Over time the handbag has become a necessity, as well as a fashion symbol for many women. The purse defines a woman, while serving the added purpose of carrying her belongings. The handbag has a history that goes back 2000 years, a history of competing need and status. Handbags were typically carried by men at one time, but now that practice is taboo in many social settings. Women in the past as well as today, use their purses to define themselves or to form a character that they want others to see.
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In medieval times, women began decorating their belt pouches with jewels and embroidery; the embellishments were a status symbol, an indicator of wealth. The pouches were strapped to a belt under a woman’s clothing. There were slits in her dress that allowed her access to those pockets.
Women carried their essentials in their handbags, such as a sewing kit, money, make-up, scissors, smelling salts, snacks, and handkerchiefs. As today, the contents of a woman’s purse were private. When the nineteenth century fashions came about, the bags became an accessory, similar to today’s type of handbag. It was common for women to have several handbags to go with multiple outfits.
The modern idea of the handbag came around in the 1920’s. Like previous bags, the 1920’s handbags were meant to be a fashion accessory. However, they had an added meaning of independence and self-reliance; women could go places alone and take care of themselves.
Designer purses become the trend in the 1950’s, brand names mattered. With the independence and free-spirited lifestyle of the 1960’s, handbag designers had to reinvent the idea of the handbag. New styles, fabrics, and colors were used to renew an interest in carrying a purse. Women of every age found a renewed interest in the handbag.
Handbags were once used by men in the form of leather pouches, and are still used today by some men. However, men typically do not carry a handbag. The main reason that men do not carry purses is because of the social stigma. Purses are labeled as feminine. The typical man does not want to exhibit feminine qualities.
A woman’s purse defines her existence and personality. What she carries, the style of bag, the brand of bag, and the contents inside define the owner. One look into a purse can reveal whether or not the woman is organized, prepared, structured, a non-conformist, and can even give some insight into what type of job she has. A methodical woman will carry anything she may need for random occurrences. She will have items such as snacks, medicine, and reading material.
A confident woman will have fewer items in her purse; she does not need the constant security items. An organized woman will have a purse with a lot of compartments; everything will have a specific place. A woman who lacks structure will likely carry a big bag with no pockets; everything just floats around inside.
Women have an emotional attachment to handbags. Designer bags fill an emotional void. Designer bags are synonymous with luxury; they are extravagant, expensive, non-essential, and limited. The luxury of a designer bag says that the woman carrying it is special. A woman with a designer bag can flaunt her good fortune, making her rival jealous.
A handbag reflects self-worth. With a designer bag, there is the added idea of quality; a woman knows she has the best of the best. A designer bag makes a woman feel sexy, unique, and stylish. Women like to feel good, designer handbags fill that emotional need (Bapat, 2007; Tingley, 2010).
Designer handbags are so important to women that there are boutiques that only sell designer handbags and accessories. These boutiques promise personalization, unequaled quality, and class. Boutiques make a woman feel special, as if the boutique were made for an elite group of which she belongs.
Women like to feel good, boutiques fill that need. A woman is attracted to what will make her feel special. Going to a boutique can erase a bad day and lift the spirits, it is therapeutic. Boutiques carry a social indication of grace, wealth, and class. It is all about perception. Women long for this feeling so much that they are lured in, even when they cannot afford the handbag they desire.
Women who cannot afford a designer bag still want a designer bag. They want the bag to portray a role of wealth and power. They want to feel like they are equal to other women. Handbags are a status symbol; a woman’s bag defines her. Women believe that their handbags make them attractive and desirable.
The best handbag is carried by the best of women. Designer bags are marketed to fill the emotional void that a woman may carry. If you make a woman feel good she is likely to be highly interested in what is offered. Women are typically feelings based; designers know this and market their products accordingly.
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Bapat, U. (2007). Handbags – Why do Women Lust for Designer Brands? Ezine Articles. Web.
Kidd, A. (2011). Unlocking the Mystery of Why Women Love to Buy Luxury and Designer Handbags. Luxurious Magazine. Web.
The Handbag in History. (2011). Gleni. Web.
Tingley, S. (2010). Why Do Women Love Designer Handbags? Articles of Advice. Web.
What Does Your Purse Say About You? (2006). Abc News Good Morning America. Web.