Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Jealousy and Other Handbag Emotions

Sound the trumpets! I declare my first experiment in handbag dyeing a success! Huzzah!! My much-loved black Tusk handbag has been beautifully renewed, thanks to supplies and suggestions from the kind folks at The Shoe Shine Kit. She really looks gorgeous.

First of all, I gave her a going-over with Lexol-PH cleaner, because handbags don't actually get to bathe all that often. Then, with some trepidation, I busted out the Tarrago Leather Dye I'd ordered. I was very nervous about the dyeing. For one thing, I anticipated it being messy. I envisioned my office floor awash in a sea of permanent black gunk, much like my kitchen was when I created a Jolly Roger cake for a friend's pirate-themed birthday party a few years ago. (Hey, it was her birthday! I had to go along with her!)

There was a LOT of black food coloring in that icing -- I looked like a goth Betty Crocker when it was all over. What's more, the cake itself was a red velvet cake -- I used about three quarts of red food coloring in it and my kitchen looked like the damn shower scene from Pyscho. What the hell is it with food coloring -- that stuff is indestructible. And man, you should have seen our tongues after we ate it. Not exactly elegant, but Gene Simmons would probably have loved it.

At any rate, the leather dye was actually much easier to handle than the black food coloring (which gives one a newfound respect for pastry chefs, doesn't it?). You only need a very tiny amount, which helps. As a bonus, the Tarrago Dye, which is made by a Spanish company, is accompanied by a booklet of instructions in several different languages, including French, Greek, some Scandinavian thing with way too many extra vowels, and an English translation that is charmingly just left of center. (If you ever need to know how to say "Apply one or two brushstrokes of dye" in Dutch, I'm your gal.) I put the dye on the scuffed places and let it dry for a couple of days (They suggest five hours. I am nothing if not thorough.) and then went over the whole thing with some Lexol Conditioner. And she looks bee-yoo-tee-full.

In the interest of full disclosure I must add that I have not yet dyed the straps. I'm going to wear the bag once or twice to make sure the color doesn't rub off on my clothes before I go through with that. But I am hopeful.

So my beauty is looking loverly once again. It was very satisfying, and I'm sure she feels very proud of her spiffy state. But. All is not entirely well in the handbag cupboard.

(The handbag cupboard, although most of the handbags are cropped out of this photo. I also keep scarves in this side of what is actually a big, beautiful antique wardrobe, but the furry whiskered object is strictly a visitor. Much as I would like it, she will not tolerate being worn as a stole.)

Because while Miss Tusk is happy that she is renewed and refreshed, she is also jealous. I'm cheating on her with another black handbag.

Donald J. Pliner quilted black patent leather. Oh, the love...

Like most things of this sort, I really wasn't looking for it to happen. But I was in the store and I saw him peeping out at me from a low shelf where he was the only one left and it was love at first sight.

I'm leaving for New York in less than a week (No, I haven't done my practice pack yet, and there is creeping anxiety about that.) and he is sooooo coming with me. This bag is perfect for traveling -- big enough to take on a plane with a bunch of stuff including my paperback copy of "Bleak House," (I'm on a Dickens kick these days) and also big enough to carry into the city for the whole day. When I go to New York I stay with my best friend Kelly & her family at their place in Westchester. It's only a 20-minute train ride into Grand Central, but it does mean that once I go into the city, I stay in -- I don't go running back & forth, and therefore I need a day's worth of stuff with me. So I need a bag that can hold a fair amount of goodies -- any makeup I might need to reapply by the end of the day, a book to read on the train, etcetera, and there's plenty of room in this darling with the delightful bonus being that the thing is light as a feather. The straps are nice & wide so that they'll be comfortable to carry for hours, and while it's big, it's not cavernous and opens wide enough so that I can see pretty much the whole bag at a glance. No purse spelunking!! Hooray!!!! (I loathe and detest having to rummage around in a bag to find my wallet or cell phone or whatever. Not elegant.)

It zips up completely to make it nice & secure, but when I'm only doodling around Austin running errands, I can just tie those two leather thongs in the middle, which keeps it from gapping but still allows me full and quick access.

A word about access: a couple of years ago while I was working in a retail establishment here in Austin, I was chatting with a customer who was carrying a Chloe Paddington bag. Said customer was... well, she was ridiculous on several levels, not least because you could tell she was extremely proud of said Paddington, a handbag which has always left me completely cold. While we were talking, her cell phone began to ring from deep within the recesses of her bag. So, she tried to get at it to answer it. Problem was, she had actually locked the heavy brass padlock that is the gimmick on the Paddingtons (and adds to their already-substantial weight) and she couldn't get it open. I stood and watched this excruciating exercise in fashion enslavement as she fumbled with the key for so long that eventually the phone stopped ringing as her voice mail took over. Pitiful. I understand that we don't want folks able to reach in and grab our wallets & whatnot, but she was in a very small and UN-crowded Austin clothing store, for crying out loud, not toting a brick of hash through Turkish customs. (The dingdong lock is ornamental, sweetheart, and yes, I know it comes with a key, but exactly how secure do you think it's supposed to be when the key is hanging next to the lock?? On the other hand, she couldn't get into it and it was her bag, so I guess it's more effective than I would have thought.) The moral of this story is: a purse, when all is said and done, should be something that makes your life easier, not a test of your manual dexterity or hauling strength.

But back to my new love. In general, I'm a big fan of bags from Donald J. Pliner. They're beautifully-made Italian leather for the most part and while they're not cheap, they're not the kind of crazy-expensive that makes your husband want to divorce you or your financial advisor sit you down for a good talking-to. (Above-mentioned Paddington is going for about 1800 clams these days. That? Is insane.)

So. I'm taking the Pliner to New York with me. I feel a little bad about this. While I simply adore my new bag, I actually feel guilty about not taking Ms. Tusk when up until now she's had such a perfect travel record. I think I will feel wistful about her, tucked into her flannel dustbag in the handbag cupboard, while her rival Mr. Pliner & I are gliding through MOMA. I'm glad I did something nice for her like touching up her scuffs -- maybe it will soften the blow a bit. And I promise to take her out to a nice dinner just as soon as I get back.

Photos: Style Spy

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Trina said...

Ummm... "practice pack"? Is this for real? I think you're monopolizing that part of our brain.

StyleSpy said...

T -- Knowing that I am a woman who enjoys polishing her shoes and ascribes emotional states to her handbags, you can't actually be surprised that I do a practice pack. I'll get the brain back to you as soon as I take off Monday.

Sandra Mendoza-Daly said...

I love Donald J Pliner. I have the most comfortable pointed toe flats for work. Best investment I ever made. Where can I find this bag? I love it!

StyleSpy said...

Sandra -- I found my fab bag at the Saks outlet in San Marcos, which means it's one or two seasons out. You could try your closest Saks outlet (
& see if they could help you. Good luck!