Saturday, July 5, 2008

I miss purses

Recently, I noticed a purse on a young Starbucks customer. It caught my eye because it was made of pretty floral fabric, a stunning relief after the line up of brown and tan designer bags that I usually see as I people watch (I mean, write). Nine women out of ten that I see is carrying a version of the identical purse. The same print—usually the company’s logo repeated over and over again so that the purse becomes a walking billboard. When did this happen? Sometimes it seems like every purse in America has been hijacked and replaced with a Stepford bag.

I didn’t know a Coach from a Dooney & Burke until I received my education on the streets of NYC from a thirteen year old niece. She announced at lunch that she’d counted thirteen Coach, and six Louis Vuitton on the arms of the New Yorkers or tourists. In an hour. And I’d thought she was admiring the hustle and bustle of Times Square. Girl has an advanced degree in designer.

I miss purses. A purse used to be a window into a woman’s personality. Were you the type to carry a small clutch with only a comb and a quarter to call home with? Did you carry a bright red nylon parachute fabric bag, big enough to double as an overnight bag? What wonders lingered in the bottom of the tapestry backpack style with its zippers and inside pockets? Try to imagine how dull Let’s Make A Deal would have been if every woman searching for a stray bobby pin or stick of gum was carrying a designer knock-off. Boring!

I can mark the phrases of my life by my purses. When I moved from upstate New York to Long Island at the end of sixth grade, the fact that I didn’t have a “pocketbook,” the lexicon used there, was the impetus for much teasing. The black velvet clutch I borrowed from my mother in desperation sent the culprits into overload. I was saved from complete social ostracaization by a Christmas present from a favorite aunt who came through with a stylish bucket purse.

Macrame shoulder bag, the first good leather bag, the slick patent (that was a mistake), the purses came and went, first useful then discarded, as life changed. Each one a statement on my arm.

So I protest the mindless adoption of the designer bag. Perhaps that’s why, when I sewed this week, I made another Miranda bag.

Picture to follow. Camera swears the battery is exhausted, although I know it just had a refreshing nap less than a week ago.

In the meantime, what’s your favorite purse?


Linda O. Johnston said...

For a while, I collected purses from--of all places--WalMart! The ones I found there were roomy enough, with lots of compartments and pockets, which I love--helps me keep track of where I keep my bookmarks, pens, cell phone and receipts and all. They also came in leather or in pretty fabrics, depending on the season. I'm not sure whether the style or the manufacturer changed, but now the ones with compartments are much too small for me.

Camille Minichino said...

Thanks for this, Terri! I can see Joanna now making a purse scrapbook, if she hasn't already.

What I notice is NO purses anymore on young women -- they wear fannypacks (who thought that was a good idea off the hiking trail?) or backpacks (can't get my head around having my wallet out of my reach and IN anyone else's reach) Maybe too many years in densely packed streets ...
Many young women have gone the way of men -- pants with lots of pockets.

Me? I use a very light weight designer fabric bag (initials VB) with no label showing. No matter how hard I try I can't whittle down what I carry.

sorry ... this has become a blog!

Clair Dickson said...

I'm one of those young ladies who doesn't do purses. I'm too forgetful. So whatever doesn't fit in my pockets stays home. How much does one really need, anyway?

Wallet, keys, pen, small memo pad or folded paper for story ideas? I'm good. =)

Camille Minichino said...

But Clair ... what about glasses, cell phone, a paperback, nail clippers, tissues, hairbrush, lozenges, hand wipes ...

See what you started, Terri?

Betty Hechtman said...

Loved your post as it brought up all kinds of thoughts. I am always amazed at the women I see with teeny tiny purses. I can't even get my wallet in those. But then I suppose they aren't always prepared for every emergency as I am.

Ever since my son was born, I always carry some food item like a bag of nuts or some kind of power bar. When I travel, I could feed the plane out of my purse.

I have trimmed it down a little and given up the flashlight, water and camera. Now my must haves are just things like my wallet, phone and HOOKED ON MURDER bookmarks.

And as for the type of purse. I've gotten oh, so dull and just carry the same black nylon nice on your back thing.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Clair--the pockets of my jeans. If I must have a purse, it has to have room for everything, including a book. :)

Kathryn Lilley said...

I live in La La land, realm of the designer bags. I can't stand anything that has anyone's name or initials all over it. I usually buy one "good" purse, then use it until it almost distintegrates. No matter how big or small my purse is, I'm always trying to jam way, way too much stuff in it. I should just face reality and start strapping on a hobo bag, lol. My fashionable daughter, on the other hand, favors tiny little shaped bags, such as hearts and and shell-shaped purses.

Disney Mummy said...

I've been a Vera Bradley fan since 1996. I've got a bunch in my storage area. I like them because they are fun and colorful. The new designs just came out, although none of them grab me. Probably just as well with a vacation in our future!

Dianne - Mama's Pocketbook said...

Hello! I happened across your blog due to a Google alert I get for fabric purses. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on purses and I completely love your statement about protesting the designer purses and I'm happy to hear you are sewing your own! I get those alerts because I am a seamstress and two years ago my family encouraged me to start my own wonderful little business creating beautiful floral and feminine fabric purses. It's called Mama's Pocketbook (I grew up in the South and we said pocketbook too!) It is refreshing and validating to know that there are some women who appreciate a pretty & practical purse that isn't plastered with designer names and icons and that cost a fortune. Thanks for that!

Sheila Connolly said...

Ah, yes--the quilted Chanel bag in high school (it's still a classic), and the embroidered Indian velvet one in the sixties...I remember it well.

I don't know how anyone survives without a purse. As one who has had lifelong allergies, I always carry tissues (which come in handy in restrooms too). Wallet with ID and essential credit cards. Keys (car and house, and a few I can't even identify any more). Nail clippers (don't you hate it when you snag a nail and you can't do anything about it?). And there's even a mini-flashlight lurking in the bottom, inspired by a nice meal with friends, all of us of "a certain age," and none of us could read the dessert menu by candlelight. We almost missed a fabulous chocolate confection.

And now, of course, bookmarks and business cards, always.

I wish that purse makers would use a lining in a brighter color, so that you might actually be able to find all that stuff that filters down to the bottom. Or maybe they could install a little light...