Sunday, January 24, 2010

Old Bags' Old Bags

In our last posting, we wrote about our handy dandy trusty rusty bags – the ones we use all the time, despite the fact that they are not fashionable or beautiful or held in high regard by taste makers. You know you’re getting old – um – mature – when the highest compliment you can pay your bag is that it’s reliable.

This week, for your viewing pleasure, we’re delighted to show you the bags that mostly live in our closets. We love them, but for any number of reasons they just don’t work with our daily lives.

Valerie’s old bags:

1. Blue Pleats Please knapsack

It’s wonderfully creative and colorful (the inside is plaid), but loses its sharp shape as soon as I put something in it. Also, in order to get anything out of it, I have to take it off both shoulders, not just one. (Dress also by Pleats Please; straw hat by Miss Bierner.)

2. Red felt cord bag

Bought at the Union Square Christmas Market two years ago. I love the simple but ingenious design of this Nepalese bag – a single felt cord wound and bound into a geometric shape with strategically knotted twine. But even a little weight in it distorts the lines of the design. I don’t regret the purchase, though. I hang it on the wall as fiber art. (Boiled wool cape by Ceilun Sport.)

3. Orange hard shell knapsack

By Makio Hasuike for Vespa. Don’t ever get on the subway at rush hour with a hard shell knapsack. NO ONE will compliment you on your fashion sensibility. They will just fume about the extra space your bag occupies since, unlike shoulders, knapsacks make no concessions in crowds. (And there’s the above-mentioned accessibility issue for the wearer.) (Hat by Chisato Tsumori; coat by Searle; bracelet: velvet dog chew toy from Furry Paws.)

4. Blue and white cotton kasuri bag

By Arise, made in India. I love it, but the straps won’t go diagonally over my shoulder, it will show all its dirt, and I can’t wear it between October and May, although I think I could if I lived in southern California, Florida or Hawaii. (Suit by Calvin Klein; white perforated leather cap by Antoinette.)

5. Pink cotton quilted bag

Made in India. I bought this bag in my early 20s (so it's more than five years old...). At the time, if I’d put a few dollars, a pen, and a package of tissues in it, it would have fulfilled all my needs for the day, but not anymore. I last wore this bag at Easter. The other problem that keeps me from using this bag is that I’ve grown out of most of my pink clothes! (Vintage pink velveteen lily pad hat unlabeled; jacket by Alberto Makali.)

6. Gray embossed leather bag

By Bruno Magli. This was my souvenir of a trip to Venice when I was 25. Perfect then; too small now, though I still love it. (Wool jacket by Barami; long sleeved wool sweater by Banana Republic; sleeveless wool gown by Blayde.)

7. Green felt and suede leaf bag

The leaf, from Hut Up, was marketed as a trivet at the Cooper Hewitt Museum. With a few basting stitches, I sewed it to a small green suede knapsack, which I believe I bought at Century 21. (It has no label.) I found it irresistible, although I knew when I bought it that it was too small. It makes a great impact at festive occasions, but it has the same problems as the previous knapsacks. (Velour hat by Vogue Japan; felt coat by Tiiti Tolonen; vintage green and mustard suede harlequin cut gauntlets.)

8. Black pyramid shaped bag

By Urban Oxide. I bought two, planning to wear one on each hip, like the old French pannier dresses, but some things don’t go according to plan. The shape of the very soft plastic material is compromised if there is anything in the bag. PLUS it’s too small to put my diary in. PLUS it’s not designed to stay face up, so if you leave it unzipped, everything (like my camera) comes tumbling out. But it IS designed to unzip into a single strip, as shown here. Not practical, but really cool anyway! (Vintage black velvet hat with ‘rosebud’ open top by Hats by Eddi; wool snap top by Jill Andersen; gown by Blayde; high heeled sneakers by Chinese Laundry.)

9. Blue round molded foam Lacoste bag

I wear this back to front, so the embossed logo doesn’t show (logophobe that I am), but truth to tell, I wear it very little altogether, as I can’t even get my wallet into it (see photo below).
It has a long shoulder strap, so I can drape it as a visual non-sequitur, and then never give it a second thought. It’s a hilarious conversation piece. Note to self: What IS it about women and tiny bags???

