Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bag Lady

 Announcing the winners of this week's book giveaways! ARCs of THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS: Jack Getze, Gram, Reine, Jamie Freveletti, Karen in Ohio, Judy in Owego, Lynda and Marianne in Maine. TROUBLED DAUGHTERS, TWISTED WIVES: Lisa Alger and Mary Sutton. 

Please send an email with your mailing address to julia at juliaspencerfleming dot com. Congratulations!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING:  There are two types of women in the world: shoe women, and handbag women. I am firmly in the latter camp, making me, I suppose, a bag lady. I certainly own enough to fill a shopping cart to overflowing.

I'm not sure what causes the great divide. In my case, I suspect it comes fom having extra-extra wide feet and impossibly high arches. Finding great shoes was just too much of a chore. Buy great bags - why those are everywhere. On Ebay. At yard sales. In consignment stores and designer outlets and marked down at the end of the season at Macy's.

I can't recall any of my bags before I started my first job in D.C., but I remember going to the now-defunct Woodward & Lothrop to get my first serious, grown up purse. It was a small Coach mailflap style in British Tan. Oh, how I loved that bag. It was the first of several Coach purses and totes I've collected over the years. I still have it, although it's been sadly battered and stained over the decades.

(It was a great disappointment to me when Coach stopped making simple, classic leather satchels and started selling bags designed for sixteen-year-old mall rats.)

I don't keep all the purses I've bought over the years - I'd need an extra bedroom for those. Some are very much of their time: There was that suede mauve-and-gray clutch that was more 80's that a Debbie Harry record. Or the one I got when I mistakenly bought into the early 00's studded look - I could have used that one as a weapon in a motorcycle bar fight. But I do have several dozen at this point: leather and straw, quilted cotton and wool, satchels and shoulderbags and totes and clutches.

My husband and youngest daughter and I went to the movies last night, and I came downstairs ready for our date looking, if I do say so myself, rather fine. "How do I look?" I asked (because you do, don't you?)

"You're always so pulled together," my husband said.

"That's because I always have the right bag for the outfit."

"You do, yes." He frowned, perhaps thinking of the overflow of purses taking up large sections of our bedroom. "I didn't know that about you when I asked you to marry me."

Thankfully, he didn't speculate on what he would have done had he known about my bag lady tendencies. How about you, dear readers? Do you have the perfect bag? One you can't live without?


  1. Oh, I’m most definitely a handbag woman. Or, at least I used to be. Once upon a time handbags would drive me absolutely crazy. I’d get one, use it for a week or so, and then decide that I absolutely hated it. It was a losing battle, the pile of “purses I hated” in the corner of the closet was growing by leaps and bounds and still I had no purse that I liked.

    And then I stumbled onto a vintage Lucite purse. It was love at first sight. No more handbag shopping, no more disillusionment. My 1950s-era Lucite purse and I are a match made in purse heaven . . . .

  2. The kids are gone, so our four-bedroom house is divided thus: One for me, one for Barb, one for her shoes, one for her bags. My wife owns rolling, worldwide, self-cleaning collections of BOTH, and they follow us around in a truck in case she wants to change.

  3. Joan, I'd love to see what that looks like!

    Jack, too funny. It can't be that bad!

    I am definitely not a handbag person. I have one Baggallini that goes with everything whether it goes with everything or not! And then I have a mini-bag that I can stuff into my backpack while traveling...I think I need some handbag tutoring...though I may be too far gone

  4. I am definitely a Bag Lady! In recent years, my "main" bag has had to be backpack style, per my doctor. The more compartments, the better. My bags tend to be better organized than the rest of my life, thanks to compartments. I aso always have on hand a fannypack, to be used when running around town on errands on Saturdays. I recently purchased a crossbody purse to be used when I need only a minimum of baggage (ha!) and the occasion is too dressy for fannypack. I do not have a collection, though, because I use everything until it falls apart. (I just remembered that I DO have a couple of dressy evening bags, clutches, but have not used them in a long time. Life is just not that "dressy".)

