Gifts and Personalized Purses
I don't know when "the switch" happened precisely, but I realized one day that I did not pick out my perfectly coiffed outfit then select a matchy-match, oh so perfectly accessorizing bag. It was actually the other way around.
I had actually wanted to use my recently acquired tote from Rediscover Handbags that shows my heart-throb, Han Solo on one side with the Millennium Falcon on the other. The famous "Once upon a time, from a galaxy far, far away" was on the bottom portion. I was going to a friend to watch a trilogy of Star Wars movies and wanted to show off my "I love those movies more than you do" mojo and accompanying swag. Wait. What? Isn't that supposed to go the other way around? Hasn't the social convention been that you pick out what you're going to wear first then choose your purse and the jewelry? Maybe, but purses, hand bags, satchel if you're in the UK, or even totes or sacks, have evolved in their utility, importance and placement in our lives.
I still remember my very first purse. I received it as a present on my 10th birthday from my best friend's mom, Wendy. It was a small pink leather purse, ever so feminine, probably 5 x 7-ish with a zipper across the top and another one on one side. I remember feeling oh so very grown up. I imagined myself to be a young woman that should be taken seriously because I had a purse like all the women. I kept that thing forever, finally throwing it out after the strap broke for the 17th time and would not stay together. The many ink stains and water marks made it useless anyway, I told myself as I threw it the garbage, feeling slightly like a piece of my childhood was being disposed of as well. When I was a teenager, I wanted to have a purse that everyone else in the "cool group" had, but maybe ever so slightly different, I didn't want to "copy them". And now, the evolution of its place in my life has changed again.
It got me thinking; what is it about purses that make them so desirable? So uber important? Is it their capacity to carry our things around? Could it be it is because they are the perfect accessory to our carefully selected outfits? Or as it was in my case that day, is it the art of it, the absolute communication of "this is who I am!"? Or maybe it's not that simple, maybe the answer is E; All of the above. Certainly, the need to shop comes into play, we don't always have the energy to wiggle into a pair of pants or have the time to think about whether this particular shirt will go with enough of our closet holdings to justify the cost. Purses are tempting because you don't have to "try it on", you just throw it on your shoulder, make sure the zippers work and figure out a way to justify the cost. I mean, we need purses, right? How else would we carry our stuff around? Might as well use something that tells people about our style and who we are, right?
I do know that purses have been a part of women's lives since the beginning of life itself. Since the dawn of time when we were still living in caves and gathering food, the women wove fibers together to take with them when they collected food and herbs. We then started using animal hides to wrap and carry items from cave to cave. That was pretty much it that we know of until late into the 1700s. By that time, almost everyone, even men, had little bags that held coins, often attached to a belt or tucked into a pocket. At that point they still were almost completely utilitarian, and had nothing to do with status or expression. Then of course Marie Antoinette and those at the French Court had to up the ante and started using velvet drawstring bags with embroidery to hold their gambling winnings or alms for the poor. That is probably the first instance of the "showing off" purpose of purses coming into being. It was a way to show culture and status.
In more modern times, also in Europe, Giuliana Camerino of Venetian Fashion House Fame, produced her own "status bag". In the mid-1940s, she started using hardware made by artisans and high-quality fabrics that usually were used only for clothing. In the 50's, Coco Chanel made a twist on the design of the clutch purse by putting a chain strap on it and made the purse look like the padding of jockey's jackets. Ms. Chanel was apparently a huge fan of horses and was routinely seen at the races. These iconic purses are still considered a staple item in the closets of a large swath of celebrities to this day.
For me, I think it's all of that. And it's also none of that. Obviously, purses are personal, we carry around intimate belongings inside. And yet they are also an advertisement of who we are, where we fit in the world. For me, purses present the perfect marriage of practicality and image. It is a form of self-expression, it is a piece of art. For me, each one possesses and holds certain private memories and yet also communicates to others my sense of self. We can one day use a purse to show how unique we are. The next we can communicate to which "group" we associate with our choice of designers.
In my view, I want to show off my uniqueness with my purse purchases. That is why I am so glad I found Rediscover Handbags Etc. They have selections that are all of these things. You can transmit to the world the expression of yourself. Those with sophisticated taste typically don't desire your run-of-the mill, everyone has the purse this season, type of bag. Rather, Rediscover Handbags exude a certain image of originality, urbanity, polish and sophistication.
