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The Perfect Handbag

I2m_louisvuittonhandbag For a woman, the perfect handbag is an illusion worth chasing.  Handbags are not functionality, they are an expression of style and personality.  As a result, they are almost sacred.  From my numerous voluntary (and involuntary) discussions on the subject with many women, I have uncovered that there are five brands of handbags that are truly worth owning … Prada, Coach, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Burberry.  Unlike other elements of a woman’s wardrobe, individuality is not rewarded here.  When people recognize your purse, know the maker and perhaps even have one of their own, that’s a good thing.  What is most startling about this world of handbags, though, is how uniformly ugly they are (um, that would be my opinion, not what the women said of course).  The Louis Vuitton bags are a muddy brown color covered with clip-art style icons in a checkered pattern.  They are quite possibly the ugliest piece of accessory or luggage I have ever seen … and everyone wants one.  The Burberry bags all look like their equally popular line of scarves, with plaid checks and a tan color so well recognized on their products, Crayola should rename it "Burberry Tan."

But despite my dislike or other’s like of these designs, surely design cannot account for their immense popularity.  There is something more at work here.  As Tom Ford, former designer at Gucci said, "If a bag is attractive, it makes you feel good by default.  It’s all about proportion, shape, line, finish, fabric, balance.  If all of that is pleasing it will sell.  More than that, it’s like you’ve gotta have it or you’ll die."  Fake or real, handbags are a must have — more important even, than shoes to accessorize a woman’s wardrobe.  Why?  Because handbags are more closely tied to a woman’s aspirational personality than another other piece of fashion.  It is an expression of what group you want to be considered part of – but you have to choose a group.  In handbags, you don’t start your own group.  As a result, handbags are a testament to the old mass market view where we all fit a demographic.

Contrast this with a woman’s experience online, where she can choose how her screen appears, what her username will tell others about her, what photos to post online to create herself, and how to build a virtual identity.  Many women have vibrant online personalities, each unique and distinctive.  With Yahoo’s new Shoposphere, users can even share shopping pick lists in Yahoo’s self proclaimed move from ecommerce to "me commerce." Online, individuality is awarded and celebrated.  But individuality is often at odds with the desire to belong to a group.  Most will agree it’s tough to stand out and fit in all at once.  So perhaps there is room for both – and there is a place for the aspirational mass personality.  If only it wasn’t symbolized by such ugly handbags. 

10 thoughts on “The Perfect Handbag”

  1. Hmm, the only handbag I had was gifted to me by my sis-in-law. Before that, I managed without one for about 30 years of my life! For two years I had this one handbag only untill yesterday. My husband bought one for me without my knowing.

    And Prada and Gucci? I am not even going anywhere near them, ever.

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  2. I love some designer handbags but not the ones that all look just a like. I want what most do not have. I am a dreaming handbag designer. I knit and felt 100% wool bags. At this time I can walk thru the mall and get lots of likes for my handbag which am carring, no one else has one. Hopefully that will change one day.

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  3. I agree with everything except the part about “real or fake”. Where I live (West Los Angeles), if you’re walking around with a fake bag, you’re being laughed at! It sucks and it’s totally superficial, I know, but hey you gotta adapt! haha. I can’t really afford to buy all the bags I want anyway, though. That’s why I rent them!

    Reply
  4. I would rather see someone buy a unique bag than a fake of any of the above. Obviously to pay that much for a handbag you are satisfying more than a need to contain and carry your essentials. However, when you see some of these handbags they do stand out from all of the others and I guess a person will too by association with their bag.

    Reply

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