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Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

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Basic Information

Accession Number:1947M233
Collection:Applied Art - Costume
Date:1870 - 1901


For as long as people have had precious items and money to carry about their person, bags and purses have played an important role in our daily lives. Accessories like these small bags have been valued for their usefulness. They have also been a relatively cheap and easy way to update fashions and are an indicator of style and taste.The forerunner of the handbag was the 'redicule' adopted in France in the late eighteenth century. Although British women took longer to embrace the idea, they soon came to rely on them and called them their 'indispensables'.The term 'handbag' initially referred to the hand held luggage bags usually carried by men. In the last third of the nineteenth century practical and stylistic elements of the leather travelling bag, such as its metal fastenings and compartmentalised interior, ticket pockets and sturdy handle, inspired the new handbag for women, the precursor of the twentieth century handbag.From the 1830s onwards, Berlin woolwork in merino wools from Germany dominated domestic embroidery. The patterns were worked on to canvas, and silks were introduced for texture and bright colour contrasts. Thousands of printed charts were imported into England and many designs for bags and purses were available.

Presented by Mrs Ellen Craig.

Further Information

Production Period:19th Century
Medium:Coloured wools and silk on canvas.


Height:18 cm
Width:16 cm