Can a click from a search engine change your life? Hell yes, it sure can!

OK, I have a little confession to make: You already know I love hockey, but I am also an accessories junkie. That’s where my eyes are immediately drawn, no matter what it is. If I’m in a furniture store or browsing a catalogue I check out the accent plants or bookshelf knick knacks and how they’re displayed rather than the bookshelf itself. I admire how a throw is artfully draped on a sofa and the pillows (but don’t necessarily “see” the sofa). I love looking at people’s shoes, briefcases, umbrellas, sunglasses – you name it. I notice what kind of pen somebody uses at work.

I tend to spend my money on accessories too. They’re a perfect, finishing touch to any outfit and to me that’s a great investment. I might run out the door for a quick errand in cheap shorts and a t-shirt, but slip into wonderfully made, cushy leather flip flops and I immediately feel more pulled together. After I purchased my first iPod, I added a hard rubber protective case…and new earbuds with Swarovski crystals! I found a great black shirtdress for a bargain and added a wonderful, chunky cranberry red bangle bracelet. I also swapped out the cloth self-belt for a nice, wide black patent leather belt – the dress now looks “richer” as a result.

Shoes. An ex boyfriend told me awhile back, “…you have so many shoes, it’s ridiculous.” I never had the heart to tell him my collection is Amateur Hour compared to others I’ve seen. That’s our little secret.

And yes, the glorious handbag. I love looking at and shopping for bags too and admittedly have accumulated a fair amount (hence that “hockey and handbags” gasp from the closet designer). A great bag makes an outfit and I love selecting what to carry based on my mood and what I’m doing. Am I feeling very “look at me, world” ? I’ll choose something with a logo monogram or a bright color. Subdued? Or a job interview? The black, understated leather shoulder bag is a better choice. A night out with friends? Maybe a small clutch or pochette, rather than a tote bag more suited for work.

I will likely write more about bags and accessories shopping in general in future posts, but I will plant two big seeds or thoughts that drive most of my shopping habits. If I spend money on something it’s got to be 1) Practical [which for me translates to ‘versatile’] and 2) Paid For [meaning, pay cash or pay off the credit card balance quickly before interest kicks in.] At least those are the disciplines to strive for. More on that another time.

Good grief, what do handbags stir up so deeply in my DNA?

At its core, a bag is designed to carry our stuff….things we can’t just carry in our hands. Things we need or things we think we might need. And I don’t know about you but I have carried things around in my bags I’ve totally forgotten I was carrying!

Some people scoff at the idea of spending a lot of money on handbags…after all they just carry our stuff, right? Well then, what about cars, for example? Cars are designed to get us safely from point A to point B, end of story. So why do some of us crave extras such as higher horsepower, the latest GPS models, or deck out our cars with fancy tire rims, stereo systems or video viewing for our kids among other things? Nothing wrong with any of that. BUT…shouldn’t basic things like changing the oil, doing the recommended engine maintenance, parts replacements and rotating the tires along with an occasional wash and wax be enough to keep us satisfied?

If you are in the market for a handbag, you can spend as much or as little as you’d like. You can go to any used or discount clothing store or check out the clearance pile at a department store and pick up one for a steal, or spend a 5-figure sum on an exotic skin, custom-ordered bag with the help of a luxury boutique that would rival the price of many cars. I suppose at the very minimum a grocery bag would do, but most of us wouldn’t consciously make that choice. (OK, true side story: I used to carry my work pumps in a plastic grocery bag on my bus commute as I wore basic, black flats for walking downtown on steep streets when I was fresh out of college and had just started working). Yes, I was on a budget and besides, my shoes didn’t fit in my purse!

In the spring of 2006 on a slow day at work, I pulled up a search engine while enjoying a cup of chowder for lunch and just randomly typed in the designer of the bag I was carrying that day. WHAMMO! I couldn’t believe the number of search results that popped up! Department store links, eBay links, pictures…and…a Blog and discussion forum. Holy smokes – a Blog entirely dedicated to handbags and discussions ad infinitum? Did I just hear angels singing?

That forum was the first of its kind I joined. Life changing? Honestly, that isn’t too far fetched. Through this forum I’ve learned more than I ever thought there was to learn about bags, leather types, designers I’d never heard of but grew to love, care and maintenance, great pictures of people’s collections and so much more. And best of all: in person meetups! I now get together a few times a year with several the forum participants who live in this part of the country for an afternoon of lunch and shopping. Check out one of our group photos up at the top!

The friendships I’ve developed through that forum – both virtual and in real life – far outshine any bag. But, admiring arm candy is a nice side benefit!