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Monday, September 21, 2009

Regency Reticules

Reticules, pronounced (rett i kyoòl) were sometimes called ridicules, because people thought it ridiculous to carry one’s valuables on one’s arm rather than hidden inside a belt or pocket. The etymology dictionary places the origin upon the French word réticule, and the Latin word reticulum, meaning a small mesh bag.

Reticules were small purses carried by ladies, and became a fashion accessory, as well as a necessity, in the late 1790s. Before then, women carried their purses around their waist, hidden by the panniers and wide hooped skirts. When the Empire style gown came into fashion, that practice was no longer possible. So, ladies began carrying them on their wrists.

Made of fabric or crocheted, often with silk or metallic thread, reticules were often created by ladies at home. Therefore, they greatly varied in style and color. They were usually held together with a small clasp or drawstring. The more elaborate purses which were beaded or made with elaborate needlepoint didn’t crop up until the mid Victorian Era.

And when I say they were small, they typically measured between 2 inches and 5 inches from the top of the clasp or drawstring, to the bottom where the seam or tassel was found. They were barely large enough to carry a few coins, a handkerchief, the ever-important calling card, perhaps a Vinaigrette and maybe a tin of breath mints, but little else. It was possible to carry a very small handgun inside a larger reticule, but it would have made the reticule quite heavy and there wouldn’t have been room for much else. A regency lady would be shocked at the size of our handbags today, and by what ladies carry in them!

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