As early as the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, women used what was called "girdle pouches" which essentially hung from your waist - via a strap or belt - acting as an external pocket. These were typically made of either a combination of silk and silver, woven cloth, or leather and burlap, with the sole purpose of holding money, or perfrumed spices. The peasant woman's life in this era was hemmed in prohibition and restraint. Thus, the function of these pouches were very basic.
As we entered the Renaissance in the 16th Century, the pouches became smaller, drawing influence from the Middle East and the Orient. The drawstirng bag - similar to its predecessor - also hung from the waist, but tassled together by drawstrings. Made of patterned fabrics, and embroidered materials, these pouches were mainly used to hold flowers, herbs, money, and perfurmed spirces to hide odor. In this ear, women were considered as legal property of their husbands. They were expected to play the typical housewife role, and were considered inferior to their male counterpart. There were variations on expectations depending on social/economic class of the women as well. The type of pouch - whether how decorative, their size, or the material used - gave insight to which class a woman belonged in. Regardless, it had universal use.
In the following era, the Victoria Era of the 18th Century, the external pouches of the previous century were now accessed through slits in women's dresses - worn within a person's outfit. Mostly made of linen, these, too, held your basics - coins, herbs, and other smaller items. The role of the woman didn't change much either. VIctorian women were expected to be limited to child-bearing and housewife roles. Their individuality was also limited as they were expected to dress a certain way as well. These pouches accommodated their attire well.
The 19th Century purse was defined by the Industrial Age, as new materials were introduced and incorporated into designs. Known as the "Chatelaine," this bag was made of both fine cloth and gilded metal. Like the bags that preceded it, the "Chatelaine" also hung from the belt, by either a hook, or decorative clasp. Women of the Industrial Age faced a dramatic shift as they entered the workforce. Giving birth to the term "working woman," mothers and wives no longer had to depend solely on their partners for finances, and leisure - items like a "Chatelaine" were now considered an attainable luxury.
By the time the 20-21st Centuries rolled in, manufacturing techniques saw vast improvements. Purses were now made with higher quality materials, intricate designs, and available as both an everyday commodity and/or a luxury expense. Women of our era, or the "modern woman," as you know, are focusing more on themselves, and their own lives more than historical women ever have. They have also taken it upon themselves to empower other women through mentoring and/or investing in them - which has become vital in this day and age. Goals and opportunities are more abundant for women, and the modern woman is taking advantage.
Purses are now available in an array of sizes, designs and materials to accommodate the range of what women can now do. Whether you're a woman on the go who needs a fashoinable duffle, or a corporate woman who keeps it strictly business, or a Millennial who needs convenience without sacrificing style, the evolution of the purse continues to mirror our growth as women.
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