My Mark Cross Book Bag is all leather in and out. Mark Cross is no longer in business. Alas.
It won't surprise those of you who know me well, to learn I have a somewhat large collection of designer handbags, which I started when I was a young reporter working in San Francisco--then, the real Paris of the West.
Here's a tale related to to one of my favorite vintage bags--and how a modern invention helped me to save it.
The classic Mark Cross Book Bag.
What happened is that I recently rediscovered, from the depths of my collection, a lovely Mark Cross number called a Book Bag or School Bag, modeled after the leather bags carried by parochial school children in early 20th century France.
It was once very useful to me as a reporter--small enough to be easy to carry and large enough to hold notebooks, tape recorders and video tapes (back in the day!), makeup, wallet, sunglasses, and, perhaps the most important tool of my trade--hairspray (used equally by men, women, and members of Congress, and thus handy for loaning out, and making friends, in a pinch).
I've now found that this bag is also great for travel: when you use its shoulder strap, the bag remains perfectly balanced so you can flip it open, reach for passport, MacBook Air, plastic-bag-full-of-small-containers-of-perfume-and-other-potentially-IED-quality-liquids, or, even something as essential as your iPhone (for which there are two neat pockets on the front) without causing the whole thing to tip on its side and strew your stuff thither across the TSA scanner belt.
It is beautiful too and so well-made it barely betrays its origins in the distant days of the Bush (41) administration.
It has one more asset: élan. It acquired this from the Mark Cross brand, the same brand chosen by Grace Kelly for a key scene in Rear Window (1954).
From Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, with Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly.
I'm sure you know the scene. She appears at Stewart's apartment with this saucy little suitcase-like handbag--not the Book Bag, but the Mark Cross Overnight Bag--which she uses to show him that he underestimates her when he says she cannot "travel light." I've always loved that scene. Not to mention the bag! (I have that one too.)
Anyway, I happened to be carrying my Mark Cross Book Bag on my last trip, when a piece of the hardware came unscrewed and fell off.
The screw-on gadget used to closed the purse remains on this side ...
But is now missing from this side.
I saw it fall, inside my rental car, when I was in traffic. But, though we searched the car, it could not be found. (I did find someone else's cell phone, however, under the car seat!)
Mark Cross--where F. Scott Fitzgerald's great and good friend Gerald Murphy was once president--went out of business in 1997. When it was reborn in 2010 its prices were through the roof. Thus, I know the bag can't be replaced. At least not in my life.
When I got home, I surfed eBay for a similar purse I could use for spare parts, but that still didn't seem the right solution. I couldn't find one anyway.
Finally, today, my brain finally kicked in and I Googled "purse hardware." And there it was: the Buckle Guy. In Massachusetts. He sells this stuff.
What I need is called a "collar button"--a wonderful throwback word that evokes the gizmos of times gone by. I can get one in brass for .49 and ship it here for about $1.50.
Don't you love the Internet? My Mark Cross handbag certainly does. And when it's happy, well, Grace and I are very happy too.
The lovely lady, before she was a princess, has just set down her Mark Cross Overnight Bag and is about to help Jimmy Stewart solve a murder. Fortunately, she's brought her nightie and slippers in the little bag--so handy for impromptu slumber parties!
Buckle Guy Purse Hardware
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