FOR MANY WOMEN, myself included, shopping for new clothes is a perilous affair fraught with hidden terrors. You think you’re still a size 10 and find out in the dressing room that you’re not. Your feet have somehow grown, all the bras are teeny and every waistband cuts off your circulation. But shopping for a handbag is a different story altogether. In fact, if you can find a woman who does not jump at the chance to buy a new handbag, she’s likely in prison, in a coma or dead.
Today’s handbag mania is nothing short of an epidemic. The most obvious reason is that no purse, regardless of style, color or size, ever made anyone look fat. And even if you are obese, still every handbag fits perfectly without even trying it on. It’s the exact opposite of the bathing suit, the one article of apparel we all wish would die a painful death.
There was a time when the handbag was a drab utilitarian item– almost a necessary evil—that women carried to transport their essentials from the house to the market in town and back again. Parisian luggage-maker Louis Vuitton planted the seeds of today’s craze back in 1966 with his cylindrical Papillon bag, which is still wildly popular today. Soon enough, everyone and their mother had to get that bag, or die trying.
Fashion cravings being highly contagious, ultimately the “handbag bug” crossed the Atlantic and women everywhere were quickly infected. Also known as pursitis, for which there is no cure, it should not be confused with bursitis, a related condition involving inflammation of the shoulder, wrist or elbow, often the result of carrying too heavy a handbag every waking minute. (Some of the newer styles are laden with metal clips, chains, rings and other hardware, thus causing a literal pain in the neck.)
Circa 2014, anyone with a name and a label-maker can produce a line of designer bags. Be it hobo or shopper, cross-body or messenger, shoulder bag or satchel, anything and everything goes, and in certain circles, the more it costs, the better you feel. In fact, almost no price is too high for the perfect bag.
One example is the Hermes “New Birkin 30 Ostrich Bag,” which is available for purchase on eBay for $38,990. Made in a lovely cobalt blue, and with all its original tags, it costs the same amount as a brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee, but who can tell? After all, with so many knock-offs available on the streets of every major city, except for leaving the price tag dangling on your new Birkin bag, your affluence may go unappreciated.
That’s not the case with the Judith Leiber “Monogram Clutch,” yours for a mere $4,000. Hand-beaded in luxurious Austrian crystals, you can practically design your own unique bag right on the company’s website. Emblazoned with three initials (fourth letter, $500 extra) and your choice of colors and gemstones, it will get you noticed for sure. Besides those superstars there are plenty of other fabulous designer bags–the Kate Spades and Michael Kors and Tory Burches—but they all leave people guessing as to how much you really spent. Now here’s my idea to take the guesswork out of it: Moneybags, made out of actual money!
Crafted of currency instead of canvas, fabric or leather, when you carry a Moneybag, any math whiz–or even an ordinary person with a calculator—can tell at a glance exactly how much you’re worth. And really, isn’t that what it’s all about? For example, an inexpensive Moneybag would be made exclusively from one-dollar bills. These would be sewn together for the bag’s exterior and also used for the lining, so that the final cost for a small clutch would come in well under a hundred dollars.
A more expensive bag might use fives, tens and twenties on the outside and be lined with singles, while the “better” bags would use all fifties and hundreds. (Too bad the government stopped issuing thousand-dollar bills back in 1969.) As for bling, silver dollars will work nicely, and there’s finally a use for all those odd coins you came home with after your last trip abroad.
Naturally foreign designers would embrace the idea and take it international, producing a Moneybag crafted of euros, British pounds, Swiss francs, Swedish kronor, Japanese yen, Mexican pesos and Israeli shekels. The top of the line would boast a colorful mix of currencies, instantly telegraphing your higher status as a world traveler.
And finally, from a health standpoint, Moneybags would be much lighter than leather, canvas or vinyl, putting an end to that awful bursitis. Of course, you’d still have pursitis, but with the added benefit of telling the world, “Hey, look how rich I am!”
Andrea Rouda blogs at Call Me Madcap!