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My purses have always been extraordinarily small. For example, the purse I have now is really just a wallet with a string connected to it that doesn’t even totally fit my phone. I have never been able to close it, so it is insecure and ripe for thievery. And still I pay it an appalling loyalty.
Fortunately, or unfortunately for me, there is a new trend this season—the “ludicrously capacious bag,” to quote Tom Wambsgans of Succession. At Loewe, models walked down the runway lugging the brand’s signature Puzzle-style sacks, roughly the circumference of mounted globes. Coach showed purses the size of luggage you’d take on an eight-day cruise to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“I liked how the oversize bag worked with our lean runway silhouettes. They just felt right together,” says Coach’s Stuart Vevers of the new proportion. And consumers seem to agree. “We see our customers embracing a ‘More is more’ mindset,” says Libby Page, the market director for Net-a-Porter. But not in a Versailles Hall of Mirrors kind of way; instead, think an exaggerated take on quiet luxury.
There are benefits to these large bags, I suppose. Like a Boy Scout, you’re always prepared—to transport your entire wardrobe at a moment’s notice. And you never have to pay for a grocery bag, making you thrifty like a Boy Scout, and so on and so forth.
Personally, I know I need more room. Especially now that I’m a mother, I need to bring bulky items with me at all times: hand sanitizers and diapers and the Frida baby “snotsucker.” So far in my motherhood journey, I have never ever had a diaper or a wipe at the right time, and there have been times when I have really needed diapers. And also wipes. So maybe I would be the biggest beneficiary of this new trend. At the very least, I had to see for myself.
I picked up my Altuzarra bag at the brand’s headquarters in SoHo. Immediately, I was struck by its immense size—I put my wallet and my phone inside, and it felt like throwing them into Niagara Falls. I could not even see them. There was so much room! After that, I started putting things in the bag that I have always sort of wanted to have in a bag but had no room for in my previous one: a pen, three diapers (one swim!), a change of clothes for the kids, wipes, snacks, four juice boxes, a sweater for me, a turquoise brush, a book called Spies, and another book called There Are No Spies. It was amazing.
I decided to take my bag with me to see a play and go out for drinks, because we were in a serious relationship now. This is when things started to get slightly hairy. When the sanctimonious drone of the “Turn off your phones” announcement came on, I could not for the life of me figure out where my phone was. Was it under the sweater? Was it tucked into Spies or There Are No Spies? Eventually I found it under my wallet and at the last moment was able to silence it. At drinks, my purse was offered its own seat, but the purse itself was so gigantic it almost toppled off—and it took seven minutes to find my wallet. Still, I was able to brush my hair in the bathroom.
For the rest of the week, I had similar problems and similar benefits. I took my bag to dinner on the patio at a friend’s house and was able to take two sweaters, so I was never cold—but also couldn’t find a lipstick I packed until the next morning. I was able to pack the bag as a weekender to go to my mom’s house, but I had to pack my laptop separately in case I needed to find it in a pinch, thus defeating the purpose of a bag that is able to fit 10 or 12 laptops.
It turns out you need to be extremely organized to carry a bag as large as Santa’s gift sack. It made me miss the ruthless efficiency of my old coin purse, even as I knew that that purse was impractical for my current life. Perhaps the best option is the combination Vevers showed at Coach: a gigantic brown tote and a miniature handbag in the shape of an apple—just big enough to contain a tiny phone.
This story appears in the October 2023 issue of ELLE.