Carly Sharples

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Welcome to my blog. I document my adventures in travel, style, and food. Happy reading!

The Purse Chronicles

The Purse Chronicles

Purse Flatlay

I was 16 when I gained my first paid employment: a Saturday job at Moss Bros flogging YSL and Balmain suits to middle-aged men for £2.50 an hour and 0.5% commission. My velcro-tabbed Kickers wallet I’d had since my early teens didn’t befit this new status I’d acquired, as an employee, and so with my very first pay packet I ventured to Next in search of a new, grown-up receptacle of my hard-earned pennies. 

I settled upon a black quilted, faux leather zip up purse emblazoned with ‘NEXT’ on the front. It was very sensible, with ample storage for all the banknotes I was naturally going to acquire working my Saturday job (wishful thinking?!), and plenty of card slots to keep my Solo card and glorious red and blue striped National Insurance card safe. 

It cost me a full week’s wages, but I didn’t care - it was a symbol. A symbol of being on the cusp of adulthood and my first taste of financial independence.

At 18 I left home to go to university. I gained new cards to slot in my purse - the ubiquitous NUS card, a yellow Scream card (anybody remember those?!) and I’d traded up my Solo for a Switch. Instead of trading up my purse as well, I downsized. It became less about what I could carry and more about how I could carry it. Circa 2000, the only girls who carted big bags around them on a night out were the ones who needed somewhere to store their snacks. True story. The clever girls stashed as much in their bras, or into their bootcut jean waistbands, or down their knee-high, square toed black boots, as they possibly could, so that it eliminated the need to carry a bag at all.  Travelling lightly was the aim of the game: wear as little as possible (as long as it conformed to the ‘legs or boobs, never both' convention), carry as little as possible and never, ever, EVER wear a coat. Queuing to check your coat into a dodgy nightclub, and paying for the privilege, was not the done thing. You could buy another Smirnoff Ice or Bacardi Breezer with that wasted dosh.

Anyway, I put a lot of thought into this at the time. If a purse is going to spend many hours next to sweaty skin, whether tucked into a Wonderbra or a pair of FMBs (I had skinny twig calves back then *sigh*- probs could have packed enough for a weekend mini-break into my boots!) then it needs to be of a material that feels nice against the skin. I opted for a miniscule, leather envelope purse from Oasis which fit the bill perfectly. It was literally my bosom buddy for a fair few years indeed.

New Purse

Fast forward to graduation and I landed myself with a respectable career-type job the very day I officially left university. Not bad innings, eh? Naturally, this called for a new purse. I could not turn up on my first day enrobed in a power suit whilst clutching a vodka-and-sweat-infused, scuffed tiny purse. No. Just no.

I needed something that would bulge with store loyalty cards and the hoards of business cards I was sure to collect. Upgrading to a yellow, Ted Baker number, I chose the colour based on a final, rebellious nod to my youth now I was entering the rat race.

Well, that was stupid. How impractical is matte yellow leather when exposed to the detritus of a woman’s handbag?! And I swear that optimistic yellow colour was taunting me every single wet, grey, miserable Monday morning as I was setting off at WTF-o’ clock to then tether myself to a desk for 7.24 hours.

Yellow didn’t scream “FUN” when you opted sensibly for early nights in the week instead of hedonistic, drunken adventures. Yellow didn’t scream “FUN INSIDE” when what is inside is already budgeted on bills, weekly shops, commuting to work, rent and critical life insurance. Nope, yellow represented the loss of fun to me.

And so it had to go.

My next purse coincided with the birth of my first child. It was a purple metallic leather number from Johnny Loves Rosie and it was bloody beautiful. Hugely practical, it had a little clasp with a very satisfying click and it epitomised the image I wished to project: “yep, I’m a mum now but I’m still only 23 and I still want to have my identity so here’s my REBELLIOUS PURPLE METALLIC PURSE!”. Hardly revolutionary, but it did give me a pop of spirit when I was sat in a church hall drinking weak tea with a digestive biscuit surrounded by a sea of crunchy mothers.

