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What's Inside Your Bag

Purses have always played a vital role in women's lives. Our first memories with the accessory may include our mother's bags; there were always days when we found ourselves rifling through them to play with compacts, lipsticks, or anything else we could find. It was almost like Mary Poppins and her carpet bag - so intriguing and magical, overflowing and never ending.

All of the clasps, buckles, zippers, and secret pockets once so fascinating have now become hardware we consider when buying a purse of our own. It's as if the accessory is an entry way into adulthood; it's a major milestone when we get a sensible bag for our first job or a stylish clutch for a big night out. It's a big moment full of choices because the purse we choose represents our social and economic status in the world. How can one make a hard and fast decision when we have to choose between quality, size, and the array of prestigious designers with monogram patterns splashed on the side of the handbag. No matter the person or their particular style it comes down to how we want to represent ourselves and our style to the outside world.

Regarded as a feminine space the inside of a purse is its own private phenomenon. What comes to mind is a very specific scene in The Breakfast Club where there are many lines detailing the strange and bewildering elements within a bag. Female protagonists Claire and Allison, being interrogated by the boys on opposite sides of the room, explain that despite there being a ridiculous amount of things in their bag all of it is relevant - they just can't seem to get rid of anything. We see Allison dramatically dump the contents of her sling bag onto the couch much to the dismay of the boys and we're amazed at the vast amounts of trash and various items that fly everywhere. To be honest we can't discern much, it's rather a question of how she's able to squeeze so much into such a small space.

Despite her coming across as odd I'd argue Allison's purse represents the insides of everyone's purse: organized chaos. All of the messy contents hold mystery. Everyone wants to know what's inside of a person's bag - and nowadays you can. On Vogue's Youtube channel you can binge every episode of "In the Bag" and watch your favorite celebrities take their personal handbag and breakdown its contents. Pandering to a more male dominated audience GQ's Youtube has their own spin on the trend, "10 essentials", where famed men bring in their bag of choice and go through colognes, electronics, and grooming products they can't live without. Or take the everyday individuals under the what's in my bag hashtag where they deliberately lay out and carefully curate the contents of their purse simply for aesthetic purposes.

I often find myself clicking and scrolling to find all of the aforementioned videos within this bag trend. What is it that's so interesting about the insides of one's purse?

On one level, what's inside is almost as much of a fashion statement as what's on the outside. It's almost like a presentation when one reveals what's in their tote, we're able to see their style and all it encompasses. When you open your bag all the accessories and necessities you need to keep your personal appearance in tact are now on display. Based on your contents and how you organize things one could tell the minimalist approach to your everyday look. With just a few things on your shoulder one could say you're concise, simple, and one for the basics. On the flip side, your cluttered purse with bold patterns can show your vibrant, maximalist lifestyle. Stacked to the brim you're telling the world that you're ready in any fashion emergency and make use of what you have while on the go.

On an entirely different level level, being able to see the inside of one's bag is akin to reading their diary. Trinkets and lucky charms are carefully nestled into small pockets. Memorable photos, receipts with important dates, and tarot cards lie between a pack of gum and a set of keys. Whether on purpose or by accident sentimental items find their way into each and every one of our bags. These items and their meaningful origins let's us personalize the bag itself in addition to securing emotional and psychological support along with it. A part of ourselves become ingrained in the purse. We hold it close to us physically and metaphorically.

For as long as purses have been around, their inner contents have been left a mystery to outsiders. This secret space allows femininity to run wild; women can be messy, their belongings can be cluttered, and personal, intimate items are now secured. The inside of a purse grants a freedom to escape the dainty, composed image we've crafted to the outside world. Looking inside of a purse means unlocking the secrets and revealing the things we use to get us through each day and our the rest of our lives. All of this, applicable to anyone with a purse, shows how we carry ourselves, our purses, and our things with purpose. This simple accessory has lasted the test of time and will continue to be of service for a pair of sunglasses or the elusive scrunchie.

Illustration by Inci Sahin


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