Belfast Telegraph

What's in the handbag? About £1,000 worth of essentials

After a survey totted up the hefty cost of the contents of a typical handbag Kerry McKittrick asked three women to reveal all

It's the question men have long asked of their wives and girlfriends. Just what do women keep in their handbags?

They are perhaps the one place where a woman can hide everything from the day-to-day items she needs at a moment's notice, to work-related items, to the highly personal or private. Still, the cost of all that clobber soon adds up – according to a new survey by department store John Lewis, women can carry a small fortune in their handbags.

The high street giant has calculated that, according to their bestsellers, items such as computer tablets, anti-ageing cream, designer sunglasses, scarves and top-of-the-range make-up can make a woman's handbag a fairly hefty load to carry, and not just by weight alone.

The typical cost is apparently £1,300.

So, what are the secrets that lie within this last bastion of female secrecy? And is carrying such a variety of often pricey items a burden? We take a peek in to the handbags of three local women to find out what they carry each day – and what it's worth.

Anna Morris (29) is the director of Clearbox Communications and lives in Bangor with her husband Elliot and their children Aston (6) and Leo (3). She says:

Thanks to the boys I never really know what is in my handbag. I'll be at a client meeting and reach for my diary and out comes a Power Ranger – The Go Ahead bars are snacks for them and the baby wipes are for any occasion. The apple is for me, though – I usually have fruit on my desk and in my bag so I can try and be healthy.

I carry my make-up with me but it's quite straightforward – I use two blushers because I mix them together to get the right colour.

Apart from that I use Rimmel mascara and the Senna under-eye concealer that I've had forever. The Rescue Remedy is because I'm a nervous flyer. I always carry perfume so I smell nice and nail varnish for touch-ups. I also carry toothpaste and a toothbrush – I brush my teeth after every meal. I have an iPhone 4 and I still use a paper diary but I carry my Apple Mac laptop with me everywhere I go.

Clearbox Communications is just getting underway so I'm doing a lot of travelling and I need to have everything with me. It's the laptop that's the big item in my bag. I don't like tablets and you can't do word processing on them, whereas I write all day long.

I don't think that's a huge value to have in a bag, though – I'm a working mum with her own business so I need to be prepared for anything."

How it all adds up

Bag, Topshop, £30

Make-up bag, gift with purchase

iPhone 4, £500

Three make-up brushes, Boots eco tools, £20

Bare Minerals blusher, £22

Nars blusher, £21.50

Rimmel Mascara, £7

Senna Concealer, £20

Rimmel eyeliner, £4

Crème de la Mer lip balm £50

Mulberry diary, £220

Go Ahead bars, £1

Ted Baker credit card wallet £30

Green Power Ranger, son's toy

Nail varnish, Barry M and Rimmel, £5 each

Toothbrush and toothpaste, £2

Baby wipes, £1

Rescue Remedy, £5

Hairbrush, £4

Apple Mac laptop, £1,000

An apple, 30p

Total £1947.80

Beth Robinson (56) is a director and co-founder of estate agents Templeton & Robinson. She lives in Belfast with her husband David. She says:

I'm not really one for changing handbags all the time. I tend to have a nice bag but I'll use it until it's dead. The Celine bag I have right now is nearly 10 years old and I'll use it for months, then bag it up and put it away for months again.

I don't keep an awful lot in my bag – just the everyday essentials. I tend to put make-up on in the morning and forget about it for the rest of the day, apart from a touch-up of lipstick.

I don't carry a tablet – I have my iPhone and I still prefer to keep a handwritten diary, hence the Filofax. I still use a chequebook to send cheques for birthday presents – I don't like internet banking or automated tellers. I'm the one that still queues up at the window to be served by a person.

I don't carry that much with me. Although my handbag is quite expensive it will last me for years. It's the bag and the phone that are the most expensive things. If it weren't for them I wouldn't have that big a total at all.

I'm very surprised that you don't really think about what you carry with you. I'm not a tidy person and only clear it out every month or two."

How it all adds up

Bag, Celine £700

Purse, present



Two lipsticks, one Clinique, £17, one Estee Lauder, £20

Eyeliner pencil, Space NK, £20

Tom Ford White Patchouli perfume, £60

iPhone 5, £500

Filofax, £60

Tissues, 30p

Marks & Spencer rhubarb and custard sweets, 60p

Templeton & Robinson bag for life, £1


Total £1,378.90

Sarah O'Neill (32) is a stylist and artist who lives in Belfast. She says:

My handbag was a present from my mum, who got it at a second-hand shop. I love that it's a proper, old-fashioned satchel that a child might have used for school once upon a time instead of something made to look.

I'm a big fan of eyeliner so I never go anywhere without my liquid liner, and I often wear false eyelashes, which is why I carry spare glue with me.

As I'm a freelance stylist I can spend a lot of time waiting for client meetings or with downtime at shows, which is why I always carry a book or magazine with me. The memory sticks contain my artwork – I should back up but never do. If I lost those they would be irreplaceable. I actually wake up in a panic in the middle of the night and have to check they're still there.

I keep a camera with me so I can photograph different looks or ideas or even just pictures, as I'm an artist as well as a stylist.

The bolt of silk is a sample – I'm about to bring out a range of scarves printed with my artwork on them and this is a sample of fabric.

I don't actually carry a purse, I keep cards and money in the side pockets of my handbag. I'm forever buying purses but I never actually use them.

I tend to carry my life with me because I'm a freelancer and have meetings and shoots all over the place.

I didn't think I would have £1,000 worth of kit but then if you took away my phone and my camera that would come down quite a lot."

How it all adds up

Bag, £10

Phone, Blackberry Bold, around £400 when new

Make-up bag, Anna Sui gift with purchase

Inca Rose BB Cream, £14

Senna Form A Brow Kit, £30.50

Senna Dusk Velvet lipstick, £14.50

Mac Fluidline eyeliner, £15

Mascara, £8

Eyelash glue by Kryolan, £5

Contact lens case, £1.50


Assorted make-up brushes by Senna, around £45

Book, Saving Carravaggio by Neil Griffiths, £8

Grazia Magazine, £2.50

Memory sticks x 5, £50

MP3 player, £40

Palmers Cocoa Butter, £4

Samsung camera, £350

Four metres of silk, free sample

Total £998

Belfast Telegraph


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