1890s–1920s

As women started to become independent, they needed handbags to suit many occasions – a generous leather bag for traveling, a tiny purse for shopping trips, a beaded or embroidered bag for evenings.

During the 1920s, early plastics started to be used to make handbag bodies and frames, although leather and fabric bags made with metal – even solid silver – frames continued to be popular.

By the end of the period, the Jazz Age had taken hold, and Flapper girls were dancing the Charleston with delicate beaded purses hanging from their wrists.

Beadwork bag with beaded fringe.
Late 19th century
Beadwork bag with floral decoration and tassel, gilt metal frame, and chain strap. c.1900
Pale blue beadwork réticule, with cream cotton lining and navy blue silk top and drawstring. c.1900