I have a beautiful black woven leather Bottega Veneta clutch handbag that is now over two decades old and too worn out to carry outside anymore despite the fact that I have sent it to the Bottega company for repairs and complete overhauls several times. They do a wonderful job of restoration but it is now truly too worn out to carry outside, it would fall apart! But I still use it inside ~ I keep favorite letters and special cards in it. It is my favorite bag I have ever owned. It was very expensive and well worth every penny I spent on it. I love it and it makes me very happy and because of my experiences owning it symbolizes intrinsic style to me in every way.
Today a friend named Nora complained to me about her daughter using the same bag, one that was getting worn out, all the time, despite the fact, that, she, her mother, had bought her several other very expensive well known designer bags in efforts to replace it. Perhaps it falls into her favorite bag category as I describe below, category number III. If so, I told her, you should cut her some slack!
So I decided I should write this for her and my readers. In my opinion there are three ways to look at bags!
I. There are special designer or collector bags that you keep very carefully, protected in their dust covers, for the majority of time and bring out to use and enjoy only when attending a special event or wearing with a special outfit. Thus you are very careful of them and they are seldom used or seen!
II. There are casual sturdy tough bags you can use daily or casually and toss about with careless abandon. These are very practical. Some become favorites and get a very broken in familiar look. I have nothing against this. It is very practical and I think that is where my friend’s daughter’s bag falls. Sometimes these look like hell, but that can also be OK if you don’t care.
III. Then there are the Special Favorite Bag Category bags, like my black Bottega Veneta black leather clutch as described. These are the type that are well made and classy enough to belong in Category I as described above, but they are so beloved and special and comfortable that you literally fall in love with them and become emotionally and physically attached to them! It is not always easy to recognize that a bag will be like this at first. (Just like a person in the same category!) If a beautiful and expensive designer bag makes it into this category it is truly well designed because it is useful and lovely and enjoyable all at once.
If you own a bag like this, you love it for your own reasons and no one else can, necessarily, understand them! It is very personal. And very special! And you, as the owner are very lucky to have it. I know that Nora’s daughter’s bag is one of these special Category III bags! She has lugged it through college and traveling, during her summer vacation, all over the world and now has two young children and continues to use it! Of course it is weathered and has character by now! In its own way it actually looks great – to people who understand this type of thing! I like it, myself. I can see the meaning in it and how useful and serviceable it has been. It is truly shabby chic. She is totally attached to it, carries her life in it, and will not give it up! She thinks it is wonderful and so do I! It is also sort of cool that her mother hates it, to tell the truth! That fact even adds to its sense of character! She also refuses to carry a wallet. She carries her ID and credit cards in a bunch held together with packing tape. She has also done this forever. (Her forever!) This also makes her mother crazy! Eventually her bag and her makeshift wallet will fall apart and she will probably be forced to acquire another one. Then, I predict, that she will evolve into using one of the other bags her mother has bought for her. One of the big problems is that the mother buys for her own age, life circumstances, social position and taste. The daughter, has her own style, situation and experiences and they are quite different. These two women are of different ages and are in different stages. Frankly a conservative expensive bag that Nora would like, isn’t at all right for her casual diplomatic Bohemian daughter! The daughter is selling the bags her mother buys her in consignment shops. This upsets Nora, but frankly, she kind of deserves it. After all, the fact that she is trying to force her look, and her own sense of style, on her adult daughter is inappropriate if the daughter doesn’t like it or want it. She should let her daughter do things in her own way. Her style will evolve as she does and this handbag issue work itself out!
Here are my personal Lady Violette de Courcy handbag insights!
# 1) You do not wear a bag. You carry it. (courtesy of my mother who died at age 82 – leaving me a collection of fabulous retro bags.)
#2) You can have a lot of bags, but mostly use one – the everyday bag. The one you grab and go with because it is the most comfortable, you can find your stuff in it, it isn’t too heavy and you like the way it feels. That was where my favorite black woven Bottega fell.
#3) The way it feels – the leather, the way you can carry it, the shape, the weight, the lining, the security of the clasp, etc. – all make it special! When the favorite bag is sitting on a chair or table by itself it looks like a sculpture. It is a beautiful thing on it’s own. That is where my favorite black woven Bottega fell.
#4) The bag goes with you, not what you are wearing. You will know this because of how it feels and the fact that you never think about this. And the fact that you get a lot of compliments on it. A lot of “I love your bag!”and “What a cool bag!” That is where my favorite black woven Bottega fell.
#5) It is always best – always – if no one recognizes where it came from. (This is Nora’s one big mistake if you ask me!) The design should be so cool that it should develop it’s own character. This is where my favorite black woven Bottega fell. It is also a stated goal of the Bottega Veneta company!
#6) An example of my own. I bought a black woven Bottega Venetta Clutch when I was about 16 for myself. I spent a small fortune on it. I didn’t even know about the prestige and reputation of the name at the time. I just wanted a bag that fit all the above criterion. Obviously I had good taste!
You would think this would be saved for special occasions or dress up. But no! I used it every day. I used it every day for 22 years! I especially began to notice how I would throw it on the floor of the car, on the passenger side, when I was driving. As the Bottega bag got more and more broken in, softer and softer, ploppier and ploppier I loved it more and more. I could fold it under my arm and it was as comfy as a teddy bear.
I used it for every imaginable daily purpose. And I was not particularly careful of it – that would have spoiled it. What made this bag so great was the ability to enjoy it – which I must give myself the ultimate credit for! I was able to relax into my Bottega and carry it everywhere and let it become a part of me. And it did.
#7) People who recognized what it was were shocked that I used it like this. There problem, not mine! I had earned the money to buy it. I had found it for myself. I had broken it in. I was allowing myself to use it and enjoy it to its fullest extent and my fullest capacity. By doing so I was really treating it like the treasure that it was.
#8) Eventually it got a little worn out. So I sent it in for repairs. I only had to have it repaired twice! I sent it back to the company and it was returned in fine condition with the clasp fixed once, and the strap sewn back on where it had torn a bit the second time. It looked brand new when I got it back. By now it was 15 years old. It was becoming softer and more comfortable every year. I loved it.
#9) I used other bags from time to time – but that was always an effort. It was an effort to change the contents, whenever I did it, to another bag, And it was always an effort to carry it, and it just hadn’t become an extension of my body as the Bottega had. I always missed my black woven Bottega when I used another bag and changed right back to it the very next day! Thus I can understand Nora’s daughters feelings about her favorite handbag! Can you?
#10) The black woven Bottega clutch finally wore out. The leather got so thin and raggedy that I could not really use it safely. Amazingly the bag looked its most exquisite at this stage! But it had become very very delicate. So I retired it from carrying. I still have it, carefully tucked away in a desk drawer filled with special cards and letters from friends and family members that I also want to keep. I will never get rid of it. It is still beautiful and carries something very important – many happy memories – the best of which is how perfectly naturally elegant using it made me feel. As I said, the black woven Bottega was very expensive, but I feel as if I got my money’s worth out of it in every possible way! I fully enjoyed it in very way possible for as long as I could get use out of it. And I still do. I get it out and look at it and feel it every now and then. I also learned, from owning and enjoying it, that buying yourself luxuries like this is totally reasonable deserved and justifiable. The bag was well worth what I spent on it and so was I! I get very annoyed with people who do not understand the real value of fine things. It is there if you understand it. This, of course, takes a certain level of exposure and education.An appreciation of fine design and good workmanship and, most of all, self knowledge and self love.
Interestingly, Nora does not understand any of his even though she is wealthy and can afford to buy nice things, but her earthy individualist casual well traveled daughter does! Through self knowledge and experience. She also knows her own style and is not going to allow her mother to shove her taste and style down her throat! Good for her! Long live independence! Really good personal style requires being independence and having self knowledge. And, again, an appreciation of fine design ad good workmanship and, most of all, self knowledge and self love. I realize I said this twice. I really want it to sink in!
