Nancy had a great question: What did middle class ladies use to carry their shopping?
But here’s the thing: they didn’t carry the shopping, because they didn’t do the shopping– not the big shopping, anyway.
La Pourvoyeuse by Chardin shows a woman returning from market in 1739. No basket. A bundle or bag with a fowl in it, head down. Unwrapped loaves of bread. But clearly a servant.
From waste books, it’s pretty clear that people are sending their “boys” and “girls” (servants or slaves) to fetch liquor. That will come home in bottles, like the ones at the feet of La Pourvoyeuse. And I think it comes home just in their hands, but perhaps- and more likely not– in a basket. A floppy basket, usually for floppy birds.
Baskets have come up before. So this is part of a larger argument. Mostly, we see servants marketing. Middle class ladies certainly shop– what is the class level of this woman (above)?— but so many things can be delivered, or are peddled door-to-door, and servants are so common, that I think we don’t yet fully understand shopping in the 18th century.
After the meteoric rise of consumerism, after department stores, yes: shopping is more like what we do. But in the pre-ice box and pre-packaged era, meat cannot be bought and frozen, and milk will not last all that long. Things were brought home one at a time, or a few at a time, many times a week. And middle class ladies bought small things– ribbons, almanacks, shoes– and bring them home in their pockets, just in their hands, or, I would guess, wrapped in a bundle of paper (a pair of shoes) or in a band box (a bonnet) if the things are not delivered.
A long winded way to say, I don’t know: but I’m pretty sure middle class ladies sent their servants out frequently so the ladies didn’t carry baskets and the servants used bags, aprons, and their hands.