In my last post, I wrote about our favorite Buckle Shoe, and included a picture of Carlene Cerf de Dudzeele's beautiful closet that had been in my head for 20 years. Not only did she have that killer lineup of flats… she also had a row of well-loved, well-worn handbags. From what I could see, mostly Chanel and Hermès (bien sur - she is French.) More collectibles that delight and deliver. Front and center were her Mangeoire bags… originally designed to mimic a horse feed bag with a handle that goes over the head, behind the ears! Some of them even had rope handles for a little extra farm authenticity I suppose. Sadly Hermès discontinued this style ages ago, although you can find some previously loved ones on resale sites… or even the original inspiration at your local pet supply store. (Between horsetacknow.com and chewy.com… I am sort of dying.)
My own version of this – a way more minimal version, in a few ways – is our Paola bucket bag. It took a few seasons of iteration to get it exactly right. We had a great one four or five years back that we called the Merendina – Italian for 'snack.' The name was because it was small and adorable but now that I think about it… could be my own feed bag. A handle over each ear. Not big enough for an entire lunch (no room for a thermos) but an apple and a scone and maybe a can of Coke would fit perfectly.
The Paola is like the completely pared-down version of the Merendina. It's got raw edges on the handles so it feels a bit utilitarian, and way less precious. That part was important to me because I wanted it to be reasonably priced. That way, you could justify having more than one. The assortment is sort of designed for that, anyway… Lan, our head of design, calls this quality "jellybeany": colorful and cheerful enough en masse to make you want to collect them all. Don't get me wrong - I am all for an investment piece. (I say this all the time, but investing in things that you touch multiple times a day, whether it is a handbag or a faucet handle, is so so worth it.) Still, to me, this style shouldn't cost a fortune. It almost defeats the point. It's a feed bag, after all! A chic feed bag, but farm-inspired all the same.
The size is another key for me. It is meant to carry, of course, but small enough to not tempt you to carry too much! Phone, wallet, keys, makeup bag, pencil pouch, mints, candy… all the essentials, but it is exactly tiny (and soft) enough that you can stuff it in your tote bag when the flight attendant asks you to "consolidate" down to "just one personal item." An important balance.
In true jellybean fashion, I have collected a few over the years. My first was giraffe-printed pony, and next came the zebra. I have this awesome tan suede one with long fringe that I like to wear when I go all-out Western (which I do a lot – stay tuned for more on that.) There is a leopard one that I inherited when it didn't pass QC. A delight – my very favorite things are what Lands End used to call the NQPs. Not quite perfects. But of course now I am eyeing more because the lineup right now is especially great. I love love love the idea of the brights to kick up the all-navy or all-grey looks I often find myself in during the drearier parts of the winter. I just scooped up the marigold yellow suede to do just that.
And again, this goes back to the not-so-precious thing. You want to be able to change it up a little bit. I am not someone who can switch out my things in a big way each day to match my purse to my outfit.. but I do love grabbing a new bag as a pick-me-up every few days or so. Or for evening… the metallic one is perfect for that. Or when I am wearing my leopard shoes and my bag happens to be zebra or python and I don't want to look like a wild game woman. (I did that last week when I ran out the door for an early flight and realized too late that I was over-animaled.) There is a shearling one that looks like a pet on your arm… like a little lap dog that never makes any noise or needs any attention. I carried it in chocolate brown all last winter. It was great when it rained or snowed… no water spots, just dense shearling that seemed to repel the water like a true farm animal. Totally practical. The next one I really want, I think, is the bright green… I don't have a leather one yet, and the color is FUN.
Actually, the purse itself is kind of a purse for fun. The tote bag – the one you might squish it inside before boarding that plane – is for business. Not that I am sad looking inside, but mine is filled with things from my last trip that I didn't get to. Printed Amex bills to review… my calendar with notes and sad faces scribbled during more frustrating meetings… to-do lists with not enough things crossed out. If I'm lucky, maybe a snack or two, but the little bag of Delta Cheez-Its would be crushed by now from all the paperwork on top of them. All of it needed, but not so fun. But the Paola, on the other hand… money? Phone? Lipstick? All the good stuff. What's not to delight? And now that you have the feed bag visual in your head, you might delight in that part too. And a little fun is what we all need right now.