The eter­nal quest for the per­fect purse.

Find­ing the per­fect bag isn’t for the fash­ion faint of heart. BY JANE BOYD

ELLE (Canada) - - In­sider - By Jane Boyd

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 sta­tus­con­scious 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 All-Saints!” 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. n

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