The dawn of each new season brings a welcome change, along with renewed energy, and a general sense of anticipation for the unknown. Perhaps more important than all of these is the arrival of the latest Seasonal Wardrobe Lookbook and, more specifically, the latest handbag trends. Yes, Mother Nature is working her hardest to produce a glorious landscape, all of which is majestically honored and appreciated. However, like most women, I tingle with excitement at the thought of which Handbag Will Be Chosen This Season. I flip open my new, 10-lb fashion magazine, carefully reviewing each feature, advertisement, and runway collection noting many consistencies as well as differences among various designers. This hefty book will soon be filled with dog-eared pages while flashes of burgundy, No! aubergine, fringes, flaps, feathers, fobbles of every sort flash through my mind. Is this an obsession, I wonder, as I quickly assess dozens of handbags that glide past me each day hanging of shoulders, clutched to a wrist, or floating across a waist. Eventually, one look remains constant in my mind. One color I don’t already have in my collection and that I simply cannot do without. This image enters my dreams making all of my current ensembles, quite fashionable mere months ago, seem lacking.
Entering the store, the air crisp with new scents of the season, I spot the One I Must Have. I touch it. The feel is soft, even buttery. The smell is warm, almost spicy. The soft yet sturdy handle seems to glide on my shoulder already belonging there. This bag has claimed me: it is mine! Excitement abounds as I quickly dump everything out of last season’s Obsession and place it neatly into my new Carry-All. Compliments hail to me (“Love Your New Bag!”) as I move through my fast-paced existence: Work, Errands, Family Outings. My Sister notices my new bag with envy: it’s the perfect shape and color! She approves my selection then smartly inquires about my previous love – the one in a brilliant metallic blue. Could she borrow it? Later, as I lovingly place the smart, blue bag into a box, wrapped with paper, ready to send to her, I am reminded of where this bag and I went last year. It comfortably secured my possessions during a rare museum trip, went to my daughter’s school, and accompanied me on various shopping and errand runs on many occasions. I think about the surprise of genuine happiness my sister will feel when she opens the box to find Metallic Blue enclosed with a note to “carefully use and return when finished“.
Upon this recent reflection, I wondered whether I am in a small minority in my love of handbags or whether other women feel truly as excited. If my sister, not nearly the fashion house fan I am, would be so genuinely excited over last season’s cast-off, then perhaps I am not alone. I observed women of various fashion styles and ages carry their bags during their comings and goings. A compliment to each brought a sincere smile that lit their faces. Despite a lagging, suffering economy, women continue to spend a dominant percentage of their total clothing budget on handbags. The Louis Vuitton (a mortgage note to many) reins king among the fashionable elite be they Housewives, Career Women, College Student, even the occasional tween. Are we overindulgent Americans the purveyors of the handbag craze? I think not as the aforementioned Louis, Fendi, Prada, etc., are not American companies. Handbags were popular before America was born, in fact. Fashionable women two centuries ago popularized the reticule (drawstring purse), to carry necessities for the evening. Men carried similar pouches at their waist that are now replaced by wallets. Looking back further through time, men and women alike carried herbs, medicines, or any other item necessary to their leave. Today, Men, Women, Children carry purses, we even carry our small dogs into beautiful bags. Modern mothers give their young daughters cute purses almost as a rite-of-passage into girlhood.
Corroborated with historical evidence, I surmise that my need for a handbag is, in fact, a necessity. As civilization developed, so did our need to carry our possessions with us. Egyptians buried themselves with their treasures while more modern cultures chose to carry theirs. What is indicative of modern society is our need for “things”. We cannot simply fathom leaving home with empty pockets. I need a phone! A lipgloss! Money! 19th century people carried scented sachets and coins but still left their abode with something. Cave men and women may have traveled with their home, so to speak, moving and camping in large groups thus requiring very little to carry around.
In modern society (speaking merely from observation), the actual bag has become just as important as the contents it carries. I could not imagine carrying my cosmetics, tissues, what have you in a plastic Kroger bag! Arrghh! The thought!! Yes, of course we are materialistic. I do accept the fact that I love being noticed when I look great, when someone of whom I do or don’t know compliments some item of my possession. Does a bag say something about a person? Absolutely! My large, trunk-like bag says “I have a lot to do, I’m busy!”; my petite, dainty bag says “I don’t have so much to carry, I’m just pretty“. A young woman’s fringed, studded, rocked out bag shouts “See me! I want you to see me!”; the lady’s solid, austere, minimalist shoulder bag says “I am efficient and orderly”. So, the next time you notice a woman’s bag… be it feathered, bejeweled, or fuss-free…know that this mere bag was carefully chosen and mindfully purchased among all of the Season’s Glory to represent Where She Is Going and Who She Is. Now go clean out your purse!!