Saturday 29 November 2014

Shoes and Bags: Goblin Fruit?

Yes, I am including a Hermés Kelly bag in my list of beautiful things. My mother will clutch her throat. I am sure she would tell me that there is no way any handbag is worth $16, 500, and that I would be merely paying for the label. She might even add, "And where would you wear it?" for good measure.

I would most definitely wear it to church. And on holiday to Italy.  And on mini-break to London. And home to Toronto. And anywhere I would bother to wear eyeliner and foundation. So not Tesco or to the former Historical Killing House* where I take the Historical House recycling.  I am sure I would be invited to the New Club more often if I had such a bag, for then my host would be seen, not with a mere woman, but with a woman with a cobalt blue Kelly bag.

My mother is now rolling her eyes, so I will try to defend the longing to own a Kelly bag on grounds superior to mere snobbery and unfulfilled desire to be asked to the New Club. I will point out that although nowhere can you see an explicit Hermés label (the H on the lock is the gentlest hint), any handbag afficionada would recognize this handbag at once. The design, the leather, the hardware, the stitching--all top-notch. Each bag is made by one artisan who has years of training. The Kelly bag is a wearable piece of art. Yes, celebrities buy them. Yes, they are hard to get. Yes, they are Girardian objects of mimetic desire. But they are also beautiful examples of the craftswoman's (or craftsman's) art. I mean, look at them!

My eye was caught the other day by a magazine headline asking if I was a "shoe woman" or a "bag woman", and although naturally my highly trained intellect was outraged by the reduction of womankind to "shoe women" and "bag women", I knew exactly what was meant. I busily examined my psyche and concluded that I was a "bag woman." For one thing, bags last longer.

I have a theory that the reason why women love shoes, other than that we are told that it is feminine and attractive to love shoes, is their symbolic value. A pair of pretty shoes, especially if they have impractical heels, suggests that your necessities of life are assured. If you can afford to drop $100 (or 65 quid) on a pair of pretty shoes, then this means that there is a roof over your head, a coat on your back and breakfast in your belly.

One of the sacrifices I make for Polish is shoes, alas. (A term of Polish night school costs as much as two beautiful pairs of Irregular Choice pumps.) Fortunately, though, in the days before I fell in love with Polish, I bought some  pretty shoes, and I keep them very carefully, storing them in their original boxes and never wearing them outdoors. Outdoors is for my flame-orange Hunter wellington boots, which I got on sale, flame-orange apparently having gone out of style.

I am not tempted to look higher than Irregular Choice, for I object to spending more than $100 (or 65 quid) on shoes, no matter how beautiful they are. It's not just that freelance writers do not actually have the price of a pair of Manolo Blahniks in our wallets. It's that shoes wear out if you are so foolish as to wear them out of doors.

But I must say that I am tempted by BAGS. Currently I am running around town with a canvas tote bag big enough to carry my medium-sized Polish dictionary. I bought it for six quid at a charity shop, and it is a far cry from my dream bag. It is not at all an example of the craftswoman's art, and the lining is all ripped, and as long as I am seen with it, nobody will ever invite me to the New Club, weep weep.  Amusingly, or touchingly, if you are touched by middle-aged love, I did buy B.A. a proper tweed-and-leather messenger bag from Walker Slater.

Speaking of Polish dictionaries, it occurs to me that I must be more of a "Polish dictionary woman" than a "bag woman", for  I own FIVE Polish dictionaries, including the Pradziadek of them all, the two volume Oxford/PWN English-Polish, Polish-English. My next Polish dictionary will be one for Polish children, without any English in it. But now I see that I have strayed from the subject.

Are shoes and bags goblin fruit? I think not. I believe it is possible to collect nice shoes and bags without becoming a wan-faced addict. I would suggest, however, that the true shoe or bag collector is not the woman who buys any old shoe or any old bag any (or every) weekend, but the woman who is willing to go without many shoes or many bags to save up for the shoes or bag of great quality and price.

That said, unless we win the lottery, I do not think you will see me with the above bag anytime soon.

*The Historical House, like most genteel houses of its era, had a home farm and raised its own pigs. They were killed roughly where the recycling now goes. I lead a very interesting life.


  1. I'm definitely a shoe woman although I do like a well made bag. I just followed your link to the irregular choice website! Oh my gosh! I'm guttered they don't have a store that stocks them in my part of the world. Might have to take a risk with sizing and order online.

  2. Yeah, I also like my shoes - although limited budget and an inability to walk in the heels I like make it hard to live out that dream. I'm just too brutal to purses.

  3. Hmmm....I guess I'm a shoe woman rather than a bag woman, which perhaps is a shame since if I ever have babies I'll probably never be able to wear the shoes I own now ever again. Apparently one of pregnancy's many gifts is that your feet increase in size. Oh well. I'll worry about that if I get to it I guess.

  4. Julia, you can have your shoes stretched in that case. Meanwhile, feet are weird. Mine have shrunk a bit for no reason that I can figure out whatsoever. Other people's feet get bigger as they age. Truthfinder, how can you be brutal to innocent pursers? Katie, best of luck! Schuh, where I bought my IC shoes, has a very good return policy.

    1. It's usually because I get one purse every two-three years and in those years I manage to stuff ungodly amounts of stuff into it. It's a good thing airports don't really look at purse-weight because I'm sure my purse weighs more than my small carry-on backpack. I had one brand name purse several years ago, but I used it so much that I began wearing the leather off. My one expensive pair of shoes can be resoled if necessary; there's no patching my purses.

    2. AH! I had a Coach bag once...Small, green suede...I'm NEVER buying suede ANYTHING, let alone a handbag, ever again. It's true that there is no patching purses (or getting a dirty suede Coach bag clean). I'm delighted to read that you have a pair of shoes that would just need resoling. That's quality, and that's also the kind of quality men get. Men's clothes and good shoes seem to be of better quality then women's....B.A. has lovely leather shoes that have lasted 20 years. I can barely imagine having shoes that last that long!

  5. YOU CAN HAVE SHOES STRETCHED OUT??? How didn't I know this? But maybe I should switch to bags anyway. My feet already have permanent scar tissue from non-sensible shoes.

    1. Admittedly, that does depend on the shoes and on the shoe repair man! Oooh, sorry about the scar tissue. Eek!

  6. I love shoes. Somehow I can justify paying more for shoes than bags. It may have something to do with the fact I have tiny feet, so shoes are hard to find. Bags are plentiful, so I can pay less.

    Also, the bags I really like are $300+ so shoes are usually a cheaper option. :-)


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