Embroidered silk reticule, England, early 19th century. Embroidered silk reticule, England, early 19th century. Copyright Victoria & Albert Museum, London, acc. no. CIRC.554-1954.

A reticule (knicknamed a ridicule in France) is the name for a small, woman's handbag, popular at the very end of the eighteenth and in the early nineteenth centuries, and Britain especially linked to the Regency period in England. The bags were mostly made of silk, and after about 1810 also of velvet. They could also be made of knitted fabrics.

Reticules are characterised by a drawstring, their relatively small size, and their being made of a light-weight and flexible material. Reticules were carried together with the often tight-fitting, straight garments with a high waistline, made of thin fabrics, which were worn by women at the time.

Reticules were made in many shapes and with many techniques (including bobbin lace and knitting), and often decorated with tassels, embroidery and/or beading. Reticules were bought from milliners, but their creation and/or decoration was often carried out by the ladies themselves, especially the knitted examples.

The reticules replaced in many cases the knotting bag, which had become fashionable in the eighteenth century and which was used to contain the tools and materials for knotting, a popular pastime for ladies.

The word 'reticule' derives from French réticule, and Latin reticulum, for 'net'; many of the first reticules were made using netting techniques. They were also known as 'indispensables'.

See the TRC Needles entries on the illustration of the Lady carrying a reticule, but also the Lady carrying a balantine handbag.

See also the TRC Needles entry on The History of Bags and Purses, Tassenmuseum Hendrikje, Amsterdam.

Digital source (retrieved 8th August 2016). 

V&A online catalogue (retrieved 8th August 2016).


Last modified on Saturday, 20 May 2017 16:37