"Jane Birkin and her bag" by Sara Gambarelli is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Not too long ago, the mini, tiny, micro, shoulder or handbag was all the rage. Remember the black Prada mini-bag that every influencer had? It seems like I was on the never-ending hunt just yesterday to find the perfect shoulder bag. And I did: I found the perfect black handbag at my favorite Village Discount. Then I had to have one in every color. I never plan on getting rid of my trusty shoulder bag as it's served me well for about three 3 years now, staying on my shoulder while I traveled to new places, went out with friends and came to college. But it simply isn’t big enough anymore.

Reyes with her thrifted black bag on one of her many outings. Naya Reyes / North by Northwestern

So, I found myself on another search – the search for the perfect big purse. Suddenly I saw them everywhere. My mom has a couple she has collected over the years; my sister bought herself one and the coolest girls I know carry one. I took it as a sign, and low and behold, I found the perfect one at every NU student’s favorite Crossroads Trading. It fits my computer, my mittens, my charger, my books, my water bottle, my planner…you get the picture. Since then, I have noticed more people carrying bags where their backpacks should be. I couldn't help but wonder: Did the big bag make its comeback?

Reyes with her thrifted Michael Kors Bag. Naya Reyes / North by Northwestern

I set out to discover the reasoning behind this resurgence.

For my first stop, I spoke with Medill second-year Tabi Parent. In my interactions with Tabi, it's very obvious that she knows what's trendy, but doesn’t mind putting her own touch on things. So, of course, she has a big bag of her own. A classic with a twist: a Longchamp Le Pliage that she has personalized just for herself.

Parent’s “trinkets and charms” that she has used to personalize her bag. Photo courtesy of Tabi Parent 

Parent confessed that, sometimes, ditching her backpack is a sacrifice she makes for fashion.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say using a bag is easier than a backpack, but the look of it is kinda more what I'm going for when I use it,” Parent said.

She also mentioned her tiny shoulders and the fabric of winter coats not making for the best conditions when it comes to using her bag. But, for her, the bag’s seemingly negative attributes, like a lack of space, are still positives in her book.

Parent said using a bag limits the amount of stuff she can carry. As a former “five million notebooks kinda person,” she said she considers the lack of space an advantage instead of a disadvantage, because she only carries the essentials.

The nylon bag is not just a bag, said Parent. In an effort to help her fit in during high school, Parent’s grandmother bought the bag for her.

“I begged my parents and they were like, ‘We don’t really see the point…of you having a really nice bag as a high schooler. My grandmother took pity on me and was like, ‘she deserves this’,” Parent said.

Inspired over winter break by Jane Birkin’s lived-in Birkin bag – as opposed to how most put their fancy bag on display rather than on their shoulder – Parent said she decorates her bag to get a new use out of a preloved item. She ornaments her bag with meaningful trinkets and charms from every part of her life, items like pins from her mom’s high school days.

You can find similar bags to Parent’s on Longchamp; they have a wide range of big bags. You can also find similar bags by searching for ‘big nylon shoulder bags.’

Not everyone loves big bags for the same reason. Third-year Medill and Weinberg student Carly Witteman said she loves that she doesn’t have to give up anything for her bag. Being limited to the space of her middle and high school backpack throughout middle and high school, Witteman said she was looking for a change.

Witteman pictured with her bag (presumably) finding more books to put in it. Photo courtesy of Carly Witteman. 

“I wanted a big Mary Poppins bag that would fit everything,” Witteman said.

She found it. Her big bag contains her makeup, snacks, laptop, three or four books and more.

Her bag is brought to her by Anthropologie, where Witteman works, and the employee discounted price of the bag was a sign to her to buy it. She decided to take a risk with the color, instead of going with the safety of a black bag, and so far she has no regrets. And while, to my best online search capabilities, I couldn’t find her exact bag, I found one very similar to it. Similar ones can also be found at Free People or anywhere online when you search for ‘slouchy bags.’

For Witteman, it's an investment. Like my little black bag, her big green bag goes with her pretty much everywhere. From class to the airport, even if “it does weigh a ton,” as she said.

This revival is not out of the ordinary. The popularity of tote bags, combined with the popularity of nostalgia for the 2000s and the fact that fashion is cyclical, makes the big bag a perfect fashion comeback.

To be frank, I don’t really care which size or type of bag is “in” at the moment because, as Witteman put it, “I love bags in general.”

Thumbnail graphic by Olivia Abeyta