Celine, Louis Vuitton, Proenza Schouler and the Return of the Normal Bag

From Celine to Louis Vuitton, minimal new carry-alls are blanketing runways. By Misty White Sidell.

From Celine to Louis Vuitton, minimal new carry-alls are blanketing runways. By Misty White Sidell.

Time Life Pictures / Getty Images

The handbag had small beginnings. Historically known as the "reticule," they “came about because skirts became slimmer and there wasn’t room for pockets, so you needed a reticule to carry just a couple things,” explained Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at FIT. As described in an 1804 issue of the Imperial Weekly Gazette, “While men wear their hands in their pocket so grand, the ladies have pockets to wear in their hand.”

Kirn Vintage Stock / Corbis

Bags remained small for quite some time, as evidenced by this photo taken in 1917. “Small bags were all that most ladies needed to carry for a long time, because until recently you would have something delivered. Women weren’t working so much, they were going out for neighborhood or social occasions,” Steele told The Daily Beast.

Library of Congress

Big bags didn’t appear until the carpet-bagging movement of the post-Civil War era. They were used by Northerners that were headed South to take part in the Reconstruction Period and were often depicted in political cartoons, like the one shown at left.

Time Life

Actress and Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly would often carry an oversized Hermes handbag and hold it in front of her—causing widespread speculation about an impending pregnancy. This led the French leather goods brand to name the style the Kelly Bag in her honor.

Hulton Archive

Tote Bags became popular in the 1960s after young travelers brought them back from their trips to India. They soon became a fashionable item, seen on the streets of London at left.

Getty Images (2)

Oversized handbags were the must-have item during the economic boom. As designer Devi Kroell explained, “When I came up with the giant oversized hobo everything was very much about excess, people wanted things that were different.” Celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe helped popularize the style by suggesting them to her A-list clients like Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie. They were often photographed wearing bags nearly twice their size.

Getty Images; AP Photo

Mini-bags were an antidote to the huge bag overload returning to the runways in early 2010, when Dolce & Gabbana created a change purse/iPod holster hybrid. They were often seen on fashion-conscious celebrities like Alexa Chung and Kate Bosworth, but didn’t have same trend-power as their larger predecessors.

Chris Moore, Catwalking / Getty Images

Last season, Prada sent an army of teensy bags down the runway, in a collection described by the International Herald Tribune's Suzy Menkes as, “schoolgirls, and not those with an undercurrent of sexual awakening that might be expected from the perverse Ms. Prada.”

Pierre Verdy, AFP / Getty Images

French label Celine, responsible for popularizing the current minimalism trend, showed "regular-sized" envelope bags at their presentation in Paris last week.

Chris Moore, Catwalking / Getty Images

Mulberry, a British heritage label, had bouffant-coiffed models carry normal-sized satchels at their London show. The brand’s creative director, Emma Hill, told WWD that the collection was “about my memories of the English seaside as a kid in the '70s. We sat on the beach with [raincoats] over our swimming costumes, and ate fish and chips.”

Mary Altaffer / AP Photo

At Fendi, Karl Lagerfeld and Silvia Venturini Fendi’s collection epitomized classic Venetian style complete with refined handbags.

Dario Cantatore / Getty Images

Rachel Zoe, the doyenne of all things over-the-top, even edited herself down to a "normal-sized" handbag at her New York presentation—this one in a polished brick-red.

Laurent Cipriani / AP Photo

Designed by Mulberry-alum Stuart Vevers, Spanish brand Loewe showed simple shoulder bags with minimal hardware.

Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

Louis Vuitton’s sugar-sweet collection, also designed by Marc Jacobs, included many variations on the classic doctor’s bag silhouette.

Jemal Countess / Getty Images

Proenza Schouler, creators of the ubiquitous P.S. 1 bag, which launched in 2008, took the design one step further for Spring 2012—and designed an array of practical-sized purses.

Bebeto Matthews / AP Photo

Until recently, Victoria Beckham was never photographed without an oversized Hermes Birkin Bag. But recently, she’s taken a liking to shrunken styles, including this one in her New York runway show.