Origin of the Trend: Vera Bradley Wristlets

Having traveled fourteen hours in the hope that I would escape everything related to suburban Ohio (AKA everything tacky), I was disappointed to see so many (AKA 98 percent of) Emerson kids toting these kitschy purses. I’ve never understood the deal with paisley, as I think it looks like vomit.

But, college students across the country disagree. Or, they think they have to disagree to look cool/get laid. It may, then, be breaking news that, hey, you can fully admit that Vera Bradley wristlets are annoying and impractical and not cute without worrying about getting a boyfriend–as long as getting rid of them doesn’t mean you’ll resort to making him carry your lipstick in his pocket. He’ll hate that.

I guess they would make more sense if we still attached tools to our belts and had to carry a lot of arrowheads from one camp to the next, but we don’t. That’s why our purses aren’t made from animal hide.

Well, some of them are. But still.

The ancient Egyptians, being the best trendsetters, wore their pouches around their waists (RandomHistory.com). I’m pretty sure you can do that with a wristlet, too. That’s why the straps have those clippy things.

This trend continued into the Middle Ages, when the little pouches would be attached to girdles (props to the genius who invented pockets) (HenriettasHandbags.com), and the Elizabethan Era, when people would fill them with potpourri, since no one took baths (RandomHistory.com).

Around 1850, allegedly (so RandomHistory.com says), French women were stripped of their pockets again, as “the full skirts of the ancient regime became less popular in favor of a more slender and narrow dress”; so, the pouches came back. The history of the wristlet is essentially women’s struggle to hold their shit in an anti-pocket world. It’s been a rough life. But is it really any easier to carry your iPhone in a cumbersome pouch than in a purse you don’t actually have to use your hands to hold?

Probably not, but they look pretty in delicate hands of pretty ladies looking to show off their embroidery skills. After World War I, the first official clutch was invented: “the ‘pochette,’ [was] a type of handle-less clutch, often decorated with dazzling geometric and jazz motifs, which women would tuck under their arms to give them an air of nonchalant youth” (RandomHistory.com). These gave way to larger bags by the 1940s, but smaller handbags regained popularity in the ever-so-modest/terrifying 1950s.

Thirty-two years later, two classy midwestern (they are literally from Indiana, which happens to be thirty minutes from my parents’ house, so I don’t know why New England cares about them) ladies created Vera Bradley, a “feminine” luggage company (VeraBradley.com).

Of course, you can buy a wristlet from Coach, or Louis Vuitton, or Kate Spade. And Coach’s probably came first, seeing as the leather company was founded in 1941 (FundingUniverse.com). But it just wouldn’t be the same as having that garish (okay, some of the prints are actually kind of cute) quilt fabric dangling from your arm.

Published at The Lion, The Stitch, and The Wardrobe on February 21, 2012.

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