#designfail | That Time I Made a REALLY Ugly Bag . . .

That Time I Made a Really Ugly Bag | THE LOOKBOOK PHILOSOPHY I recently cleaned out my black hole of a closet and discovered one of the ugliest handbags in the history of all bagdom.

And I made it.

For all intents and purposes, we’ll call her Gertrude. It’s only right to give her a proper name. After all, I designed her, created her patterns, sourced her materials, hardware and sewed her for the final project in my accessories design class. Luckily, I got an A in the class, and somehow, an A on the project Gertrude,  but when it was all said + done, I was not feeling the end result  “Old Gert.”

That Time I Made a Really Ugly Bag | THE LOOKBOOK PHILOSOPHY

Here’s Gert up close and personal. That detailed stitching you see on the leather pieces did NOT come out as I envisioned. Believe it or not, I was NOT going for the Rodeo Cowboy effect, but apparently . . . . #nuffsaid

That Time I Made a Really Ugly Bag | THE LOOKBOOK PHILOSOPHY

This is Gert’s backside. She’s kinda wide. I wanted her to be able to carry tons of stuff, and she can. She is a workhorse, Ill give her that . . .

That Time I Made a Really Ugly Bag | THE LOOKBOOK PHILOSOPHY

Gert is full of surprises! She is actually reversible!

That Time I Made a Really Ugly Bag | THE LOOKBOOK PHILOSOPHY

At one point I even convinced myself that Gert’s inside was her better (looking) side. And that, in actuality, this was my design plan all along . . . hah!

That Time I Made a Really Ugly Bag | THE LOOKBOOK PHILOSOPHY

I thought the frayed denim edges would give her, well . . . a little edge . . instead it just made her look like she should be sold with a pair of cowboy boots . . .

That’s how I felt. I mean Gert looked great in the original sketch. On paper she was more like a “Rebecca,” or a “Jocelyn.” At the time I selected her leather and denim, I thought she’d look cool. I wanted her to be daring + useful, so I decided to make her reversible. I even decided to keep some of the denim edges frayed as a testament to her coolness. I envisioned her a real downtown-urban-cool-girl-tote. But by the time I was finished . . . and frankly, even before I finished, I could tell the physical manifestation of Gert left a lot to be desired.

My downtown-urban-cool-girl-tote looked more like
an old-back-woods-rodeo-satchel with a zipper.

Yet and still, if I wanted to pass the class, I had to turn “Old Gert” in. Truthfully, by the time I finished sewing, glueing and hammering all her pieces together (which happened to be 4:30 am the morning the project was due) I was glad to be done with it her. At that point, I had gone through two sewing machines and had ended up at my ex next door neighbor’s house, practically spending the night on her floor, so I could use her sewing machine to finish the project. My machine broke and basically died during a crucial point in the project, so I borrowed my Mom’s. Well, then her machine broke and I was left with no machine and only a few hours left to complete the project. So I called my friend Jessica who now lived about 40 miles away. She was gracious enough to let me come over and sew away to my heart’s content. She even helped me when Gertie’s leather and denim became too thick for the machine. Thank God for Jessica. She basically saved my life in that moment. At certain points I had to hand sew Gertie’s denim and leather together with a really thick needle and thread. Naturally, during this process, my thimble came up missing, so at 4am, I’m sitting on Jessica’s dining room floor with a wad of paper towels taped around my sore thumb while gingerly trying to pierce a stack of denim, leather + facing approximately 1 1/2″ thick. True leather craftsmen have all kinds of shavers, clamps and hammers for this type of situation, but little old undergrad moi, only had a couple of binder clips, my sewing needle and a roll of paper towels at my disposal. Nevertheless, I completed the project, and was greatly rewarded for my efforts by passing the class with flying colors.

She's ready for her close up . . . just don't get too close . . .

She’s ready for her close up . . . just don’t get too close . . .

So last week when I came across the ugliest bag in the world,  I mean Gertrude, cringing in the far back corner of my closet I had to stop and chuckle to myself. Yes, she was still ugly. But she was still standing strong! No rips, tears or ungluing had taken place in the 8+ years since she was conceived. And during most of this time, she had taken up residence in my closet . . .

Now, you may think that’s a safe place for a bag to reside. And maybe most closets are.
But not mine.

Any item of clothing residing in my closet is liable to take a serious beating. I’ve briefly discussed the horrors of the inner workings of my closet before. At any given moment a shoe, boot or belt could decide it’s “had enough of all this fighting for space” and pounce. I speak from experience. There’s been many a time I’ve opened my closet and been met with a boot to the head. (that’s the trouble with storing way too many shoes on a shelf above your head in a shallow, crowded closet) . . . it’s an “Enter at Your Own Risk” type of situation. Yet, despite her surroundings, Gertrude managed to survive in tact.

I’m not so sure about her dignity though.

There was that time I found her huddled amongst my favorite hi tops . . . (perhaps for the sake of protection) and pulled her out in an act of “reconsideration of her ugliness,” or to put it nicely, I thought I would give her a second chance. Maybe she wasn’t as ugly as I’d thought she was. Surely she could pay her way by acting as a large beach tote? I mean she was huge, and could hold a lot of stuff. That was probably her only redeeming quality . . . and her only outing. I think she enjoyed the beach. She still has a few sand grains in her pockets to prove it. Probably snuck them back home as proof to the other bags that she was good enough to hit the beach, and I guess she was right! She went, and they didn’t!

That Time I Made a Really Ugly Bag | THE LOOKBOOK PHILOSOPHY

I thought about throwing “Old Gert” away, but only for a second. She has a special place in my heart. She is the product of hours upon hours of labor, possibly a tear or two, most definitely a right hand full of sore fingers + a mind full of lessons learned. Birthing her taught me what it takes to actually make a large leather bag. She showed me the painstaking error of my ways when I rushed and thought I could wing it without the proper tools. She got me where I am today. So although Gertrude may not be the prettiest bag on the shelf, she definitely has earned her place on the shelf.

Do you have any #designfail’s hiding in your closet? ☺ 


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4 thoughts on “#designfail | That Time I Made a REALLY Ugly Bag . . .

  1. Petula

    That was a perfect tribute to Gertrude. She isn’t thaaaat bad.. overall it looks like you’ve done a great job on construction. According to my unseasoned eyes. … I’m not a fashion designer, but I’ve taken to repurposing some tops, skirts and dresses. Any design fails are lost somewhere in my mind… and a good thing to ’cause I wouldn’t want to through them under the bus like poor Gert. :-D … LOL. #blmgirl

    1. thelookbookphilosophy Post author

      Lol! Thanks Petula! I appreciate the kind words. I didn’t mean to throw Gert under the bus . . . well, yes I did. But I really just wanted to share how things don’t always turn out the way we want them to and it’s okay! You learn something from each step, failure or setback. And Gert is still teaching me that even though I may think something is ugly, there are plenty of others who don’t necessarily agree with me. And as a designer, that is a REALLY important lesson to get into your head. Lol! :)

  2. Kelly Brito

    Call me crazy, but I actually like that bag. To be fair, there are things I like and things I dislike. I could do without the zipper, only because it reminds me a robot mouth -but there’s something about the jeans + red boho vibe that I really like. If the robot mouth was intentional, it would be a great 80’s video games-inspired bag! =D

    1. thelookbookphilosophy Post author

      Haaa, thanks Kelly! I dunno, I guess if you could see the vision in my head and compare it to what was birthed, you may think differently. Plus the fact that it was hard to construct and after all those hours of labor she just didnt look the way I had originally intended. But That’s how it goes with design, as you know! That’s why people make first samples! Lol!


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