Melinda dropped this question into the suggestion box:
I’d be interested in a post on purses and bags. I always feel ridiculous carrying any kind of purse. If it’s big, I imagine myself as a 4 year old girl playing dress up. If it’s small, it just seems too twee and fiddly. I admire women who can carry contrasting colored or interestingly structured bags as if they are natural parts of their wardrobe (instead of, oh-god-I-need-somewhere-to-stick-my-wallet-and-phone). So I’d like to see sort of a “Getting Started for the Bag Wary” post.
I am simultaneously excited to tackle this request, and extremely daunted. I am still fairly new to a multi-handbag lifestyle and all things bag still thrill me, so I’d love to share my tips. But even with my thoughts here and yours in the comments, I’m not sure we can cajole Melinda into overcoming her bag reluctance. Well, let’s try and see how we do.
What do you need to carry with you?
Most of us take things with us when we leave the house, and many of us take more than can fit into our pockets. So if you’re curious about adding a bag or two to your life, the first thing you need to consider is the specific things that you need to cart around. How big and heavy are they? Are any of them awkwardly shaped? (For instance, do you carry a tablet with you? Is your wallet the size and shape of a brick? Do you need to keep a pair of flats on you at all times?) If you are curious about the multi-bag route, can you compartmentalize your stuff so it can be switched easily and quickly between bags?
Your stuff will help you determine how big your bag needs to be, how durable its material needs to be, and which shapes just won’t work.
What do you want your bag to do?
Carry your stuff, I know. But secondary bag considerations may include: Look corporate and professional, work with your winter coat, enhance your outfits, go with everything you own, express your creativity. This bag is going to travel with you wherever you go. What is its visual job? What elements of your body or style does it need to work harmoniously with?
What are your comfort priorities?
Since this bag is going to travel with you wherever you go, it would be great if carrying it didn’t irritate the hell out of you. Do you need to have both hands free? Shoulder bags only for you. Back or neck pain? A lightweight crossbody or stylish backpack, perhaps. Can’t stand fighting with your parka and purse strap? Try a hand-held design. If you’re not currently a handbag person, think about other bag styles you’ve tried – messenger bags, school knapsacks, briefcases. Which of these felt natural and comfortable?
I’ll use myself as an example: I can do a handheld bag, but am much happier if it also has a shoulder strap in case I unexpectedly need my hands free. I generally prefer a bag that has a wide strap so it doesn’t cut into my shoulder, and ideally it would be long enough to sling over my shoulder but short enough that I can carry it in-hand without dragging it on the ground. I have one rectangular bag (this style), the rest are flat. I don’t care if bucket bags are all the rage, if a bag bonks against my side like a tetherball I see red. I need my bag to hug my side.
Which bag styles appeal to you?
Hobos, satchels, totes, crossbodies … got a favorite design? Try not to think about this until you’ve considered your stuff-hauling and comfort priorities. You may love the look of a frame bag, but if you can’t wedge your stuff into it and need a shoulder-slung style, you’ll have to love it from afar.
And then? There’s gonna be some trial and error. If you haven’t habitually carried a handbag in the past, it will take some time to get used to it. And once you’ve gotten used to it, you’ll probably discover a few things about your bag that drive you bananas. You need to know your use patterns before you can really hone in on the perfect bag. (Having to deal with top zippers is my pet peeve. Trying to unzip a bag to reach a ringing phone while simultaneously balancing the bag makes for an odd little jerky dance. For me, anyway.)
So what should Melinda do? I’d highly recommend either borrowing a few bags from a bag-loving family member or friend, or thrifting a couple of promising shapes and sizes. Explore a handful of styles, and try to carry each for a couple of days before passing judgment. Before you can start making your bag an element of your outfit, you need to find out which style suits your needs and get used to carrying it. And honestly, people who incorporate bags as outfit elements generally LOVE handbags. That route is not for everyone. There’s nothing wrong with having one versatile purse for 99% of your life and a sparkly clutch for the other 1%. (Clutches can be thrifted!)
Hopefully that was helpful, but I’d love your input, too. Do you remember how you became accustomed to carrying a handbag, and which styles you tried before you found your ideal? Or are you just now trying to figure all of this out and have other tips to share?
Image via 6pm.com
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