The existential poetry of the overstuffed bag

Miu Miu SS24 main

Will we ever not be eternally fascinated by the ‘what’s in my bag’ trope? This SS24 – surprise! – capacious bags are trending, and not only are they big, they’re stuffed to the brim. Aligning with the outpouring of Jane Birkin love (and hot takes on her bulging Birkin), Miu Miu’s SS24 show was lauded for its chaotic bag energy – each exit showed a model toting a classic bowling bag, top handle or tote overflowing with spare shoes, keys and clothes. As you do.

Miu Miu SS24
Miu Miu SS24 handbag

On TikTok, #whatsinmybag content has over 3 billion views, a result of our current preoccupation with self-branding and a collective desire to express our uniqueness via what we consume, according to Nylon. However, What’s in My Bag content is nothing new. Back in 2000, Kate Spade published an enjoyably voyeuristic coffee table book detailing the handbag contents of numerous high-flying women.

Appropriately named ‘Contents’ (below), Filofaxes, Nokias, dollar bills and other now-quaint belongings were upended on desks and carpets, then photographed scene-of-the-crime style by Dan Bibbs. Colour me obsessed! (FYI: you can still pick up the odd used copy.) (Also, I never realised before that the grey felt slip case also doubles as a – Kate Spade – bag lol.)

Kate Spade Contents book - restauranteur
Kate Spade Contents book - photographer
Kate Spade Contents book - writer cultural critic

Going back further, these sorts of insider reveals originated in the pages of 1990s Elle (below), Allure and U.S. Vogue. A peek into a supermodel’s LV Speedy for example would unleash a longing for something as innocuous as Maybelline Great Lash mascara or a Henri Bendel make-up pochette simply because pre-Internet, you Couldn’t Get It Here. Models, make-up artists and stylists were arguably the influencers of their time, sharing their product must-haves and obscure shopping destinations while we devoured them in the hope of absorbing some of their frequent flyer élan.

What's In My Bag 1990s supermodel

Aside from Nylon’s theory that you are what you consume, the contents of your bag also serve as a portal into your interior life – your insecurities, your hopes, your ambitions, your moods. Are you the neurotic girl with her emergency-ready umbrella, dental floss and three varieties of lip balm (hi!)? The workaholic with her laptop, notebook, and many pens at all times (also hi!)? Or the laidback hedonist with a teeny crossbody for just a phone and a lipstick, up for the adventure of whatever life might throw at her?

In the case of the Miu Miu-esque overflow, why the need for such an OTT display? Is it a non-verbal SOS signal that our psyches are out of control? Or merely a performative flex that we’re such multitasking side hustlers we must tote our entire lives just in case? That of course is the million dollar existential question.

According to Air Mail, busy-itis has become a major status symbol in America and thus quite the epidemic. But main character syndrome also has plenty to answer for. The look-at-me optics suggest a need for visibility, a quest to be Seen. Look at my big, fat, complex life, dammit! To that end, a new handbag probably isn’t really the answer. But hey, you’ll look the biz while you try to suss it out.


WORDS: Disneyrollergirl / Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Miu Miu x 3; Kate Spade Contents x 3; Elle UK
NOTE: Most images are digitally enhanced. Some posts use affiliate links and PR samples. Please read my privacy and cookies policy here

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