Susan carried a huge bag every day for more than a decade, moving from an oversize satchel in graduate school to a diaper bag after her son was born. But then the 45-year-old received a sapphire-blue leather clutch as a gift. She took it for a test run on a business trip and returned a changed woman.
Like Susan, many women post 2014, have discovered a new and unusal trend that today's most expensive and stylish handbags seem to keep getting smaller. The abundance of teeny, tiny handbags that have been spotted on the runways at Celine, Dior, and Chanel and the slim arms of editors and influencers like Miroslava (Mira) Duma. Pouches, à la the colorful printed ones from Comme des Garçons and Claire V., have been popular day bags for a few seasons, but now the trend seems to be moving towards smaller and smaller versions of traditional handbags.
How small is a “mini” bag? Well, most of the styles look like a shrunken version of a familiar shape, like a Louis Vuitton steam-trunk or a ladylike top-handle bag from Kate Spade.
Blogger Bryanboy says that’s on purpose. “They’re cute but also they’re clever marketing tactics. Prices of designer bags have gone up. Can’t afford the big one? Here’s the mini-version for half the price!” he said, via text.
It’s the kind of super-small bag that makes you wonder if the gargantuan iPhone 6 (or, heaven forbid, the iPhone 6S) would squeeze into it. Playing with proportion has long been a favorite of the fashion set, especially pairing tiny bags with oversized coats and sneakers, making a traditional evening bag far more casual for day.
Accessories designer Eric Javits has been making handbags for more than twenty years, and makes everything from fur clutches to plastic lined beach totes. He said, "Small bags are very chic. They make you feel like you are dressed like a lady. They also give the impression that you have a neatly organized life. Lugging a large tote with everything in it can make you look overwhelmed (if you are petite) or that you do not have a life outside of work and gym."
In other words, the bag lady look is not a good one.
New York-based designer Tyler Ellis makes minute bags in rainbows of exotic colors that have turned into a best-seller and signature for her brand Tyler Alexandra. “I took my signature Jamie frame [a structured, top handle style] and shrunk it. People related to the mini and it became a hit,” says the designer by email. Ellis is making the mini bag for the third season in a row.
The mini Jamie bag measures a wee 5.5 x 3 x 4 inches and its price varies depending on what it is made of: $3320 for black crocodile, $1050 for leather. “I have had huge success with the mini! When I carry it, I get stopped all of the time by men and women, complimenting me on my bag.”
Ellis carries the bag during the day but conceded that some clients carry it in their larger totes, pulling out the mini version for evening. Sales are best in Asia, London, the Middle East, and Russia.
That bag, the Cedar Street Mini Maise, is 5.5 x 7 x 3 inches and can be carried by the handle or cross-body. It’s debatable whether one could even slip it over the wrist.
The best example of this mini-as-It-bag is certainly the Louis Vuitton Petite Malle Malletage: an extremely small steamtrunk that will fit none of your shoes for a glamorous holiday but instead a phone, credit card, and keys. At 7.1 x 4.7 x 1.6 inches, it’s small but costs a staggering $5,500.
I popped into the Louis Vuitton boutique in New York’s Soho to take a photo of the bag as compared to my iPhone 6. It’s not that much larger than the phone, though the gleam of the bag is arguably shinier than most things I’ve seen, the hardware carries more weight, and the painted pattern is far more unique.
An older man, shopping for his wife for Christmas, abandoned the LV tote he was considering and instead bought the bag after my friend and I offered our opinions of the piece.
Bryanboy agreed; he bought two, citing reasons of incredible craftsmanship and the fact that the small size forces him to pare down what he lugs around daily. “You know how the iconic Vuitton trunk is nowadays unusable and fans prefer to keep them in their living rooms as home décor? Well the petit Malle is a great conversation piece and prop on top of my coffee table books!”
Decorative yes, but a daily handbag that will sweep through the closets of women worldwide? More unlikely. The reality is most women need something that can fit at least a water bottle, if not an iPad, sunnies, flats, snacks, safety pins, headphones, and the kitchen sink.
"No one is abandoning totes for small top handle bags,” concluded Javits. “This trend cannot replace utilitarian bags that women need for their real work lives. There is obviously a place for both small and large bags in one's life."
The term 'leather jacket' usually conjures a specific style: the 'biker'. You know the sort. Typified by a cropped fit, this classic piece boasts wide lapels that attach to the jacket with popper, and a cross-body zip. But this isn't the only option. There are cafe racers (same cropped fit, but no collar and a straight zip).
There are cafe racers (same cropped fit, but no collar and a straight zip). You can consider the leather bomber too, or perhaps the Del Boy daddy itself: the shearling coat.
Whatever style you land on, fit is vital. Cafe racers and bombers best suit a close, slim shape, while bikers and shearling can equally benefit from a slim or a slightly oversized fit, season and personal style depending.
But most importantly, leave room for layers. You should be able to fit at least a sweatshirt below, while also making great pains to avoid pieces dropping below the belt line (unless it's shearling, which can fall a little lower).
Don't try and skimp on a leather jacket: it's a false economy. Cheap, shiny, imitation leather will only clinch a job with your local market trader (or, perhaps, a backing dancer slot on Eurovision). Likelihood is it won't last either.
By its very nature, leather is expensive. So if you can't afford that Saint Laurent grail piece just yet (keep wishing, keep hoping), then it's best to stick to mid-tier brands. Or pay a visit to as many vintage shops as possible. There's quality to be had, and the majority are simply gathering dust in forgotten corners of Zone 4. It'll be worth the train ride.
Even the most beautiful and best-fitting leather jacket can be sullied by a poor outfit elsewhere. Bootcut jeans and square toe shoes will do that quicker than you can say 'BMW X5'. Tan brogues are off limits too.
Instead, treat the jacket as the centrifugal force of the entire outfit: every other piece should compliment, as opposed to distract.
Makes sense, then, to settle for monochrome leather. Straight leg jeans, minimalist trainers, thick-soled derbies or a very, very subtle slither of colour or print will all make for happy bedfellows.
You've mastered the basics. Bravo. That doesn't mean you should let your newfound leather love beat into outerwear at large.
A blazer is a blazer and should not be made of leather. A trench coat is a trench coat and should not be made out of leather. Not unless your name's Neo. And even then, he certainly wasn't our Chosen One.