From The Archive

Why A Girl Only Needs One Bag By Dolly Alderton

There’s someone we’d like you to meet. Writer, Sunday Times Style Columnist, book-lover and fellow tea-drinker Dolly Alderton is this week’s guest writer on the Journal. We met over a pot of tea in our favourite cafe and had a natter about books we’d been reading, our handbags, our shared Pinterest obsession, our new year’s resolutions (or lack there of) and…well, everything under the sun. There was one thing in particular Dolly said that stayed in our heads for days to come: “a girl only really needs one great bag.” We thought this was interesting and we decided maybe she had a point; we wanted to hear more. Read on as Dolly looks back at her previous relationships with bags over the years and describes the moment of magic when you find the one.

Confession: I have only ever had One Main Bag. I’m not an austere woman by any stretch of the imagination: little black dresses? 12. Polonecks? 9. Kilt-style mini-skirts? 4. Washed-out, teenage band t shirts? 1345 approx. I am a hoarder of things; my wardrobe is abundant. My vintage pinafore dress cup runneth over. But the one area where I have always exercised restraint is handbags. I’ve never really seen the point of having more than One Main Bag along with Two Silly Clutch Bags (one tan, one black) and a large tote for tights and a toothbrush to err on the side of caution when you know a “glass of wine” at your friend’s house could quickly morph into a night of dancing around her kitchen, shrieking along to Rumours and curling up to sleep on her sofa.

Here is why an adventurous woman only needs One Main Bag: a good bag is a hardy travel companion. She should happily be chucked on a dance floor. She should be stuffed full of books and mascaras and pens. You should know her pockets and crevices inside out; exactly where the compact mirror is kept; exactly where the emergency plaster is hidden. She should be your lifeline.

Invest in one good, big hearty handbag and you’re set for the next decade.

I can’t imagine being the sort of stylish woman who collects hundreds of designer bags, all stored in boxes, polaroids on the front collectively the price of a deposit for a two bed in zone one. Nora Ephron once wrote beautifully about the confusion she felt when she escorted her friend on a pilgrimage to Paris to buy a £1500 vintage Kelly bag. “It barely held anything, and it hung stiffly on my friend’s arm,” she wrote. “I may not be good at purses, but I know that any purse that hangs stiffly on your arm (instead of on your shoulder) immobilises half your body… if one of your hands is stuck carrying your purse, it means it’s not free for all sorts of exciting things you could be using it for, like shoving your way through crowds, throwing your arms around loved ones, climbing the greasy pole to success, and waving madly for taxis.”

I received my One Main Bag for my 18th birthday, nine years ago. It was big, brown, and made of sturdy leather. It was the bag I took to lectures, the bag I danced around with my friends while bellowing “’COS I’M MISTER BRIGHT SIDE” at one AM. It was the bag I took to my first job, and three years later, my second job. It saw me through from 18 – 27 ½ .

Sadly, finally, she packed up. After years of my friends saying: “GOODNESS woman just BUY A NEW BAG”, I finally had to. Scuffed and dog-eared, darkened with so many nights trying to find the right bus in the pouring rain; the plastic piping that gave once gave it its sleek structure poking out of the broken leather. She had had enough. Time for a New Main Bag.

It didn’t take long to find her. She is big and brown and made of sturdy leather (I’m a creature of habit). She’s bookish and buckled and big enough for Kleenex and hand cream and a Wispa. She is beautiful. And I have a feeling we are going to have some great adventures together.

Look out for Dolly’s next post coming soon on the Journal.


Find your One Main Bag here!