Confessions of a bag lady

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June comes clean about her handbag habit and looks at what our bags say about us.

Talking to Harper’s Bazaar a couple of years ago, Hillary Clinton took the words right out of my mouth.

Although the interview focussed mainly on the weightier aspects of her life, one statement in particular echoed my sentiments exactly. “I do love a good handbag,’ said the then American Secretary of State, who later went on to ask when talking about her favourite Ferragamo: “How can you be unhappy if you pick up a big pink bag?”

Pink’s one of the few colours missing from my handbag collection and I don’t own a Ferragamo either; come to think of it, I’d probably say I love having several good handbags. But that aside, I’m with her all the way – if she was running for office and I was a US citizen, she’d have my vote…

How can you be unhappy if you pick up a big pink bag?

Call me shallow if you will but my heart belongs to my handbags. After all, you’re never going to have a bad bag day; you don’t need thin-day and fat-day handbags; and unlike shoes, they’re won’t leave you hobbling at the end of a big night out.

And they’re so much more than mere receptacles of all our day to day necessities. Whether you share my handbag habit or not, I’m ready to bet that at least one of yours holds fond memories too – where, when or why you bought it, maybe even who bought it for you, the special occasions it accompanied you to.

I can recount the backstory of every bag I own and, over 10 years later, still mourn the one that got away. Absolutely fabulous but highly impractical – so small it barely held a lippy and a tissue! – it was accidentally thrown out by my then partner during some unsupervised decluttering. Believe me, being separated from that little bag was probably almost as big a blow as splitting up with the partner a couple of years later…

What does the way your wear yours say about you?

Simple or flamboyant, one of many or the only one we ever use, according to body language experts our handbags are extensions of our personalities.

But apparently it’s less about the handbag itself, or even what’s in it, and more about the way you wear it. Because of course, the only bags we carry are those full of groceries – these days, a bag is as much a part of an outfit as a dress, skirt or jacket and is only ever worn! So what does the way you wear yours say about you?

Take the one that fits in the crook of your arm. You’re independent and fashionable, like to be up to date on the latest trends and project a sophisticated but slightly sassy attitude.

A tote, on the other hand, says you’re prepared for anything which is why you need a bag big enough to carry all your stuff. A planner who doesn’t like to get caught without something you might need, you’re the one who always has aspirin, hand cream and hair ties – even if you have to delve deep to find them!

If you’re wearing a cross-body bag, you’re an essentials kind of girl who likes to have just enough room to carry your phone, purse and keys. You don’t need the size of a tote and you want to able to do all kinds of things without your bag getting in the way.

Choosing briefcase mode – forgoing the shoulder strap and using the top handle of your bag – says you mean business, that how you look is less important than where you’re headed.

A messenger bag suggests you’re easy-going and laid back, seldom get stressed and like to be on the go. Similar in some ways to the backpack wearer, who’s always on the move and loves to travel, wants to be prepared for most situations but likes more comfort than the tote-wielding girl.

Then there’s the clutch, beloved by minimalists who like things simple but don’t have so much going on that they need to be hands-free. Holding it makes you look and feel as if you could be going on a hot date any minute, although clutching your clutch in both hands in front of you suggests you may be shy and adopting a defensive pose.

Of course, if your handbag collection includes several if not all of these, the implication is that you change your personality every time you change your bag. But then why shouldn’t we? To quote Billy Connolly: ‘A woman’s mind is as complex as the contents of her handbag; even when you get to the bottom of it, there is ALWAYS something at the bottom to surprise you!’

In handbag terms, the current love of my life is a very recent acquisition. Ask me what would be the one thing I’d rescue if, heaven forbid, my house was on fire and I wouldn’t have to think twice about my answer. With no partner, pets or offspring to consider, I can of course say this without the slightest twinge of conscience: the gorgeous Gucci tote that whispered ‘Buy me, buy me’ the moment I saw it in Vintage2Versace’s window.

Giving in – inevitably! – to temptation, I promised myself at the time that I’d never ever buy another bag as long as I live.

Then again, I’ve just noticed some little Italian handbags in a shop in Newark. Never say never…

This story was previously published in the November/December issue of Around Town

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