Bags

3 Essential Leather Goods From Madewell

Whenever I am in need of any type of leather good, Madewell is the first stop on my search. The three items we will be discussing in this post were acquired in a similar manner—rather impulsively.

Let’s begin with the chain crossbody bag. I’d been attending a particular holiday party once a year up until Covid. Selecting the dress and the shoes was easy enough, but my quest to find a clutch always proved difficult. My luck changed the year I discovered the chain crossbody bag. The gold-toned chain can be worn around the shoulder or tucked inside the bag. A hint of the chain—a detail too beautiful to hide—is left exposed at the top of the flap when it’s tucked. This bag has attended every holiday party since the year that I purchased it. It’s also been to the opera, the ballet, countless plays, Riverdance, and a wedding. The chain has come in handy when I’ve needed the use of both hands. My mobile, keys, and cards fit inside, and I never have to ask anyone to keep an eye on them while I’m on the dance floor.

The pouch was my second leather purchase from Madewell. It was August 2018, and I’d just gotten my first iPhone. I needed an everyday pouch that would accommodate it along with my keys and cards. I usually place this pouch inside of a larger bag, but it can easily be carried solo on a quick errand. The brass-colored zipper provides a pop of color.

I purchased the card case in December 2020 to accompany me on brisk walks. Oftentimes, I don’t like to carry a pouch or a large bag when I’m on a mission to get my steps. This case holds my identification card, credit card, and the public transport card of whatever city I’m in. It can also hold a key provided it’s not on a ring. I prefer to shop at Madewell in person rather than online. (I like to hear the click of my heels on the wooden floor.) All three of the aforementioned items were purchased at the Walnut Street location, which seems to always have something in stock to meet my urgent, bag-related needs.

Works Sighted

Madewell chain crossbody bag; Madewell card case; Madewell pouch

The L.L.Bean Boat and Tote

The L.L.Bean Boat and Tote was originally designed for hauling ice but is an ideal carrier for endless combinations of items: notebook/pen, towel/sunscreen, salad/apple/Perrier, package/shipping label/tape. It is a stylish sidekick for busy days. The sizes range from small to extra-large, which enables the buyer to select a style with dimensions that suit the task(s) to which it will be designated. The handle’s color and length are customizable, as is the color of the monogram. Oh yes, you must get it monogrammed. The only time I ordered a Boat and Tote without one was when I gave it to a friend and didn’t know if she would prefer her initials on the side. I’ve given this canvas bag as a gift on three occasions. The medium, open-top tote with short, navy handles is my go-to style in these instances. But it also comes in a zip-top version, which I’ve found useful. L.L.Bean will occasionally produce variants of the classic tote, but I don’t recommend that you explore them until after you’ve become acquainted with the original.

Works Sighted

L.L.Bean Boat and Tote (medium, short handles in navy, red monogram)

The Graphic Tote

The Daunt Books canvas tote has earned a spot in the new V&A exhibition Bags: Inside Out. To celebrate the occasion, I took my green bag to brunch this past weekend. Now is as good a time as any to approach the topic of the graphic tote. You may be wondering if there is room for graphics in a classic wardrobe. The answer is: Yes; but you have to select them carefully. If I had to describe my collection of graphic totes in a single word, I’d say that it’s curated. Each piece is tasteful and has personal meaning.

When you carry a graphic tote in public, it is bound to get noticed. If the graphic is exceptional, strangers may ask you where they may acquire one themselves. Dealing with these types of inquiries will be a walk in Hyde Park if your bag has sentimental value. I spent many relaxing hours browsing the shelves at Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street when I lived in London. On one occasion, a Selfridges sales associate asked after the origin of my beloved tote. I told her about how the books at my favorite shop were arranged on the shelves by country.

Daunt Books is more than a shop. It is a means of travel, a second home library, an intimate venue, and a place where gifts are found. The graphic tote serves as an advertisement for the establishment from which it was purchased. You, the wearer, should be sure that the name displayed on your bag is that of a business with which you’d like to be associated. I carry the green tote as a symbol of my love for Daunt Books, and when I see it slung over another person’s arm, I can’t help but wonder if the stranger and I share the same interests.