    As a child, I read the Betsy-Tacy books, and was covetous of Winona's bag with a chain instead of a strap. I saved my money to buy one and was ecstatic on the day I went to the store and purchased my own!

  5. My bff and I turned into bag ladies a couple of years ago -- did NOT see that coming! Silliest bag -- a crossbody Coach in lime green leather that I like so much I can't bear to actually use it. Current fave -- a metallic gold Michael Kors that I have carried so much it probably that I probably should stop carrying it :-(

    How about totes? 'Cuz I got way too many of those, too!

  6. I am a bag lady. Shoes are pretty, but I have wide feet and enjoy comfort too much to pinch my toes and throw my back out of whack. My favorite shoes are Birkenstock sandals. Bags, on the other hand, don't have to fit. Okay, so sometimes they also throw my back out of whack. However, I believe most bags (that I can afford) were designed by people who do not carry bags. They don't have enough pockets, or they have too many but they aren't big enough to hold anything or are placed in such a way that they're not easily accessed. The straps aren't long enough or are too long and not adjustable. The body of the bag isn't quite large enough to hold what I need, or it's so enormous that I end up too much extra stuff. Instead of buying them, now I make them. I like to think they're attractive and I've received compliments before people knew they were handmade, so I'll just keep believing that and making my own.

  7. Oh, Julia, I'm right with you! Definitely a bag lady. And I, too, am annoyed that Coach has gone downhill with their styling. At least now they have some vintage bags in their stores again. I have some leather bags that are almost 30 years old and they are still in perfect shape. I stick with the Coach and Dooney & Burke outlets these days. There's no way I can pay the full price now that I'm retired.

    And totes...oh dear, I could use an intervention to stop buying tote bags.

  8. One of my favorite bags, but that I rarely use, is a gorgeous black handle bag of heavy leather. It was my mother-inlaw's, and I suspect it's from the 60's.

    I have a lot of shoes, and a lot of bags, but I rarely use anything but a current favorite, which right now is a cross-body Baggalini travel bag. Because of a couple of very bad car accidents over the years my shoulders cannot take heavy bags. So the amount of stuff I haul around is carefully edited. I have discovered that one truly can get along without the equivalent of a travel bag/mobile filing cabinet, most of the time. Of course, all bets are off when traveling.

    One great consignment store find: a very simple black and white pony fur bag with leather thong handles a single clasp, and red lacing at the square edges. It also has an attached, relatively useless, coin purse of the same fur. Perfect to use when I'm in cowgirl mode.

  9. Bag Ladies Unite! YES! I am addicted to bags! The brighter the color, the more I love it. I used to buy one good leather purse and carry it for years and years and years until it was way past its prime. A friend made a comment that stuck with me about how I might want to retire the purse, but have it bronzed since I obviously had such a strong attachment to it. Now, I'm able to find nice leather bags at REALLY great prices at our TJ Maxx (have I mentioned how much I love our TJ Maxx?), and just cannot resist that rainbow of color when I walk past that aisle.

    And I like big bags, I cannot lie.

    And let's not even talk about cute tote bags . . . oh my . . .

  10. I love looking at bags and admiring them, but shopping for The One for me? Big dang chore. None of you would like shopping with me for bags. Here's why:

    * Ooh! Cute bag! :)
    * Is the closing secure enough to slow down a pickpocket in NYC? Check!
    * Crossbody strap or hands-free capability with a modicum of security? Check!
    * Will it fit an old-skool reporter's notebook and some reading material? Check! (Smartphones w/ereader apps help me downsize, but I'm still low-tech for note-taking.)
    * Costs more than $50 at TJ Maxx or other discount retailer because my bags take a beating therefore I don't want to go through this again for a while? Check!
    * Ooh! Cute bag! Love it! Where's the checkout?

