Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
My oh my: How handbags have evolved since the late ‘90s and early aughts. With the minimalist fervor for Mansur Gavriel, Loewe, and The Row, it’s easy to forget that bags weren’t always so understated. Nothing makes this more clear than rewatching Sex And The City.
With Carrie and company, it often felt as if the outfit came into frame before the person. The looks were sometimes weird, sometimes weirdly prescient — of normcore, of Vetements and Gosha Rubchinskiy (here’s looking at you, Miranda) — and always idiosyncratic. The show presented a completely different way of conceptualizing an outfit, one that involved matching things to other things on purpose. Accessories were central to that.
Take, for instance, the Fendi Baguette, a style so pivotal and enduringly popular that one might consider it a recurring character. An entire book devoted to the bag’s many iterations — 1,000 and counting — was released by Rizzoli in 2012. In the foreword, Sarah Jessica Parker notes that Fendi was one of the first major brands to loan to the show, hence costume designer Patricia Fields’s front-and-center placement of the brand.
The Fendi Baguette even got its own story arc: Who could forget when Samantha confronts a bunny at the Playboy mansion whom she mistakenly thinks has stolen her (faux) Fendi bag? “Samantha was mortified,” opines Carrie. “She assumed everything on the bunny was fake.”
The Dior Saddle Bag is another favorite from the series that’s seen a resurgence in popularity over the last few years, but it’s the Fendi Baguette that has captured my imagination. It’s a contradiction of sorts: small in size, but not exactly subtle with its robust interlocking F logo catching the light like a hood ornament. It’s stupid in that you have to flip it open every time you want to reach inside, but smart in that it’s the perfect size for your phone, wallet, a lipstick, and a compact. It makes a day outfit feel expensive. And it makes flailing your arms at a cab that much more dramatic.
The model Constance Jablonski summed it up neatly at a Fendi “Baguettemania” event in 2012: “Everything fits in there when you go out and, yeah, it’s light. It’s cool.” My thoughts exactly. So light. Much cool. Classic. Outrageous. In short, it is a Carrie and a Samantha and a Miranda. I think it might still have been too loud for Charlotte.
In 1998 — the year of the very first season of Sex and the City — fashion historian and director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology Valerie Steele told the New York Times, “Clothes are sort of anonymous. You make your fashion statement now with the bag.”
Today, many fans like to speculate that Carrie wouldn’t have her newspaper column — she’d have an Instagram account, her every outfit chronicled and tagged for an adoring fanbase. But it’s admittedly hard to reconcile the logomania of the series’ era with today’s equally ardent fervor for the logoless; a specific brand of subtlety that’s less about slogan tees and more about cementing an aesthetic — prop styling over personal style.
If you don’t post with your face just out of frame, or covered by a plant or your newly-blunted bangs, your Maryam Nassir Zadeh mules or your By Far ankle boots peeping out from the raw hem of your sailor-cut denim, did you even post at all? I can’t help but wonder: If we are all Sophie Buhai, are any of us Sophie Buhai?
And that’s kind of a bummer.
The Fendi Baguette not only feels fresh again, but newly necessary. “In the 2000s, bags got weird, expensive, and impossible to ignore,” writes Vogue’s Janelle Okwodu. And that’s just it — that’s exactly what I want to be right now. Weird, expensive, and impossible to ignore. No passing, no falling in line and being taken for granted. Let’s bring back standing out and unapologetically articulating yourself to a T every day. In short: Let those freak bags fly.
As Parker told the Times in 1999, during the series’ second season, “For these women at this moment in time, getting even the smallest detail right is as important as making sure they're being honest in what they say.” The littlest detail can make a big difference. And the littlest bag can make a whole outfit.
In a sea of beige, be the baguette you wish to see in the world.