Sunday, October 23, 2011

Personality in the bag

What is it about handbags? I have never been much of a one for collecting different shoes and bags - the one bag goes everywhere until it dies and then gets replaced. But lately as I trawl around markets, thrift shops and auctions - I am becoming more and more fascinated with them, and have starting to buy them. 

Purses and handbags have their origins in early pouches used to carry religious objects, food and medicine. Both sexes carried them. It was not until the late 18th century when women's fashion became more form fitting, and could not accommodate pockets, that fans, dance cards, perfume and face powder had to be carried separately.

With this came a shift of focus from the utilitarian to the fashionable and aesthetic - with invention of small often embroidered silk drawstring purses called 'reticules'. These were a smaller vesrion of what women used to carry needlework.

Reticules could be made of fabric coordinating with a particular gown or ensemble; some had papier mache bases and fabric tops. Toward the end of the Regency, they began using clasps as an alternative to the drawstring. Reticules frequently featured beading or embroidery and could be quite elaborate. The rise of the bag as important fashion accessory had begun. 

By Victorian times, bags shapes changed, and were generally heavily decorated with needlework and beading. Patterns for making these were popular in ladies magazines at the time.


By the early 20th century bags were an indispensable accessory, and while hats were popular for a time, they began to be less popular, but handbags went from strength to strength. Handbags were a sign of adaptation to the times - they held cigarettes and sunglasses rather than seeds and icons. They matched the outfit and the occasion in size, shape and material.

During WWII, the shoulder bag became popular and with the invention of synthetic materials and new fabrication techniques further refinements into developing bags and materials specific to use continued, such as waterproof bags for beach. This variety carried over to influence the woman consumer, who now needed several bags in order to cater fro specific uses.

Today, bags are considered an integral part of the look, and like all things visual, that we wear, they are also an expression of the personality of the wearer.  There is an amusing book called "How to tell a woman by her Handbag" by Kathryn Eisman that suggests the loyalty to specific handbags (that I described at the beginning of this blog) gives an insight into the carrier's personality. After two years of research (really!) Eisman pronounces some of these tell tale categories:

One-strap messenger bag: She's the quiet rebel who will change the world, but she risks exhausting herself by lugging unnecessary angst
Fake designer bag: While she's faking who she is, at least she's got good taste when it comes to choosing whom to imitate. But she's only kidding herself.
Over-stuffed bag: She shows a selfless strength, but martyrdom is so passé
Quilted Chanel bag: She's always perfectly appropriate but sometimes she's also a perfect bore. If people saw the real her, they'd actually really like her.
Gym bag: She knows what she wants and goes after it but occasionally she has to deviate from her routine.

Well, I am not so sure that was time well spent! I guess someone will buy the book? In my research online I came across a plethora of often plain silly articles on the relationship between handbags and personality.  Handbag contents can be used to read personality,  body image can be enhanced by bag shape and size and personality can be even changed apparently with bag choice and an intervention on bag contents!

I feel a new career coming on - Handbag Reading - I am confident, now, that I can conduct a handbag analysis without you even having to email me a picture of your bag and its contents. I guarantee that my reading will show how revealing your bag is about you and your life.

There is a pattern revealing itself to me, now  - those interesting, curious, quirky, decorative, and vintage bags reflect our equally unique, quirky and interesting personalities! Hmmm. Right on.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Men like to buy

Men are hunters and women are foragers and this is the basis for our shopping habits, the researchers tell us. I am buying and selling more and more male things as I am attracted to some of the things that males love.
But I am interested in men's behaviours when and how they shop online - as the interface is different to shopping in the real world. Below is a recent graph from which is interesting reading.

I love the comment that women make philosophical judgments in their purchasing while men are more tactical and strategic. The melodica I have listed on ebay above is an example. A man would probably only consider buying it if he was looking to learn the instrument or add it to his existing collection. In other words it is mission driven in that he won't look at it twice unless it is in his head.

On the other hand, as a buyer of vintage goods to sell to both sexes I should also be mission driven but, I bought it because I loved the retro styling and the sound it made.  In my poetic reading of the object, its actual function as a working musical instrument or that very few people would be interested in buying it were almost irrelevant. I currently have my eye on a beautiful small 1960s accordion, why? because it is a great looking object, and has a beautiful mother of pearl veneer of course! I am not a musical person at all.

Not all my decisions are aesthetically or poetically driven - I do also like function and form. The mid century ice cube tray for example is a true aesthetic delight, has bags of retro appeal but it is also very functional! It allows you to have retro coolness in your glass, so to speak.

The chart above also suggests that, for women, shopping is on our minds a lot. We grab at opportunities to do it. Shopping and talking about shopping is a social event - an opportunity to bond with other women in a like minded gathering activity. An activity that our brains are biologically wired for. Etsy works for women particularly I think because of the social networking strategies it offers. 

The top graph which shows online spending by age does indicate a parallel between the genders - both  genders in fact are doing plenty of shopping. It seems to me that the common stereotype that men don't like shopping may be refined into the notion that men don't like shopping the female way. The outcomes are the same, but the ways to get there are different. Online shopping gives them a means to do this efficiently. That is, men like to buy and women like to shop.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Deer Kangaroo,

 Deer have always been highly prized in ancient cultures because of the symbolism related to their antlers. A 'universally benevolent symbol' the deer figure in art is linked with spirituality, the east, dawn. light, creativity and purity.

The celts believed that deer were messengers from the otherworld, and they associated the animal with music and poetry. Its natural characteristics were the markers of its symbolism - abundance, watchfulness, grace and love.

For the chinese the deer was also associated with good luck and abundance. For the native

American the deer represented  kindness, caring and gentleness and for all cultures there is the idea that the deer and its gentle intuitive powers is a feminine symbol. For all of these traditional and happy associations, it is not surprising that we are attracted to the deer figure in art and craft.

Australia and Antarctica are the only two places in the world where there are no native deer. Our closest icon is the kangaroo, which, like the deer have always been an important source of food and clothing for our indigenous people. 

As a cultural symbol, the kangaroo is evident everywhere in our iconography. It is said that it graces the coat of arms with the emu as neither animal can walk backwards - we are therefore a country ever moving forward! But the reality is that both can actually move backward but don't very often. They were used because they are well known and big enough (in our imaginations) to hold up the coat of arms. There wouldn't be nearly as much gravitas to the shield if we had a budgerigar and a wombat holding it up!

Kangaroo as a symbol in other contexts suggest abundance, family and endurance. Some therapists regard that seeing a kangaroo in your dreams foretells unexpected and exciting trips. Lets hope after reading this blog, a kangaroo hops into your (and my) brain as we could all do with a holiday!