Not quite an “it bag”

We’ve all heard about the “it bag” — the gaudy, blingy, overpriced-but-I’ve-got-to-have-it bag of the moment.

Your attitude toward the “it bag” may depend on your value system, budget, and/or personal political philosophy. To you, “it bags” may be odious symbols of excess and greed. Or, they may be shameful temptations, awakening deeply hidden desires. They might be valued wardrobe basics or temporary flings. Quite possibly, they are all of the above.  You may own one, several, or none.

For the record, I’ve never owned an “it bag.”  I am way, way, WAY too cheap.  And even if I weren’t, I’d be too worried about damaging an expensive status handbag.  Coffee spillage happens, you know, to say nothing of the toxic layer of lint, paper clips, cough drops and gum wrappers that always seems to spring up at the bottom of my handbags. However, I do love bags.  All kinds of bags.  I am always looking at new bags — floppy totes, classy satchels, you name it.

Fortunately, when it comes to bags, it takes very little to please me. There is absolutely no other explanation for this bag.

Yes, it’s a cheap cotton tote bag.  Yes, it’s from a bookstore.  We know that because it has a nerdy, book-centric slogan on the back:

That’s right: Books you don’t need, in a place you can’t find. This bag comes from a wonderful bookstore, hidden deep in the woods of Western Massachusetts.  Perversely, though, I rarely carry it in Massachusetts.

When do I carry it? Why, when I visit relatives in Southwest Florida, of course. How is it possible that, in a fairly tony beach town filled with sophisticated, well-dressed people, I feel impossibly chic carrying this bag?

I know this bag is not impossibly chic. I mean, OK, it’s black. But the chic-itude ends there. Yet I love, love, LOVE to carry this bag in South Florida resort towns.

Maybe there’s some part of me that wants to wear a big, glowing sign that says, “Yes, I love it here, but I am not from here. I am from the great frozen North, where we get lost in the woods looking for bookstores because it gets dark at 4:30!  So yes, I have white, pasty skin, but I am very well-read!  Do not judge me!”

Maybe I love it because it’s the anti-beach bag. It’s not made of straw. It’s not in a stereotypical, bright, beachy color. It’s black and white! Plain cotton! Unexpected! And it folds down to nothing, to be packed in a suitcase!

Maybe I love it because it’s so lightweight and easy to carry, while also having room for everything you need.  And I DO mean everything. In this bag, I have carried the following:

  • 1 water bottle,
  • 2 cans of sunscreen spray (because one always runs out, and you get no advance warning),
  • one novel, suited to beachside reading,
  • my wallet, because I might want to do some post-beach shopping,
  • one ziplock bag filled with essential beauty items (lip gloss, hair ties, and eye drops, among them),
  • not one, but TWO beach towels,
  • an assortment of beach-munching snacks,
  • a hat to block the sun,
  • a skirt to change into after leaving the beach, and
  • any incidental items that I happen to purchase while strolling through quaint, trendy beachside town.

Honest to God, the bag expands to fit whatever I want to put in it. And it never seems to get too heavy!  When I take items out, the bag seems to shrink, so it never seems too large to carry, even with few items.

I love this bag. And carrying it to the beach — followed by post-beach cute town strolling, shopping, and iced-coffee sipping–just makes me happier than words can express.

Yes, I know, it might not just be the bag.  It might be my location.  It might be the fact that I am, miraculously, spending time in a place where palm trees grow in January.  It might be the fact that I am, even more miraculously, not at work.  It might be the fact that, when I carry this bag, I have the freedom and flexibility to walk from beach to town, moving from sunbathing to shopping to restaurant dining, simply adding and subtracting items from the bag as I go.

But I think it’s also the bag.

Maybe I should try carrying the bag to work, just to see if it puts me in a relaxed frame of mind.

Nah.  I don’t want to break the spell of the uniquely joyful, beach-strolling vacation bag. I need to save this bag for occasions worthy of it. I need to make sure that, whenever I grab this bag, I immediately associate it with the feeling of shuffling along in flip-flops, fresh from the beach, sun and breeze tickling my bare shoulders, hair flying everywhere, and still feeling pretty enough to waltz into a cute cafe or restaurant and linger awhile. Pretty enough because the sun gives me a warm, glowing-from-within, free-spirited feeling that cannot be replicated by any cosmetic product known to humanity.

It’s a magic bag.  That must be it.

Do you have any truly special bags?  What powers do they have?  Do they change how you feel?  What do they say about you and your life?

About Anne @ The Frump Factor

Reflections on beauty and style, for women who weren't born yesterday. Bring your sense of humor and "Fight the Frump" with me!
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22 Responses to Not quite an “it bag”

  1. Terri says:

    It’s true! I have an entire collection of “green” bags that ARE very versatile. I know that for weekends at the lake, I can tuck my entire wardrobe into one. I read recently somewhere (was it the NYTimes) that some of these bags actually are collectible, because in some cases they are given out in limited editions.

