The history of bags

In recent decades the bag has been portrayed as a fashionable accessory for storing women’s essential daily items. Just think about the popularity of the IT bag or the more economical tote bag. We are all very keen on showing off our individual style through our bags. However, the history of bags tells us that it has not always been like this.From the early days of their existence, the bag has been a functional accessory for both men and women. Paintings, prints and carpets from museums in Europe and archeological sites from all over the world have revealed that bags were already being used at least as early as the late Middle Ages. And long before that there was Ötzi the Iceman whose frozen body was found with a purse.

In the early days bags were primarily used for one specific purpose. Small purses made of soft fabric or leather were worn to carry coins. Sturdy leather bags were used for travelling on horseback. Bags were also used for gathering herbs or for the carrying of children. It was only later when people became more skilled in sewing and embroidery that bags were increasingly used as fashionable accessories.

In other words: bags have a rich history from which contemporary bag designers still draw their inspiration. Very few forms of bags have been developed that differ radically from earlier forms of bags. In fact, many forms of bags are being re-introduced in contemporary societies by studying the history of bags. The clutch is a good example of this dynamic. The clutch was quite popular in the 18th century and it was only recently that they became popular again.

If you are ever in Amsterdam then make sure to visit the bag museum (Tassenmuseum). Here you can learn more about the long and rich history of all kinds of bags.

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