The Filson tote:
Handsome, water-resistant, and sporty—with ample space for your binoculars, bullets, and Kiehl’s sunscreen—Filson’s totes and field bags represent the paragon of utility and function when hunting, shooting and fly fishing. But let’s be honest now. We’re at Princeton. Is there any real reason to carry around a Filson bag? Is there some members-only hunting moor behind Cottage? Didn’t think so. Then why do so many Princeton ladies carry around Filson bags? Because Filson bags seem to project an image of health and preppy athleticism. Done in rugged twill and aged leather, Filson’s bags evoke georgic images of driving a vintage Range Rover through Wyoming wilderness to grouse hunt and fly-fish at your family’s Jackson Hole haunt. The girl who wields a Filson bag wants the world to know that somehow, underneath her Tibi-Tory Burch-Ralph Lauren exterior, she shops at Orvis and Cabela’s and is somewhat connected to the earth—be it in reality or solely in fantasy.
The Louis Vuitton Neverfull:
As a kid, I always thought that the Louis Vuitton Neverfull was the weird storage unit in which the mothers of my Persian friends transported their Pomeranians and miniature Poodles. Because of this, I developed a mental correlation between middle-aged Persian women and the Neverfull. Then, I come to Princeton, and the Turkish girl in my hallway carries one, furthering cementing my mental image of the Neverfull as the preferred handbag of wealthy Middle Easterners.
The Goyard St. Louis PM:
There is a certain je ne sais quois about a girl who wields a Goyard tote, or at least she certainly hopes that you think there is. I’m not quite sure whether the je ne sais quois comes from the mystifying powers of Goyard’s obscure tesselation-like print, or from wondering why in the world the girl spent $1040 on an unlined canvas sack with straps that look like they’ll break at any given moment. The Goyard’s shape and material recall that of the Louis Vuitton Neverfull—so much so that I once heard a woman remark, about a friend’s, “Why that girl be wearin’ a bootleg Lewy V.” Perhaps that’s the appeal: Goyard’s obscurity and price premium over more conventional Louis Vuitton bags bring it quiet cache. Sure a Goyard toter can carry a Louis Vuitton bag, but she likely perceives herself as such a significant bastion of good taste as to consider the Louis Vuitton monogram too prole, too plebeian, too pedestrian.
The Monogrammed LL Bean Backpack:
There’s something creepily Lolita-esque and gamine about a girl whose bag of choice is more appropriate for third grader. Is it because she still thinks she’s in third grade and needs her name on her backpack to remember it’s hers? Probably.
The Longchamp Pliage:
Nylon with a cavernous interior and easily collapsible, Lonchamp’s Le Pliage is utility at its finest, and, because of this, is perhaps the most popular bag on campus. Freshman year, I remember hearing an acquaintance of mine say that she wanted one really badly so that she could be preppier and fit in with other Princeton girls. Of course, when every Princeton girl thinks this, everyone ends up owning one, or two, or three. For some girls, the Pliage is the item that brings them one step closer to living their dream of being a teenage girl living on the Upper East Side and going to school at the Constance Billard School for Girls. While it seems like some—particularly those upwardly mobile—treat the Pliage as a symbol of some nebulous conception of a lifestyle that they aspire toward, others treat it as a large, durable tote that can fit all the accouterments of college life. Essentially, it is whatever: a whatever, large black hole where you put stuff—lots of stuff.
The Vineyard Vines Tote:
The Vineyard Vines tote, after the Pliage, is the second most common bag on campus. Because of that, it is difficult to pinpoint an exact stereotype for the girl who carries the Vineyard Vines tote. My friend insists that girls use Vineyard Vines totes to suggest that they are part of a lifestyle centered on residing in Connecticut and summering on the— namesake—Vineyard, but I did not find it compelling. Because standard Vineyard Vines totes are always attached to organizations—be it Pi Phi, the sailing team or the class of 2014—I think their true significance is to discreetly tout campus affiliations. Because of this, another friend argued that Vineyard Vines toting girls are so insecure that they feel the need to let everyone know their affiliation. I’m not convinced about this, either.
The Vera Bradley Tote:
With prints evocative of the vomit resulting from a weeklong binge of only consuming skittles, starbursts, orange juice and Kool-aid vodka, Vera Bradley bags are another item seen commonly around campus, most often in the form of prox wallets. Prox wallets are one thing, but even Fargo Lady’s Wear Monthly would have a hard time deeming a full set of matching Vera Bradley bags and luggage “chic.” Yet one parochial Princeton girl I know seems to think that a full Vera Bradley luggage set represents the pinnacle of style. You know, the kind of girl who hails from a declining Midwestern city but blabs nonstop about how it’s comparable to New York City, and how great its culture is, and how stylish she is because she has a seven piece Vera Bradley luggage set blah blah blah? But who is she kidding? Vera Bradley luggage sets are only appropriate for two demographics: middle school girls (the kind who decorate their lockers with locker chandeliers and locker wallpaper and lime green locker carpeting) and adorable old ladies.
The Feed Bag:
The Feed Bag is part of a project started by Princeton alum and former Ivy Club member Lauren Bush Lauren, the niece of George W. and daughter-in-law of Ralph Lauren. Feed promises to feed one malnourished child for an entire year, from the proceeds for each sold bag. While the purpose seems noble, all of the Feed-bag toting girls I’ve encountered have been very self-righteous about their bags. In a manner I find quite off-putting, they like letting everyone know, “like, I could totally be carrying a Coach bag but, like, they’re made out of unsustainable leather and like I want to feed orphans and stuff.”