Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Handbag...

As a younger woman, I switched purses for different outfits. Then, I went through a stage where I tried to make do with only one basic handbag and an evening bag for extra special occasions. In fact, I tried hard to follow the very sensible rule of having only one neutral as the basis for your entire wardrobe and choosing all of your shoes, purses, coats, etc. in that one neutral.

Alas, I never have quite settled in on just one basic neutral. I blame it on my coloring. I am a light to soft summer, which means that I have a cool-based complexion but with some measure of warmth. My best neutrals are hard to find some years, especially in fall and winter clothing. Plus, though I should stick to cool neutrals, I find myself being allured by camel or brown on occasion, and I have just enough warmth to get away with that.

Camel is a versatile option, as it goes with black or certain shades of brown. I've also found red or cordovan to be a surprisingly neutral option for all but my most delicate pastels.

I envy my friend who buys black skirts, black pants, black shoes, and a black purse and pairs them with blouses and jewelry that suit her winter complexion and hair. Her best colors are the colors that look best with black. She always looks fantastic, yet with a minimum of fuss and expense. Shopping for her is no-brainer. If something is black or if it's in one of her best colors, it'll work with everything else she owns.

As for me, however, I've decided to accept for the moment that my wardrobe needs more than one purse to make it work. So, I'm going back to switching the contents of handbag from time to time. This will actually be good for me, as it will force me to keep my bag clean of old receipts and such.

This means that I will try once again to corral the contents of my purse somewhat after the manner of organizing expert, Emily Barnes. She puts everything in her everyday purse into three or four smaller cosmetic bags or purses of various sizes and colors. Then, when she switches a purse, all she has to do is to slip the cosmetic bags into another handbag. If she's going somewhere where she doesn't need every one of her little bags, she only puts in what's appropriate.

I doubt if I'll include everything Mrs. Barnes does. She, like many of her peers, has one of those Mary Poppins purses we talked about earlier on this blog, from which the women of her generation seemingly are able to produce anything a body could need in any situation. However, I think I can come up with a doable system for me.

Here are the contents of her purse. Obviously, she wrote this before the days of cell phones and other gadgets which we now carry with us:
1. Wallet
Pen/credit cards
Driver's license
Current Calendar
2. Makeup Bag #1
comb/small brush
change for a phone call
(While we do use cell phones today, I can see the value of having a few bucks or some change in a bag that's separate from your wallet. If you were to lose your wallet or if someone reached into your bag and stole your wallet, you'd still have some money with you.)
3.Makeup Bag#2
nail file
small perfume
hand cream
nail clippers
small scissors
breath mints/gum/cough drops
matches....? Not sure why she included that, as I wouldn't think she was a smoker. Maybe, it's to start a campfire if you're stranded or to light your way if you're in a building when the lights go out? Suggestions, anyone?)
4. Sunglass case
5. Eyeglass case for reading/spare glasses.

6. Small bag I
Business cards
library card
seldom used credit cards
small calculator
tea bag/artificial sweetener/aspirin.
7. Small Bag 2
reading material-small Bible, paperback book.
cleanup wipes
tape measure
feminine protection.

What about you? Do you stick to one neutral only in your wardrobe, or do you have shoes and purses in different colors? How often do you switch purses? How do you organize your purse?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

P.S. Meredith did a wonderful article about how she keeps her purse. You can find it on her site, Like Merchant ships, or on the Ladies Finishing School site. I will be loading the other classes onto the Finishing school site throughout the year, so check it from time to time to see what's new.



D'Rae said...

Lets see, Currently I own 55 handbags and 57 pairs of shoes. I love having the options of what shoes and bag I can wear with an outfit, and I do change my bag almost daily to go with what I am wearing. (you can visit my blog for my outfits.)

Here is what I carry in my bag: My cell phone and palm. (which are going to be converted into an all-in-one soon.) my key-ring of value cards, and an ink pen. My wallet wich holds, money, cards, recepits etc. A small card pouch that holds my flash drive, sd cards and numerous sd cards for my palm.(I plan on doing a post soon about the contents of my bag) Then a cosmetic bag that holds the following: aspirin, my medicine, a fingernail file, clippers, small mirror, tide-to-go pen, lotion, chapstick, boby pins, purse hook, small sewing kit, and those rice paper like face blotters.

D'Rae said...

I forgot to mention that keeping my things in this fashion makes it a lot eaiser for when I change my bag.

Elizabeth said...


Thanks for sharing about how you organize your handbags. Wow 55 purses! Now, I don't feel so bad about not sticking to one good neutral!

Your list is more up to date than the one I copied from Emile Barnes. She made her list long before we had cell phones, palm pilots, and flash cards.

I've got to remember to stick one of those Tide-to-go pens in my purse!

Anonymous said...

I am unable to stick to one neutral color in my wardrobe, although it's been slowly migrating from black and/or gray as a neutral to navy blue as a neutral over the past few years.

I tend to switch purses only seasonally (a winter one and a summer one). My winter one is technically a "camera bag": the end pockets make it easy for me to always be able to find my sunglasses and keys. Inside, I keep a mini-purse to withdraw when I don't want to carry the larger one (containing all the essentials), and an old cosmetics bag type thing containing nail clippers, eye drops, aspirin, that sort of thing.

Some day, this sort of purse organizer may be helpful to make to aid in switching bags, but it doesn't work for me right now.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Topaztook,

I've tried lots of systems for organizing my purse, including the "just keep stuffing it until it overflows with receipts and gum wrappers and loose change and such" method. LOL.

Whatever works for you!

Elizabeth said...

Hi again, Topaztook,

I just realized that there was a link in your comment, and I followed it. What a lovely system! I'm not sure that I could make it work for me, either, but I'm going to take a closer look. Thanks for the link!

Buffy said...

I don't feel I am very organised where handbags are concerned! I'd love to match them to my outfit but the thought of taking everything out of one bag and putting it in another is too much on top of everything else that you have to do on a daily basis. I do keep quite a lot of stuff in my handbag, including emergancy supplies. I do wonder how men manage with just a wallet,a hanky and keys!

Elizabeth said...

Hi Buffy,

Yes, it is amazing to me that men can go anywhere with just a wallet and keys!

And, on trips, they can get by without lugging very much stuff, either.