I admit it: when it comes to fashion, nothing sends a chill through my spine and gets me all flibberty jibberty quite like a good satchel. Or hobo. Or clutch. Or…oh, hell…I’m just a handbag ho. Dooney & Burke, Louis Vuitton, Guess, Coach, Kate Spade. I usually fantasize about them more than I can afford to buy them (at least the designer ones), but one way or another…they’ve all made me their bitch.
I blame Julie Andrews. Or, actually, Mary Poppins. She was the first handbag ho I was introduced to…at the wee age of five, courtesy of the silver screen. Remember that amazing carpet bag she carried? She was pulling furniture out of that sucker! She was always prepared. Practically perfect in every way. There I was in the movie theater with my Mom, focusing my big, brown eyes on that amazing bag and thinking “Wow! I want one of those!!!” And, thus, a little handbag ho was made. From that moment on, I was nuts about the handbag. Mystified. Amazed. Thanks, Mary.
I got my first “big girl purse” just a couple years later. My folks had taken us to Knott’s Berry Farm for the day and my Dad and I were in the Ghost Town doing one of our favorite things: looking at all the shiny rocks in the rock hound shop. (What can I say? Nerd DNA runs thick in my blood.) There, among the fool’s gold, toy holsters, and cowboy wallets, I saw it: a hand tooled leather shoulder bag emblazoned with the letter D. Holy Marc Jacobs!
It was beautiful and perfect and had a hand painted border of little white daisies. The appropriately weathered looking employee behind the counter smiled at me and told me it was an authentic Indian purse. Every Indian maiden carried one. That was all I had to hear. I plunked down all the money I had and my Mom still had to give me a dollar, but I walked away from that store with the first of many handbags to come. I loved that bag. It was perfect. I had everything a 7 year old girl needed within arm’s reach: a pack of gum, a couple rings from the grocery store vending machine, and my Little Kiddle dolls. Bad ass!
Although I had my own official big girl purse, I still spent my formative handbag-ho-in-training years mystified by my Mom’s ability to reach into her own handbag and whip out whatever we needed right when we needed it. She was perpetually busy with the six children she was raising, yet never ceased to whip out a pack of gum, a tissue, an aspirin, a paper clip, or even a tape measure. She’d usher us all over town like 6 baby ducks quack’in after Momma. She was the calm at the eye of our family storm. (At least until we were in private…then all hell broke loose if she wasn’t happy.) Many a crisis was averted and many a sibling battle was quashed by the miracle of that proactively packed, sublimely organized handbag.
This is why I love organization and efficiency. I admire it in all of its forms. The first time I ever walked into a Container Store, I dropped to my knees and crossed myself…and I’m not even Catholic. Aisle after aisle of neatly organized racks and bins and gadgets for making life easier, all color coordinated. Things to organize your purse, your socks, your bathroom, your pantry…amazing. I get a warm and fuzzy feeling just thinking about it. In fact, I’m quite possibly one of the only people who got a cheap thrill when Julia Roberts nervously lined up her canned goods in “Sleeping with the Enemy” before her creep ass husband came home. To me, lining up the canned goods is just good housekeep’in! At least it was, until I married Captain Chaos and it all went to hell in a hand basket. Just go look in my pantry if you don’t believe me. Labels are pointing every which way. Bags of rice skewed everywhere. Boxes of pasta next to baking supplies instead of the pasta sauce. Shocking. Even the Container Store can’t help me. It’s taken me 8 years of marriage, but I finally surrender. I no longer control the universe inside my pantry.
I do, however, control the universe inside my handbag.
It’s a guilty pleasure but, all things being equal, I prefer to control that universe within a designer handbag. Sure, I can go plunk down $20 at Target and get a quasi-cute shoulder bag…but it’s got no personality. No bling. No pizzazz. No style. There is a discernable difference between your average discount store shoulder bag and a bag that’s been stitched, studded, and embellished by a true textile artist. Honestly, it’s the only designer joy a girl with 3.5 asses can get. There are no designer labels in size 32 – and if there were, I wouldn’t wear them anyway. I absolutely hate what I look like right now, but at least I can love what I carry my universe in: a Guess Avignon satchel with pink leather, ostrich detailed trim. Yeah, baby!
Now, a word to my sister girls out there: to add the Mary Poppins/Mom touch to any handbag, you have to organize the hell out of the inside of it. It’s no good walking around with a gorgeous bag if you’ve bent it all out of shape by cramming your too-chunky car keys on top of your wallet, hair brush, and make up. You end up bending the bag out of shape and stretching the handles and then it just looks old and sad. You know, like Joan Rivers would look if she were still human.
I learned the over-stuffed handbag lesson the hard way. I used to grab at any bag I thought was cute, cram too much crap in it, and ruin it. Time and financial necessity has made me much more discerning. Now I stick with bags that are a certain size and have firm sides. I like a bag that stays where I put it. I don’t like the soft, slouchy looking bags that look like my ass would look like in leather pants. In the handbag world, a square bottom is sexy. Yes, I’ve become quite persnickety about my handbag purchases – especially the designer ones.
Only 3 of the 20+ handbags in my closet are truly designer bags. There’s the pink Dooney & Burke with chocolate leather trim. It’s too floppy. It needs handbag Viagra. The sides aren’t sturdy enough so, even though I don’t overload it, it never sits up straight. It’s always falling over… like drunk Aunt Mary after too much eggnog. It’s impossible to organize a bag like this. Nothing stays where you put it. I don’t use it much anymore, but I can’t bear to part with it.