Works Sighted

Daunt Books canvas bag; Margaux Demi flats (black)

Basket à la Birkin

You may recall that my Kayu tote played an essential role in my efforts to savor the remainder of summer. Well, I’m pleased to report that I’ve gotten ample use out of it; I’m now content with moving into autumn. In my search for a simple bag that was appropriate for all seasons, Jane Birkin’s signature straw basket came to mind. The actress purchased the item in Portugal (so the story goes), and it was always seen dangling over her arm. It’s evident from photographs of the singer in the 70s that there wasn’t a place the basket wouldn’t go. It accompanied her on errands, to the seaside, and even on nights out with Serge Gainsbourg. It was with her no matter the season.

I considered a lot of baskets before selecting one of medium size from AlbaATN (on Etsy). It’s lightweight, and I’m pleased with its size and shape. I intend to pair my new addition with outfits that don’t require tights (they’d snag). I’ll certainly bring it on errands that don’t require me to carry too many items (e.g. picking up a lemon or two from the grocery store; not on days when I’m due to retrieve my alterations). I doubt I’ll be carrying it to dinner at Parc, but we’ll see. I’ve personalized the handle with a Ratti-print scarf to give it un certain je ne sais quoi.

Works Sighted

AlbaATN (on Etsy) Jane Birkin basket (medium); J.Crew Ratti print scarf (sold out)

Further Reading

At 70, Jane Birkin’s Style Is More Iconic Than Ever (Vogue)

Upgrade Your Summer Bag Game With Jane Birkin’s Signature Basket (Vogue)

The Straw Market Basket

My straw market basket inspires me to pursue adventures of a culinary nature. Large straw baskets are commonly found in the hands of market shoppers all over France. Aside from being stylish, they make a statement about the way the French shop for their food; les Français value fresh, quality ingredients and eating together in an unhurried fashion. My food goals exactly!

I used to go to the farmers’ market every Saturday morning. I enjoyed surveying all of the options around the perimeter. The Amish selling meat, eggs, and milk. The self-made cheesemongers. The produce. Everything at the market was deliciously fresh, but the prices were significantly higher than those at Trader Joe’s (my most-frequented grocery store). It wouldn’t have been economical of me to buy everything on my grocery list from local vendors, so I limited my market haul to a few items each week.

When I lived in London, I’d buy produce from the market on Church Street. In central London, I found the prices to be lower at the market than they were in the grocery stores. I’d buy everything else from Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, or Tesco, but the market was consistently my one-stop-shop for all produce. Rarely did I spend over £7 on fruit and vegetables for the week.

My husband and I buy most of our groceries from Trader Joe’s, but I intend to start visiting the farmers’ market again for the experience. Ultimately, the outing is an opportunity to take a stroll in a pleasant outdoor environment, something that has been difficult to come by in Philadelphia as of late. Of course, I’ll be pretending to be in Paris the whole time anyway. You’ll recall that savoring the last days of summer is pretty high up on my list of priorities. Not only is the straw basket a farmers’ market staple, it is also roomy enough to hold picnic essentials. Think of throwing down your blanket in the Parc du Champ-de-Mars! I’ll be dinning en plein air at least once a week until the autumn chill sets in.

Works Sighted: LARLiving large French market basket

 

Kayu Mini Behati Tassel Straw Tote

I’ve always considered the first day of August to be the beginning of the end of summer. Every year around this time, I reflect on my summer accomplishments and contemplate whether or not I’ve spent enough time outside. My reflections on the present season have led me to realize that I’ve spent too much time inside, and now I feel obligated to take full advantage of August. Step one of savoring the remainder of the summer: carrying a straw bag. I often daydream about being back in Paris. Recently, I’ve envisioned myself there carrying a variety of straw bags. I’m not doing anything particularly thrilling—being in Paris is enough. The straw tote symbolizes a carefreeness that many of us haven’t experienced in a long time.

Kayu’s mini Behati tassel straw tote was the first addition of its kind to my closet. I’ve been carrying it often, even on walks around the block. The brand produces bags made of real straw, not the synthetic, straw-like material commonly found in similar products on the market. Furthermore, the brand’s bags are woven by women in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia; the craftsmanship has been passed down through generations. The company’s social impact initiative and handmade approach to production make my purchase even more meaningful. Although I’ve only made one purchase from Kayu thus far, I’ve added a few more items to my dream list. I know I’ll have to stow the mini Behati away when fall arrives, but for now, I’ll enjoy the joie de vivre it stirs up within me.

Works Sighted

Kayu mini Behati tassel straw tote; Castañer Carina 60mm wedge espadrille