27 Feb Completely Gratuitous: The Bagnistas
When I look at fashionable women, (not women who have enough money to buy anything they want. But truly fashionable women who just know how to put it all together), I notice one constant: nice bags. nice shoes. Always.
I may not be able to pinpoint if the outfit comes from Bergdorf Goodman or Target. But I can always peep the bag and shoe game.
In my quest to be more pulled-together, I promised myself that I would buy myself a real bag.
My history with bags is sad.
As a writer with a bunch of electronics and accessories, I’ve normally gravitated to bags like this…
Totally functional. And these bags are amazingly durable. But… Well, it’s just not cute. It’s not fly.
I think I had a fly bag. Once.
Back in ’94, I graduated from college and received a Coach bag as a gift. I loved that bag. It was small but super cute. The leather was rich and soft and it wasn’t so fancy that I felt like a fraud. It fit me.
I rocked that bag for a long time.
And then, I helped a friend paint her apartment. When I left, my bag rubbed against a wet wall. Yikes! The bag was ruined.
I rocked it anyway. For years. I’m talking YEARS.
Here’s me, with my paint-stained Coach bag. This is like 2002. Damn near ten years after the paint-splattering incident. Trifling.
Last year, after I sold my first book, I said that’s it. I’m buying a real bag. Something that will complete my look even when I’m not dressed up. Something that I will carry every single day. A bag I’ll be proud to be seen carrying. I’m worth it! Dammit!
I went to the Short Hills Mall and began wandering around. My first stop was Louis Vuitton. Isn’t that a “real” bag? I checked out The Speedy.
Could it fit all my stuff? Probably not. But as I looked over the larger sizes, the monogram of the LV bags really bothered me. It seemed to be screaming out I AM AN EXPENSIVE BAG! And when I picked it up and looked in the mirror, I felt like a poser. Like I was dressing up in someone else’s clothes. Plus, I didn’t see anything in my price range that was big enough for all my stuff.
I walked down the hall to Gucci.
Same issue. I realized that I just don’t like logos. They’re not me at all.
I gave up on the bag search for a few weeks. I kept my eyes open. But I was very intimidated by the whole process. I knew I wanted a bag with a wow factor. But it had to feel like me.
In the meantime, I bought a laptop bag from…Target. I’m not posting a picture. I’m too embarrassed. Let’s make this clear. I’m not mad at Tar-jay. But the stitching started coming apart within weeks. And now TG uses it as her bookbag. I don’t want to rock a bag that is also appropriate for a sixth grader to use as a book bag.
Before I moved into my office, I often worked out of a spot called Cafe Eclectic on Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair. One afternoon, I took a quick walk to stretch my legs and ended up in a spot called Ruby Slippers on Church Street. It’s an offshoot of a store called Ruby that I love and it had just opened up–nothing but shoes and bags.
I did a double take at a bag positioned in a corner of the store.
My heartbeat started to quicken. The bag was huge. I could see my planner, laptop and all accessories fitting inside. I checked out the label stitched inside. It was a brand named Bulga. Never heard of it. Which was fine by me. It was weighty, well crafted and had no logos.
How much, I asked the sales associate.
XYZ, she said.
I gulped. And got on the Blackberry to hit up TH:
I found it. It costs xyz. this is the bag I want. no logos. not a “name” bag. Just an oversized brown leather bag for my laptop and stuff. more of a work bag than a pocketbook. I feel weird about it. I really like it. But for some reason, I don’t want to buy it til you see it. that’s silly, right?
He hit me back right away:
If you really–REALLY–like it. You should buy and buy it now. -TH
I was at the register within minutes. And I’ve never looked back.
I wear my bag every single day. And I have to say, it does make me feel like I have it together a bit more. Even on the weekends, it works well because I can throw Tog’s snacks, diapers and wipes in there AND still have room for my planner and wallet and even a book.
My search for my first “real” bag made me wonder a few things. How do truly fashionable women choose their bags? Is their process similar to mine? Do they go for style over substance? I’m toting the same semi-fly bag every single day. How often are they switching up their bag game?
I hit up my fashionable friends to see what they’re rocking.
Let’s talk to my girl Naima.
Me: Naima, you work for Coach. So I know what your everyday bag is!
Naima: Yes. I carry a Coach bag to work Monday to Friday. I have about 50 Coach bags, maybe more. I actually took some home to my mother’s house because I didn’t have room for all of them. So on a day to day basis, I carry whatever suits my fancy…right now it’s the Coach Ergo bag.
Me: I love this! It’s so roomy! What about on the weekends?
