The Hold of Handbags

Extract from a poster by Patrick Hughes. An Old Vic production of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’.

I Love Handbags

I confess to a long-standing addiction to handbags. I won’t say how many I’ve collected over the years, but it’s a lot. They come in various sizes, shapes and styles, from traditional to increasingly colourful and quirky now that I no longer work.

There’s only one requirement – it has to be capacious enough to hold all my junk, unless it’s a posh evening bag. And, ever since I was mugged and my bag stolen, I favour ‘cross-body’ bags; sadly, there is a gap in the market for great designs – please note any handbag designers reading this! Usually the best you can hope for is an optional long strap. Is it an ageist thing I wonder?

A few unusual styles

Don’t you just love this one (not mine sadly)?:

‘Hector’ handbag. Thos Browne. 2019. V & A collection
‘Fudge the Fashionista, Let Them Eat Cake’ Franco Moschino 1996. V & A collection.

Or what about these?

‘The House’ Handbag Lulu Guinness. 1998. V & A collection.
Evening Bag. Judith Leiber. V & A collection.
Another from my favourite handbag designer Lulu Guinness
International Woman. Tracey Emin. 2004 V & A collection.

Then the unimaginable happened…

The pandemic arrived. This last year has been terrible for so many in countless ways but, this being a joyful blog, I’m not dwelling on that here and now.

Instead, I’m highlighting an unhappy consequence that affected me. I’ve not seen it mentioned although I suspect I’m not the only one affected. For months we only went out for exercise. Shops were closed. There was nowhere to go. The result?

We didn’t need our handbags!

My cornucopia of bags lay untouched. A pocket or two, for a mask, hand sanitiser and keys, sufficed. I felt as if I’d lost an arm and suffered serious withdrawal symptoms. In any event, most of my bags would have been unsuitable accessories for my new uniform of track pants.

And then, to my horror, it became almost liberating not bothering with a handbag. Things were getting serious.

Fortunately at this point…


With a more normal existence slowly returning, I’ve re-discovered my former inseparable companions. What joy!

But I’m obviously suffering some underlying anxiety as I’ve started dreaming about handbags. Last night I woke in a cold sweat after apparently leaving my handbag at one of several places I’d visited. I was so unused to carrying one, I’d just forgotten about it, something that would never have happened before Coronavirus. I began searching frantically, retracing my steps to everywhere I’d been. Quite apart from the stress of losing the lovely bag itself, inside it was my precious Filofax diary, containing the beginnings of my roadmap back to pre-Covid life.

I’m not sure whether to take this dream at face value – worry about losing a favourite bag and its contents – or just a more generalised anxiety about being out and about in these times and after so long. But either way it was not pleasant and I hope it doesn’t recur, either in a dream, or worse still, in reality.

But the good news is…

We can now, once again, start to use all our handbags, clutches, totes, backpacks… So,

For the true handbag fans among you

May I mention the the exhibition at the V & A, Bags: Inside Out, on until January 2022, which I certainly intend to visit sometime soon. And if you want to see lots more wonderful handbags like some of the ones above, go to the museum’s collections here.

And Finally…

Remember to make time for what gives you joy, whether that happens to be handbags or something totally different, because:

Stay safe; stay strong; stay smiling.


Maggy x