The Cross Body Bag for Travel: Yea or Nay?


IMG_2043It’s getting to be that time of year when we start poring over travel magazines and planning summer excursions.  By nature, I’m slightly neurotic and I like to research where I’ll be and what’s my best plan of attack…in fashion. Handbags are a huge concern.

It seems as if there are two definitive camps in the cross body debate.  Yes, your hands are free, but your boobs are segregated in that oh-so-unflattering-way.  On the one hand, you’re more protected from a pickpocket, but when you wear a cross body bag, in Europe especially, it screams, “Tourist with a passport!” You’d do well to just write that on your forehead.  It’s the same result.

The local women, especially in Paris and Rome, (where they frighten you with stories of gypsies and vagabond rouges,) leave their tote bags carelessly hanging open as they stand near the Metro.  I’ve seen it.  You know that pinched up face people get when they’re changing a poopy diaper?  That’s the look a lot of us Americans have when we’re forced into a closed quarters situation with “Them.”  We hang on tightly to our stuff and hope that we’re giving off a “va via” (go away) vibe.

While I’m all for safety and being responsible, I think that when we’re already out of our comfort zone, the worst thing to do is compound that by going out of our comfort zone with our belongings.  If you’re normally not a cross body kind of gal, you probably have a reason for it.  Personally, I find that they’re too small.  When I’m in the store stuffing the paper wrappings into other bags to see the inside, (yes, that’s me,) it always seems big enough. (I hate that look of a warped overstuffed purse banging against my hip.)    Yet, when I get home and add a wallet, sunglasses and a ridiculous stuffed dog I bring on vacation, it’s not as roomy.

I think the lure of the cross body is not in the bag, but in the strap…the strap that comes with most purses.  Huh.  While you should clean your bag out of extraneous items before you leave, you are probably better off using the one you carry every day.  I’m assuming to some degree that you’re not toting a giant bag with all the hardware; that can be heavy. You have to be reasonable in what you’re willing to carry through the course of a day. A bulky bag may be a deterrent in cafes if they have to perch on your lap.  Most of us girls manage with a medium-sized bag so it’s not a problem.

A thing you must consider, in some attractions like historical buildings and museums, if your bag is too large, you may have to check it.  Nothing renders me “deer in the headlights” like leaving my bag in a foreign closet check.  You don’t want to black out in the Sistine Chapel because you’re obsessing about your abandoned purse back in the lobby.  You never want to be separated from your gear.  You want your possessions easily accessible to you, but safe from everyone else.

What do you carry every day?  It’s funny how we think about travel bags as something we only use on a trip.  As a veteran purse carrier, you already know the drill; keep your bag zipped and your hand on the handles.  Enough said.




How To Know If You Have An Old Lady Handbag: A Quiz.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have a problem.  I do.  I am ridiculous about handbags.  Any woman knows that it truly is the accessory that can Make All The Difference.  You can get away with schlumping to the grocery store in old jeans and a t-shirt if you have a fantastic bag on your arm as your escort.  Yet, like the jeans we wear, the lipstick we use and the condition of our fingernails, our handbags can really play a huge role in making us look like either, “nice bag, Lady!”  or “Nice. Bag lady.”  ( I also love punctuation, but that’s another day.)

Here is a quick quiz to see if you need to get yourself a new arm companion.  (I’m talking about handbags, you’re on your own with your choice of men.)

  1. The handbag you carry every day is A) less than six months old B) less than five years old C) inherited from your mother D) from high school
  2. Your handbag would be classified as A) a casual tote  B) a satchel C) a rectangle with little feet and a flap D) a stiff, mid sized double shoulder bag
  3. The color of your handbag would be described as A) cobalt blue, color blocked with hot pink B) greige (a dusty taupe color) navy or forest green C) cognac or black D) bright white, brown or baby poop tan.
  4. The interior of your bag has A) pockets for both your smart phone and your tablet B) an inside zipper and an additional slot. C) unfinished bare leather or a silk lining D) a white or black lining that feels stiff and crunchy.
  5. The handles of your bag are A) nonexistent, it’s a clutch B) short drop less than eight inches (maybe with a strap for cross body) C) double handles that retain their shapes D) double handles with piping along the center.  One of them has a clip on hand sanitizer attached.
  6. The exterior of your bag features A) animal print patterns and texture B) pebbled leather and a tassel C) A turn clasp or a lock D) a lot of zippered pockets and open slots.
  7. You left your handbag in the conference room after a meeting.  A co-worker A) brings it straight to you and asks where you bought it B) holds it up at the water cooler where the cool girls are talking C) skulks out with it to sell it for rent money D) leaves it where it is, she doesn’t want to be seen carrying it.
  8. You bought your bag A) at the mall, duh B) at a department store or on-line C) Across the pond after you made an appointment D) they’ve been closed for years.
  9. The major selling point of your handbag was A) it came with free cologne  and a coupon for next time B) it got five stars on the website and it was a great style for work to weekend. C) The prestige D) The lady in the commercial looked happy when she could find her umbrella from the side pocket.
  10. If you had been shopping with your best friend when you spotted it, she would A) buy the exact same one, maybe  in a different color B) wish she had spotted it first C) order one in a bigger size for herself D) just smile because best friends love you despite your flaws.


