Bags are so much like lovers it’s not funny. They can be well built but too heavy, good looking but too expensive, deep with the potential to be messy or so adorable you just can’t dump them no matter how ragged they’ve become.
Finding “the one” in terms of bags takes a measure of introspection, the courage to commit to one new great shape and the time to find it. On behalf of every woman who has asked me, I have been searching. Writing a definitive history of the handbag (due out next fall for Workman) has led me to handle and ogle over a thousand bags, and yet…it is impossible to name the one bag that fits all. A Mom bag is different from a Daughter bag and yet both women have much ‘stuff’ to schlep. To aid the quest, flip through this checklist. A new bag demands a whole new philosophy to go with it. Check your personality against my bags of choice and hopefully you’ll find a way to pocketbook nirvana.
If the top of your bag reaches your elbow it is too deep. If it is heavier than five pounds on a Monday morning and hurts your shoulder it is too heavy and if you carry work or books home that you never read STOP STUFFING! To lighten the load of a habitually bulky bag, buy a backpack and ruthlessly reduce its contents. Here’s how: Carry a magazine instead of a thick paperback; keep gym gear/documents/makeup bag at the office; reduce the number of keys you really need. Never carry an object for purely sentimental reasons (rock crystals are heavy!)
Dream backpack:Dooney and Burke’s navy and spotted beige leather or for a plain solid color, Lancel.
The New Mom
Just because you are toting a small human doesn’t mean you need to carry the world on one shoulder. Stash everything you can on the back of your stroller and keep your bag for you. You still want to wear perfume, go for lunch and have a place where small hands can’t wander. It can be done, just try to separate bambini’s needs (bottles, diapers, toys) from yours: aspirin, cell phone, large black sunglasses.
Dream Mama Bag: The is perfect for the first six months, big, soft and roomy with a strap strong enough to hang off the back of a pram. For the toddler years try a Coach legacy companion flap bag. It is absolutely investigation proof!
Neat freaks sometimes carry bags that are too rigid and, as a result, somewhat dowdy. Even executives can soften up their edges with a little romance. Tips for handbag sensuality: Choose a softer leather than you are used to. Keep your contents structured and indulge in a floral print for spring or a striped canvas for fall. Explore plaited leathers, pastel shades and textures. Just because you are not carrying a MSN Shopping doesn’t mean you’re not on the board.
Dream Pretty Bag: Bottega Veneta plaited tote.
Sticky candy, old phone bills, loose socks all inhabit the base of your bag and you can never find your keys or cell phone. You need a bag with compartments that shames you into order. Tips to de-clutter: Buy a receipt folder and empty it onto a spike at the end of each day. Don’t carry food in your bag (no exceptions). Use one diary, one pen, one lipstick…. Clean out your bag nightly.
Dream Order Bag: Lamberston Truex Weekender. It has a cell phone pocket, a hook for keys and a central cosmetic pouch that wipes clean.
You hate to look like you actually work in an office and have been known to attend meetings carrying a beach bag made of Raffia. But you’re a big girl now and ready for a bit more style, not to mention practicality. Pragmatic tips for dreamers: Buy a bag that really is big enough (evening bags die young). Try to find a color that matches more than one outfit. Choose vintage bags with strong handles.
Dream Bag: Jamin Puech ‘Louisiana’ tote, a bag with a beautiful patchwork print and a sturdy lined interior. Arty but chic.
Don’t leave home without:
1. Eye cream/balm (office air conditioning dehydrates)
2. One lipstick, one clear lip balm, one lip pencil (not petroleum based): For day, use the balm to soften a bright lipstick or to blend with a lip pencil. For night, wear bright solid color. A pink lipstick can go double duty as a blusher if blended right.
3. One super-soft eyeliner pencil. Use for brows as well as eyes.
4. Clarins beauty flash: brings color to the cheeks, works as a great end-of-office-day mask and moisture pick me up.
5. One tinted sunscreen: to protect and conceal.
6. A perfume sample, a baby candy bar or a piece of ribbon you love: I love finding treats in my handbag, to alter my mood, hair or scent at will.