Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

March 7, 2012

I think I'm missing the 'handbag gene'

If you've read Caitlin Moran's fabulous 'How To Be A Woman' (and if you haven't, you should amend this omission promptly), you will most likely have snorted in laughter at the part where she talks about handbags and particularly where she compares some of the more expensive designer ones to S&M horses. It made me chuckle anyway and she makes a very valid point about handbags and women and the - often - bizarre relationship between the two.

Certainly, a handbag can say a lot about a person - are they fashion conscious, are they using the handbag as a statement, are they 'on trend' or are they simply (and I'm aware that this may be a shocking concept) using it to carry stuff around in?

I've never really been a 'statement' handbag girl. Yes, I like my handbag to be spacious and pretty or to maybe coordinate with at least one of the items of clothing I've thrown on that day, but coveting the latest Hermes Birkin (did I spell that right?) or Victoria Beckham design is just something I don't understand. Really - I don't. I look at those expensive bags behind their glass cases and can't help thinking that I could get one which looked pretty much the same in Primark or Debenhams for a fraction of the price. That's just the way I look at it.

But, I am well aware that for many women, those designer handbags are the stuff of legend, glinting with a extraordinary 'my precious' type allure under their carefully lit cases. Even still, I was stunned to learn that according to new research, almost half a million women in the UK would be prepared to spend more than £1,000 on a handbag she loved. Gulp. Really? Perhaps I am missing the handbag-gene because I would seriously hesitate to spend £1,000 on a person I loved, never mind a bag.

Another startling handbag fact is that almost the same number of women (half a million) carry over £2,000 worth of contents around in their handbags, creating a total weight of over 4kg (the same weight as an average cat and heavier than most newborn babies). Wow. That's a lot of stuff and a lot of weight to be carrying around.

Mobiles, laptops, iPods, e-Readers and iPads account for the vast proportion of the value inside the handbag, with everyday essentials such as purses, keys, hairbrushes, tissues, children's toys, pens, books and a spare pair of shoes making up the rest of the value and weight. A veritable tardis indeed.

Reading all this got me thinking about my own handbag. So, I had a rummage inside and this is what I found: 1 purse, 3 packets of tissues, 1 pack of cleansing wipes, 1 umbrella, 3 shopping lists, 13 till receipts, 1 ice lolly stick, 1 train timetable, 1 Chewit wrapper, 1 child's sock which has been mysteriously missing for months, 1 box of Tic Tacs, 3 crumpled up tissues, 1 pen, 2 benefit lip tints, 1 chocolate coin, 1 of those Eskimo mints you get at the end of a meal, 1 plaster, 1 purple Quality Street wrapper and a handful of coffee beans which were pilfered by my son from the display at the local coffee shop.

This content is probably worth a total of about two euros, thus proving that I am not your average woman when it comes to the matter of handbags. It was quite a therapeutic exercise nevertheless and probably says something about me, although I'm not quite sure what.

If you are a handbag lover - and plan to be a bit more frugal in your purchases than the half a million women mentioned above - then you might be interested to learn that Dannii Minogue's fashion label Project D have been working with Kenco Millicano coffee (who commissioned the research into UK women's handbag habits) to create their first ever handbag from the label. The limited edition 'K Bag' (pictured, quite exclusively above might I add) will be available to buy exclusively online at from 19th March, retailing at £250 with all profits going to a charitable cause.

It looks like a perfectly nice handbag to me and a suitable accessory for transporting my many packets of tissues and kids' empty sweet wrappers around in. I'm not sure, however, what Caitlin Moran would have to say about the studs on the ends.

Why not have a rummage around in your handbag today - you might be surprised at what you find.



  1. I'm missing the gene too then! My bag is one that I brought when I was 16. It doesn't go with anything but I don't care because it is huge, goes over my shoulder and means I can carry a picnic, change of clothes for every family member, a small car and at least one member of the household infantry. The tissues and sweets are in there too. Anyway have requested the book at the library so I can snort with laughter and I'm off to see if I can find a new giant handbag for under £10.

