I see these 1950s fan-shaped bamboo bags in vintage stores all the time. They’re often called birdcage bags, and the going rate is usually around $50, though they’re usually in rickety shape from being decades old. Lots of them even come with some kind of fabric lining to keep the secrets of its contents from being exposed to the world. It’s a lovely style, adding architectural structure to a breezy spring outfit, and I’ve often admired them, so I was thrilled to find a brand-new version online made by the brand Vintga that costs only $40.
I know what you’re thinking — that it’s a Cult Gaia knockoff. The brand’s adorable bamboo Ark bag was introduced in 2016 and became the hottest summer bag of 2017; it’s also more than a hundred dollars, which is not expensive for a handbag, necessarily, but certainly more than the bamboo bags cost on Etsy. And while Cult Gaia has become proprietary over the design of the bag, the truth is that it’s actually existed for quite some time (and for much less than $158).
So in fact my “ripoff” isn’t a ripoff at all, but a well-priced, well-made iteration of a long-standing design. The major caveat of the Vintga bag is, of course, the word “VINTGA” etched into the side of the handle (for what it’s worth, it’s only on one side, so you can turn it inward). I’ve taken to accessorizing mine with a silk scarf to add a spot of color that matches whatever I’m wearing (and somewhat obscures the letters). If you’re feeling self-conscious about whatever lipstick (or unmentionables) you’re carrying, you can use it as a makeshift lining, too.
Writer Hannah Goldfield got this Baggu bag as a gift and hasn’t stopped using it since: “I’ve worn this bag almost every day: to work, on weekends, even to the occasional wedding, dressing it up and down. When circumstances demand — air travel, or an after-work event that requires a change of shoes — I carry a large tote or a backpack, and I simply tuck the Baggu, essentials undisturbed, inside the bigger one. It always fits.” —Hannah Goldfield, writer
Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen told us about her favorite leather tote: “I do not have very exciting or expensive tastes in handbags; I just need a bag with a handle drop length, so I can shove it over my shoulder while wearing a puffy jacket that holds a laptop, water bottle, and all the toys my kids swear they want to play with that I get stuck carrying home. So basically, I need a black garbage bag. I’m on my second or third Madewell Transport Tote, but this most recent one, in pink (sorry, “antique rose”) — but, like, the perfect pink — is definitely helping offset the winter doldrums.”
If you’re looking for a different kind of leather tote, Biz Lindsay of Outdoor Voices likes this Everlane version: “When it comes to versatile work bags, I always prefer the simplest option. To avoid carrying multiples, I like a large leather tote — roomy enough to carry a change of clothes and sneakers, and versatile enough to take me from the gym to the office to any plans I have afterward. Everlane’s Day Market Tote is all the right mix of things.”
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