Eulogy for the ‘IT BAG’:


Have you ever noticed the hint of panic and irritation that comes over a man when he has to look for something in his wife/girlfriend’s handbag? It is all too much of a mystery- a bit too overwhelming – This form of contemptuous familiarity tends to come with the distance of years - sometimes months-  from ‘the girl they once knew’. Think about it: what woman in her right mind takes a holdall or a rucksack on a first date?


Freud famously wrote ‘What does woman want? – usually the front door keys!


It’s not really that much of a leap from Pandora’s box to a Birkin. This is interesting stuff in terms of psychoanalysis and particularly in terms of gender because bags, like certain other accessories: shoes, hats etc., are signifiers of the ‘mysteries’ (from a masculine point of view) of female sexuality. The myth of Pandora’s box is a popular allegory for the ‘dangers’ of female sexuality desire etc. – obviously it is a tale told from a male perspective.


SO . . . without running the inevitable risk of being too literal about this!. . . a woman with a big bag . . . well . . . she might just be a bit to powerful and dangerous – what in psychoanalytic terms is called phallic. A woman with a nice neat little clutch containing a lipstick a powder puff and enough money for a taxi home is the woman who conforms to your notion of being nice with emphasis on the nice. She is a neat and organised person who is, on the one hand, in control and on the other unthreatening to the opposite sex in a way that a woman with a briefcase containing and even more powerful laptop than theirs might be.


The image of a women as someone in control of herself, as opposed to anyone else, and thus rather unthreatening and also with not too much to hide (as in baggage) is really a pre-feminist model of what a woman is supposed to be, typical perhaps of the 1950’s with its small handbags containing a hanky and a compact and a bit of 'mad money' worn neatly in the crook of the arm.


This fits alongside the corseted and prim fashion revival of the last four or five years, now on the wain thanks to the 80's revival. Apparently ailments of the elbow joint aggravated by the carrying of handbags have gone up tenfold in the last few years. Compared to this image of the stylish bag carrying woman, the woman who lugs around a great tote full of junk or an ugly. unfeminine ruck-sack is either itinerant: not a settler wife and mother, in the sense of hippy dippy freedom from ties and commitments be they sexual, economic, or domestic, or just down right uncontrolled and uncontrollable – ergo male terror when faced with the danger of the cavernous and cluttered handbag.


From a much more straightforward psychological perspective I would say that the junk you weigh yourself down with reflects anxieties about need, possession and coping in the big wide world. Anxieties about separation from home: the unconscious maternal space or more literally your nice semi-detached residence in Fulham. This is obviously also based on fear of being left without something for any and every eventuality as well as laziness about having to decide what you actually do need.


As a final point re. styling: the bigger you are the bigger the bag you can carry off without looking odd. Smaller bags suit small people and, I am afraid, they seem to have related psychological effects on viewers. People all to often assume small women (I mean in the sense both of height and width) are neat feminine and take up less space in the world and big ones are frankly slovenly and/or a bit masculine and threatening and their bags reflect this accessorising malaise. They bash you on escalators. Actually it is likely that the real uberwoman of the future would produce her diamante clutch from inside the giant tote bag or ruck-sack. This would be the ultimate work-to-evening coup de grace, the accessorising equivalent of Superman ripping open his suit in a phone box.



We are interested in your love

We are interested in your love /hate/confused/indifferent relationship with fashion.

We are interested in the tangle of potential emotions that arise when you open your wardrobes or when your partner is standing at the bottom of the stairs checking the time.

We are interested in 'what your mother wore' and in 'those itchy trousers she forced you into' . . .

We are interested in how you abuse or cosset the 'rags' that are the visible components of your public 'youness'.

We are interested in the 'differences' you have with your children, spouses or friends over clothes.

We are interested in the way you compete (or don't) in the tough world of skin deep appearences. . .
and we are absolutely fascinated by the agendas, the vanities, the compulsions and the sheer self indulgent pleasures of 'dressing up' every single day.

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