Drawstring bags or cinch bags have been in use for centuries. There are ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs depicting men with small pouches tied around their waists with a long cord. Even though they’ve been around for so long, they didn't begin to gain popularity until the 13th and 14th century. The first drawstring bag was an ancient cloth or leather pouch that men traditionally used to carry coins or their valuables.
The Rise of the Girdle Pouch - 14th and 15th Century Since pocket had yet to be invented, in the 14th and 15th centuries, both men and women would attach small cinched bags to the front of their girdles to hold their valuables. The cord's length would be dictated by the wearer's social standing, lifestyle, and current fashion trends. Women, in particular, began using beaded, jeweled, or ornate cinch bags to hold their valuables.
These drawstring bags had a twofold purpose. Aside from being a fashion accessory, they were also a betrothal tool. Girls were taught to sew and embroider, and they would do so on these small, ornate bags. Usually, they would stitch love stories into the fabric of the pack. They were also used to hold small religious items and trinkets.
Swete Badges - 16th and 17th Century Due to the expanding skirts, these centuries are known for, the smaller girdle bags would get lost in the additional fabric of the women's dresses. So the girdle bag evolved into a small bag that women would wear under their skirts. These bags often contained sweet-smelling herbs, dried flowers, spices, perfumed cotton balls, or powders.
These bags also became an indicator of one's social status. Ladies often had long, bejeweled or beaded drawstrings that attached to their bags. In addition to the herbs and flowers, they carried small gifts, jewelry, and coins.
Embroidered Bags - 18th and 19th Century The 18th century saw a rise in popularity for the drawstring bags, as dresses began to have a more slender silhouette. Both men and women favored them and began using them every day to carry the things they needed. Additionally, they also saw a rise in popularity as a betrothal or marriage tool due to the amount of time the women put into customizing and embroidering them.
These bags were typically attached to the women's waist via a long drawstring and a decorated buckle. They usually carried coins, jewelry, or keys. The 19th century also saw women with multiple cinch bags in a variety of colors so they could color coordinate their bags to their outfits.
Femininity and Youth Culture - 20th and 21st Century The early 20th century saw a rise in small, beaded personalized drawstring bags. The roaring 1920s brought dance halls and the need for a small bag that could attach to the waste for security. The 1950s saw another surge in popularity as the smaller handbags became synonymous with beauty and femininity. By the mid-1980s the interest in unisex cinch bags spiked because of their association with sporting events and high-fashion. A black nylon cinch bag was released by Prada, and this touched off a buying craze. Today, this versatile drawstring backpack is used by everyone from college students to industry professionals.