By Lynn Yaeger, Vogue magazine
"They're holding those bags like they're holding a puppy!" exclaims body-language expert Lillian Glass, Ph.D., when she's confronted with a series of runway images from the Prada fall 2011 catwalk show, in which the models are snuggling up to their purses, clutching them like something soft and warm you'd like to nestle near your bosom.
The Prada show wasn't the only runway extravaganza that featured models brandishing handbags in new and striking ways, which is what prompted us to seek out Glass-a communications pro and media personality (she's been on Oprah! Nancy Grace!) who has authored more than fourteen books on the subject-and ask her to reveal the subtext, the subliminal messages that may be lurking behind this phenomenon. Glass, who herself currently covets a giant Donna Karan satchel she encountered recently and who admits to a weakness for soft Italian leathers, warmed to the task.
First off, she offers that the Prada ladies may be cozying up to their purses because "bags are no longer just an accessory-they are a vital part of our lives! This says, 'My bag is a part of me; this is where I live-my computer, cell phone, iPad, water, protein bars, keys, wallet, personal items, workout gear are all in here!' You want it close to you because it holds your life, so you're holding it for dear life."
Asked about the models at Céline, who eschewed the handles altogether and instead carried their bags from the bottom, like a too-heavy sack of groceries, 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."
And what of Marc Jacobs's Louis Vuitton show, where the structured purses-always a luscious and coveted part of this collection-were displayed in some cases by models who were handcuffed from behind and held on to their bags despite their restraints? Glass thinks this is about not being cavalier with your possessions, about safety and security, and about fear of crime-and not the dark, saucy crimes of the heart that Jacobs seemed to be referring to.
Despite this nervousness, "hands in back show an extreme amount of confidence and security," Glass says. "The holding of the bag in back may be a new way to show off your fashion in terms of the first impression that you make. 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."
Asked to look into her body-language crystal ball and tell us what she thinks the future holds, at least handbag-wise, Glass says she sees wheels. "Since bags are getting heavier, I think the next trend might be a cool bag with wheels attached." But in the meantime, she is cherishing her own classic wheelless Dior. "I love that little bag with the handles! Only now, maybe I will carry it with two hands?"
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Photo Credit: WWD