The trend in transparent bags is quite divisive among women. We examine the pros and the cons of going clear
Why We Love Them
LIKE YOU, I’m constantly throwing odds and ends into my bags. By the end of most days, I’ve accumulated a good 5 pounds of pure nothingness: receipts, 75 cents in nickels, yet another lip balm, a handful of business cards, a granola bar wrapper, etcetera ad infinitum. These piles of junk are actually a great impetus to invest in a clear bag, which acts as a forced organizer and life coach. Put that loose change in the wallet that you adore for its organizational capabilities. Charge your phone at night so you’re not running out the door on 9 percent, forced to throw in a Mophie and its accouterments. Find time for breakfast; those packaged bars aren’t good for you, anyway. The clear bag helps us think about what we actually need with us for the day.
While the see-through bag may appear to be the kind of novelty only appropriate for young “it girls” with Instagram-ready lifestyles, the trend is nothing new. In the 1940s and ’50s women—including Elizabeth Taylor—went gaga for Lucite purses that are now collectors’ items. And today, women of all ages who adopt a playful approach to fashion are going clear. Take Staud’s plastic tote with its interior leather pouch—it has been restocked three times since December and has a wait list of 1,000 people. Sarah Staudinger, the brand’s co-founder and creative director, says women into their 70s are among its legion of fans.
At Chanel’s spring 2018 show, the models accessorized tweed suiting and lace evening wear with see-through PVC boots, bags and bucket hats. Chloe King, digital director for Miami-based fashion retailer The Webster, is a fan of designer Karl Lagerfeld’s playful vision for the clear bag, iterations of which he has designed for Chanel for decades. Ms. King would wear one dressed down with a big sweater or a bohemian dress. There is a “hard/soft contrast that makes it a cool addition to a look,” she explained.
For those who don’t take themselves or fashion too seriously, clear handbags are quite simply delightful. As the normcore style with its determined practicality fades out of fashion, organizing a see-through bag’s contents is an amusing way to personalize your look. “Part of the fun is what you put inside it,” Ms. King asserted. “It’s asking to have clementines and playing cards and earphones in there.”
Why We Hate Them
EVEN IN times that call for greater transparency, I object to the current craze for clear handbags. I don’t want to look at your crumpled receipts and balled-up yoga clothes. And before you tell me you’re one of those tidy types who “curates” her load down to the perfectly bare essentials, I will judge you for that, too.
One of the few privileges of being a woman is the right to travel with all manner of personal effects. While my murse-averse husband makes do with the space in his pockets, I delight in my haul (even if my shoulder doesn’t) and never leave home without a cornucopia of toiletries, a phone charger and enough reading material to sustain me through the year. My bucket bag holds a certain romance for me, and it’s mostly to do with the multitudes contained within. “We all have many mysteries and secrets, and the bags we carry are a reflection of that,” agreed Los Angeles-based handbag designer Clare Vivier, whose 10-year-old line Clare V. hasn’t once veered into clear.
Ms. Vivier is something of a holdout, as more and more brands churn out containers that allow their owners to reveal their possessions to the world beyond their Instagram followers. “It’s just so unattractive!” said Kristofer Buckle, a celebrity makeup artist whose clients include Blake Lively and Mariah Carey. “The only people who should carry a clear plastic bag are prison workers or Bloomingdales employees.”
Those who buy into the trend have two undesirable options: They can either expose their dirty laundry or treat their bag’s innards with the excruciating meticulousness of an origami artist. No matter how edited a bag’s interior may be, “it doesn’t read as easy and stylish,” said Kate Young, a stylist who works with stars like Margot Robbie and Dakota Johnson. “It says you’re trying too hard.” Ms. Young’s anti-clear stance holds for one exception: A plexiglass Charlotte Olympia clutch with an interchangeable satin lining.
Handbag and accessories designer Gelareh Mizrahi, whose cheeky luxury line contains (opaque) python takes on “thank you” bodega bags, lamented the number of women she sees choosing plastic over mystique. “When you start sleeping next to somebody new, isn’t it more fun to wear beautiful pajamas than walk around completely naked?” she asked. Some things need not come spilling out.