1800s: Industrial Revolution – New Times, New Bags

Partly because of Pompeii’s discovery, everything related to the ancient Greeks and Romans became popular by the end of the 18th century. This influenced 19th century fashion. Grecian and Roman style dresses were made of thinner fabrics in plain designs with higher waists, thus rendering it impossible to carry personal belongings at the waist underneath. The solution was the creation of the reticule, an early handbag with a drawstring closure to be carried over the arm with a cord or chain.

Simultaneously, the mid-18th century Industrial Revolution which began in Britain led to new manufacturing processes and materials such as papier mâché, steel and iron. These developments resulted in an abundance of different purse designs, shapes and materials. A good example is the papier-mâché bag in the shape of a Greek vase with a frame and decoration of polished steel.

Another fashion craze between 1813 and 1850 was the use of fine filigreed iron, so-called Fer de Berlin (Berlin iron), for bags and jewellery. The wealth of bags in unusual shapes and materials are veritable examples of this new age.

The 19th century invention of the steam locomotive made rail journeys popular. Instead of traveling with huge trunks, people traveled with hand luggage that evolved into the use of the modern handbag. Ever since the bag was no longer just for travel, bags became fashionable accessories for shopping

and paying social visits. In keeping with its new role it was given a new name – the handbag. By the early 20th century the handbag replaced the once popular and practical loose thigh pockets and chatelaines.