Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Stealing a woman's handbag is robbing her identity

I purchased a new handbag the other week. It spoke to me as soon as I stepped into the boutique: 'I am yours by right,' it said. 'Your name is written on my clasp.'

I adored it immediately. It's a vermillion red, oblong and, most beguilingly of all, has a bright green and blue patterned lining.

Of the 179 handbags (approximately) in my possession, far too many of them have black linings. Don't bag designers get it?

With a black lining, you can't see anything inside a handbag, so you're scrabbling around the interior for notebooks, lipsticks, hankies and mobile phones.

Anyway, this perfect little vermillion bag with the bright lining, designed by Tom & Eva, also had a label saying £45. Should I feel a slight suggestion of Catholic guilt at purchasing another handbag for £45? I mean, do I really need another handbag?

Yet, I told the spectre of guilt, retail business must be supported. My behaviour towards handbags is an addict's behaviour. I probably should see a therapist, but I won't. You have to be ready to quit your addiction. And I'm not.

There is a bag museum I would love to visit called the Simone Handbag Museum - only it's in Seoul, South Korea. It exhibits handbags through the ages.

Queen Elizabeth I had a purse 'of crymsen satten, embraudered with gold'; women in the 18th century had pouches which hung inside their petticoats.

But, after the French Revolution, dresses became more clinging, showing the body shape. Thus the handbag came into its own.

I gave away a delightful Orla Kiely handbag last year, because there were no outside pockets. I notice that her new collection this season is replete with dinky little outside flaps, but I mustn't yield to temptation and acquire another one. At least, not yet.

Sociologists of the Simone Museum study handbags and what they say about women's lives. Clutch bags are often gorgeous, but they are really vanity cases, because they leave no freedom of manoeuvre (at a party, you can't hold a drink, a cocktail sausage and a clutch bag all at once).

The bum bag is practical, but hideous, even when designed by Vivienne Westwood. The voluminous shoulder bags currently in style show that women mean business, for these totes carry a repertoire of technology: smartphones, iPads and other such necessities.

The first thing I notice about a woman is her handbag. Isn't that awfully judgmental? Any woman carrying a real Chanel has it made, in my eyes. But should you pay £1,000 to support the economy with such a deluxe item?

Shakespeare wrote in Othello: 'Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing', but a female judge in Reading emphatically disagrees.

Recently, Crown Court Judge Zoe Smith sternly reprimanded a handbag-snatching thief, one Kamran Latif, who had nicked two handbags from women, among other offences.

Judge Smith was incensed by the handbag thefts. Men didn't understand the impact of such a violation, she said. Stealing a woman's handbag is not just a material crime - it is robbing her of her security, her peace of mind, almost her identity.

She handed out a stiff sentence, as well as a robust handbagging. Bravissima!

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