Trust Instagram to turn a perfectly practical big bag lover into one willing to experiment with mini bags. It’s not unnatural, given how lately they have been shoved down our throats by brands right and left. Nevertheless, as a longtime devotee of maxi bags, it feels strange (okay, slightly guilty) to tow around a virtually weightless crossbody.
What am I referring to? My recent mini-bagging spree, of course! The winter season brings a host of opportunities for outings, and what could be a better time to pull off some lewks than on these rare occasions when you aren’t weighed down by your books?
Now, you might ask, why am I (of all people) suddenly harping on mini bags? After all, it’s been a while since Jacquemus’s Le Chiquito had the fashion world collectively questioning their sanity. Plus, trends have recently swung in favor of larger silhouettes. And fashionistas are now switching out their absurdly tiny top handles for comically gigantic totes or boxy bowlers. I can almost hear the sighs of relief from frazzled working ladies around the world. At last, their uber-functional daily haulers are cool again!
Yet, why am I, who has always championed the carryall, suddenly gravitating towards smaller styles? And can you still justify buying them anymore?
The Ultimate Cool Girl Chic
The mini bag is the cool girl equivalent of the handbag world. Not an investment from a practical standpoint but more of an aspirational accessory. Imagine hailing a cab, a monogrammed pochette dangling sulkily from your arm. Or, running to a Pilates session, a Baguette paired with peak athleisure screaming “hot girl summer!”
Essentially, that is the primary appeal of small purses. Carefree harbingers of a lust-worthy lifestyle, one doesn’t have to love them to realize their potential. And this is what has made them darlings among the fashion set. Who doesn’t want to appear as if they haven’t a worry in the world, right?
In fact, when the trend was fresh on the scene, brands were racing to devise the smallest iterations possible, with contenders like Jacquemus, Valentino, and Dior leading the way. Their shock value helped turn heads, of course (“cool” is often synonymous with “shocking”), but it was the more functional mini sizes, not their microscopic counterparts, which garnered the biggest audiences. Paired with a frenzied obsession for all things Y2K, what was once reserved for the coolest gals thus became a mainstay in our wardrobes!
The Liberty of Carrying Nothing
While undoubtedly edgy, mini-bags are likely to perform rather dismally when it comes to their price-to-practicality ratio. At their most minuscule, they’ll barely accommodate your AirPods. (Slightly) Large versions may carry your phone and card case mercifully, but not much else. Given this glaring handicap, it’s easy to scoff at them and move on.
But wait! While your trusty extra-large tote may hold anything and everything, its practicality comes at a price. You’ll be tempted to fill every nook and cranny (I know I am). And your carryall will inevitably end up carrying all your partner’s/children’s/friend’s/pet’s belongings too!
On the other hand, mini bags require a commitment to minimalism, freeing you from the physical and (very real) psychological burden of a giant bag. And if we’re being frank, how many essentials do we really need to lug around for non-workplace errands? Clearly, not many. And hence, a borrowed crossbody trunk here, and a python-printed belt bag there, have all led me to conclude that carrying a mini is liberating! As fashion writer Liana Satenstein writes, “with a (mini) shoulder bag, you can also truly sprint around the city, far beyond any woman who is tilted by her tote of troubles.”
Endless Possibilities of Reinvention
Now, the notion of carrying smaller sizes may seem daunting for lovers of bigger bags. After all, could a mini-bag tucked discreetly under your arm possibly bring about the same level of sartorial drama that a larger carryall can? Yes indeed!
In fact, a smaller purse is not only a safer canvas for experimentation (see: python-prints and me), but it can also transform a relatively basic outfit into an Instagram-worthy OOTD. And with endless options for colors, materials, and embellishments, mini-bags have also earned a following among fashion-forward men, serving as reliable (not to mention stylish) additions to night-out ensembles everywhere!
Plus, if you happen to be on the fence about monograms, mini bags are also a subtle way to show off some branding without appearing like a walking billboard. Not quite if-you-know-you-know, but not entirely conspicuous either.
But Smaller Price Tags? Not Always
Now admittedly, we purse-lovers don’t need much of an excuse to splurge on a new handbag, especially with sound arguments like cost-per-wear in our arsenal. Even then, justifying a four-figure price tag for a bite-sized purse somehow feels…not right.
Originally, mini-bags used to be among a brand’s most accessible offerings, priced to cater to masses who still aspired for a piece of the heritage. However, as the style’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years, this hasn’t remained the case. Fashion houses like Bottega Veneta and Louis Vuitton have launched trend-appropriate mini-silhouettes that lie within the upper echelons of luxury pricing, such as the Jodie and the Coussin.
Can their purchases still be justified despite the rising prices for mini styles? Well, at their core, mini bags represent a certain sense of whimsicality. Meant to project a rather superfluous image of conspicuous consumption, it fits right in with the unbridled optimism within the post-pandemic luxury sector. And to put it rather romantically, miniature purses exude the aura of an artwork, meant to be displayed and admired rather than used and beaten up.
But as we move towards more uncertain economic times, mini bags are likely to have continued relevance, only now in the form of more under-the-radar styles. Think minimalist pieces from The Row, Staud, and Coperni – usable elements that can still blend perfectly with your everyday outfits.
Eventually, mini-bags tug at our fun-loving heartstrings; as such, they’ll be just as relevant, even as we charge head-on into the era of maxi-purses.