By the last decade of the eighteenth century, women's dresses had changed from heavy, multilayered gowns made of thick fabric to flimsy, lightweight dresses too delicate to hold pockets. At this time reticules, or handbags, became essential for carrying necessities. The first bags were made of lightweight fabric or net and closed with a drawstring. By the nineteenth century reticules had become a source of ridicule, for woman had begun to carry rather full bags, stuffed with all sorts of seemingly frivolous items, including makeup, brushes, and hair ornaments.


Contini, Mila. Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. Edited by James Laver. New York: Odyssey Press, 1965.

Cunnington, C. Willett, and Phillis Cunnington. Handbook of English Costume in the Eighteenth Century. London, England: Faber and Faber, 1964.

[ See also Volume 3, Nineteenth Century: Pocketbook ]

Sixteenth-century queen Elizabeth I holding a reticule. By the last decade of the eighteenth century, women's dresses were too lightweight and delicate to feature pockets, and reticules, or handbags, came into popularity. Courtesy of the .

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