And then last night, as still another necessary something tumbled from my handbag, I realized that a whole style-related topic has remained undiscussed. But not for much longer. Here goes.
A woman who looks like she's worried about her makeup or her underpinnings, or like she's in pain or neglected, does not look stylish. How to deal with life's little troubles while away from one's own bathroom/ mirror/ computer and such? You dig into your bag and find a product, a safety pin, some change, some chocolate... .
A proper Assistant Bag can hold your shoes, a change of tights if you like, a larger brush, a hair product or two, the program from the ceremony if you want to hang on to it... you get the picture. And because the Assistant Bag doesn't contain money or ID, you can check it with impunity, assuming that your good shoes are at the bottom in an unmarked shoe bag. Assuming the coat-check is located where you can get to it quickly if need be, that is.
Even a day of tedious errands, shopping/returning, quick lunch, a fast check-in to see if - as Prince Charles famously said to Tim Piggott-Smith - there's any work going, will no doubt trigger wishes for a Useful Article that couldn't fit into the smart cross-body: the crushable hat, the compact umbrella, the eye drops, the thing you promised Cousin Liz you'd drop off. This is where you stash a Velcro roller or two, in plastic bag, naturally, on a damp and windy day.
Some time ago, I came up with the Heavy While Empty Test. I believe I was considering buying something called the Biennial Satchel. This is the test: if I can't lift, shoulder, and walk around with an empty pocketbook, I put it down and walk away. It won't get lighter with my stuff in it. This is now doubly relevant, because we're dealing with the woman who needs two bags.
An Assistant Bag may coordinate in style and color with your outfit, or with its First Bag, but never with both at the same time. It should never, ever match. In fact, the best look for an Assistant Bag is a tailored shape and an independent color. The color should not attract attention. An Assistant Bag should strive to communicate that ordinarily its owner (me)(or you) doesn't have to drag all this stuff around, we have People. But today for some reason, we're short a Peep or two and so we just happened to grab this bag, which is not as devoted as a besotted young man or as ambitious as a younger colleague, but has the advantage of not needing to be fed while out.
The relationship among First Bag, Assistant Bag and briefcase is, shall we say, fraught. Clearly on any given day at least one will have to stay home. It's like scissors, paper, stone. Briefcase gets to come along unless we're going to the beach or going hiking or riding. And quite possibly the First Bag's Contents will have to be dumped into the Assistant Bag, kind of a field promotion, to get you through a day of active duty. The Briefcase should never be seen in the company of a large First Bag nor in that of a backpack. Going out with an Assistant Bag and a backpack does not suggest anything favorable about one's state of life or organizational ability. A First Bag does not associate with backpacks. Look in the mirror: do you see a woman who has at least some idea of where she's going, or do you see someone who hung on to a capacious diaper bag with lots of pockets and room for snacks long after her children started middle school?
Well, any further discussion of bags and bag hierarchies will lead to the discussion of whether the stylish woman should have a Bag Butler to manage all this for her, and I just mentioned this to Himself, who never gives odds on whether or not I'm serious, and he told me we don't need another person to tip at Christmas.
So - back to style. Again, I've read too many comments about how the truly stylish even get dressed to take out the garbage. Please. Unless you think that government agents are checking out your trash, this is not something to worry about in a Free Country. Get a life.
Then I learned these implacable truths:
If you look a wreck, even if you look a wreck in a good cause because you just jumped into a pool to rescue the neighbor's puppy, THAT IS THE DAY you will run into an old boyfriend who has Done Well. If the fates are really feeling malicious, he'll be accompanied by his parents who never liked you anyway and his well-groomed twin children.
If you are looking perfect for no reason other than the sheer selfish pleasure of knowing that you look perfect - bring it on, Fates, I'm ready! - BEWARE! THAT IS THE DAY that an old boyfriend who has Not Done Well will greet you loudly in the presence of others and (a) ask to borrow money, (b) ask to borrow your car, (c) ask if you'd like to give him one last good memory before he enters rehab, (d) all of the foregoing. And all in a loud voice.
So watch out for free-floating style questions and underemployed entourages, and remember to floss.