10. Green felt bag with yellow polka dots

From the Columbus Avenue Craft Show. Another Nepalese bag. Most of the current crop of felt bags have designs on one side only (a big no no!), but this has the same design on the other side, so there is no “wrong” way to sling it. On the other hand, green and yellow are hard colors, and the strap is not long enough to wear diagonally across my shoulder, so this bag doesn’t get out a lot. But I have it where I can see it, and just enjoy looking. (Cotton knit lightly padded coat, bought second hand in 1992, by Christian de Castelnau; wool hat by Phoenix.)

11. Red woven leather Bottega Veneta bag

Still yummy in its buttery softness! This bag (like so many of my favorite things) is from one of my secret resale haunts. Its shoulder strap is not only long enough for me to sling diagonally across my shoulder, it can be hidden inside to make a clutch (as you see here). Unfortunately, the Bottega bag is now the size of my toiletry bag, so really it can only go out on festive occasions. Then again, that contributes to its longevity! Here you see me in the complimentary bus thoughtfully provided by the Pier Show at West 55th Street. Rosebud opening hat by Hats by Eddi; red leather and wood pin by Tereza Symon’s mother; black funnel necked patent plastic slicker by Jane Post; red plastic ring from El Museo del Barrio.


12. Soft plastic giant koi bag by NYCTLT.

The wonders of the internet brought me back in touch with my high school friend Allan. Last year I made a copy of our high school year book and sent it to him, since his got “borrowed” by a fellow classmate. This year, having read the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas blog, Allan zeroed in on my taste like a laser, and sent me this fabulous bag, along with a whole school of Swedish Fish to keep it company. Although this is not an old bag, I wanted it to make its debut at the first opportunity, so it’s today’s Bonus Bag.

The selection above doesn’t include two gorgeous and much cherished evening bags from the 1920s-1930s, probably French. One had teeny tiny seed beads which surrounded teeny tiny flowers in chain stitch embroidery; a glass closure, mother of pearl clasps, and of course a tiny mirror in its silk satin lining. The other had a silk print of a Persian hunting scene, with men on horseback chasing wild animals. It had an onyx clasp surrounded by marcasites, and of course a tiny mirror in its silk satin lining. I had been raised to think I would eventually need evening bags, so I was prepared. Imagine my surprise when I hardly ever had occasion to use these little beauties. Several years ago, while attending graduate school (where I was by far the eldest in my class), I sold them to raise a little cash. I have photos somewhere, and when I find them, I’ll post them.

Jean says:
The new reality TV show "Hoarders" strikes a little too close for comfort. When Valerie and I brainstormed this topic, I had many bags in mind, some of which I have just not been able to "put my hands on." (I know they're around here somewhere.) However, while excavating, I successfully located several old favorites. Here we go ...

1. Black and White "Plasti-Quilt" clutch by Jolles
This 40's (50's?) clutch consists of alternating rows of 4 white hollow cylinders and 4 black, woven together on a heavy cotton frame. Lined in black cotton with a black bakelite dice zipper pull, the bag measures approximately 12" long by 8" wide. I love its graphic look, but only carry clutches on limited occasions (when I'm not toting my usual 5 lbs. of junk). I'm wearing my charm necklace, espresso Elm Design Team ("100% Royal Alpaca Icelandic Design handmade in Peru") skirt, Kyodan nylon and spandex jacket, Gucci glasses and assorted rings (two black skulls, one brass, one black bakelite and six gold rings).

2.and 3. Vintage horn evening bag and recent leather embossed envelope clutch:

These are two bags that I sometimes take on travel. I transfer credit cards and cash to the smaller, lighter bag(s), leaving the larger mothership bag at home or in the hotel. The horn bag is wide enough to accommodate cell phone, small coin purse, keys and makeup. The envelope holds cash and keys (barely).

With its 36" silk cord strap, the horn bag converts from clutch to shoulder bag, greatly increasing its flexibility. Measuring 5" long by 4 " high by 2 1/2" deep, the bag has a matching hinged horn clasp, is lined in black silk and has no label. I acquired it years ago at the old outdoor 26th Street Flea Market. I love its light weight, but worry that if dropped, it might shatter.

