Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What Not To Carry

A Woman Of the Cloth writes in to ask PeaceBang to comment on the mysteries of the Bag, and the issue of purses and briefcases.

PeaceBang feels quite certain that if "Woman" googles this blog, there are some existing posts on purses and bags she might enjoy (PB is quite technophobic and has no idea how to create a blog with categories, although would love to for BTFM). However, since it's come up again, and it is shopping season for next fall, let's gather 'round the PeaceBang campfire and talk about bags, boys and girls!

What Not To Carry:
1. Freebie bags with the names of Good Causes on them.
2. Dirty canvass totes with the adult equivalent of Rainbow Brite or My Pretty Pony graphics on them (e.g. Celtic Knot Logo, Reading Woman With Cat, Save the Whales, Powdermilk Biscuits).
3. Anything straw: too beachy. Unless you're at the beach.
4. Purses and bags made of cheap, shiny fake leather or pleatherette.
5. Anything floral, unless it's very chic and you're wearing an entirely tailored outfit, and even then, I'd be careful. PeaceBang has a fabulous floral bag she bought at the Gap this spring, but it's brown and turquoise and has a braided leather handle, so it's more rock-and-roll than preppy princess.
6. Overstuffed purses that don't zipper because you've jammed them too full. Nothing makes a pastor look more scattered and disorganized than plopping an over-stuffed, gaping purse on the floor at a meeting.
7. An egregiously boring business briefcase.

A few tips:

Shop, shop, shop! Go to T. J. Maxx or Macy's or somewhere else they sell a huge variety of bags and try them on to assure they're a good size and color for you. NEVER buy a bag on looks alone; it should be the right scale for your body and if it's going to function as a briefcase equivalent, it has to be strong, sturdy AND look good on you.

PeaceBang's bags almost all have enough of a strap that she can use them as a shoulder bag, as she hates not having her hands free to greet people, to open doors, or to grab a cup of coffee on the run. Since she has chunky upper arms that are rendered even chunkier by the presence of a coat or jacket, all her purses and bags need to have generous straps. She tries all of her bags on first and carries them around in the store before purchasing. She is very serious about this and can be seen tramping about Marshall's or T.J's two or three times a year with as many as seven bags flung about her person, grimly heading for the mirrors to do the work of discernment. When she dies she will undoubtedly haunt people in this Jacob Marleyesqe* spector, banging purses about herself instead of chains.

Scale is important! If you're chunky, don't carry a petite purse with a tiny strap. It will make you look larger. If you're tiny, don't dwarf yourself behind one of those mega-hobo bags. Leave that look to Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen or Kate Moss.

Hobo bags, since we're talking about them, are all the rage but not really the best choice for a minister. Ministers want something with a cleaner line than a mushy bag with a drawstring opening, but not something so tailored that it's dullsville. PeaceBang would like to put every navy leather purse into a huge pile and have a bonfire for that very reason. NO MORE NAVY! Get something in rich, poppy orange or -- very big this season -- a classy metallic! Gads, how many brown... leather... purses.... oh, excuse me, just thinking about brown leather purses put me to sleep.

PeaceBang has her suspicions about dull brown, but she truly loathes navy purses. There is never any reason to carry a navy leather purse. Have you ever seen a navy cow? You can forgive your grandmother for her navy purses, as she didn't have as many options as you have. Navy is DOWDY. If you wear a lot of navy, carry a taupe bag, or a black bag. Carry a silver bag, or a red bag. Carry an orange bag, or a screaming acid green faux croc bag, or a Carry a Hello Kitty bag, for the love of Jairus' daughter. Let your bags have some whimsy and life to them. And no darling, your bag does not have to match your shoes.

Of course for ladies there is the issue of carrying the laptop and the papers AND the girlie items. PeaceBang is very partial to Nine West, which tends to offer inexpensive bags like in fashionable styles that can function as purse and briefcase. She has a favorite mock-croc bag in cordovan with nice sturdy straps within which she can carry her computer, her bag of cosmetics, her wallet, a book or two, file folders, her cell phone, her i-Pod and a bottle of water. Yes, it gets a little overstuffed. If that's the case, she pops one of her little rock-and-roll purses over her arm for the wallet and make-up and phone and carries the bigger bag in her hand. At times, if the big bag can fit it, she pops the little purse into THAT so she can leave the big bag in the car for quick runs to the store or into people's homes, or out on a date, if she should ever have occasion to go on a date again in her lifetime, but I digress...

