Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Things She Carried, Part Deux

A recent post by The Thoughtful Dresser reminded me of a small but significant element (to me) in the Great Handbag Debate.

In New York Magazine this spring Carine Roitfeld remarked, “I do not wear handbags,” which sent the fashion world into a tizzy—would handbags survive once the famed editor of French Vogue declared their very species unattractive?

I was also ruffled (I have a vexed relationship with bags, which you can read about here), but for a different reason: Roitfeld used the verb “wear” instead of “carry.”

It’s not a matter of ESL; indeed, I’ve seen bags described as something “worn” instead of “carried” in other places, perhaps even in the blogs of my esteemed fashionista pals.
Rather, Roitfeld has unwittingly raised a philosophical issue: does one wear or carry a bag? And what’s the difference?

To me, the notion of “wearing” a bag conjures the image of building an outfit—of consciously thinking through which piece goes with the other—and I try never to seem thought-out in my clothes. (If something “matches,” then that’s a cue to change the offending item, pronto!)

I “carry” a bag, which to me connotes a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. The bag is neither a part of me, nor of my ensemble; it simply carries my essentials inside it. And lest you worry that I carry something that is dissonant rather than harmonious with my clothes, fear not: if it doesn’t work, I go without. But then, I might add, I do like an attractive dose of dissonance.

So my query is this: do you “wear” or “carry” a bag? And remember, that’s not a grammar question—there’s no correct or incorrect answer!


Robin said...

I'm not that familiar with Carine Roitfeld, and I was thinking that maybe she doesn't "wear" and handbag because she has a staff of minions who carry everything for her. So I googled her and found this interview where she constantly contradicts herself, either by words or actions:

So while I give her credit for increasing ad sales and giving French Vogue a new look, I think she is full of herself (and I'm sorry, but someone who is "shy" and has "no confidence" doesn't wear a white off-the-shoulder evening top for an 11 am interview, and doesn't tell a reporter that they only piece of clothing on their body that they didn't "steal" or "borrow" is their pants. But I digress).

I love purses, I have close to 60, and that is after a major post-Christmas purge for a clothes swap and Goodwill run. For everyday I "carry" my purse, but for evening, I think of it more as an accessory and I guess I "wear" it.

K.Line said...

Interesting question, Miss C. On balance, I wear my bag (it's integral to the outfit and to my bringing my life with me wherever I go).

enc said...

I carry. The bag must serve.

Toby Wollin said...

The only bags I "wear" are the clutches that I use with evening clothing. Otherwise, I must carry my daily bag, which contains everything I need for the day. As for Ms Roitfeld, this is also the woman who has a scale prominently displayed in her office and who obviously has some major issues with body image and with her screaming need to continue to appear as young as her daughter.

Mary-Laure said...

May I volunteer an explanation for wear/carry?
In French both words are translated PORTER:
I wear clothes = je porte un vetement
I carry a baby in my arms = je porte un bebe dans mes bras

So I guess this is just SLOPPY translation. Sigh. It annoys me because I'm a pro translator and I hate to see unreliable ignorant translators publish mistakes all over the press/the internet.

Question: without a bag, where does she keep her stuff? In her pockets?
But I dislike handbags too, soo...

miss cavendish said...

The translation issue may be completely accurate in this case, but I've also seen native speakers use the carry/wear distinction, which I find so interesting. Ahh, semantics . . .

Iheartfashion said...

I guess I'd have to say I wear my bag, because it's never very far from my body, like a security blanket. And I do think about how it will look with my outfit and change bags frequently.

Susan said...

I carry. And I never ask someone if the would like to 'come with'.

How these two ever got started baffles me.

Kelly said...

Carry! My bag is there only to carry my junk around in it. I ditch it at ever possible chance (much easier and more graceful in the winter, when I enjoy my coats with many pockets). While I will change my bag for a blatant clash with my outfit (e.g. I will take essentials out of my day bag and put in a smaller purse if I'm going to a cocktail party), in general I carry the same one every day. It's a tool for me, not much of an accessory or part of an outfit.