Picking purses no picnic

Shopping for a purse is a small-scale version of shopping for an apartment. It needs to be move-in ready with a place for everything. And you'd like to live in it for at least six months.

Shopping for a purse is a small-scale version of shopping for an apartment. It needs to be move-in ready with a place for everything. And you'd like to live in it for at least six months.

I recently had to find a new home for my everyday essentials after the strap began to fall apart on the former dwelling for my receipts, lip gloss, grocery lists, credit cards, spare change and an apple a day.

Finding an affordable residence for my meager stack of cash was no easy task, though. I wanted something attractive and practical that didn't require a mortgage. An amethyst-colored Liz Claiborne bag from Herberger's was the best buy for my budget.

It also met three other key requirements.

Most importantly, it is neither brown nor black. I have brown and black coats, brown and black shoes and brown and black belts. It's easy to fall into the trap of wearing nothing but neutral accessories. I wanted something to accent all of those soberly colored items, particularly my coats. The shade of plum that is so popular this season will go equally well with my fuzzy brown jacket and my black leather coat.


Secondly, it needed to be big enough to hold the things I use everyday. That includes a glasses case, sun glass case, small wallet and checkbook. My job also requires me to carry a notebook and tape recorder.

Separate compartments and pockets inside the bag were another must have. I like to at least attempt to be organized.

After trying on 11 purses I made my decision. I had to weigh the pros and cons of each one including my final selection. At first, the color of my new amethyst purse seemed a little Kool-Aidish. The purple purse looked great, however, when I tried it on with my dark brown jacket.

As apparel shopping decisions go, the purchase of a handbag is a fairly major one. It's the one item I own that I wear every day.

The important selection is also a very fun decision. What woman doesn't love accessories? It's something we learn as little girls. I remember getting my first purse at Woolworth's in Fergus Falls. It was red and soft with ribbed detailing on the front. I only wore it to church or when I went shopping, though. Wearing a purse everyday is one of the milestones on the way to adulthood, for women at least. Purses are a very gender-specific accessory.

Men's ability to live without a purse is a mystery to me. Most women would be lost without a bulging bag slung over their shoulder to anchor their life.

A calendar, scissors, first aid kit, coupons, floss, Purell and a plastic rain hat are some of the items that load my mother's purse. Bills and other timely bits of information rotate in and out of the side pockets. When she attends a funeral she stocks a supply of Kleenex with easy access from her bag. My Grandma Erickson kept Smith Brothers cough drops in her purse. Grandma Hacking stored a note pad to keep track of her budget in her large pocketbook. And my Aunt Janet always kept a pack of gum in her bag ready to share with her neices and nephews.

A purse is really more than an accessory. It's a way of taking home away from home. It only masquerades as a mere storage device. Fortunately, the guise comes in a multitude of colorful shapes and sizes. I chose a deep red vertical shoulder bag last year and an amethyst horizontal satchel this year. Who knows what color purse will house my essentials next year. Perhaps it will be blue or even gold. One thing I do know. Shopping for my wallet's new residence will be an enjoyable dilemma.

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