For busy women who do not live on mountaintops and who are not nuns, the choice of handbag is fraught these days, sending signals of status, taste and identity that others instantly interpret. “Bags help them suss out who’s their kind of person and who’s not,” the fashion historian Valerie Steele tells the author. “You can wear jeans and cowboy boots, but as long as you carry a $2,000 bag, people will place you where you want to be placed.” Ms. Gallagher dates the bag-as-icon trend to the rise of Miuccia Prada and to the emergence of must-have bags like the Birkin in the late ’80s. As recently as the ’60s, she writes, fashionable women labored to create color-coordinated outfits — the couture answer to Garanimals. Though the purse matched the outfit, it didn’t “make” it. But lately, the put-together look is fashion anathema. Clare Sauro, the accessories curator at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s fashion museum, explains: “Now the goal is to look like you’ve just thrown yourself together and don’t really care.” A $25,000 Gucci alligator bag reassures the world that, secretly, you do.
November 19, 2006
To show you care: