About a week into lockdown I started to really miss my handbag. Debit card and hand sanitiser had already migrated into the pockets of my coat. No call for reapplying lipstick on the hoof, and no danger of being out for long enough to need a phone charger. Even a water bottle was suddenly unnecessary.
A nice handbag has always been my weakness. I am not a label snob, but I appreciate the satisfying clunk of quality hardware fastenings, the thoughtfulness of a well-placed zip compartment, the cheer of a beautiful silk lining. Not the dinky, fussy, teeny-tiny type of bag – those have always left me cold. What I love is the sleek, polished competence of a proper, day-sized handbag, a badge of honour of a grownup life.
And absence made the heart grow even fonder. I wasn’t such a handbag obsessive that I couldn’t enjoy the freedom of a handbag-free dog walk or paper run, but I began gazing lovingly at my bag where it hung, neglected, in the hallway.
My go-to handbag is a grownup cross-body, like this navy leather one by Hugo Boss, an old favourite from the back of my wardrobe. At a pre-show chat with Michael Kors during New York fashion week in February, the designer said that every bag in his collection had a strap long enough that it could be adjusted to be worn across the body “because that’s the way we live now”. Suntan thick as treacle and shades polished to a swimming-pool glassiness, even on that chill Manhattan day, Kors looked, as ever, the ultimate ambassador for urban glamour. But even he accepts that hands-free bag-wearing is more modern, more chic, than the rictus clench of a bag clamped under an armpit.
A handbag needs to be a good fit for what you need to carry. Buying a size too small and telling yourself you will squeeze into it is as misguided with handbags as trousers. Overstuffed is not chic. But it also needs to be a good fit for how you live your life, which is why the open-top designer tote works if it sits on the passenger seat of your car, but not so much if you travel on public transport. The new version of normal life, of course, may look quite different. I’m just hoping that it works with a handbag.