I have a confession to make. I’m in love with handbags. Big ones, little ones, totes that you can swim in, and itty bitty minaudieres that barely hold a credit card, let alone a cell phone. Many days I plan my entire wardrobe around my bag of choice for the day. Super busy? I trot out the Phantom. Meetings that require a suit? You can’t go wrong with a simple Balenciaga. Feeling edgy and saucy? The Rebecca Minkoff Stud Devote never fails…
I’m not entirely sure when my bag obsession started, but I do remember making frequent changes to the bag that I would use to tote my school books to and from. It just seemed that some bags were more appropriate for certain days or events, or that a particular outside pocket leant a certain je ne sais quoi to an otherwise benign bookbag.
In college, when there were fewer books to schlep between classes I developed a love of the tote. And on Spring Break you could never really have enough beach bags to accommodate the progression of books and sunblock as your mind melted and skin turned crispy.
I love the smell and feel of a rich leather bag. I love the way a bag can lean against you and instantly become part of your persona, or how a splash of color or a strategically placed grommet can take a ho-hum outfit to a fashion statement with just the toss of a strap over your shoulder.
The way you carry your bag can entirely reflect the way you feel on that particular day. Thrown over your shoulder, your bag says that you are busy and focused and ready for anything. A clutch snuggled under your armpit can be a safety blanket, keeping your muscles tense and aware so that your mind is on alert. Draped over your forearm, a purse can reflect a prim and proper or conventional attitude.
Over the years I have pared down my bag wardrobe, leaving the classics and workhorses as my go-to friends. I also discovered the joy of Artbag, the New York institution that can fix and restore pretty much any damaged or worn out bag that you can throw at them. I now acquire new bags rather judiciously. Rare are the impulse purchases or trendy totes that all the celebrities carry. I have no interest in a Birkin or Kelly. Louis Vuitton does nothing for me, and even the Phantom is becoming a bit too ubiquitous. But a well-designed, well-crafted bag in a supple leather or suede does more to catch my attention than most things.
My favorite bag, you ask…a vintage 1950s alligator purse that my mother bought in Paris when she was newly married. I found it at the back of her closet a few years ago, worn and tattered and still containing a book of matches and a dried-up tube of lipstick. I had it cleaned and restored recently. It rests quietly in the delicate tissue paper and sturdy box in which it was returned to me. One day I’ll make use of it. But it will have to be for a very special occasion…