There’s the Louis Vuitton Manhattan GM. Yes, I said it. Louis Vuitton. If you know anything about these bags and their price tags, your eyes are probably popping out of their sockets right now. I don’t usually like their bags – and I most certainly don’t like their prices – but this bag knocked my socks off as soon as I saw it. It also crushed my spirits when I saw the $1,500.00 price tag. However, I paid less than 20% of that just because I was in the right place at the right time.
My bag was very gently used when I got it. I had the opportunity to buy it from a wealthy (and apparently insane) woman who’d received it as a gift and thought it was too big for her. I thought she was crazy. Seriously? Too big? It’s gorgeous! SCREW that. I’ll find stuff to fit in that bad boy…let me at it! It had firm sides and beautiful handles…those super fabulous Marc Jacobs pockets on the front. Gorgeous!
She wasn’t looking to get the full price of the bag. Like any good handbag ho, she respected its designer status and just “wanted it to go to a good home”. Perhaps the fact that I was panting and drooling made her take pity on me. And, yes, I verified the serial number and made sure the lining and every feature of the bag was authentic. I was living in California and making a very high wage at the time, but it was still a hefty purchase – even at 80% off – and I wanted to make sure it was real. I couldn’t believe my good fortune in getting my hands on a Louis Vuitton Manhattan GM. They were sold out for over a year because Jessica Simpson was photographed with one and everyone woman in America wanted one. It remains one of the best bargains I’ve ever snagged. It took me weeks to come down from the handbag high I got from buying that bag. Some nights I would just squat in a dark corner and hug it, muttering “my precccccious!” like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. It wasn’t pretty.
Six years later, believe it or not, I’m about to list it on eBay. Turns out it really is too big…and momma wants the new Kindle Fire. What can I say? I’m cheating on Louis Vuitton for a state of the art e-reader. Who’da thunk it? So I will soon be down to only 2 real designer bags, the last one being the aforementioned Guess satchel.
My fellow handbag ho’s out there may be snickering over my affinity for the Guess label, but I actually love their stuff. I had a Guess bag several years ago and I loved it. Sure, Guess is like the redneck cousin of the designer handbag world…but I really love the style of their bags. In fact, I only sold my last Guess bag (along with a few other designer bags) after hubby and I bought our home and I wanted to hire a professional painter. So, you see, they bring me joy by stylishly organizing my universe…and then they bring me joy again when I re-sell them for home décor, gadgets, electronics…whatever. That’s okay, though…there’s always something new and exciting in the world of handbags. I’m like a raccoon with a shiny object: I can’t look away. Hubby knows all too well if he ever needs to get my undivided attention, all he has to do is mutter the words Dooney & Burke and I’m all ears. At least he knows if we’re ever stranded out in the middle of nowhere, I’ll be ready with my super compact emergency kit perfectly packed into my gorgeously trimmed designer bag, right? He knows who’s got his back, my friends.
Speaking of the hubby, I have a slight confession to make. And, yes, I’m still talking about handbags – so bear with me for a minute.
I was forced to do the unthinkable the other night: I took the remote away. I know, I know…it’s like hitting a man square in the love biscuits but, in all fairness, he was trying to force me to watch Dazed & Confused again and it’s against my nature as a woman to see Matthew McConaughey with a bowl haircut. Seriously. I can feel my ovaries scream out in horror just thinking about it. That shit ain’t right. So I took the remote and just pressed the Channel + button a couple times.
The channel landed on the Home Shopping Network, which I would normally roll my eyes at and keep clicking past. This time I was instantly hypnotized. Trapped. Mesmerized…by Dooney & Burke Hour.
Oh-Em-Gee. Did y’all know this was going on? Apparently Dooney & Burke Hour is a regular feature on the Home Shopping Network. Who knew? I stopped for a minute because they were just about to finish showing these hideous hobo bags that were not worth the outrageous price tag and I wanted to see what came next. Well, what came next was just plain effing gorgeous: croc leather satchels. Slap my ass and call me Judy! They were beautiful.
I sat there, riveted to my seat, as they showed all the beautiful details of these bags. Naturally, I pointed out to the hubby why each detail was important and special in the creation of the bag. Naturally, he feigned interest and played along. I’m sure I saw a glint of fear in his eyes. You know, the kind you see when a hiker stumbles across a bear cub in the woods…right before the momma bear shows up and tears him to shreds. Hubby knew to just sit still and not make any sudden movements.
After a while, he said “Honey, if you really like it, then go ahead and get one…it’s okay.”
Translation: “I love you, I love you, I love you, please don’t hurt me, I want you to be happy…I love you.”
This is why I love this man. I was very tempted, but the simple fact is…we can’t afford it. Not right now. Not even for five easy payments of $56.55.
I love that he offered, because I know he meant it and I know it was in his heart to make me happy. Thankfully I’m not such a big handbag ho that I don’t go insane and forego necessities like food and heat in order to have the perfect Kate Spade bag to go with the ugly old lady shoes I have to wear to work. I know my limits. After a while, as we sat together and watched the Home Shopping Network ladies count down the number of bags that were left, hubby cautiously said “Babe, if you’re not going to get one can we change the channel?”
“WHAT?” I said incredulously. “Are you kidding? This is like porn to me…we are NOT changing this channel!” If I can’t afford it, at least let me drool over it for a while.
I’m not proud of it, but I made him sit through the rest of Dooney & Burke Hour with me. Call it payback for all the times I’ve had to hear a stoned, bowl haircut wearing Matthew McConaughey say “Alright, alright, alright!”
I went to sleep that night with visions of brass Dooney & Burke logos dancing in my head. It’s almost Christmas. Maybe Santa will leave something pretty under the tree for me this year…with color coordinated stitching and a matching key fob.
Damn you, Mary Poppins. Damn you.