Sunday, February 21, 2010

It's the Little Things

Last Sunday, some of you may remember, was Valentine's Day. I happened to be enjoying some early dinner at a nice-ish restaurant Sunday, and so got to witness a small parade of folks who were obviously out to celebrate with their significant other or longtime partner. This meant some people made an effort - it was a bit dressier than usual for a Sunday evening in Austin.

There was a commonality among most of the women who were dressed up, exemplified by one pretty 20-something. Overall, I'd give her look a "B." She had the right idea: she was wearing an LBD, she managed to find a coat that looked warm and was still pretty, she had on heels (although she was bare-legged and the heels were strappy sandals, which is just foolishness when the temperature is in the low 40's and dropping -- Style Spy will deal with this anon) and earrings and overall looked like she cared enough about her date to look nice for the occasion. (Which is really what we all want isn't it? To know that we inspired a bit of effort on someone else's part?) I'm going to take off points because her ensemble was ALL black (it's a Valentine's Day date, dear, not your great aunt's funeral), the aforementioned bare legs, and for the fact that when she turned, I could see hanging over her shoulder this monstrosity:

Only hers was worse because the leather accents were a garish bright red, and the monogram pattern was two-tone so that it was even more obvious.


I'm going to spare you my rant on not wearing someone else's logo, name or initials anywhere on your person unless you are a Nascar driver or dressed in your occupational wardrobe. (The UPS guy has to wear a UPS badge when he's delivering, that seems fair. But are you the Ed Hardy guy? The Louis Vuitton woman? I thought not.) That's not what this is about. This is about the fact that, while it may have been her favorite handbag, or her most expensive or newest or whatever, it is most decidedly NOT an evening bag. Dear ladies, if you are old enough to get dressed up and go nice places, you should have at least one evening bag tucked away in your closet. If you carry it to the office, or the grocery store, it is not an evening bag. And I don't care how much it cost, I don't care if it's a $2500 Bottega Campana -- it's not an evening bag.

I'm talking about something dressy, preferably made of satin or another special-occasion material, like a metallic or patent leather. Something small, that you can carry in one hand. It may or may not have a bit (or a lot) of sparkle on it, depending on your taste. Black is a safe choice for most people, although if you're going to have only one I would suggest you go with silver or gold, depending on what you wear more of, because black can be wrong with a light-colored or warm-weather dress.

I can hear the grumbling, and let's put a stop to it now, shall we?

No, you cannot carry much in this bag. May I remind you: you are going out to dinner, not on a trek through Nepal. You do not NEED much. Your house and maybe car key. (Get another house key cut if you need to, and put it on a separate ring -- just a ring, no big jangling cutesy key fobs! -- with a car key. I personally like the kind that comes apart, so that if I'm valet parking I can hand over my car key without surrendering my house key.) Your lippie of choice, and some blotting papers (if you have to re-apply your eye makeup during the course of a single evening, you're either wearing too much or you need better makeup). A mirror, your ID, a handkerchief, one credit card, your mobile telephonic communication device (which should stay INSIDE your bag for the entirety of the date, barring an emergency) and some cash. (PLEASE do not leave home without some cash, people!! You cannot tip the coat check girl, or the valet, or even the bartender who makes your martini while you wait for a table, with a credit card!! Be civilized, for god's sake!!) If by chance you know your dining companion well enough that it seems likely you will not be returning home that evening (ahem), put a few things into a small tote and leave them in the car. If you do not know your companion well enough to do this without embarrassment and you STILL think it's possible the evening might not end until tomorrow, whyever in the name of all that's holy would you go to HIS place? Are you nuts?? Take him to yours, for crying out loud!!

As for the I-can't-juggle-everything-and-still-hang-onto-a-purse argument, rest assured: most evening bags have a removable or tuck-in-able strap. This is not a new problem.

And don't give me the oh, that's an expense I can't justify BS, either. You can find a perfectly nice, inexpensive evening bag without throwing down for a Judith Leiber minaudiere. (See my choice here.) Here, take a look: (Click, as usual, on the photos for links.)

Jessica McClintock Sparkles Flap Clutch

Satin, with a bit of sparkle.

La Regale 24182 Clutch

If you'd like something a bit larger and more neutral.

