Free shipping on orders over $100 within NZ FREE SHIPPING ON ORDERS OVER $100 WITHIN NEW ZEALAND


A history of the humble handbag

A history of the humble handbag

At its most simple level, a bag is a practical device that enables the wearer to carry things. But over time, bags have become so much more than that. A symbol of style, success, even status. Bags tell stories about where we’ve been and what we’ve taken with us. They wear the marks of our journey and if the humble bag could talk, boy could it tell stories!

The earliest bag actually dates back to ancient times. Early humans - both men and women - wore leather pouches to carry small tools. Waist bags can be seen in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and bags are also referenced in the Bible.

Later, in the 14th and 15th centuries, a leather ‘pouch’, attached to a waist girdle, enabled the wearer to discretely carry coins, jewels, a rosary, or whatever they pleased.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, fashion underwent a huge evolution. Women’s skirts expanded and purses began to be worn underneath these layers. It is thought that this move is what inspired pockets!

During the 17th century, the development of bags for status as well as practicality boomed. The more elaborate and highly decorated, the higher status you implied. As people travelled more, the sack was created to carry larger items and the messenger bag also become popular.

In the 18th century, women’s dresses narrowed and the handbag was born. Bags were evolving with their wearers. 

At times throughout history bags have matched, clashed, been carried under the arm and slung over the shoulder. But one thing that remains true is that a bag is an extension of its wearer, a reflection of what they deem important. It is a sacred place they keep their most personal items - whether they be practical, valuable or sentimental.

Over time, bags have become a form of art history, reflecting current trends in various eras and will continue to do so for many years to come. MAHY looks forward to helping to take the humble bag on its next trip around the sun!