Best of the Best: What we carry is indispensible
You carry a pocketbook, he carries a messenger bag, she carries a handbag, they carry a backpack and I dangle a purse off my wrist and tuck a clutch under my elbow. We carry what we think of as necessities in what were historically called “reticules or indispensables.” Over the centuries both men and women have used various size, shape and style pouches to transport valuables.
Today, designer handbags not only contain valuables they are valuable; prices range between three and five digits. They are collector items and fashion statements designed by the world’s elite fashion houses and handbag designers. Carried by the rich and famous, corporate women and middle class housewives, designer handbags are quite a phenomenon. Marketing a $5,000 purse is not as difficult as you would imagine. In this paparazzi age of snapping photos and posting who’s wearing what celebrities are billboards for the newest statement handbag; they launch many designers into pocketbook paradise.
Beyond designer labels are the, equally valuable, smart looking, utilitarian handbags. Value here is determined by size, fashion and cost; this wardrobe workhorse is priced between single and triple digits. Many women fit in this category and ultimately decide on what purse to carry based on what valuables they need to transport. Finding a great looking bag is not difficult but finding one that fits all your needs is like finding the right bra sans the dressing-room nightmares; handbags are just as personal.
Size seems to be the biggest single factor in selecting the handbag of choice. Regardless of how precious a bag is, if it’s the wrong size to accommodate essentials–it’s a deal breaker. What’s deemed essential varies so greatly among women that I can’t begin to fathom a list; I’ll save that for another column. Personally, I’ve downsized; I carried a mid-size purse until discovering all I need is something to carry keys, phone, lip gloss, license, two credit cards, checkbook, pen, a few index cards and grocery list. What works is a light-weight 11-inch-by-5-inch clutch-style bag with handle that easily fits in a small backpack when traversing the airport, keeping me within the two bag carry-on limit. An added advantage: being small and lightweight saves the neck and shoulders from undue strain. I’ve found that paring down what you carry makes life easier–no more digging in the bottomless abyss while the check-out line backs up behind you. If you find yourself at the back of the line toting a handbag worthy of neck surgery, get a handle on the smaller, all-you-need, “indispensable.”
Best of the Best
Amelia’s, 172 South Main Street, Madison
Selection of Hobo, Brighton, Rising Tide and Baggallini handbags
In High Cotton, 158 West Jefferson Street, Madison
Selection of Victoria Leland Designs and Laterre handbags
Laughing Moon, 183 South Main Street, Madison
Selection of Spartina, Lug, Glittersweet and Luvali handbags
www.net-a-porter.com, Great source for designer handbags
Net-A Porter Book: “Handbags: The Making of a Museum (Yale University Press, $50), Judith Clark surveys five centuries of bags of all sizes that she has helped to amass as project director of the new Simone Handbag Museum in Seoul.”
Printed in the September 13 edition.