There are a lot of fashion elements we take for granted in the modern day. In fact, we may think many fashion design elements are common sense and have probably been around for ages. That may be true for some, but other things may surprise you.
The Shoulder Strap on Women's Bags
The shoulder strap on a woman's bag, something we may consider a foundational element since the idea of a bag probably began, is often credited to Coco Chanel in the 1920s. To clarify, the shoulder strap was not new - but, it seems it wasn't commonly used on women's fashion bags.
Indeed, it appears that women held their bags in their hands most of the time - a bag which we'd term a 'clutch' nowadays. It was this annoyance of having her hands occupied constantly that led Coco to develop her original Chanel bag with the long, thin strap. This design was actually inspired by a soldier's bag.
Note: there are other bag styles that may have been held from the belt or waist, but may have been used for specific service roles, and not typically for fashion.
A Soldier's Bag Inspires Chanel
Chanel had been around of lot of soldiers. In fact, it's said she got her nickname 'Coco' while entertaining soldiers as a singer (her real name was Gabrielle). Her first beau was an ex-calvary textile heir. Military inspiration seemed to surround her. Coco is known to have been a great innovator constantly pulling inspiration from her youth, passions and those around her.
It makes sense that soldiers would need their hands free (obviously), but would have had to carry things with them, especially with the more simplistic military uniforms during that time. A soldier's bag, which they likely wore as a crossbody, kept their items near and secure and allowed the use of their needed hands. A woman would have similar needs.
Chanel's Original Bag and the Updated Chanel 2.55 Bag
Coco launched her first bag design in 1929. In the 1930s, her focus shifted to more womanly fashion, such as long evening dresses, as well as jewelry. However, when World War II began around 1939, Coco closed up shop at her Maison Chanel (leaving some items for sale) and moved to Hôtel Ritz Paris, with her German boyfriend.
However, after the war, she was exiled to Switzerland for some time (this is a whole story in itself). She seems to not have done as much in fashion until she returned to France and jumped back into fashion around 1953-1954. We then see the newer version of her Chanel bag, the Chanel 2.55, so named after the month (February) and year (1955) of its re-launch.
A well-known feature of the 2.55 update is the double-chain shoulder strap. This is believed to be inspired by the chatelaines worn by the caretakers at the convent orphanage where she spent her youth. (If you've seen Downton Abbey, Mrs. Hughes wears a more simplistic one around her waist which holds all her keys and things.) Our Camille bag, carries a similar inspiration in its straps.
Fashion and Function
Bag straps definitely do seem like a no-brainer in today's world. One could even question how we'd even function now without a strap for certain errands or outings. But, thanks to Coco Chanel, we don't have to think twice about fashion and function when it comes to keeping our hands free while looking chic!