There is something in the argument, as most women would probably admit, but surely we all have to question the necessity for even bigger bags, which is — I’m sorry, guys — the latest development in this endlessly fertile area of retail.
With the possible exception of a small devotional book, for centuries, women carried nothing about their person that couldn’t be hung from a chain around the waist. Pockets in skirts increased the scope a little, but it wasn’t until the advent of the reticule — a small purse on a chain, carried in the hand — that the modern handbag was born. That was at the end of the 18th century, and it looked as if the evolution of the handbag would stop there, if only because women still had so little to carry in a bag, as they rarely left home.
The development of shopping in the 19th century changed things, and the modern bag began to evolve. Even so, it was kept small and simple. It wasn’t until the arrival of designers such as Chanel, in the 1920s, and Schiaparelli, in the 1930s, along with leathersmiths such as Hermès and Gucci, that women’s handbags stopped being discreet — think back to the Asprey bags favoured by royalty and the upper classes — and became a fashion statement in their own right. Innocent as the Kelly and Birkin bags seemed when they first appeared, they spawned a monstrous progeny of ugly, overdesigned and prohibitively expensive bags Let us hope that this trend has finally gone as far as it can go.