Reticules: A Woman’s Necessity


Linda New SigFrom the beginning of time women needed a place to put personal things. And whether you call it a chanery, chatelaine, pocket, reticule, handbag or purse it became something a women couldn’t do without.


crocheted reticuleThe English called reticules “indispensables.” The French called them “ridicules” and mocked women who carried them.


An interesting thing is how very small they were in the beginning in the 1700’s. That was because way back then women rarely carried anything. If she went shopping a maid accompanied her and paid for all the purchases. A woman didn’t talk about money and heaven forbid she certainly didn’t HANDLE it.


So, visiting cards, a handkerchief, small bottle of perfume, or the ever-present smelling salts (because you never knew when you were about to keel over) were about all she needed to keep with her.


They were made of all sorts of things—silk, velvet, brocade, leather, straw, old doilies, handkerchiefs. You name it and it could be made into a reticule. And then there were the knitted and crocheted ones. Some had adornment and some were plain Jane.

Velvet Reticulebeaded reticuleFabric Reticle 

Usually reticules had a drawstring closure but not always. The two reticules below are mine and both have a chain handle.

Linda's Gold Sequined Purse                Linda's Reticule









In my research, I ran across a notation about women of courting age spending large amounts of time embroidering their name and date on their reticule to show a potential husband her domestic skill. As though that would’ve certainly sealed the deal. Too funny.

Today’s purses are all shapes and sizes and made out of anything you can imagine. Some are inexpensive and some would require me taking out a loan to buy.


And Lord at the things we carry in them!

Just don’t ever ask me to crochet or knit one. This girl is not very domestic.


What about you? What kind of purse do you favor?

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!

32 thoughts on “Reticules: A Woman’s Necessity”

  1. Love the post, Linda, and those beautiful photos of reticules. I have several plain, medium-sized purses which I change back and forth so they do get cleaned out. I don’t know how women even carry those monster purses or what they put in them. As for the prices—yikes! Can’t imagine what would be so special about a bag costing hundreds, even thousands of dollars.
    Thanks for a great start to my day–you always have something interesting to tell us.

  2. Morning Tracy………My purse sometimes resembles a suitcase when I travel. I stuff so much into until it hurts my shoulder to carry it. But I have a small purse I use here at home. I’ll admit it doesn’t hold everything I need but it’s a lot lighter. Sometimes I have to sacrifice to save my poor shoulder. I wonder if there’s a therapist for that??

    Have a great day doing all the things you do!

  3. Morning Janine…………I’m glad you enjoyed my post. I’ve always been intrigued with purses and handbags. I shake my head at the really huge ones. I have quite a few purses but I never pay a whole lot for them. If I see one I like and it feels good on my shoulder I buy it. I like variety so try to change them out every month or so. It’s like getting a new purse.

    Enjoy your day! Hope it’s cooler where you are.

  4. Good Morning Elizabeth…………Glad you got something from my post. It gets to be a real struggle to come up with something new. I totally agree with you on monster purses and those that cost hundreds of dollars. I’ve never spent over $40.00 for a purse. Just doesn’t happen. I’m not impressed by name brands. If I was in the old west, I’d probably have sewn some handkerchiefs together or used some flour sacks (they made everything from flour sacks) and called it good. I just wonder what the heck those ladies on the frontier carried in theirs? Whatever it was I’m sure they had some smelling salts in there. They seemed to stockpile that stuff. But who can blame them. Those harsh conditions would’ve made any woman faint. Washing those long dresses and petticoats on a rub board would’ve done me in!

    Hope you have a great day!

  5. I have a purse right now that is FANTASTIC. My four daughters AND my husband went together to get it for me for CHRISTMAS, yes that’s how expensive it is. And my husband’s main role was writing a check. But that’s how he handles most gifts and it’s a delightful system. The girls pick it out, he pays.
    I’ve been getting GREAT stuff since they started growing up.
    My girls are so into purses it’s just WEIRD. They are crazed.
    I do NOT like a huge purse. I just refuse to drag something really heavy around with me. It’s just too much work. I had a purse I really did like a while back, much too large but it was so cute. The day I decided NO MORE big purses was the day I was digging around deep in the bottom of it for something and found a CURLING IRON.

