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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Today... I declare war on ugly bags

Somehow somewhere someone became convinced that the only way to carry one's laptop and files was in a huge, ugly, black, nylon bag. Somehow somewhere someone else decided that having one black handbag is acceptable to take everywhere and with everything. I do not know, who those people were, but somehow they managed to convince a large portion of the population (male and female) to do the same. Well, I will not stand for it any longer! I cannot bear to see sharp business outfits and postures ruined by the hideous mounds of suffocating black nylon making people look like a cross between Igor from Young Frankenstein and Quazimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I refuse to allow another beautiful evening gown to be disfigured by the sight of a huge black "kitchen sink" bag.

Evolution applies to everything, ladies and gentlemen. You would be amazed to find out that bag technology and design had made terrific strides in the last fifty years. You do not need to accept that ugly carrying case that came free with your laptop. You can leave behind that hand bag that you've had forever. There is a way.

Seriously, folks, good attractive bags no longer cost and arm and a leg - super-popular designers are only trying to convince you that they do. All you need is to know where to look. As most of us have to work for a living and many of us are equipped with laptops for the purpose, let us start with the laptop bag.

The fans of the big black backpack will tell me that it's healthier for one's back. Yes, absolutely - when you are going hiking. However, you know and I know that most of the laptop backpack owners just sling the damn thing over one shoulder, this getting absolutely no benefit out of that second shoulder strap. So, let's stop pretending that you are keeping it because it's good for your back. You have probably done more damage to your back by hauling it around than if you had just stuck with a regular shoulder bag.

The laptop backpack and another bane of many laptop-carriers - the roller bag (equally nylon, black and hideous) - share the same problem: they are very easy to overfill. People tend to stuff them with the content of their entire office or cubicle and are then surprised, why they end up needing such a big bag. I would start by de-cluttering your work, converting as much paper into electronic form as possible, and making a hard decision to not truck all of that stuff home with you every day. Yes, we are all over capacity and work long hours. But we also need to wake up and smell the dinner we should be making for our spouses and cookies we should be baking for our kids instead of burying ourselves in some memo at the dinner table.

Once that is done, go out and get a couple of nice laptop bags that can accommodate the laptop, the power source and the mouse (if you use one), and maybe a small binder or a handful of folders. If you can splurge, peruse Levenger - they have some absolutely incredible bags for men and women. If the budget is limited, go to sellers that carry a wide variety of styles and prices such as eBags (which is where this laptop bag came from - I've had it for a while, and couldn't be happier with it!) or discount stores like Ross, TJ Max or Marshall's. All of them have many offerings for men and women. Yes, men too - just because you are a guy doesn't automatically imply that I'll forgive you for schlepping around an ugly bag, so there! And get away from black - there are plenty of nice roomy bags in a variety of colors, including bright reds, greens and purples if you are feeling brave, or rich chocolates, sophisticatedly-dark-trimmed tans and elegant grays for those who prefer to be more subdued.

The reason I suggest getting at least a couple of bags is that you'll want to get equal use out of them, which will force you to swap them regularly and get rid of any junk that may have accumulated in there while you weren't looking. While your new bag may not be a backpack, you'll notice that not carrying all that extra stuff and being able to simply toss the bag from one hand to another actually improves your posture.

When not carrying around a laptop, most men actually don't seem to need a bag - they are content to carry their wallets and keys in their pockets. Of course we - women - appear to be genetically incapable of that. I cannot imagine leaving the house without my cell phone, my hair brush, and my digital camera at the minimum, possibly my journal or small sketch book. How the heck would I fit all that into a pocket?! That said, I by no means advocate having just one big black bag to carry all that. It does not go with everything and - frankly - it's just boring.

The red bag is easily my favorite - I love the bright color. It peps up any outfit. It came from Target and I think I paid $15 for it. Had it for at least two years, if not more. It has everything I need in a bag - lots of pockets, compartments and zippers inside and outside allowing me to stash all my bits and pieces neatly.

This is new - a Christmas gift from Gerry. It's from Ross (ergo significantly below the arm-and-leg designer bag price) and I think it's gorgeous. The dark brown goes with lots more things than black ever could, and it has that luxurious suede "touchy-feely" texture to it.

I do like to keep my hands free when I go for long walks (to take pictures or fight off thugs :-) ). Traveling is definitely prime time for walking. So, this little leather backpack traveled to Paris with me instead of a regular handbag. I bought it at a small leather goods shop in Blowing Rock, NC. Now that I think of it, with the exception of my luggage, it is the most expensive bag I own ($47). The straps zip together, so it can be carried as a shoulder bag as well, and while it looks small, it has plenty of room for all my essentials, including a small bottle of water.

Just as the regular hand bag, the realm of evening bags appear to belong to women alone. And - just as it happens with the regular hand bags - for some reason many women just truck their "good big" black bag with them to a black-tie event, a nice restaurant or a theater. I am not sure why anyone would do that - finding a range of gorgeous little evening purses and then figuring out ways to work them in with your nice clothes is actually quite a lot of fun!

One of my favorite places to scour for fabulous evening bags is eBay. The little satin-and-beads work of art shown above is actually a vintage wedding purse, which I adapted to some of my paler evening outfits. $10 with shipping, and I know for damn sure that no other woman in the room has an accessory like that. :-)

When I grow up and make my fortune as a writer, photographer and artist, I will go to Victorian Trading and buy one of the stunning Mary Frances creations. They are exorbitantly expensive, but each one really is a work of art. As an artist, I would consider purchasing one of these bags akin to buying a painting by Renoir. ...Except you cannot carry a Renoir with you when you go out, but you can do that with a bag.

In the meantime, Victorian Trading is considerate enough to also cater to those of us, who are only in the process of making our fortunes, by offering several fabulous options in the $25 - $35 range.

I have written about the eBay fair trade store World of Good in another article. If you would like to expand your evening bag selection and support talented artists around the world in the process, definitely peruse their selection. The pieces are unique, truly beautiful and available in a variety of styles, colors, and prices.

Escape the rule of ugly boring bags in favor of good taste, good accessorizing and good posture. The details are important, and having a bag that helps pull your look together, instead of jarring with it, may turn out more enjoyable than you think.

Images courtesy eBags, Maria K., Victorian Trading, World of Good

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