A Handbag!

BEWI are fortunate to have excellent speakers visit our monthly meetings.  Sarah Delves recently captivated us with a history of handbags starting with a brief resume of how she became an expert in this subject. It all started when she had watched an episode a well known Sunday evening BBC antiques programme, which sparked her interest.  She has progressed to Expert Lecturer for the V&A Museum. We learned that the story of handbags begins before the written word in 3300 BC with the iceman and an early version of a bumbag. The talk was illustrated with many pictures, as well as actual examples of handbags through the ages. Sarah’s collection brought to life how bags developed up to present day.  This showed us how wealth and status were denoted by the size of your bag, the smaller, more beautifully crafted, being carried by the wealthy. Ladies’ bags began as pockets, tied around the waist. Sarah showed us her oldest bag, from 1660. This was a “gaming purse”, used for gambling. Henry VIII’s codpiece was used to carry jewellery, hence the term “the crown jewels” as it is in comedy parlance today. Fashion trends dictated how bags evolved through art nouveau, art deco, new materials such as Perspex in the 1960s, and celebrity inspired bags such as Hermes’ famous Birkin bag. Current efforts to eradicate fake handbags have become essential in a trade which the rarest items change hands on world markets for in excess of £500,000.