Opinion

5 Reasons Why We Need to Bring Back the Reversible Bag

Is it trendy? Is it classic? Who cares, we want it!

I love the idea of a fashion uniform.

You know, the ones that designers have been sporting for ages now? Be it that infamous Steve Jobs “I am a tech CEO” pairing of a black Issey Miyake turtleneck, Levi’s and New Balances, the Phoebe Philo-esque UES rich ceramicist aesthetic, or for that matter, a Tom Ford power suit.

A uniform is a comforting constant.

Sadly, I crave novelty far too often to actually power through a regimented dress code. More often than not, I’ll decide on outfits for a full workweek (please tell me I’m not crazy for this), only to throw a monkey wrench at it halfway through.

And perhaps that’s alright. Is it the decision fatigue of what new look to put together that wins today, or the tyranny of seemingly wearing the same old every day – who can tell? It’s a delicious dilemma to have.

But this dynamic gets slightly knocked askew when it comes to our handbags, specifically our everyday bags. You know, those overstuffed reticules brimming with the woes of the workplace, partially consumed lunches, sloppy subway slippers, and perhaps a wanton kitchen sink (or two)? Wouldn’t it be so much easier if, at a whim, you could simply pull out its insides and create a whole new purse?

Ladies and gentlemen, I henceforth present to you – the reversible bag! 

Two for the Price of One!

Owing to their simplicity, however, most of the totes are rather limited in offering, hence the moniker of a basic tote. Perhaps that’s also why the vast majority of reversible purses pertain to the category of a tote.

Not only can they spruce up an otherwise bland expanse of leather with a pop of color (or print), but they often come with a separate, quick access pouch (since internal pockets don’t generally lend themselves very well to reversibility). 

Burberry Reversible Tote
Reversible totes can offer a mix of neutrals, bright colors, patterns and prints.

And in the process, you get not one, but two (or potentially more, if you count the little pochette) purses for the (albeit slightly elevated) price of one!

They Aren’t as Rare as You Think

Now, reversible bags certainly aren’t ubiquitous, but come to think of it, they aren’t all that uncommon either. Popping up at least once across the lifetime of pretty much every designer brand you can think of, Hermès, for instance, released the Double Sens way back in the Fall of 2010, essentially setting the trend for the following decade.

And hot in its footsteps came Gucci’s interpretation (first as part of the GG Supreme, and later in the Blooms collection), followed by Goyard’s Anjou in 2016, Burberry’s Giant Check version, and Givenchy and Stella McCartney’s reimagining of the classic Antigona and the Falabella respectively for Spring/Summer 2018. 

Among contemporary labels, the Coach City Tote and Longchamp Roseau Double-Jeu warrant mentioning, but so does the OG of them all, the LL Bean, which’s been in business since the 1940s! Hermès’ historic Herbag remains famously reversible; so does Saint Laurent’s recent redesign of a supple Kate Bag.

And, of course, if you didn’t know this already, your Louis Vuitton Neverfull can be used inside out, too!

Hermes Double Sense
The Hermès Double Sens lineup is expansive

Works Well Across the Board

So, we’ve established why we need a reversible bag in the first place, but another reason they remain so popular among users is their sheer versatility. 

The 2010s, after all, were a rather transient period in fashion; you could theoretically get away with anything and everything: be it lurid logomania or benign minimalism, a backpack or a fanny pack, a Jacquemus mini Chiquito, or a Céline maxi Cabas. 

And here was a silhouette smack dab in the middle of it all, and all things considered, a bestseller, too. The reversible bag, with multiple styling options and colorways for different occasions, and even rendered in exotics (courtesy of Hermès, no less), has quite the cultural cache! 

For What It’s Worth, It’s Quite Functional

Here, we enter slightly more divisive territory, as the reversible purse has traditionally sparked debate about its actual functionality. And, of course, in the grand scheme of handbags, shelling out the big bucks for what’s essentially a shapeless, pocket-less, and sometimes entirely featureless leather sac might feel unwarranted.

Furthermore, even the craftier of reversible bags, like the Saint Laurent Kate or the Hermès Herbag, while seemingly offering greater justification for their prices (although could luxury brands ever?), can get somewhat tiresome and, in the long run, facilitate possible wear and tear with prolonged reversing.

Some have even chalked it up to a gimmick, a feature not meant to be used.

But then, the fashion crowd (myself included) has never quite run out of reasons to rationalize our questionable trends (*coughs* skinny jeans and halter tops). Reversible bags, especially totes, remain infinitely more functional than banana-shaped handbags (thanks again, Jacquemus).

So, if that’s your thing, why not?

Goyard Anjou Teal
The Goyard Anjou in dopamine-boosting bright colorways
Goyard Anjou Coral
The reverse is Goyardine canvas in coordinating colors

A Daily Dose of Dopamine

To be fair, I’ve run out of reasons to advocate for the reversible bag because there really isn’t much else to it. Nor is it something to stress (or even have debates) over to excessive degrees – you either love it or you don’t.

Plus, while they aren’t heavy, they aren’t entirely lightweight compared to their more basic (ha!) non-reversible peers. And if you don’t happen to be Marie Kondo incarnate, the interiors of most of your handbags are likely pockmarked with stains, scuffs, scratches, and old gum, i.e., obviously unfit for civilized society.

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Saint Laurent Kate 2
SAINT LAURENT Kate Reversible Bag
$2,290 via Neiman Marcus

On the flip side, though, if you’re getting two bags for the price of one, it’s only natural that you must take care of both equally. In fact, most reversible bags out there are actually quite durable. A little TLC and some organization can go a long way.

And when all else fails, invest in an insert.

At the end of the day, it’s merely the thought of a vibrant-hued interior, ready to spring when spring has sprung, that provides an instant dose of dopamine. A happy little secret between you and your shape-shifting tote.

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Anne Huske
Anne Huske
1 month ago

What is the plaid bag?

Lisa
Lisa
1 month ago
Reply to  Anne Huske

Looks like Burberry