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Because the straight lines of Regency gowns did not provide room for pockets, women were forced to carry necessary items in small drawstring bags called reticules. Precursor to today's purse, the reticule provided a place to store important things (small parcels, spare change, the ever-present handkerchief, a small mirror, perhaps a snuffbox [all the rage at the time] or powder, smelling salts, and a love-letter or two) close at hand.
Reticules could be made of fabric coordinating with a particular gown or ensemble; some had papier mache bases and fabric tops. Toward the end of the Regency, they began using clasps as an alternative to the drawsting. Reticules frequently featured beading or embroidery and could be quite elaborate.
One other type of purse that was popular, was the "Miser's" or "Stocking" purse. Shaped like a tube (or sock) it had an opening in the center. When held in the middle you had two pockets in which to hold spare change. Rings slid down from the center to keep each side closed. Making purses was a popular pastime, as they could be knitted, netted or crocheted.
"All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you mean?"
"Yes, all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover screens, and net purses. I scarcely know anyone who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard of a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished."
Pride and Prejudice, chapter 8
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