Speaking of Marilyn Monroe (currently the subject of a major retrospective at the BFI in London) … this less well-known photo of the great lady has a lot to answer for … It was a huge inspiration to me style-wise when, as a film and fashion-mad teenager, I first clapped eyes on it – and it triggered a Holy Grail-like quest for a bucket bag which went on for nearly three decades!
My desire for a Marilynesque classic leather bucket was almost satisfied when I was 15 years old, and on holiday in Brittany with my family. I pounced on a cream canvas version, with tan leather trim and strap, that I spotted at the local market.
Having decided that Marilyn’s bag (only ever glimpsed in this photo) was undoubtedly tan-coloured leather, the French bag, with its tan trim, seemed to be the closest I could find to my heroine’s. Apart, I quickly realised from one thing: the tan bits weren’t real leather. And even as a 15 year-old, I couldn’t bear fake leather. The bag was never used. Indeed, it only, finally, saw the light of day when I chucked it out to the charity shop about 20 years later.
There was another matter which thwarted my quest for my dream bag: for much of my adult life, bucket bags just weren’t in fashion and so weren’t available. During my student time in Paris, in the early 1990s, I had no money but I did manage to regularly window shop in Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. I noticed that the French brand Lancel seemed to have a similar weakness for the style – and produced them in wonderful jewel colours (ruby red, emerald green etc). But (not that I could have afforded one) where they differed from Marilyn’s was that they were too stiff and formal; I wanted elegant but slouchy, something that could be used every day and which enhanced an outfit but didn’t steal its limelight.
I finally found it, two years ago. In TK Maxx. It’s a tan leather Fossil bag, with a round base, gold fittings and the obligatory drawstring. It doesn’t look as sleek and expensive as Marilyn’s; it now has a distinctly lived-in look to it. But I love it, and – to my surprise – it still gets regular compliments from bag admirers. Maybe they’re on a similar quest – but it should be a lot easier now, since the bucket has been declared the bag of the season and, in its designer form, notably Mansur Gavriel’s version, has been generating waiting lists. I’m definitely in the market for BB number two: a bigger, smoother-leather one perhaps in a zingy colour – like Lancel’s yellow Neo Elsa (pictured above). When you’re a bag lover, the bucket shopping list is never truly complete.