The history of embroidered clutches is a very chequered one. While the oldest embroidered clutch dates back to almost 700 years ago, it has gone through numerous transformations till today date due to certain political events. Consequently, this has propelled the evolution of fashion. The oldest clutch in recorded history dates back to the 1300s. It was found in Mosul, Northern Iraq during the era of Mongol rule. The shape remains pretty much the same today. It is rectangular with a wide curved base and in-set clip lock. However, the main difference lay in its use of material. This brass clutch was originally thought to be used by men saddle bags or wallets. However, its intricate Islamic inlay in gold and silver unveiled scenes of the royal Mongol court, which indicated that it, was in fact, an imperative accessory for affluent or well-to-do women.
Since then, the embroidered clutch bag has had several appearances throughout history from the Medieval to Victorian time periods. Despite the same functionality, in the 18th Century, “reticule” was the term used for what we now know as the clutch. Strapless and small in size, it was used quite ordinarily by a woman to carry a handkerchief and smelling salts. It wasn’t till the 1900s that the clutch became practically non-existent and as bags grew larger, the term “handbag” came about. The reason for the increase in size of bags was credited to the boom in the leather industry in America and Europe. However, it declined during World War II. With paucity of rations and resources, women once again embraced the clutch. The crisis of war demanded a much simpler life and shunning of excesses. Post war, while clutches never came back as a staple accessory, they were still revered in fashion and worn on evening occasions as a decorative symbol of classic elegance. Made with harder materials like Lucite and Bakelite, most had an inbuilt lipstick compartment and were used to carry compacts, combs and coins. In time with trade, materials like satin, silk and brocade were also showcased.
In India, the embroidered clutch purse didn’t appear till the British Rule. Before that, the use of bags was apparent but defined more by their purpose than decoration. The Potli, with its earliest reference in the Ramayana, was used to carry essentials during transit. The Gaumukhi, frequently used by Mughal travelers were used as saddle bags. They were often called prayer bags. The Jhola appeared during the rise of Socialism as a reaction to the British Raj. They were made of Khadi, which symbolized patriotism, and were used by philosophers, poets, writers, journalists and Pundits. The Indian embroidered clutch bags, as we see them today, are an adaptation of the clutches carried by the upper classes of the British diplomats in the Colonial Era. Inducted into the society through Army wives and aristocrats, they retained the functional format while incorporating local embroidery crafts to add a greater ethnic appeal.
Over time, the varieties of ethnic designs and techniques used in India have become regular features on clutch bags. From machine to hand embroidered clutches, they boast of refined local techniques like; Zari work and weaves, Resham, Zardosi, Dori, Cutdana as well as stone, sequin, thread and bead work. Depending on where and how one chooses to carry them, the extensive range of fabrics include; Art and Dupion Silks, faux leather, Satin, Brocade, Velvet, Jute, Cotton and Canvas. Whether you carry them to a party, festival or casual outing, the style will further enhance the elegance, eclecticism or old-world charm you choose to don. In fact, more recently, the upsurge of the heavier bridal embroidered clutch in the wedding industry has become a staple for modern brides. Popular motifs like ornate flowers, peacocks and paisleys add the perfect opulence required for such occasions. You can find them in traditional and contemporary styles.
Distinctive Clutch Trends
With a vast variety of ethnic clutches in the market today, it is no surprise that the fashion industry has embraced and experimented extensively with modern designs on traditional shapes and visa-verse. The designer embroidered clutch purses have seen hugely creative innovations with a combination of fabrics, seems, colors and patterns along with the baser design of clasps from big names in the fashion world. There is a right time to wear every such design. It would add a unique character to your outfit. For instance, you can complement a heavy Kundan set with a clutch donned with cut-bead or stone work. Pair lighter gold or silver plated necklaces with a jewel toned clutch with more intricate Zari work. You can do this to highlight the accent accessory. Mojari and heeled slippers can also be color coordinated to an embroidered clutch with simpler garments.