LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Technological advances have led to a sharp fall in the weight of women's handbags, research from British department store chain Debenhams has revealed.
Women's handbags now weigh an average of 1.5 kg (3 lb), 57 percent less than the average of two years ago, Debenhams said in an emailed statement on Thursday.
A new generation of smaller, lighter multi-purpose gadgets such as Apple Inc's iPhone and Research in Motion Ltd's Blackberry have replaced heavy laptops, old fashioned mobile phones, music players and paper organizers.
Debenhams Handbag Buyer Sue Tebbitts said that two years ago, women were carrying around 3.3 kg (7.3 lbs), the equivalent of three and a half bags of sugar, everywhere they went.
"Finally the burden placed upon working women is falling -- and it's all thanks to technology," Tebbitts said.
Debenhams said it conducted research on handbags annually and that its study team asked 7,000 women to detail the contents of their bags and how much each thing weighed.
Results over the last 15 years have revealed the gadgets which have had the most impact on women's shoulders.
The mid-1990s saw the popularization of the mobile phone which added an extra 247 grams to Britain's handbags and taking the overall weight to an average of 1.4 kg. The introduction of the Apple iPod increased this further to 1.6 kg in the 2000s.
Weight continued to rise as more and more women began to carry laptop computers in their handbags, peaking at a back-breaking 3.5 kg in 2006 and 2007 when laptop sales were also at their highest.
During this peak, mobile phones, hand-held devices, chargers and MP3 music players joined laptop computers as items commonly found in women's handbags.
Since then the introduction of devices like iPhones and Blackberries has slowly brought the average weight of handbags down to the lowest it's been for seven years, with the trend for 2010 being smaller handbags, Debenhams said.
Despite technological advances, the greatest percentage of weight is still taken up by old handbag favorites such as make-up, mirror, purse, tissues, perfumes, brushes, toothpaste, receipts, address books and headache pills.
"No matter what advances in technology come our way, a woman's handbag will always have that 'Mary Poppins' reputation because women pack a bag ready for anything," Tebbitts said.
Acting editor and fashion director for online fashion and beauty website Handbag.com Belinda White told Reuters in an email that the trend for giant handbags peaked 2007/2008.
She said women have realized that convenient as it was to have a stylish bag that was big enough to literally carry your life in, it wasn't so great for your back.
"I've long believed that the bigger the bag, the more rubbish you carry around and often try to bring more of an evening bag to work and be strict with myself," White said.
"Of course the iPhone helps - no need for an A-Z (London street directory), camera, diary, phone book - plus even my iPod is a tenth of the size it was 3 years ago."
Editing by Patricia Reaney