(Big Bag!) Design: history, materials, models

What was the first model of bag in history?

Probably similar to a leather saddlebag, for centuries it substantially did not change in shape and was carried hanging on belt or neck by means of ribbons.

In the Middle Ages, the power of châtelaine was symbolized by the keys hanging on her belt. From this use was derived a particular form of bag, called châtelaine, which remained in use for several centuries.

From small bags (Italian scarsella, in French aumônière, was used by pilgrims) will then derive all evening handbags. Particularly at the beginning of the 20th Century, with the return of adherent clothes and the abolition of pockets, was born handbags fashion: these bags were in leather or wire mesh, with metal clasps and short handles or chains.

Sometimes handbags reached such a small size to be translated into “finger handbags”, made of silver mesh.

Larger bags have always adapted to day fashion, specializing their function with changing costumes.

In particular, in the 19th Century, with the spread of travels, was born the need for a robust leather briefcase, with handles, locks and compartments for papers and tickets.


Bags of the past were mostly in leather, but sometimes also in materials such as embroidered velvet, or embroidered silk with beads.

Among modern materials we find synthetic leather and suede, produced in different finishes, weights and colours. Synthetic skins have the advantage, besides being animal-friendly, not to present the typical imperfections of natural ones.

Other possibilities are offered by the most varied materials, which we find on many garments and jackets, or for furnishing: velvet, upholstery fabrics, canvas, jute, satin, silk, wool, rope, straw (natural or synthetic), etc.

Bag Design Notes

What are the silhouettes of the most popular and used models today?

Bucket bag

It is a type of shoulder bag in the shape of a bucket, with a wide opening at the top and an oval or rounded bottom, and a handle or shoulder strap.

An example of a bucket bag

Frame bag

A bag with a metallic insert for snap, knob or button closure. Very used for evening handbags.

An example of a model frame bag

Tote (shopper) bag

The carrying bag by definition, with medium-large dimensions, a wide opening at the top and two handles.

An example of a tote bag

Hobo bag

A shoulder bag in the shape of halfmoon. It usually has a top zip closure and a shoulder strap.

An example of a hobo model bag

Barrel bag

Cylindrical bag with zipper and one handle or two short handles.

An example of barrel model bag

Messenger bag

Originally designed for bike carriers (as a backpack alternative), it is a spacious, rectangular-shaped bag with a long adjustable shoulder strap to wear around the body. It can have both horizontal and vertical orientation.

An example of a messenger bag model

Clutch (pouchette / pochette) + Envelope (pouch)

This bag with small dimensions, sported between the hands (or between the arm and the body) of the wearer, does not possess any type of shoulder strap.

An example of bag model pouch

The bag (pictured) is a variant: the closure assumes exactly the shape of an envelope.

Wristlet (wrist bag)

A small handbag with a wrist handle. Similar to clutches in shape but not for size, it can also have a metallic closure.

A sample handbag model Wristlet

Shoulder bag + Crossbody

Shoulder bag was conceived in the early ’30s to allow women to have their hands free. It was a small to medium size bag. Today it can also be large and have shoulder handles (or a chain) too.

Crossbody bag is a variant of shoulder bags and has a long, often adjustable shoulder strap.

Historically crossbody bags were born as suitable bags for travellers and people who did a tiring job, like peasants.

When bags become a feminine accessory, women will prefer crossbody bags at any time they have wanted to emphasize the role of equality in society, as during suffragettes movement at the beginning of the 20th Century, or the feminist movement in the 60’s.

Drawstring bag

A bag with eyelets and cord closure at the top. This kind of bag can form a shoulder strap or provide for a separate one.

An example of a drawstring bag model


A bag with a double shoulder strap to wear on shoulders.

A prototype backpack bag

Satchel bag

Square or cupolform bag, with a wide and flat bottom, and two short handles. The bottom usually rests on metallic or plastic feets. It can have different sizes. It is one of the most current and revisited bag forms.

The typical form of a "bolide" bag

A curiosity: “Bolide” bag by Hermès, presented in 1923, will be the first zip-closure bag in history. The idea was born in 1916, when during a visit in the United States, he had observed the closure system of Cadillac convertibles.

Luggage Handle bag

An example of a bag model luggage bag

A bag with a stiff handle.