I should mention that I have several other especially lovely and satisfying bags. But I have only had three during my lifetime that fell into the special loved bag Category III of the black woven Bottega clutch, I have a whole shelf of others, currently, but not a favorite, comfy one. They are very hard to find. I even have four more Bottega Veneta bags, which I love and appreciate, but which are not as special and unique as that particular one. I love them all dearly however.
#11) Incidentally, my mother’s favorite bag and shoes were Kelly green – and made of soft Italian leather. She wore this color accessories with navy blue Christian Dior silk suits and pale blue Dior silk blouses. This became her trademark look. Also a navy blue purse and shoes. She had multiple green shoes and bags. And multiple Christian Dior navy suits. She hand washed and ironed her light blue Christian Dior silk blouses herself. She was gorgeous. She accented this with a gold and green apple jade necklace, ring and earrings. All very light and delicate. She wore Diorissimo perfume and 22K gold Dior hairpins! She never lost one! This amazed me. And she carried a 22 K gold jeweled refillable Dior lipstick case. My uncle went to Paris several times per year and he brought the lipstick refills back for all the women in the family.
She only and always wore the color True True Dior red lipstick and matching nail color for special occasions. For day to day wear she wore Revlon’s Cherries in the Snow or a bright coral from Elizabeth Arden. She repainted her own nails every morning while having coffee and reading the The New York Times. She was absolutely impeccable. She said you could tell a real lady by her hands and it was very important to take very good care of your hands and nails. She was very disciplined about her beauty routine.
She loved Christian Dior. If you are French you are born knowing who Dior is and wanting Dior. That is the way it is in France. For this reason they never had to advertise Dior in France. I now this for two reasons: as a child I was exposed to Dior by my family and, as an adult, I worked for Christian Dior for several years. As I said, people in France knew about it from birth and wanted it naturally, so advertising was unnecessary. I had baby dresses made by Christian Dior. I saw Dior items and labels every day at home and heard women and men talking about Dior all the time. My uncle was a European buyer for Nieman Marcus and went to the shows in Paris to buy for the store several times a year. He brought us gifts every time he returned: French perfume, the newest colors of cosmetics, dresses, jewelry, and pretty unique accessories. We were an unusual American family in the minority having this much exposure and access to Dior style and products. About fifteen years ago, when Dior greatly expanded their shops and sales to markets all over the world they learned that not everyone the world over knew who and what they were and naturally wanted their products. They found out that they had to advertise, just like American designers do, to create desire for their designs.
My mother was absolutely impeccable. She was a redhead, She was 5’4″ tall and weighed 117 pounds her entire adult life. She was beautiful and glamorous. Her hair was as elegant as the rest of her – waist length, cut straight across the bottom, swingy and a lovely color. She wore it in a ponytail with a black velvet ribbon or in an expertly rolled chignon. People stopped her on the street to tell her she had beautiful hair until the day she died. It made her look young and suited her perfectly. She wisely understood that cutting her hair would have made her look older. Little girls always offered to brush her hair and she often allowed them to do so. It was perfect hair – texture, condition, color, length. She took very good care of her hair too. And she always did it herself. She could make a perfect chignon. Maybe because she had those 24K gold hairpins from Christian Dior!
I am fortunate to have a couple of her navy blue Christian Dior suits and other items left. Interestingly the designs of the suits are sill beautiful ~ another example of intrinsic style and wonderful workmanship! Elegance that will never go out of style. Still, truly, True True Dior. I actually came across a partially used old bottle of Dior nail polish in that color the other day while going through boxes in our house. I took it outside in the sun and took a good look at it. It is still a beautiful deep red. So I checked it out. It was the first red lip and nail color Dior made and it has always been their number one best seller! It is still available in Europe. there it is, once again, an example of intrinsic style!I thought my mother had good taste and was very stylish when I was a little girl. Finding out that her favorite color was such a longtime favorite from Dior supports that
I plan to photograph all these items soon as I am allowed to lift ad use a camera again. I have been slowed down on this endeavor due to breaking the bones in my wrist and arm last week,