La Regale 24426 Clutch

I love a box clutch.

La Regale Confetti Pattern Bead Clutch

Black AND sparkly!

La Regale Satin Pleated Clutch

A little bit larger, but still nice.

La Regale Mesh Slim Frame Clutch

Mesh is fun, and feels nice to the touch.

Every one of the above bags A) is under $30, B) has a shoulder strap, and C) comes in black and at least one other neutral, all-purpose color like gold or silver. And some of them come in a rainbow of wild, fun colors, as well.

If you want to go with more Advanced Fashion (and more advanced price) how about these?

Magid Crystal Stone Clutch

Bigger, sparklier!

Franchi Kay Clutch

Who needs a flapper dress when you can have a flapper bag? Love this.

Whiting & Davis 1-5721 Minaudiere
I have this minaudiere in the matte gold. Je l'adore. There's something so wonderfully 40's glam about carrying a box clutch -- make sure your nails are nice, though.

Whiting & Davis Heart Clutch


Of course, if you want, you can go entirely crazy:

Halston Heritage Sequin Folded Clutch

Serious sparkly action. Nice.

Herve Leger Crystal ClutchHerve Leger Crystal Clutch

Wonderful, aren't they?


So feminine and flirty.
Speaking of clutches -- this made me clutch at my heart. Click on the link to get a better look at this, it's really stupendous.




The devil, as they say, is in the details. You've taken it so far -- your dress, your shoes, your jewelry... Make this one final effort to polish everything off and then sail out of the house knowing you're... well, unassailable.

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Jennifer said...

Jeez, I hate those brown Coach logos. Is it a Texas thing with those purses? 'Cause they are all over Houston - it's like some sort of secret suburban sorority initiation purse.

Of course, I have the reverse problem. Don't do much of the big fancy evenings anymore, but have a ton of evening bags. Took a peacock teal patent clutch out for VDay, though.

Alison said...

Perfection!! Thank you for this post. I also think it can ruin your whole effort if you don't carry the correct bag to suit the event. I just picked a perfect gold mesh evening bag at thrift store for $4. SO, even if you cannot afford or justify $30, you can find a gorgeous bag if you look around. Love your choices by the way!!!

Deja Pseu said...

Love that last one you've posted especially.

This is one of my pet peeves as well. Ladies, a Louis Vuitton Speedy is NOT an evening bag!!!

What's crazy is that, as you've illustrated, some perfectly nice evening bags can be purchased for a song.

Toby Wollin said...

My quest, at least for the last couple of years, has been to find nice clutches, both dressy and not so so that I have something nice and small enough to discourage me from trying to cram everything including an electric toothbrush into it. I don't know what it is, but I have this "I'm a Depression baby;I might need this and this and this" thing about purses, which is probably why a) one of my shoulders is about 2" lower on one side and b) my back is all out of whack from hauling around bags that look like I'm going to Outer Mongolia on a trek. Something nice, neat, small enough to tuck under my arm and still look nice. That's all I ask.

Someone said...

Just to be contrary, I just picked up a Kathy van Zeeland "shopper" (it's smaller than it sounds) in pebbly metallic leather, for *day.* I lurves me some metallic!!

(I could in fact dress top to toe in silver from my current closet, coat and bag included...)

And, it does have logos on a couple of zipper pulls, but you really can't see them except quite close.

Agreed that both consumerist and casual attitudes have taken some of the fun out of dressing.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe the amount of use I have gotten out of the $4 at a Payless clearance sale black satin bag (with fuzzy bits around the top). I bought it on impulse about ten years ago, and it is still the bag I pull out for weddings and holiday parties.

Maybe it's time to splurge on a new one - that pink sparkly clutch is adorable!

Jen Singleterry said...

I daresay that if she had been carrying one of the bags you suggest instead of the giant "day" bag, the all-black outfit would have not been so bad. I'm a big fan of doing all black and then adding a really bright or shiny accessory.

The only excuse I might make for having the wrong bag for an outfit is if you have to come straight from work. Sometimes I show up to weeknight events with my big work purse. But Valentine's day was not a work day.

Frances said...

Style Spy, does the 'no day-bag' rule apply to dinner with friends? I'm in my early 20s and can't imagine carrying a dainty little box clutch out for a nice dinner with the girls. Please advise!


