Nostalgia · Vintage

Old Bag

I know it’s not the first time round the block for these photos on my blog – at least I’m sure I’ve previously used the one on the right and I can’t believe I wouldn’t have included the left-hand one at some point. Looking back, they are my favourite images of myself as a young woman. In the photo of me and my mum at Canterbury Cathedral, I would probably have been about 18, and the other shows me approaching my mid-twenties. Here’s a funny thing about me: I used to absolutely love the shape of my ears, and it’s been very sobering as I age to watch them turning into my dad’s ears. This post is not about ears, though, it’s about old bags, and these two photos show a couple that have increasingly occupied my thoughts over recent years.

The left-hand photo shows my splendid Enny Softbag, a cheerful red cross-body number – the photo doesn’t do justice to the lovely cherry-red – that I adored and that managed to fit a lot more than its size suggests. This is the one bag which I have never ceased to love and always considered to be the best bag I’ve ever owned. I yearned for an Enny from the time I saw them advertised in Vogue, which I started reading in my late teens; I can only explain it by saying that they called out to me where others did not. When I finally plumped for one, I chose the design based on what I could afford, not necessarily what I most wanted, but I was mightily happy with it for many years. At some point, though, I decided red was not a practical colour (it isn’t practical, but it is marvellous!) and I utterly spoiled the bag trying to dye it, for which transgression I have never quite forgiven myself. My favourite elements of this bag were the leather – Enny’s leather is so soft which explains their “Softbag” moniker – as well as the organisation features by way of sections and pockets. I also loved the strap which was long, thin and flexible so I could adjust it to the right length to suit me (I would wear it either cross-body or as a hip-length shoulder-bag) and tie the free end of the strap into a decorative knot to keep it out of the way, a trick which I’m sure I must have seen in some editorial at the time.

In the right-hand photo (which, if you’ve read my blog post from last Friday, you will be interested to learn carries all the hallmarks of being taken with a Kodak Instamatic) I’ve got one of my most practical bags slung on my shoulder. This was a bag I used for work as well as leisure and I always found it to be a really nice size. It was big enough to carry everything I wanted (including a copy of Vogue magazine) and yet the proportions still suited me. I am pretty sure it was a Jane Shilton bag and I can remember it having several sections in it, probably three large sections. I don’t remember if it was one where the central section was zipped and the outer ones on either side just designed as slip-pockets, but I suspect that was the case. I particularly liked this bag because it was so easy to wear as I am wearing it in the photo and it only suffered a minimal amount from the plague of straps slipping off my shoulder. I think that was due to the fact the straps were a length that meant I could clamp them under my arm, but maybe it was also due to the bag’s structure and distribution of weight. The other great thing was that the straps were just short enough to enable me to carry the bag in my hand if I felt like it. So often, handles are a length that work either one way or the other, very few allow me to alternate between them. I may not have made it clear here, but I am only 5’2″ tall and I’ve experienced my fair share of bags which hit the kerb when I step off – it’s one of the reasons I’m quite fussy when I’m buying bags. In conclusion, the only thing I really don’t like about this bag now is that it was black.

As I say, those two bags have been on my mind. In fact, that precise red Enny shoulder-bag plays a feature rôle in my novel! A lot of my vintage adventures have been born out of the possibility of finding a duplicate for that bag, or something similar to the Jane Shilton one, and I’ve come close, but never close enough. What would be wonderful would be something that combined the talents of both.

All hail the big, red Enny! Well, you saw that coming, didn’t you?

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