  2. You're not alone - I'm totally missing that gene. I think the most I've ever spent on a handbag was £45 and that was hard enough to do.

  3. I presumed I had the handbag gene as I do like bags but thinking about it, perhaps I don't. I only usually have one handbag on the go at once and tend to use it until it falls apart or looks too scruffy. I like my handbag to look nice but at the same time I do have specific requirements about size, handles etc so it's always hard to find the perfect one. And also I really don't like spending a lot of money on handbags. I generally wouldn't spend more than about £30 but even that seems a lot.

  4. Ooh I'm definately not missing that gene (although husband would love it if I was!) I love my leopard print Mulberry but I waited a year for it and bought in the sale. Was nowhere near a grand though and if I had that kind of money I'd use it to travel! I do find a few designer pieces/coats/bags/purse last far longer than lots of bags etc I would buy then discard after a few washes.

  5. No handbag gene and no shoe gene either here. (I do have the boots gene though). Just one handbag, which gets changed whenever it wears out and is regularly emptied so I'm afraid there's nothing interesting in it at all...

  6. I don't have that gene. There are sooooo many things I'd rather spend money on. I did once have a handbag that I was ridiculously fond of, and just used it for years and years, till it was horribly shabby (probably could be "shabby-chic" or something, these days). Otherwise, they're just functional.

  7. I think this obsession is akin to the shoe adoration that many women develop. I do think that accessories are given a lot of importance because of their universal appeal...a lot of high end designers discriminate against women who go beyond a restrictive size, whereas every women can enjoy the beauty of a handbag or pair of shoes.
    I'm a Penneys(Primark) girl all the way, I'd rather go on holiday if we had that money to spare!

  8. I can't imagine carrying around that kind of value in handbag contents, I usually have old receipts, a sticky sweet squashed on the bottom of my bag, a purse and an old style mobile! x

  9. I'm with you on the handbag thing. I have about four bags, all from pennys/primark, but my favourite bag is from a stall in st Anne's park, Raheny. It has a cool tapestry cat print and I fell in love with it because I love cats. I went the whole hog and bought the matching shopping bag and suitcase. The handbag holds what I need, gives me pleasure to look at and attracts comments from other cat lovers.

  10. Incidentally, it currently holds two purses, one for coins. Then two toy cars, cards I keep meaning to post, keys,notebook, four pens, make up bag, hairbrush, a dead daffodil, perfume, baby wipes, receipts, mobile, ipod, childs puzzle books, crayons and juice.

  11. I'm also missing the handbag gene. Could never contemplate spending - or wanting to spend - such vast amounts of money on a handbag. The contents of a handbag are very interesting though, and aside from the usual suspects of purse, phone, keys, and tissues, I found a soother, a toddler-sized underpants, and a toddler-sized pair of socks in my bag. Can you tell we've only recently been through toilet training? :)

  12. If I owned one of those designer handbags, I'd never use it. With the battering my bags take, it would cower on a shelf somewhere, avoiding eye contact for fear of being picked and ending up packed with snotty tissues and tacky lolliop sticks. Just like all the beautiful notebooks I buy to write in, the pressure to put equally beautiful things into it would mean it lay gathering dust. I do have a lot of cheap handbags because people (mainly mother and mother-in-law) keep buying them for me as presents. But I'm actually not a big fan of traditional handbags and need something with a long strap that I can carry across me. I like the packhorse look.
    As well as some of the things mentioned above, in my current bag are nine, yes NINE, pens, several loose Smarties, two handcreams, two dinosaurs, migraine medication, a Kindle and a mystery key. Hmmm.

  13. Oh, I just love this post! I am not a handbag person either, but I have two daughters who are. I only purchase a new one about every 5-6 years, when my old one starts to wear out or I get sick of it. In contrast, my daughters have dozens of handbags and they love the designer ones most of all. I just can't relate ;)

  14. It’s fun to think about how fashion, and here are the fashion handbag store online


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