  6. I remember the first time I read a western historical novel and reading the word “reticule” wondering WHAT that word meant! Now I’ve read it hundreds of times and love that word! Whenever I pick up my purse, I sometimes have that word pass through my mind! I don’t like big purses and I definitely don’t like “hobo” bags! I have to have a purse that has compartments and zipper areas! I like places for things and know where everything is! My adult daughters just throw everything in a bag and I can’t stand that!

  7. What a fun post, Linda! What woman doesn’t love shopping for a new purse. Best of all, it ALWAYS fits. 😉 Personally, I prefer a small purse for one simple reason…I can’t overstuff. And still, I overstuff. LOL

  8. Morning Miss Linda,

    What a great post. Such fun and the pictures are wonderful. For me, as you know, I have more of an over night bag than a purse, but change purses from time to time with the seasons particularly. I’m like Mary, I have an expensive Coach purse that I received for Christmas this last year, but I know it came from the outlet store, but who cares. I typically don’t pay a fortunate for a purse, I’m pretty thrifty when it comes to them. Lordy, lordy I could have never gotten by with those little cutsie reticules because I simply carry too much stuff … one never knows when they might get stuck in traffic and need something for heartburn, Kleenex, chewing gum, lipstick, perfume, a book, an iPad and all the credit cards I own! Great post, my friend. Hugs, Phyliss

  9. Hi Linda, what great info and pictures! I try to keep things light but my kids laugh at the stuff I keep inside “in case I get whisked to another century.” (this comes from my extolling Jude Devereaux’s Knight in Shining Armor years ago.) I hate bags where everything jumbles into a mess at the bottom. I like separate compartments.

    I at least need one big enough for my eyeglasses case.

    Fun stuff, filly sister!

  10. Hi Linda, what a fun post. None of those sissy purses for me. I carry a suitcase that weighs a ton. That way I can go shopping and do my weight lifting exercises all at the same time.

    Once I attended a TV show and the announcer asked the audience if anyone had a salt shaker in their purse. I raised my hand and won $50.

  11. btw, I have the CUTEST dressy, black evening bag, many little beads. I bought it (as I have MOST of my very cutest things) in an emergency situation. You know, one of those “I need an evening bag, I MUST have it now, it is an EMERGENCY, therefore it is okay to spend a fortune on it in this crazy expensive little hotel boutique gift shop…” things.
    It could happen to anyone.
    Anyway, gorgeous bag.
    I like to sleep with her but she is quite spoiled and insisted on having her own room.
    I’ve named her Giselle

  12. Hi Mary………..Oh my gosh! A curling iron? That’s too funny. And doesn’t it seem that keys and coins ALWAYS find a way to get to the bottom of a big purse and you can’t locate them if your life depended on it? In a smaller one, you don’t have to root around quite so long. Congratulations on getting your daughters grown so they can pick out some cool gifts for you!! And Thank Goodness for DH and his trusty checkbook. LOL You’ve certainly gotten them trained well. Just tell your daughters no more Mary Poppins purses though. That could lead to a dangerous situation. Especially when you have to go through security at the airport! Oh my gosh! I’d be mortified if they had to dump the contents of my purse and run a wand over them. I can see it now.

  13. Hi Valri………My sister only carries a little clutch bag. I don’t know how she gets anything in it. But I’m with you. No large purses for me and certainly not any hobo bags. I like a medium size purse with compartments. That’s the kind my mother had. One of my cherished things of hers after her death is her purse. It’s black and kinda dressy. Medium size with lots of compartments. She never could wear anything that hangs on her shoulder. She always wanted one with handles. Here’s to us and our purses!

  14. Hi Renee………….I hope the unpacking is going well. I just hate to move. It’s always exhausting and I always lose things. Glad you enjoyed my post. It’s certainly one women can relate to. And you’re right. Women love shopping for purses. But I never get rid of my old ones so I have a ton of them. I guess that’s a good thing though because I can switch them out and never get bored with the same one.

  15. Hi Phyliss………….Hope you’re making lots of progress with those proposals. Glad you enjoyed my post. I love that Coach purse your daughters gave you for Christmas but it’s much too large for me. It’s very pretty though. Medium size suits me fine. It’s big enough for what I need. I like to keep things compact. Nothing irritates me more than buying a purse, thinking it’s what I’d like, then finding out later that I don’t like it at all. That happens sometimes. I have a purse that belonged to my grandmother who passed away before I was born. The leather is cracked and worn and it’s kinda small. I doubt she ever had much to put in one though. Those Depression years really limited women on the kind of stuff we put in purses today. I like to imagine what she must’ve carried though.

