Like most generic terms, the phrase ‘clutch bag’ can be used to describe a wide range of bags, there is no precise set of dimensions or characteristics which define it. Essentially the clutch bag is a small, flat handbag, without handles or straps, however there are larger bags, with a handle or detachable straps which are also described as ‘clutch bags’. Slim and primarily hand held are perhaps the two qualities which best define the bag.

Bags and purses predate pockets and the clutch bag seems to have been a very early solution to the problem of carrying small possessions of value. We know of the existence of such bags from paintings and tapestries, but few examples have survived because of the perishable materials from which they were made. A seven hundred year of bag owned by the Courtauld Gallery in London may well be the oldest surviving example of a clutch bag. The bag is originally from the city of Mosul in Northern Iraq and is a clear indication that such accessories were, from the outset, signifiers of wealth and status.

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