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Purses, Bags and Satchels

I love the “man-purse” scene in “The Hangover,” last year’s Golden Globe winner for best comedy film. 

“You’re not really wearing that, are you?” character Phil asks character Alan, who is sporting a leather shoulder bag.  

“It’s where I keep all my things,” Alan answers. “Plus it’s not a man-purse, it’s a satchel. Indiana Jones wears one.”

“So does Joy Behar,” says Phil.

I dated a guy once who carried a man-purse. Key word — once. Seriously, I’ve always envied men, most of who can get away with carrying nothing more than car keys, cash and a credit card. Do women really need to tote a purse around? 

Unfortunately, women’s clothing doesn’t offer much in the way of storage. When there are pockets on a woman’s garment, stuffing them with a ring full of keys or a fat wallet would ruin the line of the outfit, so we’re stuck with adding on a pouch for our essentials. The thing is, once we have one or two “must-have” items to carry we may as well take along a few “might-need” items, like a magazine, some snacks and a sweater, and before you know it — luggage.

One of the great things about the 1970s were the tiny disco bags we carried, deerskin for day, satin for night, worn on cords across the chest. Everything was designed so that we could do the Hustle and “burn the mother down.”  But few of us dance across the planet so lightly these days.

The hand-held clutch purse, meant for just the tiniest bit of makeup, money and a key or two, looks great on the red carpet or the runway but in real life, clutch purses aren’t that practical. For dinner out, there is rarely room on the table for a purse, so do you put it on your lap under the napkin? On the floor?  It’s also a tough choice for day, when you need both hands to accomplish basic daily activities like hold onto a double latte while you open the car door.

For the rare occasion that I attend a fancy event these days, I just hand my lipstick and the car keys to my husband to put in his jacket pocket and stick a $20 bill in my shoe and a couple business cards in my bra. 

A shoulder bag with a little structure to it is my favorite purse type for the simple fact that it leaves your hands free. A little structure is good (versus the saggy-bottomed bag) so that you can find items more easily.  Built in pockets are nice, both inside and outside. If you can, buy something with a bright liner so that you can see your things against it. 

Nylon mesh (see-through) zipper bags in a variety of small sizes are great for larger purses. You can find them at drugstores in the makeup aisles. Put makeup in one, loose change in another, pens in another, and so on.

Clear out bits of trash, receipts and other things you’ve collected during the day each evening and begin each day with a fresh bag. Most of us have a few purses in the closet, so by having your purse cleaned out each night and everything in it containerized in mesh bags you can easily switch to a different purse if the mood strikes. 

So what are we carrying? For me, the essentials are lip balm, a little powder compact with a mirror, dental floss, business cards, gum, aspirin, my wallet with credit cards and cash, a small note pad and pen to capture things I want to remember, a protein bar in case I have to skip a meal, my inhaler and sunglasses. My iPhone contains my address book, my calendar, a camera and I can also e-mail from it. How do guys fit all this into a pants pocket?