Do You Use a Reticule?
March 01, 2012
I’m listening to The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin. Vinnie, as she is called, is always commenting on her reticule. I knew exactly what she was talking about and started wondering when that term went out of use. For those of you who haven’t heard of a reticule, as the picture shows, it is what we would now call a purse or handbag.
Reticules were part of a woman’s wardrobe mostly during the 18th century. They became a needed accessory when fashion changed and dresses were more streamlined, leaving no room for pockets that would leave a bulge when something was put in them. They usually had a drawstring to allow you to hang it from your wrist, and it could be knitted or made from netting or fabric to match your gown. They were often beaded, embroidered, or jeweled. They could also be made with shells and paper mache.
Items one carried in a reticule could include a handkerchief, the Lady’s seal, a tablet and pencil, the Lady’s calling card and case, spare change, a small mirror, a tin of breath mints, a snuffbox, smelling salts, powder and rouge, a love letter or two, and a fan. Once, Vinnie had a rock in her reticule, and it came in handy as it was used for protection!
It is interesting to note that the term "purse" that we use today originally described a small leather bag similar to what we would now call a change purse. Also, in the early 1900s, the term "handbag" referred to hand-held luggage. These were usually carried by men.
I’m assuming that with yet another change in fashion, the reticule went out of use. Today a small purse such as this would not work well for most of us as we seem to carry everything and anything.
A book you might want to look at called Pretty Little Purses & Pouches has a couple of patterns in it comparable to a reticule. Maybe it’s time to consider going back to these smaller purses so we can save some wear and tear on our joints!
Lone Jack Branch