I don’t want you to look into my purse. Not that I’m hiding anything. If we’re being transparent, my bag is currently stocked with makeup, Advil, a bottle of water, my wallet, hand sanitizer (too many to count), Robert Graysmith’s Zodiac and enough Gravol, Pepto-Bismol and Imodium to offset any food-borne disaster. Sometimes I carry my laptop; most of the time, I carry a snack. My purse is never interesting, but it is mine and I don’t want you seeing through it. I’d almost rather find you curled up on my couch.
Of course, houses such as Celine, Maison Margiela, Raf Simons and Bershka don’t really care what I want. After introducing transparent backpacks, fanny packs and glorified shopping bags over the season, they’ve joined the leagues of Chanel with their update on forties-era Lucite and the clear mini-backpacks of the mid-to-late nineties. Clear purses, it seems, are here to stay. At least for a little while.
Transparency is courageous. It takes guts to show the world who you are and to live authentically and in your own way. It means that you’re comfortable with your choices, and that you don’t care what anyone else thinks. But living transparently isn’t the same as dumping one’s contents into a form of structured saran wrap. Especially because “transparency” as a concept doesn’t really exist when you’re an adult.
To exist as a grown-up, you have to hide things. Maybe you want a new job and don’t want your current boss to know, or maybe you can’t stand that the person next to you on the plane is eating egg salad but you still have three hours left on your flight. Some of what we hide is big, and most of it would seem meaningless to any other person. But our baggage is ours to sift through and compartmentalize, and we’re not always ready to talk careers or sandwich etiquette. Ultimately, transparency is largely dependent on where we’re at and who we’re with. It can take eons to let our guards down enough for someone to meet the 100-per-cent absolute us. Which is fine: We are the sum of our self-curations, and authenticity can be as easy as admitting that.
At least I feel fine admitting that. I’m okay telling you that sometimes I’m polite out of sheer professionalism, or that I take the stairs in my building to avoid small talk in the elevator. But I’m not here to open up about family or friends or the ins and outs of my personal life. If I began carrying a clear Chanel purse, you can bet that I’d fold those things into a cute pencil case that you would assume held only writing tools. And under no circumstances, unless we were close, would I let you peer into it.
Because that’s the thing about the romanticization of transparency: It’s hardly a real look into someone else’s life. Nobody with a clear bag is going to dump the regular contents of their purse (or lifestyle) into a glorified display case that strangers can comb through. To lead with a transparent bag is the same as advertising one’s own commitment to absolute authenticity via social media: a lie. And whether that lie exists to maintain an aesthetic or to maintain a public version of self, it’s merely a grown-up extension of our high school locker ethos: Look at who I am, look at what I like, look at the things I think are neat. (And please like me.) All of which are great reasons to put a specific self forward, but none of which mean anybody’s being completely transparent. Even if they have a transparent bag.
And that is a fine and blessed contradiction, as long as we recognize it. A clear bag is another avenue of performance, similar to how we choose our outfits to decide who we’re going to be for the day. Being forthcoming in a way that makes you comfortable doesn’t make anybody superior, while being transparent only about how not-transparent you are doesn’t make anybody worse. Transparency may be considered a type of virtue, but it’s still only as strong as one person’s definition of it.
Could I ever be convinced to begin carrying a transparent bag? To put on display my stash of pain relievers and ginger tablets? Am I ready for the world to see my wallet and my reading material and to understand my penchant for unhealthy granola bars made with marshmallows and chocolate chips? Absolutely not. While I may be honest about how boring my purse contents are, I’m the one who gets to decide how you find out about them. I will tell you, but I will not show you. But hey, at least I’m being transparent.
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