Seeking the Perfect Purse

I have more than a dozen purses, but I am still on the hunt because I have yet to find THE perfect purse.

To me, and I’ll bet to most women, a purse is my home away from home, maybe the way a car is to some men. It’s what I live out of when I leave the house, so it needs to hold everything I might need, and it needs to be arranged, like a house, in a way that’s useful and comfortable. The various compartments must be the right size, shape and place, just like the kitchen and bathroom and closets in a house, although I suppose you could say in a purse it’s all closets.

These are the necessities: size and shape on the tall side with at least one open pocket for a magazine or notebook, sunglasses, boarding pass when traveling; one small outside pocket for my phone; another taller outside pocket for a water bottle; an outside zipper pocket for pens, tissues, business cards, my Creon pill bottle (I have only half a pancreas and have to take a pancreatic enzyme every time I eat, but that’s another story). Inside: room for wallet, tiny umbrella, hairbrush, small cosmetic bag for lipsticks, mirror, moist wipes etc.; inside pocket for a pill bottle with ibuprofen, antacids, Benadryl, and a small toothbrush and paste. You see, I do live out of my purse.

I am a sucker for those cheesy catalogues that come in the mail and love to thumb through them. Walter Drake is probably my favorite to look through and then discard. (I got another recently, a Walter Drake look-alike, but when I started browsing I realized that AARP must have sold its data base, because every single item was geezer-related: incontinence wear, shower seats, booster chairs, compression hose and socks—things I might expect to buy for someone a whole generation older than me, but I guess I must be in that demographic despite the fact that I need none of those items—none, and hope not to need them for years to come!)

Once I have perused the catalogue and picked out the items I might order, I toss it in recycling, because I have learned that the catalogue is a fantasy. Photos make things look bigger (and better) than they turn out to be when they arrive. There was a purse that looked like it might be just right, and then I read the dimensions: 8×8 1/2×1. They called it a messenger bag, but for whom? Tom Thumb? The photo showed the purse over an arm and it looked quite large until you noticed the scale with the forearm and the bend of the hand. Into the recycling once more and the quest for the perfect purse continues.

Notice how fat the arm looks compared to the bag.

I have a couple that almost qualify but fall short for one reason or another. I paid $80 some years ago for a brown leather purse that had everything—it was huge. And it was heavy. The perfect purse is probably not leather because it adds too much weight. Microfiber is good. I used to have a black microfiber bag that was almost perfect, and it got wet at a ride at Cedar Point, Ohio’s (and in my opinion, the world’s) best amusement park in 2008. (The sign said “You WILL get wet!” but I thought we’d just get splashed, not totally soaked. Early in this trip for my high school reunion, my phone and digital camera were ruined. I bought a disposable camera for the trip and had to replace the phone and camera when we got home.) We went to the Huron County Fair a few days later and there I bought a big leather purse that I like a lot but it’s wide rather than tall (and there’s that leather thing). The black microfiber ended up in a trash bin at an Ohio Turnpike rest area.

The oversize teal "carryon"

Every purse I own seemed perfect when it was acquired. The teal one has all the right parts, but it’s too big and becomes a junk magnet. When we went to South America  it held my husband’s Mac laptop, my music folder, snacks—it was carryon luggage.

I have two that are almost perfect. I paid $4 for the black and white one at a thrift store, and the safari tan one was $5 in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, when we were traveling over the holidays. But the fabric is stiff and scratchy, and there is only one small outside pocket, so do I put my phone or my water bottle in it?

The $5 "safari" bag is one of my favorites, but still not perfect

So I switch around a lot, which is a pain in itself because I have little trinkets that hang on the zippers—a St. Bernard my older daughter got in Switzerland, a little metal sun a friend gave me, and a Mother’s Day tag from my younger daughter. They are talismans that have to be moved along with all the crap in the purse every time I change to a different one.

Why do I even keep these tiny bags? (Wristwatch added for scale)

I have a friend who makes purses. I may try it—there are tons of patterns on the Internet, and I can go to a fabric store and browse, or reverse-engineer the scratchy safari bag and make it in nicer fabric. It would be an interesting challenge to create my perfect purse. In  the meantime I need to turn most of the current lot over to Goodwill.

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3 responses to “Seeking the Perfect Purse”

  1. Kim Akenhead says :

    I have the same thing for purses. I gave away a whole bundle to Goodwill a few years ago and it may soon be time again. For me, it’s now fanny packs on the advice of my chiropractor. Those are harder to find since they’re no longer in style but can be found on the internet and in Good Will, etc. I’ve also converted some shoulder bags, adding a strap for my waist. However, I want it to hold up, be easy to organize, not stick out too far in the rear, etc., so onward with the search…

    I too love to look at Walter Drake and similar catalogues. I find myself folding down pages to mark things I might want to try and then reevaluate before ordering. That way, I don’t often end up ordering. When I order, I sometimes end up buying something that doesn’t work for me. Yet, occasionally I do get something that works and does live up to expectations, especially small interesting gadgets. So I keep looking. That inconsistent reinforcement keeps me trying…

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