My wedding anniversary is coming up. I have my eye on an unnecessarily expensive handbag which is going to subliminally inform the world that I am a grown up, sophisticated woman who knows her Hermes Birkin from her Chanel Flap Bag.
It’s possible that it will also shriek, ‘This woman is an idiot who’s been seduced into spending money she doesn’t have on a luxury product she doesn’t need.’
In fact it will definitely say that.
I can’t help it. I’ve always loved a good bag.
Perhaps it’s because I was at school with the girl who went on to become Anya Hindmarch, Handbag Designer.
Back then, she was just plain Anya (though to be honest, there was never anything plain about her) whose dad flogged plastic stuff for the garden.
What she knew, and her dad perhaps didn’t tap into quite as well, is that women will pay almost anything for something they think makes them look good.
A stylish, leather handbag will always make you look good.
A plastic planter or patio tub, not so much (though I guess it depends on how you wear it).
The purchase of a handbag is not like any other fashion purchase.
You don’t have to postpone it until you’ve reached a certain weight and it isn’t going to look better if you drop a dress size.
It’s always going to look good and by association, you’ll feel you do too.
Plus, you can convince yourself that it’s actually a financial investment. And who doesn’t want to make a sound one of those?
Anya was given a Gucci bag for her sixteenth birthday. Those of us for whom the word Gucci came direct from a Sister Sledge lyric, could only marvel at it.
Suddenly she belonged to the world of Halston, Gucci and Fiorucci while the rest of us were languishing in the revolving doors at Debenhams, Chelmsford.
I knew then that a good handbag spoke volumes.
At university I had a black leather drawstring bag I’d bought on Camden Market.
It was capacious and stylish and I could pack loads of stuff into it. Enough stuff to see me through a weekend in St Albans visiting a merchant seaman, who’d no idea I’d planned to stay. (The right bag will help you build a relationship, you see.)
Since then, I’ve invested in a number of bags which have seen me through my evolution from student to Executive Youth.
I even managed to bag myself (apologies) an Anya Hindmarch deer skin tote in a sample sale at Harvey Nichols back in 2006.
At that point I had two small sons, and that prized bag was filled with bits of Lego, wet wipes, a small spanner set, emergency pants (my younger son had us all on a knife-edge when it came to emptying his bladder), first aid essentials, Fruit Winders (to keep them quiet), packets of Pom Bears (for when the fruit winders were rejected), a number of adventurous soft toys along for the ride and my own stuff: purse, phone, lipsalve, tissues, Ibuprofen, emergency pants of my own.
These days, there are still familial demands made of my handbags.
“Put that in your bag, will you,” says my husband as he offloads his wallet, giant set of car keys and his glasses case.
“Why don’t you use that bag I bought you?” I ask. “Lots of men carry man bags now.”
His reasoning, whenever I ask this, is the same. “I might need to run at short notice.”
I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve concluded that he’s got the following scenarios in his head:
- Emergency evacuation following gas attack at the fish counter in Waitrose.
- Traffic Warden aversion dash.
- Man short at the Arsenal.
None of these, in my opinion, is a reason for him to store his accoutrements in my bag.
However, I shall be using this to my advantage because obviously, I need a new bag. A slightly bigger one to accommodate these added demands.
I’ve shown him the one I have in mind.
“Bloody hell. May I remind you that you’re not on the BBC high earners’ list!” He snorts.
At which point I bring to mind the words of my father’s tailor who allayed his guilt at buying expensive suits by telling him, ‘Sir has got to want to wear it.’
“And may I remind you,” I say, looking my husband straight in his shortsighted eyes, “that Madam has got to want to hold it.”
And that goes for so much more than the bloody bag.