Times Staff Writer

The “it” bag, a status purse that costs more than a round-trip ticket to Paris and a favorite among stylish affluent women, is officially dead. “It” always refused to reveal its age but first hit the scene in the early ‘90s and was most prominently seen swinging gleefully from toned arms in the last five years.

The “it” bag was often known for its vibrant hides, large-toothed zippers and flamboyant hardware. Designers like Louis Vuitton, Chloe and Fendi all vied for the prestigious title with seasonal offerings of hobo bags and zaftig satchels -- all gifted to celebrities, of course.

The species did not die of natural causes. Fashion authorities suspect that a recent “it” bag -- the Yves Saint Laurent Muse -- is mostly responsible for wiping out the trend of women coveting one brand of designer bag ad nauseam.


The Muse, a jaunty and haughty take on a bowling bag, was the Palme d’Or among accessory addicts. Like a slain stag slung across the roof of a pickup truck, the Muse signified that a woman had bagged the right bag. Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and other starlets reserved the cozy crooks of their arms for the popular purse.

These days, life pales for the Muse. The newest gray-felt version of the YSL handbag was last seen sheepishly lurking on discount retailer It was priced at 20% off. (Muse’s distant cousins -- the Burberry Edna and a patent leather satchel by Fendi -- are currently selling at Costco.)

Much like the popular pretty girl who always dies first in a horror film, the “it” bag was a victim of its own ambition.

“A bag is only an ‘it’ bag when it’s not accessible to everyone,” says Christos Garkinos, the co-owner of local designer consignment store Decades Two, who admits that he is currently harboring a few secondhand Muses in his shop. “When Banana Republic and Forever 21 came out with a version of the Muse, it was suddenly everywhere.”

Not to mention the coy Muse clones sold by Guess, H&M; and almost every counterfeit purse hustler from Canal Street to Santee Alley. Muse-carrying studio execs and talent agents were horrified to see their assistants rifling through their very own Muses. Beverly Hills socialites mistakenly grabbed the wrong white Muse after a few mimosas.

“I ordered one when I was in New York, but then came home and saw everyone carrying it,” says Jessica Wu, a chic Los Angeles dermatologist with an A-list clientele. “I sent it right back without even opening the box.”


The Muse’s noxious ubiquity has spurred the most fashionable women to stray from the retail herd mentality. A purse touted as the next “it” bag holds as much cachet as a VIP Blockbuster membership.

“There’s a backlash because women feel betrayed by the fact that a company calls a bag ‘limited edition’ and then makes 100,000 of them,” says Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the Luxury Institute, a retail research firm in New York. “That’s deadly.”

The “it” bag -- in all its incarnations -- will be fondly remembered. The Muse is survived by its sister, the YSL Downtown bag, and offspring including the Muse charm bracelet, Muse wrap sunglasses and Muse sandals.



Read All the Rage, Monica Corcoran’s daily blog on the culture of appearances, at latimesblogs.latimes .com/alltherage.