Clutches: A Short History

Apr 3, 2015

Handbags have been around for a looooong time. But clutches, small bags with no strap that you hold in one hand, are a relatively recent addition to the bag cannon. Here's a bit about how they came to be.

Secret Pocket Envelope Clutch - Credit Michelle Keykalou - Flickr - Hello, Handbag

Did you know, the oldest handbag ever found is a clutch? It's dated to about 1300, making it over 700 years old! The bag is from northern Iraq and was originally thought to be a men's bag, like a saddlebag. Experts have since realized it was meant for a lady. It shows scenes from living in a rural area created out of gold and silver. Really, it's stunning. See it here.

Fast forward to modern times... According to Dialect Magazine, clutches became popular during the Industrial Revolution, when train travel became more accessible. As luggage got larger, women needed a way to carry their necessities around the train while en route.

At least, that might have been how it happened. An article on credits the debut of the clutch to Victorian women who needed a way to carry their smelling salts and hankies (ah, it was a different time). At the time the bag was called a "reticule," or a similar kind of bag called a "pochette." These fell out of fashion for awhile, then made a comeback during WWII as the war effort required the downsizing of everything.

Random History takes up the story in the 1950's, when small bags became the hot ticket item. Chanel and Dior started producing smaller and smaller bags, which were seen as highly feminine. Then, in the 1960s when the youth rose to rebel, the long narrow clutch took a fashionable turn. Supposedly this is because they looked so sleek paired with a miniskirt.

Now, a clutch is acceptable for just about anything. Most often you'll find women carrying clutches for a night out on the town, to a wedding, or even to brunch. Personally I'm a huge fan of clutches, see some of my favorites here, here and here.

Are you a clutch carrier? I'd love to see your favorites, tag me on Instagram!

This post is part of the April #AtoZChallenge! Check out yesterday's post, Branding for Women, or see all posts from the Challenge here.

Photo credit: Michelle Patterns as found on Flickr. See more of her gorgeous stuff on Etsy.


  1. We still call them reticule (retikül) in Hungarian :D I don't like them though, I need a bag that leaves my hands free... Fun post!

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary - Epics from A to Z
    MopDog - 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

    1. How cool is that, thank you for letting me know! I agree, I'm usually a hands free kinda girl myself. But for brunches I go clutch all the way. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. A whole load of things I never knew but realised as I was reading it was very curious about!

    I have a clutch type bag that I use at weddings, I say clutch type as technically it does have a strap, but the strap is completely useless, it's more for decoration than practical use so the bag only really works as a clutch.

    Curling Stones for Lego People

    1. I have one of those too, sometimes I carry it on my elbow but that feels a bit silly so I mostly carry it as a clutch. They're perfect for weddings aren't they?

  3. i love to buy clutches. i just dont love to USE them. they're so cuuute but where will i put all my JUNK??


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