  2. Serene says:

    Anne, I’m still looking for that PERFECT bag! I’ve always been a “pocketbook” (what it was commonly referred to in my youth) lover. I’ve enjoyed owning many purses, but now not as much. I tell my daughter all the time that one fabulous Louis Vuitton bag will last you a lifetime and look amazing with everything. Unfortunately, I don’t own one! So one of these days, I’m going to scour TJ Maxx for that perfect bag! Love your humble book bag and the story of your attachment to it! Isn’t it fun how our accessories can carry their own stories?!

    Thanks also for your comment on my post. Like you, I don’t think I appreciated my youthful appearance when I had it. I absolutely did not recognize it’s power. But thankfully, it has worked out for my good because now, as an adult, I don’t look back on those days with melancholy. I actually enjoy my appearance more now than I did then! Hugs to you!!! ~Serene

  3. Your bag is indeed magical – it reminds me of the tents in the Harry Potter books that look normal on the outside but hold dozens of people inside. I love your description of your Florida beach days too. Your writing really takes us along with you!

  4. winsomebella says:

    I hope you enjoy a nice warm weather vacation and your magical bag too.

  5. I’m not going to lie – the day I got my Louis Vuitton Speedy remains one of the top best shopping days of my life. I love that bag so much. I had been wanting one for years and finally splurged before I graduated from college. I would NEVER buy one today (hello, mortgage) but it remains my most favorite bag. Ever. 🙂

    • I find that very encouraging. I had hoped that some of these high end bags lived up to their price. It sounds like yours does! I get why bags are expensive, because the perfect one is worth its weight in gold.

  6. Katrina says:

    I just laughed SO MUCH reading this. You are such a rebel!
    All my bags are tote-sized, or they look that way after I shove 20 pounds of books and a huge water bottle in. Sadly, none of them are magic. If they were, they would have prevented all the mishaps, like the not-quite-closed water bottle leakage, the tripping over the straps airport incident, and the bird poop beach episode.

    • Hee! I think the straps on this bag may have, once, ALMOST tripped my seatmate on an airplane. And I’ve had many, many water leaking instances. Not yet on the bird poop, but I”m sure it will happen eventually!

  7. MaggieT says:

    I once had a cheap vinyl tote bag that I got free with a subscription to MS. Magazine. No matter how much stuff I had it it, I could reach my hand inside and immediately place my hands on my house keys. Now THAT’s magic!

  8. I love bags! Something I noticed at Christmas, was how many fun shopping bags were for sale! I would have one of each if I was extravagant! It would be fun to have a different one for different shopping experiences. Oh well, I do love my big bags and it is sometimes hard for me to decide which one I will go with…they do have powers!! Fun post!

  9. yearstricken says:

    It’s you that makes the bag classy. Great post.

  10. tamerakitten says:

    Love it!! I just can not imagine paying $500 for a purse!!! I have trouble shelling out $10!!!

    My favorite purse is one I rarely carry–it’s a small black wool crepe handbag that my great-grandmother got in the 1930’s.

  11. gingerR says:

    Our local government just instituted a “bag tax” on shopping bags to push everybody to reusable shoppping bags. I’ve got a little collection. It’s fun to buy one when you’re someplace new and then use it at the grocery. I try to keep my daily bag small because it gets heavy if I don’t and then my shoulder complains.

    When I first started working I saved up my pennies to buy a fancy handbag, and just a few weeks later got mugged. I always blamed that expensive bag for attracting that mugger. It’s LeSportsSac for me.

  12. Beryl says:

    My go to bag is a Burgundy Coach bucket that is older than my kids. I took it to France and felt fine about it. For Spring and Summer, I have a Yellow Coach bag. For totes, I like the Barnes and Noble ones – since they are strong enough for books. The bag I’m giving a rest to is a Dooney and Burke that is also over 30 years old. The funny thing about it is that I was first attracted to it because there was no logo of any kind on the outside, and today they are covered in logos.
    I totally agree with you about the two sunscreens. And two towels is always better. This was a fun post!

  13. Gail says:

    Oh yes! I have a whole collection of pretty little sequinny clutches in diffrent colours. Some of them have never seen the light of day. I just can’t resist them. And for my summer holiday, I always carry a straw basket with a pretty lining. Just seeing it makes me think of long summer days ahead.

  14. Paula says:

    lol anne–you always make me laugh! so true too—sometimes its just the novelty of an object that can make chci-itude! Are you enjoying the warm weather now? I will be shortly….can’t wait. No more wandering in the dark at 4:30 for me!

  15. Vale says:

    I am a bagaholic, I own a few designer bags but also like funny tote bags or just bags that remind me of something ! Yours seems to be very special. I sure take too many things in my bags, they all need to be very resistent and large ! LOL !

  16. Ariane says:

    Love reading you!
    I double bag, a cute fashionable but thrifted handbag plus these days an YWCA carry all bag.
    My carry all not so pretty bag says that i buy recycled clothing and all profits go to support activities at the Y.

    Pretty good i say!

    Ariane xxxx

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