  11. Bag lady. Not a shoe lady for the same reason a lot of you ladies aren't...hard to fit size. I still mourn the loss of a tiny, leather, dark blue, satchel purse I "borrowed" from my sister enough times for it to become mine. Sadly, one day, I was foolish enough to carry a bottle of nail polish in it, and or course the bottle broke and ruined my precious bag. This was in the 70's! I should be over it by now!

  12. I don't qualify at all, though I totally get Rhonda. I once had the same black Liz Claiborne handbag from Macy's for at least four years until its straps failed -- because it was just the right size and had just the right number of right-sized pockets and I could actually REMEMBER WHERE I PUT THINGS IN IT. I cleaned and polished it regularly in a desperate bid to never lose it, and I still mourn its loss.

    I usually hunt for my new handbags in thrift stores now, because I am so unlikely to still want any given bag after I try to use it. The current one cost me two bucks and some Goo Out and polish to clean it up, but it's working out so far. If I really bond with it, I'll try very hard to keep it going for as long as possible.

  13. Bags over shoes any time!

    I make most of mine, though. I like lots of compartments and can't carry one that's too big because of physical problems. My favorite right now is one my brother brought me back from Costa Rica, a smallish rainbow of stripes with a ribbon strap. I use it for dressy occasions instead of my old beaded or leather clutch standbys.

  14. WAY too many. WAY. Sigh. So sad. I have just culled out some old ones, and I bet they were from the 70's. I kept a lavender Coach bag that is too pretty to use, (does anyone else understand that?) and a gorgeous celery green one even though Im sure it is a ball-point pen ink magnet.

    Must have: a pouch on the side. Phone carrier. Must hold> makeup bag, calendar, plastic thing for keys, checkbook, notebook, other notebook in case I lose the other note book, hairbrush, pencils, more pencils, pens Pencil sharpener. Extra lipstick. Those listerine things. Gum. Zippered places for secret money. File folder. Must go over my shoulder.

    The one I'm carrying now--is off-white, andI love it, many pockets and all my black accessories do not get subsumed in the black hole. But by Tuesday of course, I'll have to change to a fall purse. MHmmm...

  15. Hank, you are so not a bag lady... if ever I met a shoe lady you're it, my dear. We ALL want your shoes... or maybe it's your feet, because none of us could possibly wear your shoes.

    LOVE this post and I wish everyone could have posted pictures.

    I am, sad to say, neither a bag or a shoe person. I'm with Roberta. Baggalini, small. If I"m working I carry a tote for notebook, makeup, etc. My daughter got me a great one from Chilewich (the woven plastic placemat people) -- weighs NOTHING holds EVERYTHING. requirement.

    Julia cracking up over your bags. Who knew?? I did buy a fabulous tiny black and brushed aluminum purse in Italy. Love it.

  16. Guilty..I'm a bag lady. Although I frequently can't be arsed to change bags that doesn't stop me from buying them. Never even unearthed the summer bags this year.
    I've seen Joan's lucite purse and it's GOR-JUS.
    Hallie has a shoulder strap bag that I love.
    Julia - last year I purchased 7 Coach bags as Christmas presents. Only 2 of them got wrapped. Look past the pink and green stuff...still beautiful.
    And a question..what's a Baggalini?

  17. Rosemary, Baggalini is a manufacturer of nicely designed travel-type bags. Lots of pockets, and usually in some lightweight material. Mine is a khaki cross-body type of body bag, with a special pocket for my keys (I think it was meant for a phone but it's too small for mine), and enough room for an e-reader inside.

    Doesn't look as though they make mine anymore. It's a cross between their City and Promenade bags:

  18. tReally nice bags. I love all of them!

  19. I am so greateful to find your great blog and posting here. I have bookmarked this site and I will keep visiting you for further such interesting blogs. you want any shopping products visit this, thanks for great article posting here.

  20. Many such bags have the same style of woven leather, and apart from in vogue designing, the art of weaving soft leather strips into magnificent bags is relatively the same, though the amount of artisans that create them are dwindling. luxury travel bag