Inside a woman’s bag

© Nick Veasey

© Nick Veasey

Inside a woman’s bag by Jean-Claude Kaufmann

A bag is not just any old object

A bag is no ordinary object. It may be a fashion accessory, but it has nothing of the accessory about it. Delve into its depths and you will see a huge and fascinating universe where the innermost heart and best kept secrets merge with the self image one dreams of projecting. The simple gesture of putting anything and everything inside it – the futile with the essential – is as natural as the vain efforts to find one’s keys (despite the huge key ring attached!) or one’s telephone hidden therein are annoying.

The perfect revelation of character, it conceals unsuspected treasures holding a thousand and one nuggets of sentiment and emotion. A bag is a little world of love where the most derisory objects tell beautiful stories about you.

Stones in a bag?

Stones are perhaps the best key to the soul of a woman’s bag. Stones in a bag? Yes, in my survey, I found what I am sure their owner would not have called stones; pebbles, seashells, a myriad strange little objects in here, furry toys, key rings attached to other key rings bigger than the keys they hold. But, you might ask, why carry all these things, which must end up weighing quite a bit? What is the use? Obviously you have understood nothing of a woman’s bag if you only think of usefulness! For there is also a world of emotions and souvenirs, a wealth of affections and relationships. And you can’t count affection. You can’t weigh love.

The stones are like print photos or old letters one accumulates: they are collected one day, a little rapture that warms the heart.  Placed inside, to stay the passage of time and mark this happy moment. Their weight has no importance compared to what they convey. Only loved ones count, the vibration of a souvenir, the beauty of a moment.

The inside of a bag is a little world apart, all alone, with no frills, out of the sight and judgement of others, far from appearances and forced etiquette.

Little secrets, quite simple, but which convey a very personal world.

Even if the differences between a man and a woman are tiny, they have generated two symbolic worlds, two manners of being, two opposing picture galleries. And they are so deeply ingrained in our memories that it is difficult to lose them. The bag attached to a woman is one of them. This is interesting, given that bags are only a few centuries old, and this feminine attribute has become even more popular in recent times.

This is no ordinary object. It only appears ordinary.


Jean-Claude Kaufmann, sociologist and research director at CNRS (the French national research centre), is the author of the book Le sac. Un petit monde d’amour (Jean-Claude Lattès).