Handbags: A History

They have a museum for ladders. They have a sanctuary for lemurs. There’s even a whole EXPO for residential lighting.

When are handbags going to get their due? There’s no more elegant accessory than a well-made shoulder bag, and with so much rich history in terms of their evolution, this needs to be showcased in some kind of exhibition (that being the only form of celebratory display that hasn’t been taken yet). The International Australian Victorian Bag and Carrier Exhibition, In Melbourne. It’ll be a glorious celebration of the things that hang off our shoulders and make our lives complete in so many wonderful ways. I particularly like how my lip balm is there for me at all times without me having to carry it around in my pocket. A little thing of lip balm is a really annoying shape to have in your pocket all day, for example, but it’s so easily slotted into a handbag it’s laughable.

There’s going to be a ‘handbags through the ages’ section, obviously, alongside ‘contemporary handbags’ – including my favourite, the classic leather slouch bag – and ‘handbags of the future’. We’ll start with the ancient cave-dwelling humans who used satchels made of sabre-tooth cat fur to carry their ancestors’ bones. After that, they quickly developed into fashion accessories when the first tent-dwellers realised that they could be used to carry feminine hygiene products in a discreet way, and thus the modern handbag was born! A couple of thousand years later, during the renaissance, that is, when French women invented the much larger leather shoulder bag so that they were big enough for carrying around small portraits of their children, for showing off at coffee shops and social events.

From structured plastic satchels to soft leather shoulder bags, it’s all so fascinating. I’m stunned, shocked, that there has never been any real exhibition of this nature.