compulsive shopping

I Can’t Stop Buying This (Surprisingly Voluminous) Micro Mesh Tote Bag

Photo-Illustration: retailers

Last year, I interviewed the feminist artist Judy Chicago on Zoom. Despite being drawn to her beautiful pink hair, my eye kept wandering toward a little net bag on a midcentury bureau to her right-hand side. (Peeping at the paraphernalia and accoutrements of a subject’s digital backdrop, which as the pandemic has dragged on, we seem to be less private about sharing, is one of my favourite pastimes.) It was about 15cm wide and its sturdy handle looked functional but stylish. But I forgot about all this, until June this year, when browsing the smorgasbord lifestyle bins at my local Lidl, overflowing with thigh-trainers and men’s plaid shirts, I saw the white bag Judy had for £1, next to a fluorescent sign claiming that this was one of many “Best Summer Ever Buys.” After 18 months of COVID, I thought “why not?” and bought it.

Like any good fashion accessory worth its salt, the micro turtle is polarising. As it’s made from recycled string, your stuff kind of bulges out of it for everyone to see (though the meshing is tight enough that nothing falls through). But I soon found myself reaching for this recycled string pouch more than any other bag I owned. As an evening bag, it’s more casual than a clutch bag, but more nonchalant than a canvas tote (and just as capacious). Not long after picking mine up, I debuted the bag at dinner with a friend who works at Browns. Despite spending her days looking at mini bags with a ridiculous markup, she could not keep her eyes off mine. Emailing me the next morning, she said that she’d bought the purple version, forgoing her 40 percent staff discount on a Petit Kouraj. Clearly, this was a micro bag for the people.

While the large turtle bag is easy enough to pick up, the micro requires a concerted search. Following my initial Lidl purchase, I haunted online grocery stores, e-commerce sites that only sell organic products and kids websites, looking for new colours. I pounced upon a blue version that reminds me of Majorelle’s cobalt gardens in Marrakech, when I spied it at Lewisham’s fruit and vegetable market. I snaffled a red from an online mother and baby shop (the colour really perks up a boring outfit), and a cream from the eco-friendly site Peace With the Wild, (it feels very Linda Thompson when she was married to Elvis in the 1970s).

My own relationship with a tiny bag is complicated. The luxury micro-bag trend pioneered by the Jacquemus Le Chiquito feels like the oddest bag-adjacent movement we’ve ever seen apart from Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s “Bagism,” where they quite literally suggested that living in a bag would mean you couldn’t be judged on your appearance. I can get behind a fandom, but I’m always, always going to need to carry my stuff around with me  I’m allergic to an accessory that requires a supplemental tote bag.  But my trusty micro turtle requires no lipstick and credit card-only laissez-faire. So far, I’ve managed to pack a novel, my iPhone plus, a compact, keys, my purse, earphones, hand sanitiser, and two masks in mine.

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I Can’t Stop Buying This (Surprisingly Voluminous) Mesh Tote