With holiday shopping in full swing, shop windows are overflowing with all sorts of fancy merchandise designed to capture our fancy. I passed a well-known purveyor of designerhandbags, and as I stopped to stare at one of the sinfully expensive leather creations, it got me to thinking about reticules.
Now, I’m one of those people who need a handbag the size of a suitcase to make it through the day. Somehow, I always end up collecting stuff as I zip from place to place . . . gym t-shirts, golf balls, pens, several chocolate bars (a lady can't live without chocolate!) a bottle of Perrier . . . I swear things sort-of grow on their own, because how else does a bag go from weighing 5 pounds to 25 pounds in one afternoon? But I find those dainty, delicate silk reticules from the Regency exquisite, no matter that I’d destroy one in about 45 seconds.
It’s interesting that in Europe the word “purse” traditionally referred to a a bag designed to carry coins (and still does in Britain.) In early days, men wore purses just as often as women—the Scottish sporran is a leftover from this style. But men began to have pockets added to their trousers and coats, and the need for purses petered out.
In the 17th and 18th century, women had pockets too—they were usually a separate item of clothing that was worn under the skirts and atop the petticoats (to thwart thieves) But Regency gowns and fabrics didn’t lend themselves to pockets—they ruined the lines of a sleeker styles. And so the reticule became a fashionable accessory. Many young ladies used their sewing and embroidery skills to add personal style to their bags . . . we’re not so lucky. We need to pay and arm and a leg for a stylish bag. I'm always amazed at how fragile they are. But then, a young lady carried perhaps a hankerchielf and a few ribbons—and maybe a billet doux! No car keys, no cellphone, no make-up bag to weigh her down!)
So, what about you? Are you one of those people who are handbag-obsesssed? Are you willing to spend a fortune on a stylish bag? (After all, we carry it every day!) I confess, I’m not a fashionista. I just can't see spending gobs of money on one. A sturdy, serviceable sack does just fine. But I do enjoy looking!