One woman’s exhaustive search for the perfect purse
Finding your very own "forever" bag isn't for the fashion faint of heart.
Although Nora Ephron titled an essay “I Hate My Purse,” in fact she didn’t – she’d actually found the perfect one: a blue-and-yellow-vinyl MetroCard tote that cost $26. “I’m very happy with it,” she wrote.
That’s what I wanted: a handbag I was happy with. For years, I’d been rotating the same few, mostly favouring a practical Marc by Marc Jacobs fabric tote – by “practical,” I mean it held a carton of almond milk and a pound of bananas, which matters to an urban woman without a car. But none of my bags felt right anymore. Or maybe I was bored with them. I would eye other women possessively clutching theirs and wish I had one I wanted to hold close every day. I was ready to settle down and find “the one.”
I was seeking the strong, silent type: black leather, large enough for daily errands but trim enough to take out to dinner, and no glaring logos, flashy hardware or witty words. What was inside counted too: pockets and a good lining. After all, a bag knows secrets. Its contents reveal the deeply personal: a Brilliant Ideas notebook and tear-stained tissues for when the Brilliant Ideas don’t pan out. Some say that how you hold your bag even reveals your character. (What’s your purse-onality?) If you hold it close to the body, you are insecure and likely to say “Sorry!” a lot, even if you’re not Canadian. If you carry it in the crook of your arm, you are a status-conscious show-off who demands “Hey, suckers, LOOK AT MY BAG!!!”
I began my search online, where it quickly became apparent that every bag I was drawn to was out of my league. “I need to take out a mortgage to buy a good handbag,” I complained to a friend of mine I call “The Fearless Fashionista.” “Don’t be silly,” she said. “You don’t own any real estate.”
Note: Prices of luxury goods have risen at more than twice the rate of inflation. This is because companies know that women will happily pay $3,000 for a purse.
“Try consignment,” suggested The FF, who once bought a used Balenciaga for $600. But did I want a bag that had belonged to someone else, that was tinged with another woman’s perfume?
On The FF’s urging – “You won’t find one sitting at home at your computer; you’ve got to get out there!”– I went store hopping every chance I could, encountering smooth pitches and one-liners (“It’s got this handy pouch on the outside!” For small bottles of liquor?) and rejecting many that just didn’t stack up ($350 and no lining?). I took a few back to my place, unsure how I felt about them but afraid they’d be snapped up if I didn’t make a move, and then returned them. The Longchamp and Strenesse bags? Nice but no connection. The Marc Jacobs messenger? Cute but just too…small.
“Size really does matter!” I told The FF. I needn’t have bothered. She’d just bought a Martin Margiela bucket bag that fit only her wallet and half a hairbrush.
At times, there was magic in the air. It was love at first sight with a brass-skull-padlocked Alexander McQueen on eBay, but its background was suspicious and it played hard to get with a $250 shipping fee from Russia. At the LXR&CO. vintage boutique in Hudson’s Bay, a Miu Miu satchel for $525 spoke to me; I couldn’t stop thinking about it. “You’ll have this bag for 10 years,” said the salesman. “It will never go out of style.” Hmm…I am looking for a long-term relationship. But the bows on each side? Eventually they would irritate me. “You can have them removed,” he said. Did I also hear him say “You women always want to change a bag!”?
Disheartened, I considered Nora’s anti-fashion bag style; mine would be black fabric from Loblaws and cost $1. Meanwhile, The FF kept trying to set me up. “Did you see the Loeffler Randalls?” Like but not love. “Check out the Rebecca Minkoff hobo online at Saks!” Too fringy. “Try AllSaints!” Oh, God. Nice bags but no spark. “Am I being too picky?” I wondered while humming “Someday My Purse Will Come.” “Does my dream bag even exist?”
Perhaps, when searching for “the one,” fate and timing are everything. At a designer resale store downtown, a Marc by Marc Jacobs had just arrived: It was black leather with brass hardware and just the right size, and it had the signature black/white MJ lining that eliminates the irritation of all-black linings. (Where ARE my pens?) It wasn’t perfect, but it was close; I was willing to start seeing it on a regular basis to find out if we had a future together. I wasn’t its first, but don’t we all have a little baggage?
I’m very happy with it.