Vogue.com recently invited body language expert Lillian Glass, Ph.D. to interpret the way the models held their bags in a number of runway shows from Fall 2011.
While what happens on the catwalk is usually a far cry from daily reality, it is still fun to dissect what statements the designers and stylists are making with the placement of accessories, as every detail in a fashion show is most certainly calculated.
“They’re holding those bags like they’re holding a puppy!” Glass remarked of the runway images from Prada’s Fall 2011 catwalk show. Glass speculates that the models are cradling their bags close because “bags are no longer just an accessory—they are a vital part of our lives!” They hold everything from a lipstick to a wallet to an iPad. They hold all aspects of our lives.
Alternatively, to me, the gesture of snuggling the bag shows that the woman sees her Prada bag as something precious and pet-like. It’s a plush little friend, rather than a bag you sling over your shoulder or hold aloofly down at your side. It also signifies ownership and closeness with luxury.
At Marc Jacobs’s Louis Vuitton show, models held the coveted structured purses in hands that were cuffed behind their backs. Glass thinks this pose represents safety and security, not being careless with your possessions. She also thinks that despite this gesture of nervousness, “hands in back show an extreme amount of confidence and security. [...] It also shows a lot of self-confidence and self-assuredness. When you place your arms in back of you, as opposed to placing them in front, it says you have nothing to hide. Also, it lets the bag stands on its own, without distracting from the entire outfit.”
I think this gesture is also a saucy way of poking fun at fashion obsession. The pose could be saying, “I’m a prisoner of fashion. I’m a victim.” Or it could be saying, “No matter what happens, I’ll have my fabulous little handbag with me. Even in the wake of disaster, I have my priorities.”
The models at Celine carried their bags from underneath like a sack of groceries, not even using the handles. Glass says, “What I am picking up from this is that in this day and age, women are carrying around a lot more things. It’s like a virtual office in their purses, and the handles make things feels heavier, so this new way of holding the purse may be more practical and less cumbersome.”
To me, this particular gesture seems mostly about the need to come up with some new spin on bag-holding. But it could also be about breaking the rules, about being in a casual relationship with luxury, or about creating interesting, complementary angles with the clean lines of the clothes themselves.
What are your thoughts on what these bag-holding gestures mean? Do you have any other thoughts on the meanings behind certain ways of holding bags? Or is it all just a sack of sugar?