Naima: My current go-to bag for the weekend is my Louis Vuitton Speedy bag
I bought it for myself for my birthday about 5 yrs ago. The Speedy bag is a classic and will never go out of style! But the Speedy is only a weekend bag because it isn’t big enough to carry all my stuff during the week. My bag must be able to carry my personal notebook, my inspiration folder, my magazines, my book, ipod and the regular handbag stuff like makeup bag, wallet, keys, mirror, altoids, etc.
Me: I couldn’t do the Speedy, Nai. The monogram intimidates me.
Naima: It’s classic and it’s doesn’t scream fashionable per se. You can dress it up or dress it down…Don’t think i won’t carry my LV bag with a sweat suit on.
Me: So what’s your dream bag? If money is no object.
Naima: I can’t stop salivating over this Gucci bag. It converts into a shoulder bag, backpack and crossbody bag.
Me: I love it!
Naima: But it’s four thousand dollars.
I see Naima’s style: classic, modern and functional. I could definitely rock that Coach Ergo bag, especially on the days when I’m not carrying my laptop and a whole bunch of other crap.
Then I reached out to my girl Retha:
Me and Retha go way back. Retha was one of the most fashionable chicks on the campus of Rutgers University. She rocked a TWA (teeny weeny Afro) like nobody’s business. I remember seeing her wearing overalls with a bandeau top underneath long before Aaliyah rocked the sexy tomboy look. And when I added Retha as a friend on Facebook I saw that she was still holding down her It factor. Especially in the bag game.
Me: What do you wear for your everyday bag?
Retha: This simple black Botkier.
Me: That bag is a work of art. And this is your everyday bag? Damn. What else do you rock for everyday?
Retha: My second everyday bag is this hardy brown Tumi:
Me: This bag makes me feel all tingly inside. I can’t breathe! The warm brown leather…
Retha: I use this one for lugging into NYC, holds laptop and all. Not so much for fabuliciousness but more for utility.
Me: Looks fabulous to me. What’s your dream bag?
Retha: I have a few. The first is from Chloe and the second is from Gucci…
Whoa. I see why these are dream bags.
I see Retha’s style is very similar to mine. The Botkier bag is too small for me. But I love the construction. That Tumi bag has my name written all over it…
And of course, I had to reach out to my girl Tai. My dear readers who have been here since the early days will remember this lovely young woman.
Tai’s always runway ready. When I see her in my neighborhood Starbucks, she strolls in like it’s the catwalk. And her flyness is effortless. She never looks like she’s trying.
Me: Tai, what bag are you wearing everyday right now?
Tai: I’m an oversized-bag (toting) lady. I carry a clutch or a sensible-sized shoulder bag only when attending a black-tie event. And even then before heading out of the door in a gown, I try at least one oversized-bag on for size. Big bags, in most cases, translate into big style. And it doesn’t hurt that I can fit a lot of my life: laptop, blackberries, cosmetic bag, photo album, Little Black Book, nail polish remover pads, etc. in it. Friends have mistaken my day bags for luggage. Needless to say, I love them.
Here’s what I have in heavy rotation right now…
It’s quite pricey but beautiful. It transitions well…from jeans during the day to heels and a simple dress at night.
Me: Wowzers.What else are you carrying for everyday?
Tai: I bought this amazing bag as a birthday gift to myself for under $200! (there was a day when extra savings were taken off an already reasonable sale price) Yes!
Cole Haan has long been known for its leather…but about three years ago, their upped their style ante to match the quality. I own 5 of their totes! And the ones from 2006 look just as stylish in 2009.
Me: And what’s your dream bag?
Tai: Right now, I love the “idea” of this Chanel bag.
In a recession, I won’t be buying it. But my grandmother passed down my first Vuitton monogrammed canvas bag when I was 15 years old. I love the idea of passing a Chanel handbag (like this one) on to my daughter (that I don’t yet have. Ha!). It’s classic but modern.
I see Tai’s style: ultra luxe and fab-u-lous with a capital F.
Well, now the floodgates have been opened. And I’m ready to start looking for my next bag. I’ve got my eye on this one. It’s from a company called Hayden-Harnett and they’re based in Brooklyn.
Yes, I know it’s a recession! I know this is not the time for gratuituous leather-coveting.
And yes, I know leather is cruel to animals! Hell, I went vegan for three months last year. (I actually bought a bag I loved from a leather-like company called Matt and Nat. Beautiful vegan-friendly bags.)
I’m conflicted about both of those things..
But I’m coveting anyway. And some of you are too. Don’t deny it!
Dear readers: What kind of bag do you carry? Are you a bagnista? Are you intimidated by pricey logos? Fellas, what kind of bag are YOU carrying? And can you tell when a woman is carrying a fly bag? Do you know Gucci from LV?
I’d love to hear from you…