Your Handbag and You – the Rest of the Story

Your Handbag and You – the Rest of the Story

There are many different approaches to choosing the right bag, and Tasi explores yet some more.

Just recently Denae Doyle talked about the perfect handbag for the transgender woman and helped to demystify the question on which handbag to carry. But like the infamous commentator Paul Harvey used to say, now “Here is the rest of the story.”
bags2bags1It’s more than which color makes your outfit pop or what length is best, or its size. We know large girls should not carry small purses, and large purses should not be carried on the hip making us look like a buffalo.

Now I don’t suspect that too many of us are carrying Louis Vitton or Prada bags. More likely the bag would have come from a thrift shop or big box store like Target -- up to and including some of the nicer mid-range brands like Coach or Fossel. But for sure our bag, like our shoes, reflects our personality. After all, you don’t leave home without it, and if you have bought a quality bag it will be with you for many years.

When I first started crossdressing in public, my wife gave me her old -- but still in good condition -- black Coach bag in a classic design. It's still my go-to bag when there’s not a special occasion (and even then sometimes). Then I have a straw bag for the summer, and a bright red slouchy-style bag when I want to be noticed -- or make a fashion statement!

So for sure, there is psychology involved in how we wear our favorite accessory (with no disrespect to you shoe buffs, but handbags represent 70% of sales at luxury goods houses).

Carolyn Asome wrote about what our handbag says about us in a recent London Times article - "they’re more than fashion items for holding things." She even makes a case for taste in bags being genetic, otherwise “Why are alligator leathers and jeweled styles favored by Arabs, why do the Chinese adore the color red and a bucketful of logos, and why are the Russians drawn to bags made from the softest nappa leathers (understated perhaps, but also exorbitantly priced)?”

Bags are not just a fashion item in which we carry keys, phone, wallet, and sometimes a complete makeup bag. According to personal stylist Annabel Hodin, handbags have become sartorial semiotic, a social signifier which is even more revealing than our choice of shoes, as well as “the accent that foretells the changes seasonally.” They have such significance in our wardrobe that one Crown Court judge in the UK lamented “men don’t understand their significance and that handbag theft should not be trivialized”, proof positive of their importance.

bags2I joke with my wife that she earned her college degree as a "CPS", Certified Personal Shopper. And as we enter a new season, women are poised to shop. Even in these recessionary times.

Handbags have never been more popular. The clinical psychologist Anita Abrams has a curious theory that harks back to mankind’s hunting/gathering stereotypes: “After many years observing the most successful presents I have given, I am baffled to note that boys and men tend to like anything that is vaguely phallic — umbrellas, pens or plastic swords — while girls love things that are womb-like, such as bags, baskets, things they can put things in.”

If you believe that your choice of a handbag is based on sensible criteria of form and function, you may want to think again. “Obviously it has to be practical,” Abrams says, “but the outside of your bag says plenty about the inside of our hearts. In earlier days, your choice spoke of conformity, now it is talking about your individuality.”

But it’s even more than that. It may be subconscious what if we told you that the way you hold your bag can tell us a little something about you? Now not everyone agrees with this, but we spoke with body-language expert Patti Wood to shed a little insight onto what it all means. Now, take a look at the graphic. What are you telling the world?

According to Wood, there are 10 distinct ways to hold your bag. Let’s take a look at the diagram. 

The Twofer — You hold your strapless bag in front of you coyly and cross your legs. You’re shy and defensive.

The Schlepper — You have tons of bags hanging off of you randomly stuffed with belongings. You’re disorganized, spaced out, and exhausted.

The Hands-Free — You wear a purse with a long strap and let it hang in front of what you’re wearing. Apparently, you’re youthful and nerdy.

The Arm-Crook Hook — You let your bag hang from your elbow joint, wrist flopping. You’re super famous and your bag probably cost a fortune. You’re just plain better than everyone.

The Baguette — Your arm cradles your purse like some warm French bread. You’re utilitarian: it’s what’s in the bag that counts.

The Third Arm Drape — Your purse hangs from a long strap down one side of your body. Different from the "Hands-Free" look because it hangs by your side, not your front. You lack awareness and control of your world.

The Armpit Vice — You’ve got a clutch shoved awkwardly in your armpit. Not good people, not good. You’re trying too hard and it isn’t working. That’s what straps are for.

The “I’ve Got a Bag Bitch” — Someone else is carrying your purse. You’re way too important for carrying stuff.

The Briefcase — You’ve ditched the strap and carry your bag at your side by the handle. You're all business.

The Thumb to Pit — Your tote-like bag hangs over one shoulder, and your fingers clutch the strap at your armpit. This is apparently very Carrie Bradshaw. You’re a street-smart city girl who knows to protect her stuff.

Is there any validity to all of these? There’s one woman whose style has been analyzed in forensic detail, Kate Middleton. Vogue recently published a “Katepedia” in their January issue, revealing that Kate holds her purse in front with two hands the majority (48 per cent) of the time, making her a “Twofer.”

Is Kate shy and defensive? Well, she is hounded by media 24/7, so perhaps Woods is on to something.

However, my wife’s style, and probably mine too, is the third arm drape, and I can assure you that lacking awareness and control of the world is not our style, quite the contrary. Still. It’s fun to watch the women in the street and at the mall. So go ahead and carry your bag as you wish. We won’t judge you, but not so with Woods.

Resources: Live Well Network and Refinery 29

Last modified onTuesday, 22 October 2013 09:48
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