    Hope you have a wonderful day!

  16. Hi Tanya………….I hope you don’t get whisked to another century! That would not be good. But at least you’ll have your eyeglass case. My daughter carries a purse that’s large enough for her laptop. I can’t imagine. I certainly don’t want one that big. I wish I could manage with a small clutch type handbag but I need a little more room than that. Sunglasses take up a lot of space. Medium size is just right. And I like a shoulder strap but not one too wide or I can’t keep it on my shoulder. Nothing’s more irritating than fighting with that.

    Hope your day is going well!

  17. Hi Margaret………How interesting. A salt shaker is pretty weird. Thank goodness for your big purse though. That must’ve been a show like Let’s Make a Deal or something. I used to marvel at the things women carried in their purses on that show. You must like to multi-task since you want a purse heavy enough to get your weight-lifting in at the same time you shop. Too funny!!! Busy women have to combine stuff though to get everything done that we have to these days. Thank you for the laugh.

    Have a great day!

  18. Mary………..Sounds like you and Giselle is a match made in heaven. At least she was smart enough to insist on her own room. You always crack me up. But I know what you’re talking about. I bought a cute little evening bag for my cruise that was ridiculous. I’ve only used it a couple of times and right now I really couldn’t even tell you where it is. Hope I find it when the RWA Conference rolls around next year. Maybe you can cajole Giselle into making the trip with you. Maybe if you promise her a bite of the dessert? But then she might eat the whole thing. LOL

    Keep the laughter coming! It cuts down on the wrinkles.

  19. I knew my daughter’s priorities were getting skewed when she bought a coach purse and, while hugging it and showing it off to me, said, “And I’m sleeping with it and my husband had to move into the guest room because the bed was just too crowded for all three of us.”

  20. Hi Linda,

    Great blog I carry a shoulder bag. It’s easy to sling over my shoulder and move along with my hands free and believe me, there’s a lot more than perfume and handkerchiefs in my bag. It’s like my mini suitcase! I adore the tapestry or beaded bag, I can’t tell in the pic..but I love the flowery design. (top middle)

  21. Hi Charlene……….Glad you liked my blog. Yes, that reticule in the middle is beaded but in such a fashion that it looks like tapestry. The article where I found it said it had a thousand beads per square inch. So it’s solid beads. I think it’s gorgeous. I’ve seen the shoulder bag but I’ve never owned one. It looks very roomy. Probably holds a lot. Thanks for taking time to leave a comment!

  22. Love the post! I have been a purse lover and carrier since I was a little girl. I have carried all shapes and sizes and at this time they seem to be large purses. It seems I carry everything but the kitchen sink in my purse! A girl might need something!!!!!

  23. Interesting post. I love your reticule on the right. The colors and work are lovely.
    I like/need a large purse, but had to switch to a small one because the weight of it hurt my back and shoulder. Now I carry my small purse and two tote bags: )

  24. I favor a BIG purse but doctors have told me I have to quit carrying them! My husband used to travel and shoot in the professional Archery Association. I became known as the purse lady because if anyone needed something, a mint, a screwdriver, safety pin, you get the picture, I usually had it in my huge purse.

  25. What a great post and such fun comments! As a mother of three, I often find myself with a big purse. Nice to have things on hand if needed, but you never know what you might find at the bottom of the bag!

  26. Enjoyed your post, Linda!

    I carried large purses so long, I think the weight has shortened me, lol! I was determined to stop carrying so much weight around, & switched to a smaller purse. It was never large enough to hold everything I thought I had to have with me, so I am now back to carrying the large purse again. But- it doesn’t matter what size I carry, I can never seem to find my keys when I need them. And, no matter how large the purse – I will always find something to fill it (necessities, you know). My purse is to transport things, only, I could care less about brand name purses – but do like for them to be pretty!

  27. I really loved this post. I am a history buff along with being an avid reader so this was very interesting to me to read. I also love genealogy and have been working on mine since I was 16 – I am now 45.

  28. Great post. I had not known how they were started. My purse is a big one. It has to handle my daytimer, wallet,change purse, phone, camera, and all the little things like glasses, pens, chapstick, asthma inhaler, & epipen and anything else I think I need. I am interested in learning about my history but haven’t gotten into it a lot.

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