Clutches & Purses

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The invention of purses and bags predates pockets. The clutch bag appears to have been an early solution to the problem that small possessions can be lost. Although we know about the existence of these bags in paintings and tapestries a few examples of them have not survived due to the fragile materials they were made. The Courtauld Gallery in London has a seven hundred-year-old bag that may be the oldest known example of a clutch bag. This bag was originally made in Mosul, Northern Iraq. It is clear that these accessories have been used from the beginning to signify wealth and status. The bag is extra-modern in design and features a solid brass body with inlaid scenes of courtly life in silver and gold. The front flap has a catch that is similar to a modern 'envelope-clutch'. Medieval Europe was a time when women wore small bags that were attached to a belt, or girdle, using a chatelaine. This small hook became a piece of jewellery. Bags and purses were mostly concealed in the Middle Ages for security reasons. However, a shift in fashion saw purses/bags become more fashionable. The late Eighteenth Century discovery of Pompeii had a profound impact on the public's taste in architecture and clothing. The clothing of women became lighter and more voluminous, and the waistline was now just below the breasts. The reticule was born, which meant that bags and 'pockets" could not be concealed within the dresses or folds. The reticule was small bag similar to today's clutch. It was attached to the shoulder with a cord or chain. Bags became bigger with the increasing emancipation in western women during the Nineteenth Century. For example, the carpet bag and what we now call a clutch bag almost disappeared. The classic clutch bag was born out of the revival of classically styled dresses in the Nineteen Twenties. A bag that didn't distract from the body line was needed in the era of the flapper dress.
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