The history of the clutch: from the medieval belt purse to the minaudière Read more

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Fashion historian Milana Abieva, in an article for the online magazine «Shipyards», spoke about the origin of clutches, their role in fashion and modern trends in the development of accessories.

Clutch-patty, clutch-envelope, clutch in the form of a book, a perfume bottle, a matryoshka doll… This handbag, which has become an integral part of the wardrobe of any woman, and not only, takes on many forms today, because many designers today offer to complement men’s looks with stylish and functional ones. clutch bags. In the meantime, I suggest you take a little trip back in time today and find out how and when this accessory, so familiar to us today, appeared.

Middle Ages and emancipation

The prototype of the clutch is considered to be both medieval purses that were worn on the belt by both women and men, and miniature reticule bags that came into fashion with the advent of high-waisted dresses with increasing popularity at the end of the eighteenth century. However, all these «ancestors» of the clutch are far from what we know today. That same handbag without a handle, which ladies elegantly carry in their hand, is quite young and appeared only at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The first decades of the previous century became a real cradle of female emancipation — under the onslaught of the suffragette movement and technological progress, not only corsets fell, but also many conventions associated with the image of a woman in society, which could not but affect her wardrobe.

The history of the clutch: from the medieval belt purse to the minaudière
Wallis Simpson with clutch

Emancipation reached its peak in the «roaring twenties», glorifying the image of a free, mobile, liberated woman. The lifestyle of an exemplary «flapper girl» (that’s what the standard of the «new woman» was called) implied a stormy and eventful social life: parties, cocktails, car rides, incendiary dances, and even numerous novels, hitherto considered the height of obscenity.

The history of the clutch: from the medieval belt purse to the minaudière
Women’s fashion in the 1930s

Evening gowns became shorter, lighter and thinner, and therefore it was no longer possible to integrate veiled pockets into them. It was at this point that the flappers came to the aid of small bags in which they could store trendy red lipstick, a powder box and the keys to their own fast car. Such handbags bore the name known to us — «clutch». They were made of leather, suede, velvet, silk, decorated with beads, pearls, embroidery — all in the best traditions of art-deal luxury. However, their distinctive feature was that they still retained a handle and could be worn both in the hand and on the wrist.

Minaudière without handle

It was not until the 1930s, with the advent of the accessory with the fancy name «minaudière», that the modern clutch began to exist. We owe the birth of the first minaudière to the magnificent woman Florence Gould and the savvy Charles Arpels. After all, it was Arpels who once noticed that Florence carries all the necessary little things in a metal Lucky Strike cigarette case. Without thinking twice, Arpels created for Mrs. Gould a more luxurious analogue of her favorite accessory. The minaudière fell in love with a loyal client of the Van Cleef and Arpels brand, and not only her — a new-fangled and incredibly comfortable accessory instantly fell in love with all fashionistas. Other jewelry houses began to produce it, such as Tiffany & Co and Cartier.

The history of the clutch: from the medieval belt purse to the minaudière
Minaudière by Van Cleef and Arpels 1938
The history of the clutch: from the medieval belt purse to the minaudière
Minaudière by Van Cleef and Arpels 1939

Minaudières often became a real piece of jewelry, encrusted with diamonds and other precious and semi-precious stones. Of course, there were other, more restrained models. However, all of them were united by the presence of a mirror inside and a specially designated place for every little thing. It was the minaudière that became the first handbag without a handle and gave birth to a clutch in the sense in which we are talking about it today. Clutches remained at the peak of popularity for a long time, continuing to change in size and proportions.

In one of the upcoming articles, we will tell you about several more important stages in the history of this wonderful accessory.


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