Itsy bags are for the useless. Cool girls carry totes.
I have been trying to buy an evening bag for one of my girlfriends for the past month. Yes, my budget is rather simple, but I still can’t find a purse that I have fallen in love with. I thought the problem was one of plenty, shops were filled with beaded and crystal clutches and each one looked like the next one. But I have come to realise the real problem: I don’t like evening bags at all.
Come to think of it, neither does my friend. We are both working girls who spend our days away from home for several hours a day. Our bags bear testament to our daily lives—they are filled with laptops, chargers, notepads, makeup, trinkets to change for a meeting, energy bars (to save us from ordering Subway), keys, wallet, hairbrushes, moisturiser, a water bottle and I don’t know what else. Thankfully our babies are grown up, or else I don’t recall ever leaving home without a travel puzzle set and a colouring book with crayons.
Women are like that. Our handbags mirror our true selves. I am often carrying a tote or at least a medium size purse to an evening out simply because the itsy evening bags can barely fit my phone and a lipstick. Small bags are for the rich, some may argue. For those who have others carrying their belongings for them. But I disagree. Some of the most expensive bags in the market today are supersized. Louis Vuitton’s timeless Neverfull (so cleverly monikered) costs nearly $2,000. The gorgeous new YSL black leather Icare tote is priced at $4,000. Dior’s highly Instagrammable Book Tote (which everyone from Versace to Tarun Tahiliani has made variations of) costs $3,000. The Hermes Birkin—some can cost up to $200,000 (Himalaya Birkin)—remains the most expensive tote bag in the world. (Never mind that, you can’t go to the store and just buy one; you need to ‘deserve’ one according to the French luxe house.)
Look at our Bollywood airport looks. You know a movie star is genuinely taking a flight when they show up with an XXL purse. (No one can fly with a small or a medium bag, even with a first class ticket, you can’t escape the drudgery of an airport.) All the most successful heroines—from Deepika Padukone to Alia Bhatt to Kiara Advani to Kareena Kapoor—carry very massive and massively expensive handbags. (Mum of two Kareena carries a tote even when she steps out for lunch. She famously has a fleet of Birkins.) In fact, when an actor is carrying a small purse to the airport, she’s just shown up for a photo op; she isn’t really going anywhere.
The Guardian quotes author and stylist Lauren Friedman who connects the history of the handbag and that of women’s abortion rights: “The metaphor between purses and female anatomy is well documented; so to me, what this trend of a large carry-all bag says is that societal culture at large, which dictates these trends, wants self-identified women to carry the weight of it all, out in the open, all at once.”
This year has finally seen the resurgence of large bags. Bottega Veneta’s new line has slouchy carryalls. Givenchy has extra large shoulder bags. Prada’s are practical and ready for the office. LL Bean’s totes have fun slogans: they read ‘unhinged’ and ‘psycho’. While Marc Jacobs’s simply read ‘The Tote Bag’.
So what did I get my friend? Dress-up earrings and a necklace that she could carry in her tote and slip on for an after-hours drink with me.