PeaceBang does a lot of bag switching, which she understands is not everyone's choice, and she sympathizes. You do not need to switch bags constantly, but you do need at least one classy, strong, clean, presentable briefcase-equivalent and one lovely, classy, interesting, suitable, fashionable purse. Tiny formal clutches stay in season decade after decade, but purses do not. If your purse dates back to 1987, update it. If it's a classic Coach or some other brand with timeless gorgeousness, check the straps to make sure they're not frayed, and clean and oil the leather and the clasps once in awhile to keep it prime as it ages.

For all the reasons mentioned above, PeaceBang does not recommend shopping for bags online. You've got to see how they work on your body, and bags have a nasty habit of looking rich and delicious on line and showing up in the mail looking like the on-line bag's scrawnier, tackier first cousin.
You DO have time to shop for bags, and you SHOULD. It's fun, it's therapeutic, you can try on thousands of them and never take your clothes off, and it's a great way to clear your mind between draining pastoral visits.

Let me know how you do! And give those navy bags to the church fair already!

* you should know that the original post said, "Bob Marley." Alert reader Zorra corrected me, and gave me one of the only genuine laughs of the day, bless her heart. - P.B.


Blogger zorra said...

Um, did you mean Jacob Marley?

Although my visual of Bob Marley's ghost trailing seven large handbags is pretty entertaining.

9:41 PM  
Blogger PeaceBang said...

BWA HA HA HA HA!!! Zorra, best laugh I've had all day, and it's been a SHITTER of a day. Thank you, and thank you for the mental image of me with dreds and a huge doobie, dragging purses all over myself in the afterlife. I'm going to change it, but you and I know how great that first mistake was. Bless your heart.

9:57 PM  
Blogger Rev. Sean said...

no, no..don't change it PB. it's much better this way.

I was having such crappy day myself, but this mental image brought me real JOY!

Please, be humble and let your creative genius speak for itself.

10:04 PM  
Blogger Christine Robinson said...

My purse and shoes don't have to match? Liberation!

11:28 PM  
Anonymous jinnis said...

Please say more about the relationship between shoes and purse. I'm still new at the purse/female professional with bag thing and the degree of coordination (or lack thereof) with the shoes is a mystery to me.

11:32 PM  
Blogger Aola said...

I have tucked my tail between my legs and am now going in to throw away my cheap leather bag....

11:34 PM  
Blogger ms. kitty said...

Hey, I have an acid green canvas messenger bag with a hot pink strap which has been incredibly useful all spring, but it doesn't fit anywhere in your descriptions of what's cool. Does it sound just too campy? or is it okay to use it until the tan one from LL Bean arrives?

11:43 PM  
Blogger Caroline Divine said...

Yes, Nine West is cool. They make (or used to make, I got it years ago) dandy little black mini-backpacks that aren't dowdy and are the size of a regular purse but hold all kinds of things including a Franklin Planner and makeup kit and checkbook and glasses and wallet and handkerchief and tissues and even the compact-size Book of Common Prayer, and their advantage at Big Meetings and such is that the thing stays (discreetly and lightly and fairly elegantly) on your back, so you have both hands free.

I do have a fab brown leather purse from France and it is classy classy and nothing like Boring Brown, you have never seen such beautiful, shiny leather, and it's a shoulder bag and a great shape. Main problem: not the color; too small to fit the Franklin Planner (and no, I won't switch to a PDA, for reasons with which I won't bore all y'all) (did you know the proper plural of y'all was "all y'all"?)and various other things, so I don't use it much. Alas.

