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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tote Bag Search Encore: Progress Report

My faithful readers may remember that I sent out a call for help on a tote bag a while ago. Unfortunately, the problem remains. In fact, it is a critical problem, because, when I was sick a while back and dragging myself to work, I decided I should have a bottle of daytime cough medicine at the ready.

I suspect that you already know how this story will end. I put the bottle into a plastic grocery bag (just in case!) and put it in my aforementioned LL Bean tote (with vile architect's logo) along with folders of student work. Naturally, the safety cap was not secure AND the plastic bag had holes in it. Hence, many student papers and the tote bag itself (not to mention the carpet on the floor of the car) ended up soaked in viscous red liquid. The students were very forgiving. The tote bag is a mess.

When I posted about my desire for a new tote, two commenters suggested that I make one. That would be nice if I knew how to sew. I remember with pain the humiliation of being the WORST student in home ec back in eighth grade. Everyone was putting in zippers, while I was still basting. Then the home ec wing burned down. What a relief. I still got a C in home ec.

In my fantasy world, I will acquire some iconic tote bag. This fantasy was strengthened after riding the shuttle last summer at the San Francisco airport in the company of Mr. FS, a bunch of normal mortals, and a stranger whom I dub Mr. Iconic, after his clothes and luggage. I may write a full description of this fascinating fellow some time, but suffice it to say that everything on or near his body was recognizably super expensive, with and without logos. I have never seen a man decked out in such an array of designer duds; at the same time, the effect was not--as it often is on women--that of the soi-disant "label whore." This guy definitely had an aura. So much so, that even Mr. FS, oblivious to clothing in general, and who only recognized the somewhat worn Vuitton garment bag, was aware of it. He said "That guy looked really rich. I really liked his little orange suitcase." Uh, can we say Hermes?

Along with the Hermes, Burberry (coat and scarf), and Vuitton, he carried a beat up leather tote bag. Obviously expensive, but with the je ne sais quoi of wear. Indeed, I read somewhere that, owing to the number of fakes in circulation, the only Vuitton with any cachet at all, is worn Vuitton (perhaps because the fakes don't hold up?).

So, for a while, I thought about a leather tote. Then, my mother gave me some leather briefcases that had belonged to my late father. Very funky. But also very heavy, even with nothing in them.

Lightweight AND iconic. That must be the famous Longchamp Pliage bag, carried by everyone in Paris. But even in my fantasies, I am a cheapwad. So, although I can say I will pick one up next time I am in France, the truth is I will never actually spend over $100.00 on a nylon bag, even if it has leather trim. So unless one goes on sale, I know myself too well to ever do this.

Another tote bag, not iconic, is this sophisticated looking tie dye number. I hate tie dye as a rule--those garish colors. But this tie dye, by Bodkin of Brooklyn, an eco-fashion company, is beautiful. I read that the dye is all natural and made of blueberries and such. It is also dyed in the bathtubs of upscale artisan types in Brooklyn, rather than in third world countries or at summer camp. Well, all that is too chichi for me. My eco-fashion comes via thrift stores. Also, $80.00! It would be one thing if I could pull it off. But I know that if I lugged it around, with my messy hair and general air of disarray, it would look like something I picked up at Walmart for $12.99. So I have to confess that I myself would nullify what is special about this bag.

Back to LL Bean. I must admit that I am swayed by the free shipping (and return shipping) and free monogramming that come with my charge card. I get sidetracked by the leather tote once more. Especially since a romp through the internet suggests that no-name classic bags are trumping ostentatious "It-Bags" in the age of austerity. The LL Bean bag comes up often in such discussions, along with similar bags from Pendleton. But I am annoyed that the price went from $99.00 in December to $129.00 in January. And it seems heavy.

Back to the boat and tote bags. What could be more iconic? But--ugh--that cream canvas covered with red blotches. And there is the monogram issue discussed earlier. (If I am entitled to a free monogram, because I have the LLB charge, by golly I will get one).

Then I turn to "other" in the tote department. There is the hunter's tote. Not canvas, but nylon. Waterproof. Ecstatic reviews. Only $29.00 for the large size. I love words like "utility." The one woman reviewer bought the camouflage pattern. Hey! Camouflage is iconic! I run this idea by Mr. FS. He does not think a camouflage tote would "read" as ironic and post-modern.

Okay, what about olive drab? Then I can get a monogram with my awful initials, but it will hardly show.

I have plenty of time to mull over this major decision. It occurs to me that in around 5 weeks, I will begin my three months of summer break. Thanks to my extreme frugality, I do not have to teach in the summer, nor does Mr. FS. So I don't need a tote bag for a while.

Needless to say: your opinion Dear Readers? Any other good candidates. I have THREE MONTHS to think about this.


Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

Ohhhh yeah...a story on Mr. Megabucks would be soooo interesting. Hope you and your family had an awesome Easter together.
I do love that L.L. Bean tote...I know it's a little pricey but I have a jacket I got from them about 15 years ago that looks brand new almost. That being considered, works out to very little money for a high quality product. I have a few pairs of shoes like that as well. I've had to re-sole a couple of them but the top leather still looks new (and of course the fact that darling Prince polishes them for me doesen't hurt, hehe).
Take good care and.....

Steady On
Reggie Girl

Fabulously Broke said...

That L.L. Bean one gets my vote. Honestly, classic, slim leather will always get my vote over canvas or cloth, unless the cloth is really fab

Duchesse said...

I like the camo! A monongram that "hardly shows" is much more subtle, therefore tasteful. Or get it monogrammed in hunter orange.

Anonymous said...

I really like the last one - the olive drab.

I usually go for giant handbags, then I can put everything (including my OU books and my lunch) in the one bag - I have a tendency to leave one behind if I am carrying two bags. I always buy leather bags, so they last and I can swap them around so I don't get bored, though I have to admit they are all black. My daughters borrow them to double up as school bags.

Idee Fixe said...

Have you tried looking in consignment shops for a quality high-end bag? They often have Longchamp bags in my local consignment shop for under $100, as well as other bags that would normally be out of my price range. Many are barely used, and some even have the original tags! I tend to buy large handbags, as I hate toting something extra. Satchel styles work well and usually have very sturdy handles. Good luck finding something to suit your needs and gives you a little pick me up fashion-wise.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Reggie--I love your Prince stories. I think leather would be too heavy for me. It is beautiful though.

@Fabulously--As above, beautiful but too heavy.

@Idee--There are no good consignment stores in my town (all have gone out of business), but I keep hoping one will show up...

@Duchesse--Love the camo with orange idea! But I'm too shy. What color monogram if I get the solid green or the black (comes in black too).

@Alienne--I love the leather but I'm afraid i just can't carry it any more...too heavy.

Mary said...

Oh my goodness, I am awash in tote bags. I'd love to send you one! If you have a friend who buys department store makeup I'll bet they are just like me, with more tote bags than they know what to do with. Ask around! You don't get to be as particular about the look but...they're free!

Frugal Scholar said...

@Mary--I have lots of tote bags, but I want--or think I want--some kind of "statement" tote bag. I am reconsidering though; I don't really NEED one.

Duchesse said...

A San Francisco company makes wonderful totes (also messenger bags, packs, wallets); Timbuk2; www,; you can order pre-made or custom-design. They are made in ballistic nylon (WAY stronger than canvas), wonderful quality. Have a look! I am incliding themn in a post I'll have up soon on graduatin gifts but they are not great for anyone.