Six days of toting fall’s biggest bags around town

illustration of a woman holding a handbag

I detest packing. Handbags and luggage are all the same to me. Blame it on my slightly grand proportions, or my utter lack of organization, but there never seems to be enough room for anything. Try squeezing a pair of size 11 Louboutin wedges or, worse, gym shoes into a handbag, and the result is anything but pretty. Add to the mix a cell phone, a laptop, and every crumpled receipt and piece of useless foreign currency that has escaped your wallet, and you have one bulging Louis Vuitton carryall.

But those of us who tote around our entire lives need not despair. Sweet relief finally arrived in the form of the fall 2006 fashion shows, where models bounded down the runways clutching supersized versions of our favorite handbags. Bigger and bolder than ever-the new oversize bags came in statement-making shapes ranging from bowling bags at Marc Jacobs to doctor’s bags at Salvatore Ferragamo. Later, we asked designers to let us test- drive some samples of these dramatic luggagelike pieces, to see for ourselves whether bigger really is better.

Ferragamo’s enormous red crocodile stunner is the first to arrive. My five-foot-nine-inch frame looks teensy with this gorgeous monstrosity slung over my shoulder as I head down Michigan Avenue. Instinctively checking my reflection in a store window, an unfamiliar face winks back at me. Apparently, the flamboyant salesclerk at Ann Taylor is just as impressed with the larger-than-life toy as I am. Back at the office, people trying to fit into the elevator are less amused. They take one look at the luxurious red mass enveloping me and turn around.

Still recovering from the elevator incident, I opt for Yves Saint Laurent’s more refined take on the trend. But its oversize muse in crocodile is no less likely to attract notice. “Gorgeous,” says a customer at Saks. “How much did that cost?” whispers one accessories saleswoman to another. Strutting out of the store, I am surprised at how light it feels on my arm.   Chalk it up to reverse psychology, but this carryall was carrying next to nothing.

A night out with the girls allows me to indulge in Furla’s white leather tote. Smaller and simpler than its competition, I pair it with my skinny black jeans and a billowy top to give it more of an edge. The effort is lost on my friends. “A little too Dallas debutante for me,” says one. “Very ladies who lunch,” says the other. Bad for my reputation, but perfect for navigating the dimly lit bar at Le Colonial.

Tearing open a box from Burberry the next morning, I am immediately smitten. The quilted leather saddlebag exudes London’s effortless take on rocker chic. Very Kate Moss. Very urban cool. Just as I am envisioning it with my Sass & Bide jeans and Lanvin flats, my boss spots it. “This is perfect for my shoot,” she says, taking the bag from me. “It will look amazing on the model.” (See Urban Warriors, page 3) No model necessary. This bag speaks for itself.

Leave it to Louis Vuitton to master the art of overindulgence. And leave it to me to take $15,000 worth of white fur to a Cubs game. Trimmed in python and sprayed with multicolored blowups of the infamous monogram, this colossal hobo screams “label whore.” But in mink. Taking my seat, I half expect people to reach out and pet me. Instead, the witty beer guzzler behind me asks to use it as a seat cushion. I have to admit: it would look très chic on my living room couch.  

Enjoying my new divalike self, I meet a friend for lunch at RL-Louis still in tow.   Prepsters stare over their mimosas. My friend’s response is less subtle. “Holy crap,” she exclaims. “You could put two kids in that thing.” Precisely the point, I tell her as I retrieve my wallet from the beautiful bottomless abyss.

Illustration: Pietari Posti