I smile fondly when I think of this purse and what it represents. I’m not sure why I felt I needed to change it, but when I returned to work after Freya I treated myself to a sumptuously soft pink leather Gucci purse, bought on a whim at KaDeWe in Berlin.

Perhaps this was to remind myself that I was worth more, as I returned to an entry level admin job on a part-time, temporary basis. Pushing the post trolley was pretty demoralising after I’d busted my gut to get an honours degree in International Relations and had dreams of becoming an EU or UN bureaucrat. Yeah, I still laugh at those aspirations now too. I’m all about the stationery though, you know? And, let me tell you, much akin to those millennials who doggedly buy their daily lattes whilst their homeownership dreams fade by the day, as I delivered mail to the desks of pen-pushers and paper-shufflers, that Gucci purse was a small luxury to a girl who had not yet reached her potential, and perhaps never would. 

The month where I landed my first ‘proper job’ since becoming a mother coincided with Valentine’s Day and I was treated to a little Louis Vuitton number to house my coinage, not dissimilar to the beloved miniature purse from my university days.

I still adore this wee porte-monnaie. It signifies nights out, freedom and adventure since it only has space for one card and a few notes. It cannot hold change for parking machines, nor will it accommodate a Tesco Clubcard or MyWaitrose card. If I’m using this purse, it is for something far more exciting than a free cappuccino from the supermarket.

Possibility.

Travel.

Exoneration from fiscal responsibility.

It is a reckless purse, with no space to fit family photos, spare plasters and a paracetamol. This is what screams “FUN” when I open my drawer on a bleak morning of school runs, leading me to shut the drawer quickly lest it has a Jumanji effect.

Michael Kors Mulberry Purse

Until last week, my mode of choice was a beautiful Mulberry zip up long purse. Again, I was gifted this upon the start of a new chapter and it has seen me through starting a business, a masters degree and a fledgling political career.

It has facilitated wild spending sprees when mania has taken hold and faithfully accompanied me on those recovery trips out post-breakdown where I felt vulnerable and sad.

It represents poor financial decisions being made on my part, but sincere appreciation that it still contained money at a time when others in our country were struggling, through recession and austerity. 

I was loyal to this vessel for seven years; my second longest relationship in life with person or thing. And it remained defiantly faithful to me too, despite the abuse I gave it, filling it with credit cards and unpaid parking tickets and using it for wanton spending and reckless living.

Doc Martens and Levis

Much as the start of a new year heralds a fresh start for some, my moment came on a random Thursday on a post-hospital trip to Meadowhall with my eldest daughter. 

I hadn’t been in the market for a new purse; after all, my Mulberry is still perfectly serviceable. My 12yo had brought her own purse filled with her hard earned savings and excitedly wanted to check out Michael Kors to treat herself to something new.

She carefully assessed the offer, looking at how the different purses would fit in her bag, or school blazer, how heavy and hardwearing it was and what it was like when filled with the ephemera that a tween carts around with them.

After deliberation, she honed in on a particular style and eventually chose an electric blue purse in leather (for practicality and durability - her words) with subtle branding. {It was heavily reduced in the sale, I’d like to add!} I was very proud.

She passed it to the sales assistant and then asked if she could take a navy one, too. 

This one was for me.

It’s a flashy brand I wouldn’t usually consider, but I was beyond thrilled. It was a watershed moment; an ability to cleanse myself of tumultuous financial decisions past and start anew. 

A liberation.

And so I am excited to see what adventures this purse will take me on. I hope to use it’s contents intentionally, without whim or fancy, to buy fewer things and instead have more adventures. To focus on paying off our mortgage and save more for our children’s future. 

Each purse I have had tells a story and documents an era in my life. I’m hoping this particular purse will, in time, tell the tale of a girl who did fulfil her potential eventually, and lived peacefully ever after.

Let’s see, shall we?

Carly xo



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