You can telegraph intimate parts of what makes you, you. Their selections represent the ultimate in manifestations of "you-ness". Individuality is underscored as they can custom-make a purse just for you. They can turn a cherished item or idea into a memorable yet practical bag that will evoke a memory or feeling for a long time to come.
I first came across Rediscover Handbags when I was searching for Marissa's 19th birthday gift. Marissa is my step-daughter and oh so ever the fashionista. I have to admit, her sense of style was and is away sharper than mine and probably always will be. One thing Marissa is not, she is not a "fashion follower" she is a "fashion setter" so buying her a designer tote that a lot of other people had was not appealing to me. I wanted to get her something no one else would, something that said that I got her, something unique, one of a kind like she is.
So, I decided to turn her love of Marilyn Monroe into a tote when I stumbled onto the Rediscover Handbags website. It didn't take much convincing, I figured even if she didn't like it as a tote, she could use it as decoration in her room. In this way I could avoid the fear that the gift would be a "flop". I could always tell as during previous events, if she didn't like what I got her, she would politely thank me for it, then promptly bury in her closet the second the event was over. Not this time!
Well she loved it. Like, she really really loved it! She not only used it all the time, she was the envy of her friends. My gift was "the hit" of the day and the focus of discussion of her birthday party. She still uses it today, but has been reserving it for special occasions as she is worried it might be wearing out.
There is something so satisfying about finding that perfect gift, that perfect tote, for someone else and of course for yourself...Obviously, I had bought one for myself as well and noticed how many comments I got on my Beatles Abbey Road tote. It got me thinking further and now Rediscover Handbags is now my first stop when I have to buy something for an occasion. Talk about personalized gifts galore! It has made me famous among my circle of friends when ideas are needed. Certainly, the Rediscover Handbags website offers many already made, unique bags to choose from, but they can also custom make a purse or tote using virtually any record album cover or theater program.
Like when my friend Dave wanted to get something special for his 10-year wedding anniversary. He gave his wife a purse from Rediscover Handbags that had photos from their special day, and the lyrics to their wedding song on the bottom, as well as a copy of their vows along one side. He said her reaction was even better than he expected and it definitely had the desired effect. She was surprised, impressed, and was so happy with "his" thoughtfulness. He recently bought her a purse with playbills from Rent, the Broadway show as the theme because that's when they first realized they loved each other. He presented it to her for Valentine's Day and was immensely rewarded for his romantic notions. He said she usually was disappointed in the always to-be-expected flowers and chocolate that he normally (reflexively and obligingly) brought home to her. I still remember his eyebrows wiggling up and down as he told me how very happy, she had been.
I regularly buy purses and totes as gifts now and have shared this secret with my friends. One got put on the "cool mom" list because she got her teenager a tote with her favorite rock band on it. My friend Makena said it was the one time she enjoyed hearing Sienna's squeals of delight. Her daughter's friends were enamored and wanted similar totes with Lady Gaga and favorite singers. She said she fielded several calls from their moms as to the origins of this find.
Another friend bought her sister a tote bag with her favorite books the "Iliad & Odyssey" as the motif. My friend was tired of seeing her drag her books around in precariously-close-to-ripping plastic bags to her book club meetings. She knew the totes were stylish but also very sturdy. And yes, her sister loved it and is the envy of her various book/reading clubs. This same friend, fresh from success with her sister’s gift, got another one made for her mother who had lost her cat recently. "She loved the tote so much, she wouldn't stop crying," my friend reported, "honestly, I think she might even sleep with it".
The most often heard comment with these gifts is a sense of being touched, the feeling that you "get them", that you recognize and value their uniqueness. And it's nice to know that each item is lovingly made by hand to ensure that it is as unique as the person who receives it. It's the customization, the sense of exclusivity. For real, there is psychology behind this phenomenon. We as women use our accessories to show off how we value ourselves, and want to communicate that to others. That's probably part of the reason why purses and totes can mean so much to us. At least, that is my justification for now having four purses and two totes from Rediscover Handbags.
So, after all this thinking, I am feeling better about my choosing my bag first and then picking my outfit around it. I mean, I am practical, and it makes sense that I would first figure out how I am going to transport my belongings to my friend's film fest, right? And maybe I am indulging that little teensy-weensy part of me that knows that other people are going to be jealous and wish they had one too. And that, well that's ok, I am merely expressing myself.