Despite having written emphatically about the unattainable pressures placed on women today, I am still out here trying to live my best life. I want to workout four times a week, eat well, drink two litres of water day and spend my money on items and experiences that are truly fulfilling. On top of that I’m trying to be sustainable, avoid plastics (eugh BPAs) and sis has still got to earn some cash dollar. Looking at that in black and white emphasises how nigh-on impossible that is.
But hey ho, no alternative. I am tired of having a Fjallraven backpack for my gym kit, a canvas bag holding my lunch and coat pockets stuffed with my purse and phone. It’s not cute and it’s not efficient. I’m making a change and am on a mission to find the perfect handbag.
The Perfect Handbag: Colour
Black, obviously right. For most people this is a no brainer but I love colour. My wear-with-everything trench coat is bright yellow. And black has a tendency to kill bright looks. Yellow and black takes me back to ‘04 when it was acceptable to wear blue or black jeans and a coloured top matched to your hairbands, belt and shoes. No thanks. I think navy serves as a better neutral to pair with bold colours, it looks chic with hard to wear shades and even better with black.
So, navy right? Well, no, I am going for black because I’ve recently decided to build a work wardrobe of majority black items to simplify weekday dressing. I never thought this day would come but I’m tired of the morning sagas; trying to coordinate all these hues, look professional and be mobile is draining. A work uniform is good for business and means more brain space for important decisions according to Steve Jobs and Barack Obama . I just wanted to take this little detour to stan for navy, it’s hugely unappreciated.
The Perfect Handbag: Fabric
I’ll tell you this for free, it ain’t gonna be leather. Nor vegan leather. Large leather bags are heavy, by the time I’ve loaded one up with my kindle, makeup bag, glass lunchbox and water bottle I might as well be competing in the World’s Strongest Woman heats. First challenge; carry weighted handbag while navigating human traffic between Bond Street and Kingly Court without losing your temper. Predicted grade: Fail. Another strike against leather is the wear and tear. I’m sure someone somewhere loves the way leather wears and softens. I don’t. It’s great in a jacket or a too tight pair of shoes. But on a bag it just looks like the thing has collapsed in on itself. The colour wears away in the corners and scratches appear after been pressed up against someone’s belt buckle at rush hour. I love scuffs on leather bags the way I love creases in my Air Force 1s. So no, not leather. What I need is a light, durable fabric that, is easy to clean. Ideally wipe clean… Hello nylon.
The Perfect Handbag: Compartments
The Longchamp Le Pliage is ubiquitous for a reason, it’s lightweight, classic in style and folds away. It’s so popular that it comes up third on a Google shopping search for ‘perfect handbag’. For this reason, I had resisted it. I was determined to find something the same but different, something unique. I’ve since decided that being ‘unique’ isn’t worth the required research. The hard work has been done by the masses and I’m going to reap the benefits. I asked around and the best option is the large shopper, with the long handle. The short handle option is cuter but impractical. Sorted. Then I discovered that the bag has one internal pocket. A small one. Where am I supposed to put my headphones? My purse? My travel card? My building pass? Lip balm, a pen?* Sorry, Longchamp, we’re incompatible.
*There is some debate about the placement of these items. Personally, I don’t keep my oyster and building pass in my purse because of card clash. I can’t keep my pen and lip balm in a pouch as I need quick access for my dry lips and the morning crossword. Scoff all you like, but a woman’s handbag is her castle and I’ll not be swayed.
Instead I have found the Prada nylon tote and we will walk off into handbag heaven together.
Ha! I wish. The fabric is right, it’s got a shoulder strap and a timeless utilitarian aesthetic but it retails at £710 and has only one interior pocket. A small one. See above for my issues with that shortcoming.
The Perfect Handbag: Doesn’t Exist
It’s not out there folks. I have searched and I have contemplated. My solution, two bags. I’ll buy the Longchamp shopper for my bulkier goods and have a mini bag for my small essentials. I’m evolving from Bag Lady to Two-Bag Betty, it wasn’t what I was going for but it’s the best I’ve got while I try to source a Mary Poppins carpet bag (I’m not hyperlinking that for obvious reasons. If you need a reference I’ve got questions about your childhood).
I’ve realised that there is no perfect handbag for modern life. Maybe I’m asking for too much or maybe capitalism is directly at odds with wellness and sustainability? Maybe these modern principles are completely incompatible with corporate success and the associated throwaway culture?
Plenty of worldly philosophical questions that need answering but right now I’m looking for a small crossbody bag, zip or popper fastening (fiddly buckles need not apply) with at least one interior compartment and an exterior pocket. Gold hardware preferred. I’ve curated a wishlist of contenders below but feel free to @ me or slide in my DMs if you think if you’ve got the perfect handbag.
The Perfect Handbag Phase 2 Wishlist
Wandler Hortensia Mini – £560
She’s got curves, she’s easy to open, she’s got internal and external pockets. She’s also sold out. My eyes loves the shape, my bank account screams “impractical”. A rule to live by: the rounder the bag, the less room for your stuff.
YSL Mini Vicky – £1,075
Getting wild with an external pocket at the front on this titchy number. Alas, it offers an internal card slot rather than a compartment and I think it’s bit too nighttime flashy for an everyday bag.
Loewe Barcelona Bag – £1,950
Easy buckle and magnetic fastenings, interior pocket, exterior slip pocket at back. I love the timeless understated style. The only question is it too small or just small enough to make me travel light?
Chloe C Bag – £1245
Magnetic closure, interior zip pocket, exterior slip pocket at back, plenty of room, top handle. I’m not sure about that big ole ‘C’ but this is as close to my crossbody of dreams as I can find.
Words by Akilah Cohen