In the 1920s, women were becoming more active than ever before. Flappers of the Jazz Age frequently attended bars or speakeasies to smoke, drink, and dance the night away. It makes sense, then, that they would need an accessory that could conveniently hold their cigarettes, lipstick, money, and any other items they might need for an evening out on the town. While purses and handbags weren’t as popular in the 1920s as they are today, they were still an essential accessory for most women. Here is a look at the most popular evening bags from the Roaring Twenties.
Handbags in the 1920s
Handbags and purses in the 1920s were far more practical than they are today. The reason is because most women didn’t have very many accessories or objects to put inside. Credit cards and identification weren’t something that women had to carry around with them. Even when wealthy women went shopping, they usually charged their purchase to an “account” and the bill would later be paid by her husband. As their social life got more active, however, women needed a place to store small items. For this reason, the clutch purse was incredibly popular at the beginning of the decade. Clutches were ideal for use at fancy evening events, and women often wore gloves that matched or complemented their clutch. These bags were typically made of leather, snakeskin, or alligator. Very wealthy women could be stopped carrying fine silk clutches embellished with intricate beading. Eventually, women tired of having to have their clutch in-hand at all times. To solve this problem, 1920s tastemaker Coco Chanel came up with the perfect solution. It’s been said that she was the very first fashion designer to adorn a clutch purse with a long strap. The popularity of this concept quickly spread, making shoulder bags or crossbody purses the new norm. When women travelled, they didn’t have large tote bags like we have today. Instead, they stored their belongings in traditional Victorian Carpet Bags. These large bags offered plenty of room inside to carry extra clothing, accessories, and any other items a woman might need on her journey. Typically, these bags were much more practical and unisex in design than a handbag or an evening bag.
Popular 1920s Evening Bags
Pouchettes are small, envelope-shaped evening bags that were incredibly popular with women during the 1920s. Used in the evening, they were often carried under the crook of a woman’s arm. These bags ranged in appearance from practical to incredibly embellished. It wasn’t uncommon for Pouchettes to be made of embroidered silk or tapestry that featured an elegant Art Deco design.
Reticules were pouch-like bags that cinched at the top. Often made of fabric or another unstructured material, these were some of the most popular handbag styles during this decade. As they became more prevalent, manufacturers started making them with more opulent materials. Rocaille beads or Dresden mesh made them shimmer and shine when they caught the light.