In 2006, I did a Google search that changed my life. I don’t remember the exact name of the designer whose bag I was trying to find on sale—it was an indie contemporary label that is now long gone—but it brought me to a post about one of the designer’s bags on PurseBlog, a site I had never encountered before, and that hadn’t existed for very long. I was a sophomore in college, getting a journalism degree at the University of Georgia. I had an after-school job selling appliances at Best Buy, and with the money I earned there, I intended to buy a nice brown bag to go with the black Coach purse I had bought myself at the end of high school with the money from a different after-school job. I would need to go on interviews for internships eventually, and I wanted to have nice bags to take with me, to look professional. But also, I just wanted to buy another bag, because I loved how it felt to buy the first one.
I got the information I was looking for, but I kept reading the site. My interest in bags was huge, and I’d never found a place that covered so many brands—most of what PB did back then was short, single-bag reviews, and it felt like there was so much for me to learn. I also signed up at the then-recently launched PurseForum, which had around 300 members at the time—I had loved posting on message boards since my parents had gotten home internet when I was in middle school, and I was excited to see the fancy things people bought that I couldn’t afford.
Eventually, I became friends with Megs and Vlad, who were also in college at that point, and they asked me to help out on tPF as a moderator as it grew to a point where they couldn’t manage it themselves. The blog was growing too, and when I graduated from college and took a low-paying, entry-level job in hotel marketing, they let me use my journalism degree to write posts for PurseBlog in my spare time—$20 apiece for short reviews, which sounded like a great hustle to me at the time. It was 2008, so we all know what happened next: the economy crashed, I lost my first job in a round of layoffs, and my journalism degree was mostly useless because print media had been in free-fall even before the bottom fell out of everything else. PurseBlog was, at the time, maybe the only business actively growing, which was lucky for me: Megs and Vlad needed more stuff to put on the site, and I had spent several years prior becoming a bag expert in my personal time, for fun. The rest, as they say, is history.
That was a little over ten years ago, and in that time, I’ve moved from my college town to Atlanta and then Atlanta to New York, where I finally met Megs and Vladi in person, several years after I began working for them full time. I’ve written over 5,000 posts for PurseBlog, according to our content management system, and I’ve edited thousands of others—in the past decade, it’s been exceedingly rare for something to be published here without passing through my hands at least once. But starting next week, that changes. Today is my last day with the company; I’m moving to The Atlantic to be a staff writer, covering the intersection of health and culture. And it might seem a little counter-intuitive, but I couldn’t have asked for better prep to write about how people think about their bodies in 2018 than ten years spent writing about handbags.
The reason I got into bags in particular, all those years ago, was in part because of the reality of my body: I’m a plus size woman, and I have been my whole adult life. Luxury fashion largely wants to pretend I don’t exist, no matter how badly I want to participate. One of the few places that women like me get to feel like we fit in the fashion industry is in accessories, which are as democratic as any exorbitantly expensive product category can get: as long as you can pay, there’s a bag for you. And the fashion industry not only gatekeeps its shoppers based on their bodies, but it does the same with the people who work within the industry—most of the women who have gotten a chance to have a front-row seat to fashion’s inner workings at a high level are a sample size or not much above it. Accessories and indie media are the only ways I could have been the person I am and still gotten my foot in the door, in all likelihood, and for that, I owe PurseBlog and its wonderful community so much, just on a personal level.
Culture at large can be dismissive of fashion and its broader relevance, but it’s a place where so many important phenomena intersect. You can’t write about fashion (or about handbags!) effectively if you’re unwilling to deal with issues like gender, class, race, capitalism, commerce, art and the nuances of individual self-perception. At the same time, what we do here is fun, and getting to meld both the practical and fantastical sides of fashion over the years has been a dream job.
I will also miss Megs, Vladi and Kaitlin, who are the most wonderful coworkers I could ask for, and who have felt like family for years now. During my time here, Megs and Vladi have also let me freelance for other publications on other topics, which many of you might not know. With their support, I’ve gotten to publish things in a laundry list of places I never thought would feature my work in my wildest journalism school dreams: Rolling Stone, New York Magazine, Elle, Glamour, InStyle, Racked, Eater—the list goes on, somewhat to my own continual astonishment. I literally could not have done that without PurseBlog’s blessing, and for that, I will be in their debt for a very long time. Working here for ten years has been an immense privilege, and I’ll miss you all terribly.
(Wondering about the bag at the top? It’s my old Balenciaga Day Bag, from a shoot Vladi did of it right after I moved to NYC!)
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