An Anti-Handbag Girl Changes Her Tune

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bag2Photographed by Jennifer Trahan.
Laura Ruof is a fashion and beauty blogger at Call To Style. She Instagrams at @Call_To_Style.

When I was a little girl, I had my purse stolen at least a dozen times. I’m not sure you can even call it stealing, though; it was more like I'd forget I had a bag with me and leave it some place. One time, a kid took the money out of my purse while sitting next to me at McDonald’s. I was aware that he was looking at me weird, but completely oblivious to the thing that was holding all my valuables.

Handbags made me feel weighed down, annoyed, and it's no wonder I was losing them constantly. Carrying a purse just does not come naturally to me. I'd much rather stuff everything into my pockets, no matter how hard my mom tried to break me of this habit. All I wanted to do was run around with my brother and his friends, and a purse was not conducive to that in any way.

In college, my friends constantly warned me that I'd lose my ID and money by carrying it to the bar in my back pocket. Surely they didn’t know my history and that the best way for me to lose something was to put it in a purse. We agreed that I'd just put my stuff in their bags for nights out. (Thanks for that, guys.)

When I moved to NYC, well on my way to adulthood, things got real. I no longer had a car in which to leave my stuff, and the consequences of losing things had gotten much worse than they were in that McDonald's all those years ago. There was no way around it: If I wanted to get to work, run errands, or go out, I had to carry a purse.

The most annoying part of this realization, though, came when I peered into my closet to find one. My collection consisted of going-out clutches (the few I hadn’t previously left in a velvety booth somewhere), one shoulder bag I had picked up at Target years ago, and a giant North Face backpack. I had to go with the shoulder bag, since carrying a clutch to work lends the specific impression that you did not make it home the night before, the backpack one of a camping yen.

The short version of the story is that I made it to work, and my bag continued on the E train to Queens, which I think is the moment I hit rock-bottom in my purse saga. It had become clear that if my belongings were not somehow tethered to my body, they may not end up where I need them — with me.

I get that this all makes me sound spacey. And, maybe that's true, but I'd also been enabled by all those friends who resigned themselves to toting my things. It may also seem like I'm a handbag hater, but that's simply not the case. I drool over buttery leather and hand-sewn seams. I covet a glamorous, luxury bag — but have accepted the truth about myself, that it just has to be convenient to tote around or else it won't work for me. This odd set of circumstances has made me a bit of an expert at finding beautiful — and practical! — purses.

bag-embedPhotographed by Jennifer Trahan.
Being a purse you can forget about without actually forgetting makes a crossbody a great choice for anyone with my particular, uh, skill for misplacing handbags. Backpacks, of course, take that "forget it" approach to the extreme, as their form puts them out of sight (and out of mind) when being worn. Both are great for travel when you need to carry luggage, or any time you might need your hands free to do other things. (Learn from my mistakes: Do NOT set your purse down on a surface of any sort.) And, logic would suggest that falling in love with a bag would greatly lower my chances of accidentally ditching it at Shake Shack, right? So, I set out in search of purse love to try and change my ways.

I looked to Australian designer Rachael Ruddick for going-out bags; her crossbodies combine the practical design I need with the luxury look and feel any fashion girl would love. She uses textures like calf hair and snakeskin, and thoughtful hardware, which make her pieces attention-grabbing. (Perfect for someone with my accessories attention span.) The one in my first photo is now my ultimate evening adornment. It's as small as a clutch — not at all annoying! — and adds a jewelry-like glint to any outfit.

But, if we could all walk around with glistening evening bags all the time I may not have come down with my specific affliction in the first place. Sometimes, you just need more stuff. That's where the on-trend backpack comes in. Mansur Gavriel is known for a supple leather bucket bag so coveted that it sells out before it even hits stores. And, while a bucket style is a great option for anyone not likely to let a bag slide off their shoulder into oblivion, I need to be a little more strapped in. I went for a backpack in a gorgeous baby pink. This sack is big enough to hold everything I need while still being hands-free and super chic — it's got all the utilitarianism with none of the obnoxious bulk. The genius shade can act as a neutral or a clever pop of color, depending on how you style it. Let's face it, the last thing I need to deal with is having multiple everyday bags to coordinate with multiple outfits. I'm at the entry-level, here.

As soon as I came to terms with the fact that I've basically had a malfunction when it came to carrying handbags, I was able to compensate by finding purses I loved to look at and that would be easy for me to carry. Another upside: My friends are no longer forced into stashing my wallet, keys, and phone when we hang out. I’ve found a way to satisfy my tomboy side that's all about unencumbered limbs, and the inner fashion girl who's obsessed with style. Maybe I haven't 100% become a grown-up over the course of this experiment, but at least I look like one — I'm carrying a purse.