Hobo bags look dreadful; at least on me. What looks "slouchy" according to the fashion magazines' description, always on skinny 17-year-old models with slender skirts and no derriere, just looks messy and dowdy on me. So I've never bought one. Oops, I take that back. I have a sort of hobo black leather bag in my bag box, from my younger days, and I keep thinking "I might use it, it's the right size," but I really should give it away. It will make someone very happy at the local Goodwill. (Oh -- another source of bags, and other things: church and synagogue rummage sales. You gotta pick the right ones, but you can find fabulous stuff there.)

Speaking of bag box -- storage is an issue, no? The bags I use often these days are in a drawer inside my coat closet near the door. The others are in a long plastic bin that fits under a bed and is wide enough so the bags aren't all piled on top of each other and I can make a quick choice if I decide to go forage in there in a hurry.

Sometime, PB, could you address issues of storage? Because where to put all this stuff (even as we commit ourselves to Simple Living and do not accumulate or consume too much -- in any case better a few classy pieces of whatever than a huge clutter of Stuff) is probably an issue for most of us.

Oh, and do clean canvas bags with American Academy of Religion logos count as correct bagwear? I don't mean instead of a purse, I mean when you have a purse and you need to carry a bunch of folders to a meeting or a service. And are you saying that even in a UU setting, an NPR bag doesn't cut it? (No, I don't own an NPR or local station bag, but I thought I'd ask, since I bet this crowd contributes to their local public radio station. You DID send a check during the latest pledge drive, didn't you?)

One of the best bags I ever saw: leather briefcase-ish thing that had straps to turn into a backpack, was not bulky, was not boring, was made of gorgeous leather, and was going for well over $100, natch, so I just lusted after it since I was a Very Broke Ph.D. Student when I saw it, but I went back twice to look at it and I still wish I'd gotten it. But there was no money, so that was that.

Vegetarian bags? Leather vs. non-leather? Paper or plastic -- er, I mean canvas or linen vs. synthetic? Or do we care?

One more thing (sorry to be so long-winded all the time, I've been wanting to discuss the concerns of this blog since before you were born and I am just overjoyed about the presence of this forum) -- re: online bag sources. I LOVE e-bags. Have gotten great computer bags there (one briefcase, one backpack) and would get a purse there if it were one I had a) seen and tried on in another store and could purchase online more cheaply b)couldn't get in a store 'cause I didn't have access to stores (this happens when we are in outlying areas with no transpo, which can happy when one is Very Very Broke and In a Place with Lousy Bus Systems or when The Car Is In A Coma) or c)knew would be an okay shape because I knew what shape worked for me and it was just the same. One example would be if I went on and saw that Nine West was still making that little black backpacky purse that is of wonderful non-skimpy fabric and I have now worn into the ground, and e-bags carried it. I'd get it. Plus, it saves time, and if you hate shopping (which some of us do even though we like wearing nice stuff) or hate malls, there are a few things that don't need trying on.

Okay, now you can admonish me ;-).


Caroline Divine

12:40 AM  
Blogger Caroline Divine said...

Online places:


and I just found this, for handbags at deep discount:

and even deeper discount

(Problem with that last one is, you can't just get one, 'cause it really is a wholesale place and there is a minimum purchase. Damn. Bag buying club anyone? You know, like one of those old food purchasing co-ops.)

And on that last site, friends... Lookie! Definitely NOT minister bag material, but on days off? The Betty Boop Bag! Yes, boys, for you too!

Caroline Divine

1:52 AM  
Anonymous ppb said...

Well, Rev. Bang, I do enjoy your commentary---have been trying not to comment, since I've sent too many colleagues your URL.

On the frequent bag switching thing, I must confess to being a switcher, too (which does add to that aforementioned storage issue), but I have solved the "how do I move all the stuff from Bag A to Bag B" conundrum.

Timbuktu makes these lovely little pouches--sort of like pencil cases, only very sturdy with one clear side and three canvas ones. I have an orange one that I have named CVS, and a red one named Staples. CVS has lip gloss, tylenol, combs, and the like in it, and Staples holds the business cards, pens, etc. Every day I pick a bag to go with my (undoubtedly substandard) look, and throw CVS, Staples, phone and my wallet in.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Musings said...

What about Vera Bradley bags? Do they make the cut? I tend to carry a large one to work to keep all the folders and papers I'm working on together.

10:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a 26 year old pre-MFC post-div school almost-minister. With absolutely sincere apologies to Caroline Divine, I feel very strongly that a minister should never wear a backpack. Even if said backpack is small and leather and supposedly fashionable. 1: Backpacks are for kids to bring books to school. Period. 2: they are ugly. And, they are OUT. Have been for years. Those little "fashion" backpacks should only be seen on 13 year olds.

A backpack can never, ever be elegant. A shoulder bag can hold makeup, planner, little book, phone, pens, etc and stay discreetly and fashionably on one's shoulder, where it belongs, leaving hands free. I am *really* sorry to be down on your bag, Ms. Divine, but if you were my friend and standing right in front of me, I would say, I think it is time to make a switch. Then we could go bag shopping which is really fun.

Hmm. I obviously feel a lot more strongly about backpacks than I ever realized. This is probably because as a young woman of the cloth, I fear getting identified with as my parishioner's college age kids, so I have to draw a really hard line on the professionalism of my appearance. Or maybe the idea of those tiny backpacks is giving me a bad acid flashback to when I was in middle school, when they were all the rage. Eesh.

I have a all-purpose black leather/high-quality fabric bag from Ann Taylor that fits everything: laptop, makeup, tissues, pens, phone, planner, etc. Before that, it was a wonderful DKNY bag that went kaput after 4 years. I also have a classy kelly green suede/chocolate brown snakeskin/silver details bag that holds way more than it looks like it can (makeup, book or two, toddler, etc). I also have an all-purpose bright orange leather small shoulder purse that surprisingly goes with everything and gets compliments all the time. The green and the orange are thanks to a going-out-of business sale at April Cornell earlier this year--bags were 80% off! And of course, I have a straw bag for the beach. Now, for summer, I may be incurring PB's wrath, let's see: This summer I purchased a structured, rectangular, reinforced canvas bag made by Cross (as in the pens). It is bright turquoise with brown line drawings of flowers. It has a brown leather shoulder strap, leather handles, and an orange strap and leather closure. It fits laptop, planner, books, makeup, etc. My black bag is just too dark for summer. This one has personality but also looks, thanks to the structured sides and leather strap, professional, in my opinion. But it is canvas and it does have flowers...gasp! Am I truly in the wrong here?

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Sarah Dylan Breuer said...

I tend to carry woefully unfashionable (unless you happen to be about 15 years younger than I am) but supremely practical bags. I've been using a black Timbuk2 Metro bag for the past few years, but it's finally (and after MUCH abuse) wearing out, so I think I'm going to go for a large cafe bag from Tom Bihn in plum/wasabi. Now that I'm a journalist (I edit The Witness magazine), I often have to have a reporter's notebook and digital camera right at hand on top of my other necessities (e.g., wallet stuffed with receipts, hair brush, Treo, bottle of Excedrin), and I need something that will hold all of it.

12:22 PM  
Blogger PeaceBang said...

Quickly I reply:
Jen, I would think that bags and shoes should harmonize in terms of scale and style. You just have to feel it out. I like to match stitching on bags with stitching on shoes, or do round-toe pumps with a cute little cow-motif bowling bag from France, or red shiny bag with black sensible shoes. Try different combos. Try not to do sensible bag and sensible shoes if you can avoid it. One or the other should have some individuality to them.

I agree that backpacks are OUT.
O-U-T. Period. Sorry, Caroline.

The brown Cross bag with turquoise motif sounds very cool.
The acid green canvass messenger bag sounds a bit too collegiate to me, but I've have to see it. But GADS, don't feel you have to go the boring TAN L.L. BEAN route either! Isn't there a middle way?

What else?
Oh, LOVE the Timbuktu filler bags idea for switching ease. Don't so much love the Timbuktu messenger bag, but I trust our Editress is wearing otherwise sharp outerwear to balance any potential dreariness, or perhaps she's got a wickedly fabulous scarf around her neck or hair.