If you have answered mostly A’s, you do NOT have an old lady bag.  Price range here is not the point.  The color, the trendy shape and the sleek designs give off a young urban vibe.  You are slightly ahead of what’s hot (and what’s not) and you don’t think in terms of “is this practical” but rather, “is it pretty.” The only thing to be careful of here is to make sure that people don’t think you took your daughter’s bag. Some colors can look TOO young, especially if your clothes are in an entirely different spectrum of color.  Cobalt blue is the hot color this season.  You can find it everywhere from purses to sweaters to kitchen utensils.  These kinds of colors are more of a flash in the pan, so think about your cost per use before you invest too heavily in something that will be forever relegated to the bowels of your closet once the trend passes.

If you answered mostly B’s you have really nailed the balance of classic and trendy.  Quality bags will always be in style because they are well made and they have little touches that make them look current.  Buckles, tassels, bits of hardware keep the bag looking fashionable while the material is deep and rich looking.  Price points here can go from reasonable to ridiculous, but this bag, because of its neutral, yet un-brown color, will give substance and style to everything from your dressiest coat to a jean jacket.

If you answered mostly C’s you probably will pass this bag on to your own daughter, as well as your 10 mm pearls.  This bag is classic and expensive.  Carrying one looks like you have enough money to buy a true designer bag, but remember that most YOUNGER people won’t have that kind of cash….(unless they are the people chased by paparazzi because they are famous, or famous for being famous,  or they  ran off with someone’s rich old husband.)   Off set the “classiness” of these true designer pieces by wearing them with jean jackets and artisan silver, or faded jeans and a gauzy scarf.  The seemingly unbalanced look of super classic with super casual some how works every time.  If you don’t believe me, creep on some of those pictures of French women.

In case you didn’t figure it out before, if you answered D to most of these questions, then you really need to get yourself something new.  A safe bet to look chic without trying too hard is to choose a color like navy blue, forest green or deep, rich red.  These jewel tones blend as pseudo-neutrals with other pieces and they offer a pop of style and color without being an in-your-face-glittery-pink.  Pebbled and textured leathers have a more youthful, muted look than a stiff and shiny one.  (However, please note here that it doesn’t include patent leather.  Patent leather looks young.)

Before you rush out and buy something, take some time to look on the internet at different websites.  Look at magazines and pay attention to details on television and movies.  What kind of bag do you admire on someone else?  Go to a store and pick up a color you’ve never touched before.  Mentally think about the clothing that you own and judge how it would look paired with your wardrobe.

Take all the paper out of the bags in the store.  It’s kind of obnoxious, but if you put it back, it’s forgiven.  Carry it without the tissue paper plumping it up.  Is it heavy?  Too dark to see anything inside?  Does it catch on your arm?  Read reviews that other people have written about particular brands and styles.

Don’t be driven by the brand.  Look at the features that you like and rate it objectively.  Bring someone you trust for a second opinion.  Buying a new bag should be a fun adventure, so don’t let it get you crazy.  When in doubt, wait it out.  Don’t buy something just for the sake of buying something.  When you find The Bag, you’ll know.

Ode to an Old Purse

Image 1
The Author and Her New Sirni Bag

The Author and Her New Sirni Bag

Battered Leather, softened with time and the lip gloss that seeped through.

A faithful old friend that never left my side.

A part of myself that always provided for my needs.

My secret treasures, an enigma to others, and sometimes to myself.

As I set you in the back of my closet, I wonder what you would say if you could talk.

Would you say good bye and wish good luck to me

and have sympathy for my eager new clutch?

Instead, you settle into the shelf,

Fragrant with content memories….and the perfume I spilled on you.

-Cynthia Dite….age 18

What is it with handbags?

 I know for myself, I can’t get enough of them.  I love them.  I could spend all day in a store, playing with the pockets and straps and imagining what items of my own I would put into each little section.  Do you do that?  I know that I have an eccentric affinity for bags, but I’ve spoken with other women and some of the reasons THEY Love The Handbag….here are some answers-

  • “No matter what I weigh, it’s guaranteed to fit.”
  • “I can change my bag easier than my hair color.”
  • “Handbags don’t make your feet hurt like new shoes can do.”
  • “I can change my bag faster than I change my mood.”
  • “I feel secure with all my stuff with me.”

Handbags can last forever.  Why do YOU love your bags?


Choosing a Day Bag

Summer’s here.  It’s time for us to be out and about and out of the house.  This means we need to be portable, mobile and prepared.  Choosing a day bag that will meet all of our needs can be easy if you know what you have to have.

