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What is a Clutch Purse?

Amy Pollick
Updated May 21, 2024
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A clutch purse is a women's accessory designed to hold a few necessities like a driver's license, a cellphone, and a credit card. Clutch purses are designed to be carried by hand, some have a detachable chain or leather strap so they can also be worn hanging from the shoulder. There are many different styles of clutches, and some form of small purse has been used since the Babylonian era, though specific styles have gone in and out of fashion since then. In modern times, they're most often used as evening bags.

Clutches come in a huge variety of shapes, makes, and styles, all of which can vary between brands and seasons. They come as little square boxes, in triangles or heart shapes, covered with satin, beads or brocade. They are fastened with tassels, loops, and other fanciful decorations. Leather or vinyl clutches are available for less formal events when a smaller purse is still desirable. They range in price from $10 US Dollars (USD) up, depending on design.

Since they're so small and come in such a wide range of styles, clutch purses are often used to personalize an outfit. A woman wearing a conservatively colored dress might choose a brightly colored clutch purse to add some color to her outfit, or might trade in a more utilitarian purse that she carries for daily life in for a unique clutch if she goes out for an evening event. Since they're often relatively cheap, some women choose to buy many clutch purses in different styles so that they'll have a purse to match with many different outfits.

The history of purses in general dates back to the Babylonian era. Purses were generally used in religious ceremonies then, but later were more commonly used for carrying money and valuables. Both men and women in ancient times wore small purses on a belt. In the early 1800s, women began carrying reticules, the forerunner of the modern handbag, looking very much as some styles of the clutch purse look today. Ladies would carry handkerchiefs and smelling salts in their reticules, along with, perhaps, a packet of rice papers to dull a shiny spot on the face.

The clutch purse went out of fashion in the early 19th century, but experienced a resurgence in popularity during World War II. With rationing, the smaller clutch required less material for manufacture and fit in well with a wartime mindset. It remains popular today as an evening bag, though some women do use them for daily use, particularly if they don't need to carry a lot of accessories around or if they are just running errands.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Amy Pollick
By Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at BeautyAnswered. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.
Discussion Comments
By anon203344 — On Aug 05, 2011

quote: I wish that there was some kind of large clutch purse that would fit in all my stuff, but not look chunky.

well, that would just be magic wouldn't it?

By anon139357 — On Jan 04, 2011

As an older woman, I have always considered a black patent clutch as an essential part of my evening wardrobe (lipstick, compact and a bit of cash in case of emergencies). Of course, when I was growing up, we women never carried the huge bags that you girls seem to enjoy today!

By googlefanz — On Aug 20, 2010

Three words: metallic clutch purse. Looks good with any outfit, you can dress it up, you can dress it down.

It's fun and eye-catching, so it's almost like carrying around jewelry, and you can even make some of the cheaper ones look nice.

Definitely a must-have for every woman's wardrobe.

By rallenwriter — On Aug 20, 2010

A good compromise for women who want to use a clutch purse but have a ton of stuff to lug around too is to get a small wallet clutch purse and carry it inside your big purse.

I have a nice vintage clutch purse that I love, but I didn't want to carry it around on a daily basis because I didn't want my hands to get it dirty.

So now I just use it as my wallet, and keep it inside my big bag.

By pharmchick78 — On Aug 20, 2010

I love the way that clutch purses look, but they just never have enough room for me. I like to carry around a bunch of stuff, and more often than not I've got a book with me, so a clutch just doesn't cut it.

Very occasionally if I'm going out at night I'll use one, but then I usually end up forgetting to switch something important back over from the clutch purse to the bag I normally use, and mass chaos ensues.

I wish that there was some kind of large clutch purse that would fit in all my stuff, but not look chunky.

Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at BeautyAnswered....
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