Reticule purses were used in the Victorian era because most women’s dresses didn’t have pockets for storing the items a woman needed to carry with her. Also called drawstring purses, they are available at some specialty shops, but making your own is more economical and allows you to customize the reticule to your preferences. The materials needed can be found at fabric or craft stores.

Things You'll Need

Choose the fabric for your reticule purse. Choose something heavy duty, such as a cotton blend or flannel, for a reticule you plan to use every day. Silk is a good option for a special occasion purse, but likely won’t hold up to daily use.

Cut a rectangle from the fabric. The longer and wider the rectangle, the larger the reticule purse will be. Consider what you want to keep in your purse to help you determine how large to make it.

Add embellishments. Before assembling the purse, add any bead work, embroidery or appliques that you want to decorate the outside of the bag with. Be sure to keep the embellishments toward the center of the purse to prevent sewing over them when adding the hem and drawstring.

Sew the side hems of the bag. Match the right sides of the fabric together and sew down each side of the bag. A sewing machine makes this process quick and easy, but hand sewing with a needle and thread is another option.

Fold the top of the bag down. Make sure you are leaving enough room to thread the drawstring through. Line up this pocket so that is it even all the way around or your reticule may end up looking crooked. Sew along the bottom edge of the drawstring pocket, leaving a 1-inch opening at each side of the bag.

Cut two pieces of ribbon or cord. Measure the drawstring pocket of your reticule to be sure you are leaving enough at either end of the bag for pulling.

Attach a safety pin to one piece of ribbon or cord. Push it through one of the openings and pull it out the other end. Repeat with the other piece of cord or ribbon. Tie the two ends together at either side of the reticule.

Close the openings. Using a needle and thread, make the 1-inch opening smaller if the ribbon or cord you are using is thin. This will make the bag look finished, but still allow movement of the drawstring.


  • Use another piece of fabric to line your reticule, which will make it more durable and give it more strength.

  • Reticules make a good alternative to paper when wrapping a gift.