How handbag hoarding helped shape my identity

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Writer Dino Bonacic opens up about his trends as a “woman with a bag” and explains how his ever-growing collection has allowed him to explore and accept who he is

I have only flown three times in my life. Once, when I was four years old, I slipped a lollipop into my corner store. The second time was a few years later when I bought half of my friend’s Barbie accessory collection of mini shoes and matching bags. The last time was when I was eight, and it was much closer to home. After watching it for a few years, I decided it was my turn to get my hands on my mom’s fanciest crossbody bag – made from supple navy Italian leather, its chunky silver hardware. was both subtle and striking.

Surprisingly, it took my mom a few months to figure out where her “night out” bag was hiding. When she found him, however, it was too late. The bag was scratched all over and had lost its structured trapezoidal shape after being squeezed into my secret box every day after parading it on the imaginary catwalk in my bedroom. I don’t really remember what my punishment was for this terrible crime, but it was indeed strong enough to suppress my love of women’s bags… for another ten years or so.

I have always been fascinated by having my personal belongings with me. Before I even had a phone, I loved carrying a pencil case, notebook, stickers and countless other tchotchkes that I didn’t need. These unnecessary items gave me a sense of power and familiarity wherever I went. After the major Italian leather handbag incident, I carried my things in backpacks, messenger bags, envelopes and fanny packs. You know, the models that could pass for “men”. I was inspired by my own father, who always carried a shoulder bag made of nylon or neutral colored leather, usually from a luggage brand that informed the public, “Hey, this is practical luggage, not just a vain accessory.

It took me a big move to London and a visit to one of those vintage 1 kilo auctions to find my first true love again. There it was: a beaded black pouch with a matching shoulder strap that ran across the body, stuck in a trash can between two moth-eaten knits that smelled of cat pee. “It’s black, goes with everything,” I thought. “The strap is quite long, so maybe it’s unisex,” my mind raced as I forced myself to abide by some imaginary gender rules that told me sequin bags and manhood are wrong. not together.

These thoughts continued until I realized that this bag was just a book. What’s the worst thing that can happen? I never wear it. Someone calls me a queer. I get beaten up for carrying a sequin bag. Being a hidden homosexual at the time, buying it was more than just paying a pound for a second-hand piece of tattoo. In a way, that black glitter was my entry into queerness. Today, I can understand that it was just one of those bags you see everywhere at Beyond Retro, but no one ever wants to buy one because it looks like something your grandma wore to the wedding. ‘a cousin in 2006. But he was mine and he opened the door for a lot more.

Over the next six years, I accumulated 112 scholarships – yes, I counted them for the first time specifically for this story. Neatly stored in a temperature-controlled cabinet (not really), each one carries a story and makes me feel aroused every time I take it out. I will never forget my first black Telfar tote and the euphoria that followed, overcome only by the experience of opening the UGG x Telfar mini-shearling wonder that arrived a month ago.

Probably the most valuable piece in my collection is a totally outrageous limited edition New York Boston bag, totally Y2K, which I received as a Christmas present from Sophia Neophitou, editor of 10 Review and my ex-boss. In case the white monogram print wasn’t enough to entice you, this bag even came with an invitation to a 2008 benefit event hosted by Madonna and co-chaired by Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Sarah Jessica Parker. Can you even imagine?

Another key find was a Michael Kors era Celine Ava bag in beige suede (lightly stained) which I picked up via Depop just as Hedi Slimane brought it back for SS21. And who wouldn’t smile when they saw the iconic Ashish Tesco-Disco carry bag my boyfriend ordered for Valentine’s Day 2020 just because he knew I had been looking for it for years? These bags are also time capsules of the adventures I had while wearing them – parties, dancing, kisses, music … all booming right now. Some are totally impractical and can barely carry a credit card and some loose gum, like the Coach x Matty Bovan fanny pack. There are a few that are officially men’s bags because, well, guys have started carrying handbags in the meantime. Please don’t call it a wall.

I fully understand how absurd it is for me to discuss the gender identity of a fashion item in 2021. In the six years that I have been collecting and wearing bags, I have had a lot of people coming to me. would ask, “Oh, is this for guys?” pointing at a bright pink beaded clutch. “It’s now,” I usually respond with a bitter smile on my face. It is undeniable that traditional bag silhouettes for women recently had their own moment on the men’s catwalks. From the Dior saddle bag that has become a staple in men’s fashion thanks to Kim Jones and all the male influencers with access to the Vestiaire Collective, to Harry Styles parading in LA with a Gucci Jackie hanging from his shoulder.

“I fully understand how absurd it is for me to discuss the gender identity of a fashion item in 2021. In the six years that I have collected and worn bags, I have had a lot of people who asked me, ‘Oh, is that for guys?’ pointing to a bright pink beaded clutch. ‘It’s now’, I usually respond with a bitter smile on my face “- Dino Bonacic

The AW21 collections from Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton and Jil Sander all kept the spotlight for this image of a sexy guy with a handbag. And although I generally roll my eyes at the larger cultural trend of straight men applauded for dressing “female”, I still get a chill when I spot a straight man clearly carrying his girlfriend’s bag. There’s something about a boy in a pair of Nike tracksuits awkwardly holding a black Michael Kors tote that looks both highly homoerotic and homophobic at the same time.

As Junior LaBeija said in the cult 1991 documentary Paris is burning: “It is a known fact that a woman wears an evening bag at dinner time. There is no getting around it! Their association with femininity dates back to the 1880s, when functionality was first overturned by stylistic cues. A handbag meant class and power – the smaller it was, the wealthier and more important its wearer. Their materials have also become outrageously impractical: silk, brocade, velvet, pearls: the most opulent, the most joyful. This is why I fell in love with bags as well – they are shiny trunks that not only carry your items, but also ensure your sense of place. They are personal to a point where the bag and its contents can be a representation of who you are. Just think of the ocean of “What’s in My Bag” videos on YouTube that made you love or hate the celebrity showing you her dirty handkerchiefs and her very obscure “favorite” book that she didn’t certainly did not read.

I buy most of my bags from eBay or vintage and charity stores wherever I go. Just as any other self-proclaimed eBay fashion expert will tell you, nothing compares to the adrenaline of being the only bidder on a mid-2000s Miu Miu bowling bag and hanging it for $ 30. books. But I’m not (just) a fucking label. Some of my favorite pieces are actually charity shop assets that I stumbled upon – the garish crochet square that’s clearly someone’s first DIY attempt and the really confusing beaded fruit bag included. I would say the majority of the bags in my wardrobe are vintage, most from the 60s or what I like to think of as the golden age of handbags. They were about to get practical, but still carried the frivolous sentiments and feminine forms of the 1950s – these silhouettes continue to be revisited by fashion brands today. Bags from this era can usually accommodate a modern iPhone as well, which is also a plus.

The sole purpose of my collection of bags is to please me. Like one of those people on My strange addiction or The grabbers next door, I talk to them sometimes and I tell them how pretty they are. I also always have one hanging next to my desk – currently it’s a Laura Ashley floral fantasy in gold beadwork. But until I find a way to turn the one-bedroom apartment I share with my boyfriend into an independent bag gallery for people who share my grandma’s taste, I’ll keep trying to heal the emotional scars caused by 13 years of wearing. backpack. Perhaps the beaded Victorian chainmail handbag arriving from eBay next week will do the trick?


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