The Secret History of the Handbag


Who knew that the origins of the handbag dated back to 1290 in Italy? From practical beginnings to the status symbol they have become today, The Secret History of the Handbag is a pictorial and literary feast dedicated to all things stylish for keeping the essentials close at hand, from coins and spices to embroidery and knitting, with stunning visuals and language used in this beautifully put together publication.

Accompanying the imagery is a fascinating back story to the humble accessory including the original celebrity luggage endorsement plus brief histories of current celebrity coveted brands such as Hermès and Louis Vuitton as well as insight into how the ‘Kelly’ and ‘Birkin’ bags came to be so named.

The text gives insight into the impact of make-up on handbag styles in the early part of the twentieth century plus the designs driven by needs – such the requirement to carry gas masks during World War Two. The impact of design and technology on handbags is covered in detail including the contribution of the art-deco movement and modern engineering methods and also the availability of wide-ranging and new materials from animal skin to Bakelite.

The concept of the “big beast bags” provides inspiration for the handbag as an investment purchase and is so-called by the authors to identify timeless classics that transcend the impact of ever-changing fashion. Also defined is the impact of art in handbag design and print, resulting in one-off pieces which can make a truly individual accessory a masterpiece in its own right.

As a conclusion, the authors question the future of handbag fashion and surmise we are headed for an age which is driven by design and colour with a hint of heritage, as cleverly depicted on the front cover.

Whether you love fashion, design or just can’t get your hands on enough bags, then this a must-have for its styling as well as a reference, complete with truly beautiful images for your bedside, bookcase or coffee table.

The Secret History of the Handbag by Meredith Etherington-Smith & Caroline Clifton-Mogg, £30. Published by Double-Barrelled Books.


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