. The luxury market began to see the immersion of many design houses introduce and market high end bags. Fortunately, we have seen more and more designers successfully enter the market with all types of styles whether it be all hand sewn or machine sewn and all types of exotic skins, and a range of embellishments including rivets, brass hardware, paint and custom designed jewelry.

No matter the style of the 21st century handbags, women look to incorporate technology within their luxury bags. Beau Satchelle’s bags will mainly have a pocket for cell phones, but we have the capability to add features to include pockets for charging stations or tech items. As we reveal our new line, we are excited to roll out the new looks with integrated technology pieces.

Tell us what handbag style through history do you love. -AJ

References: Love you Leather Blog; (Clothing and Fashion: American Fashion from Head to Toe)

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