Obsolete Fashion: Don’t Ridicule This Reticule

Image via Fabrics.net.

In a recent Fashion Dictionary post, commenter Nanne introduced me to the strange and wonderful fashion artifact known as the reticule purse. Before reading Nanne’s feedback, I was unfamiliar with the historical accessory. However, after a bit of research, I found out the unique story behind one of the most essential items of fashion history.

The reticule bag was a tiny, decorative drawstring handbag carried by women during the Regency era. This precursor to the modern clutch came in variety of shapes, colors, and fabrics–women usually matched their bag to the dress of the day. Reticules hung from a long strap, typically attached to the wrist or the waist, and were used to carry personal necessities, such as cosmetic mirrors or smelling salts.

Personally, I would love to get my hands on an authentic reticule from the 1800s! Are there any antiquated accessories you’d like to add to your collection?


About Annie

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  1. Avatar
    Cassie 02/01/2011 at 3:15 pm #

    Reticules always make me think of Sweeney Todd and the lyrics from “Kiss Me”:
    “I’ll take my reticule.
    I need my reticule.
    You mustn’t think
    Me a fool
    But my reticule
    Never leaves my side,
    It’s the only thing
    My mother gave me”

  2. Avatar
    Gabby / Gypsy*Diaries 02/01/2011 at 3:39 pm #

    An original antique brooch would be amazing! 🙂 But I’d settle for this reticule too!


  3. Avatar
    groovyK 02/03/2011 at 1:34 am #

    I love old hair combs that were used to adorn the hair, not brush it. Some of the Edwardian (early 1900s) era combs are simply gorgeous, but I’ve seen one or two Art Nouveau ones shaped and coloured like an iridescent dragonfly, which I would especially love to own.

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    Crystal 02/08/2011 at 4:09 pm #

    If you ever check out the book “The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter” they have a whole chapter about how in women’s history the reticule was the precursor to the purse, and how the purse only came about as women were allowed out without an escort to go “a-shopping!” Crazy how the items we use today and consider just part of fashion have a long history and implications for women’s liberation back in the day.

    • Avatar
      Kimberley 03/11/2011 at 8:58 pm #

      I’ll look that book up! Thanks Crystal!

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    Kimberley 03/11/2011 at 8:56 pm #

    I’d love to have reason for a beautiful hat pin… i wish society would bring back old world fashion ettiquette that gave reason for gloves and hats outside the house. People barely make it beyond tracksuit pants outside the house these days!

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    Beth 01/11/2012 at 9:49 pm #

    oooh i would love to have one of those rich fabric and embroidered (edwardian?) riding hoods

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    god bless her cotton socks 03/21/2012 at 6:32 pm #

    I would love one of those enormous Victorian hats they used to wear. Ever since I read Little House On The Prairie when I was five I’ve had a burning desire to own a bonnet, too.

  8. Avatar
    Valerie 04/01/2013 at 9:56 am #

    I have one of these! My aunt loves creating costumes for historical reenactments, and she made me a gorgeous one with embroidered flowers and a silk ribbon drawstring. I use it for costume parties and for my annual trip to the Renaissance Faire. It’s way more convenient than a handbag.

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