Carried away: Jacquemus’s micro bag, Le Petit Chiquito. Photograph: Matteo Valle/Imaxtree
They barely hold a lipstick – so how come miniature bags are fashion’s hottest new accessory?
There’s a scene in the second episode of The Morning Show where Jennifer Aniston’s character is riding in her car en route to an award show. Her stress levels are approaching a 10, and they’re not helped by the fact that she can’t fit everything she needs into her teeny-tiny silver clutch purse, which we see in shot: overstuffed and open like a baby bird’s gullet, fed too many worms to eat. Eventually, she sighs and swears at the bag.
The joke is this: these Findus Crispy Pancake-sized bags are ridiculous, oh world of fashion! They can barely hold a broken lipstick, let alone a packet of tissues and half a Strepsil. In these cases, real-world concerns (practicality, durability) are unimportant next to the more pressing issue: WILL IT LOOK GOOD ON INSTAGRAM? So why the popularity?
“They are not practical,” agrees Dara Prant, market editor of Fashionista. “But they do elicit a year’s worth of commentary and are great conversation starters,” which is great currency online. “If you only go out with a mint (just one) or a piece of gum, lipgloss and a credit card, then a mini-bag is fine. But if you want your handbag to hold your phone, wallet, a snack, meds, first-aid supplies and a hand sanitiser, you should invest in something larger.” In other words: exist outside 1080px by 1080px? See ya, sucker!
‘I’ve got tampons in here, a flask of tequila, condoms’: Lizzo at the American Music Awards, with her Valentino bag. Photograph: Matt Baron/Rex/Shutterstock
Useless in an utterly lovely way, mini-bags are huge right now. (According to Grazia Middle East, the surface area of the average handbag has shrunk by 40% in reaction.) They’ve been carried by everyone from the Kardashians to model of the moment Kaia “daughter of Cindy Crawford” Gerber. The tiny bag has always walked the line between “in fashion” and “are you joking mate?” In fact, in the 18th century it was nicknamed “ridicule”, because of its lack of functionality. As in: Mrs Elton, the tragi-comic character in Jane Austen’s Emma, has a “purple and gold ridicule”.
The attraction, according to Prant, is simple: it’s sweet. “Their popularity has something to do with the psychology of loving tiny things,” she explains. “Mini-bags are kind of like puppies – they’re just very cute.” Awwww… So we should carry our car keys in our underwear?
The most high-profile designer who made the link to the online world was Simon Porte Jacquemus. He realised that values of proportion varied considerably IRL and online – and what looked good on your phone trumped anything else. Jacquemus was the auteur behind Le Grand Chapeau Bomba (a planet-sized straw hat that guarantees facial anonymity, as worn by Bella Hadid) and the supersize straw handbag. He delivered invites to his Paris AW19 show with micro-versions of his La Chiquito bag, which was about the size of a biscuit. The real Chiquito bag was not much larger: 12cm long, £400, as carried by Kim Kardashian and Rihanna. It became the No 3 hottest women’s product, according to the Lyst index. It was about the size of a Christmas bauble.
So, tiny bags have become objets d’internet, and there’s a knowingness in how they are used in public. “I’m not sure every star uses bag size to intentionally become a meme, but I certainly think celebrities like Lizzo know the power of bringing a microscopic Valentino bag on to a red carpet in terms of creating even more buzz around a look or an appearance,” says Tyler McCall, editor-in-chief of Fashionista. “Meme-able fashion has become increasingly popular with the rise of Instagram and other social media, because it makes an immediate visual impact.”
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