Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Things I Miss: The Handbag Edition *sob*

The thing about being a writer as well as a recovering clutter junkie, is that pretty much everything I own has a story attached to it.  When I have time, I love to hunt down special things for special occasions, or spend hours or days tracking down the best deal on some unique thing. But I love it most when I acquire a true treasure--something that belonged to someone I knew or was given to me with love. It's also kind of a rush to buy something as a reward for myself. It's a good thing I'm more of a purse person than a jewelry person, because the whole reward habit could get very expensive very quickly.

Purses, or handbags if you will, make or break an outfit. I stopped worrying about whether or not my purse matched my shoes at least a decade ago. Now, it just has to either coordinate with something (you can always match your hair), or stand on its own when I'm really dressed down. On the dressed-down days, it's nice to have a bag that looks at least a little civilized.

I thought I'd break this into two posts--starting with a few of the bags I really miss.


I bought this years ago at the Discovery Shop for the American Cancer Society in Roanoke. It must be forty or fifty years old. Only just in the past few years have purses with carry handles really come back into vogue. I don't use this bag very often. I like to wear it with a simple black outfit--not necessarily vintage--and very little jewelry because I don't want to take attention away from its beautiful needlework. Needlepoint is one of my secret vices. I'm terrible at it, but if they day ever came when I was forced to do nothing but goof off all day, I would want to hit golf balls and do needlepoint.

#2--Small, adorable. I bought the straw bag on the left when my two sisters and I went to NYC for my middle sister's fortieth birthday. I'd always wanted one of those Nantucket bags--do you know the ones I mean? Someday maybe I'll have one, but this one suits me fine. Plus, it's so colorful and looks great with a cool summer outfit on a Sunday morning. The store where we found it had thousands of bags. We discovered it a few minutes after we left Ground Zero. An odd combination, given the somberness of the occasion. But sometimes things just happen that way.

Sorry for the glare on the second bag. I decided I wanted to get this post up and could only photograph after the sun went down. P bought it for me last spring when he was in Charlotte for a residency. It's a Michael Kors and is casual enough to be used for a ladies' lunch date or simple enough to be used for a light evening bag. I've only gotten to use it once. Now it's safely wrapped in a linen bag for post-September use.

 #3--Status bags 'cause they go with everything. I got over having visible designer names on things around 1988, thank you very much. It's a shame that so many purveyors of fine goods have to slap their names or graphic initials all over their wares (Do you hear me Coach?!).  But it's nice to have a sturdy, stylish leather bag. A bag that can hold its own when one is wearing all black or white, or a concealing coat, or a simple dress. Or even jeans. These are both Brahmin bags. I'd never heard of them until I walked into Dillard's about a week after I'd gotten my first check for my first novel and was shopping for conference/tour clothes (planning ahead, of course!). I have an alarming talent for walking into a store and being able to zero in on the most expensive thing in the room. It's not a talent I'm particularly proud of.  I love the bag, though. Plus, it goes with both black and brown shoes or boots.

I bought the one on the right at a Dillard's in Cincinnati. It was right there on the aisle. Forty percent off. 'Nuff said.

#4--Bags of the heart.

The Michael Kors is a repeat from above, of course. But it's both of the heart and a handy evening bag.

The bag up front came by way of a woman named Laura Brown. She was my father-in-law's English nanny back in the '30s and '40s and was with his family until she died in 1990. She kept a lot of things that had belonged to my FIL's mother (coincidentally named Laura Benedict), and I suspect this was one of them. It's lined in peach silk satin, and the design is black velvet. I use this bag all the time because it's unique and has an unusual shape.

The beaded bag is my most precious bag. It belonged to my father's mother. It's not an unusual example of a 1960s evening bag. The beads are silver and beige. The interior is satin, but not silk. The chain is fairly utilitarian. It's heavy, though. Of good quality. Attractive, but dependable. A lot like my grandmother, who managed an S and H Green Stamps store for nearly all the years I knew her. She and my grandfather socialized quite a bit and later traveled a lot. She was particularly fond of Asia, for some reason, though she was always a simple, strong woman at heart. I think of her every time I use it.

What are some of your treasures?

Promise you'll pop by my Notes From the Handbasket blog today and say hi to Kelli Stanley, one of my awfully talented thriller writer-chick friends. Her latest book, City of Dragons, is out next week, and she gave me a great interview telling all about it!


  1. You made me think that there are many bags I've had that I do wish I would have kept - they're a better record of my life than any scrapbook or diary. In high school, the -what was the brand - Lily Pulitzer, maybe?- they were small wooden handled purses with removeable covers that buttoned on. Completely impractible but all the rage at the time. Then there was the cool mirrored hippie-bag my mom used in the early 70's that I grabbed at some point - it would be extremely cool now. And I had a big soft leather pouch-type of bag I took to Paris the first time I went; it was so big that I could stuff my coat in there when we went into the museums.

  2. Hey beautiful,

    I LOVE the silver one in picture two and all the bags in the fourth picture. I'm terrible at purses (love the Nora Ephron essay on the subject) and manage to go to the default -- lug large black bag around, hope nobody notices I need small camel to help carry it. Someday I know I will be able to find a cute purse. Maybe tomorrow. :)

  3. Maggie--I think I didn't get rid of my last button-cover purse until 1999. Kept waiting for them to come back. I'm thinking I remember the mirrored bag?

    Dearest Michelle--I'll have to look up the Nora Ephron essay. Unfortunately, I think cute and camel-worthy are an impossible combination. I'll keep my eyes open, though.

  4. I adore this post! I collect purses, not so much by trying, like with turtles. I collect those deliberately, and each one has a story attached. The bobble headed turtles my dad brought me from Mexico. The stone turtle with 1 missing front leg & 1 missing back leg that I bought because I didn't think anyone else would buy a broken turtle, and I didn't want him to be thrown out. The turtle made of shells my brother brought me from Florida... : )

    With purses, they just seem to jump out at me & say Hello! And every time I deliberately try to look for one, or have any specific ideas on them at all, I can't find anything. I stop looking & the perfect bag shows up in some unexpected store.

    The black & peach purse is beautiful. Well, they all are, really! : )

  5. Hey, Carrie. Turtles! How fun. And so sweet that you rescued a lonely, broken turtle. I empathize. Pandas were my thing for a long time. Now it's hand carved shore birds. Watch out for those gregarious purses. :)