The History of Luxury Leather Handbags

 Can any women imagine today a world without a handbag? Well, you would need to go back many centuries to find a woman who did! ‘Hand-carried bags’ have existed in one form or another across the ages and ever since women began to beautify themselves by turning portable essentials into attractive adornments. Wool, linen, cotton, and canvas were traditionally used and embellished with bones, beads, and brushwork, but nothing beat the durability and decoration potential of leather.  

Where it was safe for women to carry money, the stylish purse arrived and derived from the Middle Ages drawstring pouches worn around a girdle. Metals frames and clasps were next added to give them shape. In the 16th and 17th centuries fulsome dresses and gowns arrived and purses had to worn hanging inside, perhaps with a dagger or sweet-smelling pomander!

 The 18th century saw sleeker female dress when purses were seen again and known as ‘reticules’ in France and ‘indispensables’ in England. The degree of ornateness in hand or on the arm soon became a status symbol and carry straps emerged. As the opportunity for travel widened in the early 19th century, more robust and larger carryalls were needed, and journey luggage emerged.  

Smaller, more-feminine travel bags featured locks and toilet compartments and were finished in velvet and silk and these metamorphosised into hand-held, arm-carried, and shoulder-strapped companions we know as ‘handbags’ today.  

In the early 20th century handbags became a symbol of independence and something of an enigma to non-accessorised men who wondered why such spacious companions were needed and what was hidden inside! But the 1950s was truly the dawn of luxury handbags built to match a woman’s dress code when now-iconic fashion houses experimented with materials and styles, spearhead by the likes of Dior, Gucci, and Chanel. Bamboo handles, ornate chain straps, and embossed leather textures were developed as celebrities were photographed wearing brands for magazine purchased by a fashion-hungry generation.

Aurora London Athena Belt Bag Leather Womens 

The 1960s was no-less boldly innovative for newly-empowered women sporting the casual look, while the 1970’s saw the bohemian influence of the hippie generation when free-spirited designs appeared in soft suedes and leathers with tassels and embroidery. The decadent 1980s rubbed off on handbag design when monograms and glittering hardware were added to broadcast the brands, while the pop-culture of the 1990s saw smaller and more practical designs for women on the move. Film stars were commercially accessorised, and the power of television send cult bag designs global. By the dawn of the new millennium, it wasn’t uncommon for media exposure to lead to long wait times for anticipated bags launches. 

 Belt bags, totes, saddlebags, cross-body purses, and bags meant for the businesswoman reached a maturity of design in the two decades that followed, in an arrays of leather textures and colours. And perhaps inevitably in the globalised technological world, there was a thirst for the retro designs of yesteryear when the pace of progress became uncomfortably fast. We have a number of tech bags at Aurora London to help you navigate through your working life. For this exclusive range we collaborated with Natalie Salmon, a technology journalist.  

Aurora London Tech tote

The final step in evolution has been the emergence of new entrepreneurial handbag brands and designers who wished to challenge the status quo: the dominance of the high-end fashion houses with their stratospheric prices, and the well-entrenched styles that had not cross-fertilised into newer creativity or kept up with the demands of the modern woman.

 Aurora London is a prime example of the new energy in handbag design, whether ultra-modern or retro, where every element of evolving style and fashion is incorporated into luxurious designs at affordable prices, without any compromise on quality. While it’s clear that bag fashion has always been a victim of the social trends of the day, Aurora London believes that some designs are simply timeless. See all of the Aurora London bag range

Aurora London Ziggy crossbody bag

"In LOVE with my bag

I bought this bag for my daughters 21st and she loved it. I'm going to have to buy myself one as well."

Polly (UK)