BEST TRAVEL HANDBAG EVER: a totally fortuitous discovery.
I am no longer a very devoted blog-writer, but my devoted readers may recall my trip to Chicago last spring. Mr FS and I went to a conference and in our off-time decided to focus on the Art Institute of Chicago. So we bought a membership.
Besides the art, the best thing about the membership was the lounge, which provided respite from the crowds and also provided very good coffee. We also got a tote bag.
The tote bag is plain: black on one side, it proclaims Art Institute of Chicago in white letters on the other side. It also has Member printed on it. The handles are a good length, suitable for shoulder AND hand carrying (unlike the iconic LL Bean tote, where you have to choose one or the other).
It is of lightish-weight canvas and has a coating inside that makes it waterproof. Zip top. It has a tiny zip compartment where you can put your absolute necessities (for me, a credit card, a lipstick, and some dental floss).
I took the tote on our trip as a backup (haha) and ended up using it every day. Not only is it lightweight and aesthetically pleasing, but it is socioeconomically ambiguous. I have never bought anything emblazoned with a logo, but this particular logo has--i think--an interesting effect.
It is clearly an inexpensive tote, yet it proclaims affiliation with a cultural institution. Most handbags nowadays proclaim their cost, sad but true. Two summers ago I saw several women in Paris holding big Hermes bags across their chests. Truly, the effect was like holding a giant price tag.
My bag could take me anywhere. Was I a penurious artist? a philanthropist? I could be anything. The zip top would foil pickpockets, but would anyone in that line of work be attracted to a cheap tote anyway? I don't think so.
That logo though: it gives the bag that certain cultured je ne sais quoi. I could even wear it to Hermes. Though I didn't.