All Women Stalker said...

Hahaha. I am so guilty of this! I think I really need to invest in a cute evening bag. Thanks for this wake up call. =p

Claudia said...

wonderful post, Aim. And I'm all about that star clutch - too, too fantastic. (And then I clicked and saw the price. Will have to admire from afar).

StyleSpy said...

Jennifer -- I don't think it's exclusively Texas, they seem to be everywhere.

Alison -- several of my favorites are vintage finds, too, and all of those were ridiculously cheap. Excellent tip!

Deja -- I know. It's an excuse for another bag? How is that a problem????

StyleSpy said...

Toby -- the clutch seems to be having a resurgence, so it's your time to find one. Be good to you back and lighten your load a little!

Someone -- it's hard to avoid logos altogether these days, but zipper pulls are usually pretty innocuous.

Anon-- further proof that when you stumble on the perfect thing, you should BUY IT!

StyleSpy said...

Jen -- you're right, it would have made a nice difference. And you can always tuck a little evening bag inside your regular bag when you head to work.

Francis -- I went out with my girlfriends this past weekend and carried a beautiful black snakeskin vintage framed clutch. It's not about who you're with, it's about . If you're wearing casual clothes, carry a casual bag. If you're dressed up, you need an evening bag. Plus, believe me, no one will appreciate a good evening bag more than your girlfriends.

C -- yes, that's what we call an "aspirational item."

Duchesse said...

Here, here! No obviously logoed bag is really stylish. (If one *has* to have LV, get one without logos.) But I don't mind all black in the evening, it looks right in my large city with full winters.

Emily B said...

At my office, it's all about the D&B's *eye roll* Sure they're well made, but I don't think you could make a less exciting line of handbags if you tried.

Frances - I'm about the same age, and my default "going out" bag is a funky oversized clutch. Goes with everything, and it's the perfect midway point between day satchel and glitzy cocktail bag.

Jo said...

I have a serious question about the whole evening bag thing: Is eccentric okay when it comes to evening bags?

I hate clutches. Can't seem to hang on to 'em, no matter how I try, and I've lost IDs, keys, and cash because of that strange superpower. So I carry weird little bags that have shoulder straps, to wit:

White sparkly bag, 1930's vintage, with strap, or
Black beaded purse, new-ish, with strap, or
Mirrored Indian fabric drawstring bag from the '70's, multicolored, with strap, or
Black-and-white patent leather bag in the shape of a panda, with strap (has fake emerald eyes)

None of these are run-of-the-mill evening bags, but they have straps long enough that I can sling the bag over my shoulder in a crowd. Am I breaking some rule here, or is it okay for a 40-year-old to be that weird?

WV: "cryolize"--what Style Spy will do when she envisions a woman in an LBD, Eamez shoes, and a panda bag out for dinner.

WendyB said...

Uh-oh...I do bare legs a lot! Hey, if I'm just going from the apartment to the taxi to the restaurant and back, I don't get cold! :-)

polka dot said...

It's true: it is the little things.

Was leaving you a long comment earlier but something weird happened to my keyboard: it was typing the wrong letters & I had to shut down & lost it.

My favourite is the pink (last) sparkly one. I agree about logos, unless it's ironic.

Oh I meant to post on my Valentine's Day experience: this year because of all the blogging hoo hah, I felt we should do something special. So Mr. Dot had a surprise planned for me during the day. I must admit after all this time I was getting excited - I love surprises - & I washed & blow dried my hair, thought an extra moment to what I wanted to wear.. he said to 'dress warm' and 'casual' and I said I really didn't want to be outside (the weather was pretty crap). I asked if it would involve food as I was starving ('yes') so good, we were going out to lunch.

Well we walked for about five minutes to our nearest high street (main street in US terms). On the corner is a cheap bbq chicken joint called Nando's. He took me to Nando's! I couldn't believe it, I was laughing so hard. We were the only ones there apart from a family. He couldn't understand why I was laughing, in his words 'You've always said you wanted to go here.' (it's true: we went once & I realloy liked it) but for Valentine's Day??

Well I'll give him this: he did surprise me.

Loved your comment. And I learned something new today: you guys now have indoor plumbing? COOL.