At the dawn of handbags, a few hundred years ago, bags were used mainly by workers to carry their tools, food and other essentials. The noble classes didn't use bags, preferring to keep their personal belongings in pockets tied around the waist. It was these pockets that gradually morphed into the handbag and became acceptable across all the social classes.
However, the size of your handbag still gave a clue as to your status in society. Larger bags were still considered to be for the working class. The upper classes tended to prefer elaborately decorated handbags, the smaller the better! This held true, certainly for evening bags, for a very long time. A lady of status didn't need to carry much with her for an evening out. Besides, anything that couldn't fit into their evening bags could be carried by a gentleman companion.
These days, handbags come in all shapes, sizes, colours and designs. Even handbags used in the evening are often the size of a day bag and contain huge amounts of "essential" clutter. Anyone who has read my post "Everything Except The Kitchen Sink!" will know I am certainly no exception.
Why do we insist on carrying so much about though?
When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I really travelled light. On an evening out, I wouldn't even bother with a handbag. I would take my lighter and packet of cigarettes in my hand, have my money and door key in my pocket and that would be that. I never felt the need for anything else. If I didn't have any pockets, my key would be in my shoe and my money would be in a small purse.
These days, I don't smoke, so that should mean I have even less need for a handbag. But no. I take my keys, money, comb, mobile phone, lipstick, eyeliner, tissues, spare contact lenses, hand cream .... need I go on? These items have become a security blanket for some reason, I feel as if my right arm is missing if I don't take them.
It seems to me that as we go through our lives we carry more and more in our handbags. Ask anyone with small children and you will find even more odd items in their bags. Maybe the amount of clutter we insist of carrying around with us directly reflects the amount of emotional baggage we pick up as we go through our lives. Who knows.
Why don't men feel the need to carry so much around with them though?