  • Pockets:  When my bag turns into a dark abyss of nonsense, I can’t find anything.  Inside and outside pockets are important for phones, pens, keys, etc.
  • Washable material:  I am outside more in the summer.  I haul my bag on my bike.  I put it in the grass.  It needs to hold up to day to day wear and tear.
  • Weather proof:  I want a bag that I can put on a beach towel, or near a pool and know my phone won’t be ruined.
  • CUTE!  Need I say more?

ImageI just purchased this Small Downeaster Canvas Bag from L.L. Bean.  It kind of looks like a Speedy.  It has a plaid water proof interior, and it has pockets.


We’ll see what happens.  I’m going to carry it this week and let you know.

The Fanny Pack

IMG_2089The Fanny pack in theory is a great idea.  Designed to keep all of your belongings safe and easily in reach, it created a craze when they were popular, in the 1980’s.  Originally, the fanny pack was designed for cyclists to wear above their, well, fanny.  It was streamlined and out of the way.  The difference here folks, is that it was on a cyclist.  Some people wear this so that it’s in the front.

Keep America Beautiful!  (…as well as anywhere else you may go.)

There are so many functional, fashionable and affordable bags that there’s really no excuse for carrying around something that doesn’t look as fantastic as you do!  There are a few brand that I recommend.

 Baggallini bags are an affordable and attractive.  Not only are they filled with tons of pockets and zippers for safe stashing, they are light and easy to keep clean.  (This is an extra bonus if you are running around town with children in tow.)

Lo and Sons is another option for function and fashion.  A bit more high end in price, they are designed for air travel with pockets for passports, phones and all the incidentals you are grabbing as you are boarding.

Liebeskind is a German bag, designed after the sleek and stylish capital of Berlin.  I love the urban edgy look of these bags and again, their light weight lends itself to easy travel.  I have sung their praises before.


Once again, I want to mention the importance of looking like you know what you’re doing when you are jetting through airports.  The best (worst) example I can give you is of a woman I saw once in JFK airport in New York.  She literally had her suitcase wide open on the floor and she was groping through it looking for something, as was the man who saw her purse unattended behind her.  Your bag becomes your home away from home when you are traveling.  Make sure you choose a good companion.

Sirni Pelletteria, Roma, Italia: Part Two of a Zillion on Shopping

The author with her newest treasure.
The Author and Her New Sirni Bag

The Author and Her New Sirni Bag

I’ve talked before about the dizzying choices of goods to purchase when you are in Italy.  In the heart of the historic center of Rome, it is no different.  You will see goods that range from the sublime, to the ridiculously stupid.  I know.  I’ve bought them both.  I don’t know if you have the same sickness I have on vacation, but I have to confess, I feel like I’m on a hunt and I want to Bag Something Fab…so there is no pun intended when I tell you one of the best things to buy in Rome is a handbag.  The leather in all of Italy is like nothing I’ve ever seen.  My dear Great-Uncle Augusto wears the most beautiful shoes I have ever seen.  They are so beautiful and elegant.  I know they are soft.  I stop myself at throwing myself on the floor to rub my face on them, so I’m making an assumption here, but you can tell….

Famiglia Sirni

Famiglia Sirni

I’m pausing here for a moment to reminisce about those shoes……..

OK.  Back to shopping in Rome.  As I’ve said, it  offers as many choices as there are cobblestones.  You could always decide to choose something cheesy (which let’s face it, they’re funny to buy, especially that gross apron of “The David”) or buy your self  “Un Tipico Romano Regalo. ”    Leather. Handbags.

At Via Della Stelletta 33, you will find the most beautiful leather goods in Rome.  I am speaking of, none other than the world famous Sirni Pelletteria.  This beautiful little shop has been family owned and operated for over 50 years.  The current proprietors, Andrea and Rita, are a brother and sister duo who have inherited the gift of creating gorgeous handbags from their father.

The Mural of Andrea and Rita's Father over the work station

The Mural of Andrea and Rita’s Father over the work station

The inside of the shop is as sleek and beautiful as the bags.  Each piece is seated much like a monarch on a throne.  They just know they’re special.  Rita works the front of the store, managing the customers and the vast choices of bags.  She is an artist in every sense of the word, beautiful inside and out.  She welcomes people from all over the world.  Movie stars, celebrities and locals alike, recognize these bags for the treasures that they are.  Andrea is a genius sculptor.  His medium is leather and he painstakingly coaxes these pieces of leather into a spectacular monument.  Like I’ve written about before, when you are shopping in Rome, the store vendors wish to serve you.  Rita magically conjures any color or style bag you can imagine.  They also make custom designs.  People return to them year after year to custom order pieces like nothing else in Europe, or the world, for that matter.

The Work Room at Sirni Pelletteria

The Work Room at Sirni Pelletteria

more Famiglia Sirni

more Famiglia Sirni


Image 1