The Style is in the Bag

Sisters in Crime Conference Bag

from The Maine Festival of the Book

from Museum of Fine Arts (Boston)

Crime Bake, 2011








Lea Wait, here. Not usually your style correspondent.

Admittedly, those of us who live in Maine have our own definition of style.  I’m not the first on this blog to have mentioned the fashion gurus at LL Bean. And, personally,  I’d never give up my sweat pants, flannel shirts, fleece-lined slippers, trifocal glasses, and other writerly fashion accessories.

But while I was reading the Sunday New York Times (a girl must keep in touch) December 11, II realized that, without even knowing it, I’d also acquired a number of the new status accessories — cloth totes.

In fact, as a result of attending a number of mystery conferences and book fairs I have a wonderful collection of these tote bags which, to quote the Times, are “the ideal carryall for these post-luxury recessionary times,. The tote’s status is stealth. It telegraphs not money, but access, ethics, culture – encapsulating the idea psychologist Daniel Gilbert popularized that happiness grows more through experiences than purchases.”

Crime Bake, 2010


And I thought they were just good to cart books and manuscripts around in, and hold extra knitting needles. Clearly, this is why I need to read the Times.

It seems many fashion conscious women in New York City are now leaving their Gucci bags behind and carrying cotton totes instead. (Some women even wash them before using them, for the “crinkly, anti-polished” look.) The tote, to be appropriate, must, in addition to being capable of holding objects,  “be useful for quickly deciphering social strata.”  Screen-printed covers of high-brow books (in limited editions — the bags, not the books) qualify.  Bags from expensive private schools qualify, as do those from art galleries, environmental foundations, and literary magazines.

So … why not mystery conferences?  Book fairs?

New York Review of Books: Literary Map of Greenwich Village

I can make this work! I’ve been carrying a lovely leather pocketbook made for me by Narragansett Leathers ( in Damariscotta designed by my husband to hold a paperback and his wallet, as well as a few promotional bookmarks, my notebook, pens, and, oh yes, a wallet and checkbook. But it’s getting a bit worn. How silly of me to have considered saving for a new one. I have so many stylish alternatives just waiting their turn!

I think … a Crime Bake bag should see my nicely through the spring. Black and red are classic colors. It will hold more than a paperback, and the bag itself it certainly a limited edition. High brow? Literary? Obviously. And it’ll double as a conversation piece. How many other people at the post office will have hand-cuffed lobsters on their totes?

Fifth Avenue (York, Maine,) here I come!

This entry was posted in Lea's Posts, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Style is in the Bag

  1. Gram says:

    Hi – We have bunches of totes in the car. We use then for groceries. I think the next time I need a new bag I will see what totes are hiding in the closet! Dee

  2. I collect conference (including Crime Bake) bags, too — so useful, as Gram says! I’ve also saved the name badges from them — not so useful but awe-inspiring. (Mother always told me, quoting Dr. Seuss: “Oh the places you’ll go!”)

    But my favorite bag is a simple white cloth bag, about the size of a magazine. On the front is the quote “I cannot live without books” — Thomas Jefferson to John Adams June 10, 1815. Can’t tell you how many people have asked where I got it. Not a fashion statement, fer sher. But words to live by.

  3. Lea Wait says:

    I love the Jefferson to Adams quote! I have a pillow embroidered with it in my dining room/library. (Why waste a room that has four walls just right for bookcases and save it juist for eating? Why not eat in a ibrary?) And the bags … I have knitting needes in them, yarn, package wrapping supplies, school and library visit materials … but I love that now they’ve been officially dubbed “in style.” Those of us who’ve used them for years can now just keep smiling! (Could it be that “smart is ‘in'”? Is this in some way a snide reaction to everyone buying Snooki tee-shirts?) I don’t even care! I just love it! Lea

  4. Judy Copek says:

    I love my latest Crimebake bag (almost like Chanel) and the San Francisco Bouchercon bag is also great because it zips closed. Another fave is an old Sleuthfest bag. These are also conversation starters. And so much better than paper or plastic.

  5. The Library of Congress, Zazzzle, and Cafe Press all sell tote bags with the Jefferson quote (various designs).

  6. Linda Hall says:

    Very cute! I have a lot of these totes as well! One from an old Bouchercon is used to carry my choir music week by week. I like that one because it zips along the top – perfect for snowy climes. 🙂

  7. Toby Speed says:

    I love my Crime Bake tote, too, and also my Yiddish Book Center and Middle Country Public Library totes. The sleuth in my first murder mystery (as yet unpublished) would celebrate this blog post as well: she carries an I Love Libraries tote everywhere.

  8. lil Gluckstern says:

    I love canvas bags, and I have all kinds of them. The Crimebake bag is so funny, I’m a sucker for clever. Actually, I store stuff in bags and sort of pile them around. No one seems to mind.

  9. MCWriTers says:

    Oh dear. In SF without any of my stylish totes–mayhem in the midlands, anyone? And I can’t remember what the one from Left Coast in Boulder says…something about sky high murder? Anyway, I’m compensating a little by wearing my Crime Bake baseball cap with the lobster on the front.

    It is fun to bring home groceries in all these lovely, gory, crime-proclaiming bags, as well as all the lovely totes from various libraries. And a few select few of us even have bags from the Mass. Department of Corrections. Those raise a few eyebrows. So nice to know we’re the height of fashion as well as practicality.


  10. MCWriTers says:

    I love designer totes. As a librarian I like having extras on hand to pass out to patrons as freebies. It creates goodwill and helps keep books safe in bad weather. Oddly enough, my favorite came from a library software conference back in 2002 in Houston, Texas. When I upgraded to a bigger laptop last fall it was the only thing I had which could hold it comfortably.

Leave a Reply