Tried and Tote





By Michelle Crowe



Chloë Sevigny, as classic as can be in a white shirt, jeans, loafers and her L.L.Bean tote.


Tote bags, the year-round workhorses of the accessory closet that become indispensible during the summer months, have taken some interesting turns of late. Meme makers had a field day comparing the iconic IKEA tote with an oversized Balenciaga tote in a familiar shade of blue.

As always, we admire the fearless fashionistas who adopt trends like supersized bags, yet our hearts belong to the more tried-and-true canvas tote.


Two of my ancient Boat and Totes.


The L.L.Bean Boat and Tote was introduced in 1944 and originally intended to carry ice. Today, they carry just about everything by nearly everyone. Interior designers love them and are apt to post photos of their cars loaded down with totes galore in the boot. Day-trippers, lake house denizens and others with a case of summer wanderlust are equally enamored of them.


Ivan Terestchenko’s photo of Gilles Dufour’s Paris home from Ivan’s book Beyond Chic.


It must be the near perfect ratio of eminent practicality and style. The ability to customize these bags with strap colors and monograms certainly adds to their appeal, but it really does seem like the inherent simplicity is the draw here.

Occasionally, designers release their own take on the classic and they’re always fun and collectible. Isaac Mizrahi did a charming version with patent leather straps during his mid-’90s heyday. Michael Kors flirts with the idea every few years, and Vanessa Bruno has done wonders with canvas and sequins.


Vanessa Bruno’s sparkle version.


The original holds a place in the heart of all bag fans, though. Texas designer Alexandra Knight offers the best compromise for those who love the icon, but might be looking to up the luxe factor. Her Hampton Hunting Tote and Letter Hunting Tote offer familiar fabric shapes shushed up with genuine American alligator straps. These bags are the ultimate in haute preppy nonchalance and perfect for laid-back summer travel. See you in the station wagon.


A perfectly charming bridesmaid gift.