Opinion

The Sultry Seduction of a Slim Purse

Fashion wins over function, yet again!

Lately, I’ve been pondering on the subject of personal style.

And no, I’m not referring to a frumpy-librarian-core Bella Hadid fresh out of the post-COVID hellscape of TikTok cores and micro-trends. Or even – if I may make a proclamation as blasphemous – a modern-day Kate Moss or Chloë Sevigny, who probably still rely on their personal stylists’ final approval.

I mean personal style that’s truly personal. Styling outerwear as a standalone dress for New Year’s Eve, for instance, is something only Alexa Chung could ever pull off. Or when you see a fashion uniform of croc-embossed all-black leather everything, you immediately know it’s Carine Roitfeld.

It’s not like they don’t have their personal stylists. They simply choose not to go that route at times. Because that’s when the magic happens.

It’s about being consistent – but to a degree. Or rather, it’s about being consistently crazy. Steve Jobs’ Issey Miyake turtleneck, Levi’s, and New Balances might be normcore-clickbait gold. It’s a great uniform, too, if you happen to be a man in finance (trust fund, 6’5″, blue eyes…). But does it make you want to embody him?

I think not.

I have noticed that many people with jarringly different but nonetheless killer personal styles have a sleek purse in common. One that sits snugly on you rather than hangs off of you, with the entirety of your life on display.

Thus, in my quest to develop my own signature style, the slim handbag has become my newest obsession.

Fashion, Meet the Briefcase

Back to the subject of personal style. In my (albeit limited) time as a collector, I’ve managed to amass quite the assemblage (some would say, horde) of handbags—my first Proenza Schouler is still in regular rotation along with louder pieces like my Balenciaga Motorcycle, and quieter stealth wealth staples like AllSaints.

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Shalom Harlow in corporate cosplay with a Gucci briefcase in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003), image via Vogue.com, courtesy of Getty Images

But lately, I find myself gravitating towards an old Prada briefcase I recently unearthed from my dad’s closest. Its classic Saffiano is perhaps the only evidence of its ostentatious origins, save for a tiny logo imprint on the side. At two inches wide, while it can hold my laptop, it certainly can’t hold any of its bulky accoutrements. Clearly, it means business and nothing but business.

Thus, slim briefcases are among the slimmest they get within the wider realm of slim bags. I love mine; it’s forced me to rethink what I schlep around in a day to my senior-year internship (yes, I’m finally an almost-graduate!)

Plus, it’s très professional, not to mention très chic.

The Pivot from Menswear

In fact, despite its reputation as the ugly, unwieldy relic of workplaces past, the briefcase is now on its way to rightfully reclaiming its position as one of the sleekest of accessories, a workwear staple that’s served generations as far back as our great-granddads. If the over 65 million views on TikTok for #briefcase and the recent resurgence of briefcase-adjacent styles on the runways (think Miu Miu, Balenciaga, and Ferragamo) are any indication, they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

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Balenciaga SS 23 17

Briefcase-inspired styles from Miu Miu and Balenciaga

But it isn’t just the briefcase that’s transitioned from the traditionally tired territory of menswear onto brighter pastures – the document pouch, which too is now enjoying a renaissance of sorts, falls firmly into this category of slim purses.

Crossbodies, on the other hand, have migrated the other way – from the hers to the his section, where, thanks to today’s it-boys (all hail Jacob Elordi!), styles like the Bottega Cassette have steadily infiltrated the menswear corner of the Internet.

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Bottege Veneta Cassett
Bottega Veneta Cassette Bag
$3,000 via Bottega Veneta

So, these days, anything could qualify as a slim purse – a baguette, a clutch, a top-handle briefcase, or even a flat-ish tote. The only requirement is to be smaller in the width department than in the length. And that makes this a relatively easy trend, even if the bags themselves aren’t always as easy to get into.

Utility, after all, can go take a hike.

The Commitment to Losing Weight

To be clear, the weight we refer to here is the weight of our worldly belongings that find their way into our purses. Not the other kind of weight – that we do not speak of.

Now, even with the trends like the XXL bag and the messy bag on the runways, chic-ifying, in essence, the idea of an overflowing handbag, there’s still particular merit to trimming down the things you don’t necessarily need – a brighter prospect for my back, suited more for an eighty-something than a twenty-something.

It isn’t just me – a Forbes study from way back in 2014 revealed that 3 out of 4 Millennials would rather spend money on experiences over physical items. And the Marie Kondo effect is a real thing, after all. It’s why smaller, east-west styles, like the Alaïa Le Teckel, have gone on to achieve blockbuster status (the decision to name it after Azzedine Alaïa’s sausage dog only adds to the cute factor).

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Nearly every silhouette under the sun looks excellent with a slimmer profile, image via Vogue Runway

It’s also the reason why, as depressing as it might sound, mini-bags are probably never leaving us for good. But the slim bag strikes a balance that the micro-bag can’t – it keeps the original dimensions of your favorite purse intact, be it the Luar Ana, the Sac de Jour Slim, or even the Bottega Hop, while streamlining the overall bag, meaning it won’t be as heavy as an anvil simply by virtue of its reduced capacity.

And it’s really the flexibility to render any silhouette in a slimmer profile that lends the slim purse to great personal style. Later in life, even Ms. Birkin eventually rid herself of the eyesore that her signature overflowing Birkins had become for reasons of physical discomfort, so maybe I should too (because mentally I am eighty).

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Alaia Le Teckel
ALAIA Le Teckel Shoulder Bag
$2,450 via Neiman Marcus

Ultimately, a sleek (though not necessarily) little bag makes you feel invincible, ready to take on the world when you’re not physically weighed down by the brunt of your burden. But it’s also comforting to know that, should you need to carry more than your usual load, you can always stuff your bag. That’s en vogue too!

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Lianne
Lianne
11 days ago

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gravitated to smaller bags (although I have a “must hold the certain items, rule). I’m old enough that my back and shoulders don’t like me carrying heavier weights, and when I carry a larger bag, it encourages me to put more in it, l just in case I need that”. Small bags force me to carry only the essentials.

but I still love the tote-sized bags