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It's in the Bag: What Purses Reveal and Conceal [Hardcover]

Winifred Gallagher
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (1 Dec 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061137480
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061137488
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 15.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,792,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Purse mania has taken the world of fashion by storm, edging out shoes, jeans, and jewelry as the must-have possession. The bag craze reflects a strong luxury goods market, to be sure, but also conveys a contemporary woman's thoughts, feelings, and dreams. According to cultural critic Winifred Gallagher, this everyday object isn't just something a woman has, but an extension of who she is. It's in the Bag is a short, lively look at handbags?their history, their lure, and their emotional meaning. Gallagher invites us to explore one seemingly simple object's complex significance to the people who design, produce, market, assess, and use it. We meet high-profile designers who strive to combine talent, perfect timing, recognizable trademarks, personal charisma, and celebrity endorsements in the creation of a must-have "It" bag; fashion editors, the powerful tastemakers who shape our sensibility; psychologists who probe the purse's symbolism; and some very different women who express a range of attitudes about handbags, from an army major's antipathy to a collector's obsession.

Researched and erudite yet always fun, It's in the Bag is a charming look at modern women as seen through one of their keenest cultural obsessions. No fashionista worth her weight in Prada will want to miss this inside look at what's really "in the bag."

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For serious 'bag girls' 28 Jan 2010
This is a serious look at the 'handbag culture' of recent years by cultural
critic, Winifred Gallagher. It ranges from the history and development of
the handbag (or purse as she's American} through to the emotional background
to the recent obsession with 'IT' bags and why we 'bag girls' collect.
Mary Lewis
Bag End Bags
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2.0 out of 5 stars Mistitled 14 Dec 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
More a personal history or series of interviews than an actual history of the handbag. No photos, just some, pretty as they may be, hand-drawn sketches. Nothing too serious, although sometimes mildly interesting. In retrospect, wouldn't have bothered to read it. Not quite what it says on the tin.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Decent "coffee table" "chic lit" read. 13 Mar 2007
By JournalReviewer - Published on Amazon.com
I was expecting more of an academic, historical and psychological analysis of the actual meaning that handbags (and personal items) have to people. The book touched on this BRIEFLY a few times. But, the rest of the book discussed brand/label history of designers and name dropped.

I was a bit dissapointed. If you're looking for a book on handbag design history, or light coffee table reading, you might enjoy this book. If you want to dig deeper into the psychological meaning that objects have for you, this book (suprisingly) will not do much for you.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Charming and Insightful Study of an Everyday Object 2 Feb 2007
By Stacey M Jones - Published on Amazon.com
There are entire specialties of scholarly inquiry into the meaning of the things in our lives. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who researches humans' everyday lives and things shows that people " -- especially women -- particularly value 'contemplative objects' that have positive associations and represent dimensions of who we are" (p. 66). The lovely and engaging, charmingly reported IT'S IN THE BAG: WHAT PURSES REVEAL AND CONCEAL by Winifred Gallagher sheds light on what purses mean, their history, how certain ones become "IT" and how women relate to these objects in their lives. As a woman who never seems to have enough purses, I was very curious about what I would learn in this book and very gratified by what I found here.

Gallagher, who has written for the Atlantic Monthly, Rolling Stone and the New York Times, and has written books on spirituality, among other topics, takes her reportage on this issue just seriously enough. (In the conclusion she states that a purse isn't going to change anyone's life significantly.) But she does examine just thoroughly enough the historical context of the purse, how they are produced, who makes decisions about the accessories we carry (even when we purport not to care, we are carrying out the vision of someone, somewhere who does!), why women are attached to their handbags and the individual stories of specific women (such as Gov. Ann Richards, who designed her own for the utmost utility and attractiveness). She quotes designers, fashion directors, store buyers and purse connoisseurs and obsessives. She talks to everyone from French marketing research guru Clotaire Rapaille to Isaak Mizrahi ("You cannot ignore your hair or your shoes or your bra--those things you must, must, must come to terms with. But...your bag can be your totally functional friend or your amusing court jester" [p. 62].)

I found the chapter on why we care absolutely fascinating and illuminating. I remember a while ago saying to my husband, "What is it about purses that is so irresistible to me?" He said, "Maybe you just like them." But now I know there are ways to parse and understand that interest, which relates back to how individuals endow certain objects with meaning, which according to Csikszentmihalyi is part of an individual's necessary development of self. Purses appeal because they answer behavioral needs (or utility needs such as carrying the things busy women need on their long, demanding days), visceral needs (appealing to the woman both visually and tactically) and reflective needs (calling to mind something from our past that had emotional meaning for us, such as a mother's fine-leather handbag). We certainly know that we make more decisions on the emotional-subconscious level than we often admit. A purse that speaks to a woman on all these levels may cause her to plunk down $1,200 to $2,000 for a handbag!

I thought this book was completely enjoyable, and adds to the constantly evolving portrait we have of the contemporary woman. I recommend it!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Fun! 16 Dec 2010
By Ashley11 - Published on Amazon.com
I really enjoyed this book. My hubby bought it for me because I'm insane about handbags. I liked how she discussed the role bags have in our lives. It doesn't go into any large depth about things, just a fun overview.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What's in Your Bag? 25 Sep 2010
By J. Lawry - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was teaching a workshop in which we looked at how we carry ourselves with us. I intended to ask a couple of people to empty their purses or bags or backpacks so we could see just what people carried with them and why. Winifred Gallagher's book was a great prep course for me to see just how much our purses/bags reflect both the times and our individual identities. You'll learn how men are now becoming conscious of what statement they are making with their fancy briefcases as well as what the Queen carries in her little purse. If you are someone with a a real attachment to your bag of choice, then you'll learn a lot about yourself from reading this little book. And reading it was sheer fun.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HANDBAG is THE buzz-word! 9 Jan 2007
By BigHorn - Published on Amazon.com
Amazingly interesting how the handbag for women is now the equivelant of the wristwatch or italian sportscar for a man.
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