This coppery brown envelope (10 1/2" x 5") is one piece of folded and stitched embossed leather painted gold inside, with two flat metal snaps to ensure closure. The bag was a gift from Kirsten Hawthorne, jewely designer and thrift store maven.

4. White with black polka dot purse

This fabulous purse has a matching zippered billfold on a strap inside. The purse converts to a backpack by simply pulling the black leather drawstring through the twelve silver metal grommets. It was a gift from Kim Dennis before she moved to Santa Fe nearly 20 years ago. It is in the same pristine condition today that it was then. I'm wearing a black wool hat by Maria R. Del Greco with a vintage bakelite mah jong tile pin, Cynthia Steffe black wool suspender jacket, black Michiko Koshino skirt, black fleece wrap and Missoni sunglasses. I'm also wearing seven red bakelite rings (along with six gold rings).

I wore the polka dot bag today to the "Americana and Antiques at the Pier" show on 12th Ave. at 55th St. It stored my rain poncho, coin purse, cell phone, camera and makeup case.

5. through 9. A flock of black bags

I often carry smaller bags inside larger bags when I travel, to hold rings and earrings, toiletries, cell phone chargers, etc. They are often drafted to use as coin purses or evening totes. From the left: Black nylon zipper bag (7" x 3" x 3 1/2") by Express; black poly/nylon zipper bag by Cooltura with white skull and crossbones and Japanese lettering with matte silver star zipper pull (Hecho en Mexico) from ENZ in the East Village: black and white pebble finish PVC zipper tote (10" x 5" x 1 1/2") made by Packits by RGA; small black faux patent zipper bag (6" x 3" x 1 1/2") by Adrienne Vittadini; and black PVC zippered (5" x 6") Vogue promotional bag.

10. through 13. Mae West's "Summer Diamonds"

My favorite Mae West quote: Gesturing to her ample bosom festooned with jewelry, she remarked "These are my summer diamonds... Some 'er diamonds and some 'er not." Following in that vein, here are my Louis Vuitton bags, one of which is genuine and others which are gifts of unknown provenance.

I store the three smaller bags inside the largest (22" x 11" x 8"), which is technically luggage (at the rear of the photo. From the left: classic brown and tan Speedy bag (13" x 10" x 7"); black and white Paris bag with silver hardware and zipper pulls (10" x 5" x 4"); and black background bag (7" x 6" x 5") with green, pink, blue and yellow letters and symbols.

Here I am in the loo at Tabla Restaurant ((Madison at 25th Street), sporting my small black handbag (jammed with my makup case, glasses, camera, coin purse, phone and keys). I'm wearing an Ignatius fleece hat (from the Philadelphia Craft show), black with white polka dot wool scarf, black wool Armani jacket, Brigitte harem pants and Trippen booties. [Valerie interjects: see photo above for me in the same lieu. I mean loo. We wondered briefly if it was slightly undignified, or just not done, or something, to be posing for photographs in the WC, but ultimately you can see we didn't allow that to concern us for very long.]

Here is living proof of "the pet factor." Not only when I feebly try to style my photo shoot, but also when she's feeling contrary, DeeDee makes it a point to invade my handbags. If she can't fit inside, she sits on the outside, roosting like a chicken.

As my apartment search and destroy missions progress, I will try to locate the other bags and, if successful, will include them in a future update. 'Til then, do behave!


  1. Lovely post. I've stolen the Pleats Please photo for my Desktop to brighten up January.

  2. Where can I get a plastic Chicken handbag?

  3. The Slow Food Group here in Davis, California is having a Chicken Coop Tour on the 22nd of May and I wanted to buy one of your plastic Chicken handbags to donate to their silent auction. Are you still making and selling them? Where can I buy one?

  4. I am also interested in NYCTLT plastic chicken bag, (and the koi is very cool too!) How can I contact NYCTLT? When googling, no website comes up, you blog is the first search result.

  5. I prefer the big bag, i think they are more comfortable. I really liked this blog, is very interesting and out of common. I prefer to read blogs which catch my attention and this one achieved. I think is wonderful,and i liked the way how is was written.
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  6. I am interested in the Koi or chicken bag. Is there another website that has prices and ability to purchase?