Musings, do you think your good work can be taken seriously enough by you or others if you keep it in such a foofy, suburban-white-woman bag as those made by Vera Bradley? I think you can be more professional than that, and that you should go for it. Use Very B. on vacation, when she's just right for soft little novels, a bottle of sunblock and lots of giggling over frothy drinks.

That's it! I'm off like a prom dress!

1:36 PM  
Blogger GloryintheMorning said...

Amidst the angst-ridden chatting about how to choose the Right Bag, I'm reminded that Madeleine Albright, when she was US Secretary of State, made sure that her assistant always carried her handbag so that she didn't have to worry about looking all little-old-ladyish (or, perhaps, to avoid being criticized for carrying the wrong color... she DID have much more important things to think about....)

One solution, methinks, is for U.U.s to co-opt the Anglican position of Verger: instead of waving that shepherd's crook thing, we could each have a personal Verger to cover Purse Detail.

3:40 PM  
Anonymous jinnis said...

Thank you, glory - I was thinking of Madeline Albright. She made a most powerful statement by not carrying a bag. I think I heard her comment on that being one of the ways she established herself as a leader among the men who had other people carrying their stuff, too - we just don't notice as much when the world leaders are lacking their wallets or briefcases.

Thanks for the summary, PB. I hope you have a great vacation.

7:50 PM  
Blogger Caroline Divine said...

Okay, I have to defend backpacky handbags. You must understand, I don't use them all the time, and I can't afford this little gem or this or even this but these are nothing like shleppy big backpags. They are sleek and not too big (though as I mentioned, the one I have, of which unfortunately I have no photo, holds the Franklin Planner, the BCP, the wallet, and a few other things) and they free up the hands. Wear 'em in front of you on the NY subway, though.

There are red ones too. And slightly more shleppy ones , but not bad, and that one is a Prada knock-off.

This , however, will NOT do. Ick.


10:26 PM  
Blogger Jordan Stratford+ said...

I'm going to have to back up CDiv on her backpack selection: the trick is to never (or almost never: airports are a general exception) wear a strap over each shoulder (ie as a backpack). Slinging both straps over one shoulder is perfectly legit.

I use a 15 year old version of this which just keeps getting better looking with age, and fits papers, PowerBook, and large SLR camera without looking like a "laptop case" which is shorthand for "please steal me" and usually says "I carry an ugly Dell with a power supply the size of a beer fridge".

Do you want to do a post about tech gear? Blackberry OR cell and subnote, PDA OR iPod, but never laptop and iPod and gadget and gizmo...

11:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just because you can buy a mini-backpack doesn't mean you should. There is no defending mini-backpacks. They are the bag equivalent of wearing a scrunchie. They automatically make you look at least ten years behind the fashion times.

12:11 AM  
Blogger Caroline Divine said...

Jordan, love the bag. Very tasteful.

As for being ten years behind the fashion times, who cares? What matters is looking good in what you wear. Most of the clothes in the stores these days are total shmattas -- skimpy fabrics, poor cut, impossible colors. Give me a few well-cut garments made of good fabrics. And some things don't go out of style. A classic bag's good looks last and last. And as Jordan notes, good leather looks better and better with age.

Besides which, I'm about 20 years older than most of the people posting here, so I can look like a classy old lady if I want to ;-). Wait, make that "elegant woman of a certain age."

That said, today I may go for the Baggalini lime green shoulder tote I brought along on this trip -- it folds up into a little pocket and goes in my suitcase and I can unfold it when I need to cart stuff, which I do this week when I am in research mode and hauling books and papers.

So, can we live with our different bag theologies?

Yours in bag pluralism,

Caroline Divine

11:11 AM  
Blogger rebeccascott said...

Hello PB... I am a big fan of bags myself, though not a minister. I wanted to add a note for my favourite line of bags because they appeal to those with a desire to be stylish and socially conscious. They are by a Montreal company called Matt + Nat and they are vegan. Completely cruelty free.... check them out a No one needs to know this unless you tell them because they look so damn good. They don't look like tacky pleather.

I'll also add that I am glad that large bags are in this year because I have found a Matt + Natt shoulder-strap purse that I can carry my work papers in. I'm not a switcher so I need to find one bag to meet all my needs.

8:21 PM  

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