Where would women be without a purse to hold the essentials like cash, keys, a drivers license and credit cards and the non-essentials like lipstick, a package of fruit snacks, old receipts, cinnamon Altoids, pens, iPod earbuds and Chuck E. Cheese tokens? You might have guessed that my purse isn’t very organized.
Purses were used by both men and women in early years, and usually took the form of a small bag worn on a belt. Through most of the 17th and 18th centuries, women simply used pockets to carry necessities. Purses became popular during the early 19th century when the style for women’s clothing became light, delicate and worn closer to the body, with little space for pockets. During this time the purses were called reticules and were little bags with drawstrings that could be worn around the wrist. They were small, since women usually only carried a little money and maybe some smelling salts when they went out. Within a few decades society became more conservative and the voluminous dresses of the Victorian era were the fashion. You could hide a shark in those things, and making room for pockets was not a problem. Purses were still used during this era, but not as widely as before. At the beginning of the 20th century the line of women’s dresses once again became smaller and slimmer, bringing the purse back in vogue, where it has stayed.