‘An ode to those pieces of personality that spice up your wardrobe — and your life’
During the last big ole bad recession, there was a piece in The Times about how handbag sales hadn’t been hurt. Even though they had less money to put inside them, City Ladies were still toting It Bags like that Chanel number with the chains. There were even waiting lists to get Birkins and Kellys.
Well. Having lived and worked in Manhattan for over 30 years, this didn’t surprise me one bit. In fact, I wrote a letter to said Times after reading this piece saying, essentially, that it’s no wonder that accessories are recession-proof. After all, in Manhattan your coat is your car, your shoes are your wheels — and your handbag is your trunk. Yes, they printed it.
Speaking of It Bags and speaking of work, I once had a freelance gig at Grey Advertising. The gig paid well but was very boring. It was so boring that I asked for extra work to kind of spice things up. No dice. They wanted me to work on whatever the heck it was and be quiet about it. (This was when Grey had a reputation for work so mundane that headhunters would tell you to take it off your work record — otherwise your resume would have “the stink of Grey.” I mean, this was an ad agency that put posters of their frozen turkey ads in the elevator.)
I’m a fast worker, so I’d do whatever boring project they wanted done, then roam the nabe. On one of my sigh-filled ramblings I discovered a designer resale shop. A really good designer resale shop. This was about twenty years ago, but I still get compliments on the stuff I bought when I was taking Boredom Breaks. A Pucci jacket. A Chanel pants suit with tulle trim. A hot pink boucle Dior number with a detachable mink collar. (Some of these have been “downsized,” mainly because I came to realize that when you wear “vintage” at my age no one gets the irony. They just think you’ve owned that gold brocade Christian LeCroix for a very long time.)
One of the things I kept eyeing in that shop was a Kelly bag. Now, if you know anything about the Kelly, you know that it was named after Grace Kelly and is very ladylike and very cool. Also very expensive. This one was also Kelly green. I mean, how cool would it be to own a Kelly green Kelly bag? Well. I did the math: How many days would I have to be “bored Grey” to earn that bag? (That’s how I’d decide whether I could afford something: I’d take the price and divide it by my day rate.)
I started a little negotiation with the proprietress. “That’s a nice Kelly” I said, hoping to hide the glee in my voice. “But I wish it was in a more basic color. LIke black.” To which she replied, “Are you kidding? If you carry a Kelly green Kelly, everyone will think you have a black one at home!” Brilliant. But nope. I didn’t buy it. Which is probably a good thing, because we had another recession around then and my Grey gig dried up. At least I could stop being bored.
Now I admit to a certain accessorial (is that a word? if not, it should be) obsession. Not only are coats and shoes and handbags practical when your commute involves walking — and yes, even if you take subways and buses, you still do a great deal of walking when you live and work here — they can help you make your clothes work a little harder.
Given a good arsenal of accessories, why you could basically wear the same thing every single day and look different each and every time. The picture at the top of this post is a demonstration of my Wedding Outfit. I swear I’ve worn that same pale green dress to dozens of weddings. I just change the jacket and the shoes. And yes, some of the weddings have the same people in attendance. No one’s noticed. Yet. Though I suppose I should spring for something new for The Child’s Real Wedding in August.
Yes, I love accessories. Bags and shoes and coats and scarves and jewelry. Heck, I even treat glasses as accessories. I have frames in red and blue and black and tortoiseshell. They transform a look — and hide the bags under my eyes.
But there is one accessory I haven’t collected and am decidedly not in love with:
New York City. March 2022