Why Gillian Flynn Buys Her Purses from the Liquor Store

Getty Images, Courtesy of Céline, Thankstock

Let me give you an idea of my personal aesthetic: Until last year, I had no purse. I carried a wine bag. I’m not joking. That is my accessory of choice: one of those $2 shiny paper gift bags you buy at the grocery store to stick a bottle of wine in. I have about six of them in rotation at any given time. My current favorite is a little white number with long vertical stripes in preppy summer colors. (So jaunty!) Here’s my thinking (and I am, obviously, a woman of deep thinking when it comes to fashion): You can carry your keys, lipstick, and money in a wine bag, and you don’t have to worry about whether it matches your outfit because people assume, you know, it’s a wine bag. Also: A smiling woman walking down the street swinging a wine bag creates a festive atmosphere. Passersby think you’re going to a party, and they smile at you. It’s pleasant for everyone. Bonus features: The wine bag is deep enough that you don’t have to worry about anything falling out, and no one will steal it, because it cost $2. Have I sold you yet?

It sounds insane, but it suits me. I have a long history of wanting to look fashionable, planning to look fashionable, and then failing to follow through. Here’s an actual Gillian Flynn diary entry from January 10, 1981: “My New Year’s Resolutions are: 1) Be less shy and more friendly. 2) Dress nicely. P.S. I’m confused about whether I should wear designer jeans or not.” Oh, if I could only time-travel back to 1981 and visit young Gilly, age nine, and assure the fretful girl that she would never, ever meet either of these goals! What time and energy would be saved if I could inform her that despite countless such resolutions, Gilly circa 2013 would be a gawky grown woman wandering the streets of Chicago carrying a wine-bag-as-purse and believing in her heart that this was a sane and normal thing to do.

Don’t get me wrong: I like to look nice. I just don’t like to put that much energy into it. I hate shopping. I like to be comfortable. I’m a little lazy. If you see me at a book reading or event, I will probably be wearing one of four sheath dresses that I bought all at once because they fit perfectly and require no thought. I rarely experience that thrill of the hunt—the joy of clothing acquisition. (Actual Gillian Flynn diary entry from July 22, 1983: “P.S. I got a few Nikes and Jordache, but once you get them they aren’t that great.”)

So: the wine bag. Last year, as a gift, some very kind friends gave me a Céline purse. It’s beautiful—a deep mossy green and big enough to hold a human head. My very first big-girl bag! Into its cavernous depths I dropped my lipstick, some cash, and my hotel key card, all held together by an elastic hair band. To fete the bag, we went out and drank some bourbon. The bag sat in a seat with us, like one of the girls. After lunch, my friend grabbed a pack of matches for me to add to my bag. We watched it drop down, down, down to the bottom. It was now 1/100th full.

This is the purse that I dreamed about when I promised myself in 1981 to “dress nicely.” I now have a whole outfit that I picked out so that I can carry the bag. I call it, elegantly enough, my Bag Outfit. The beautiful purse is never more than 1/100th full, because I don’t quite know what else one puts in a purse. I do love it though.

And yet…and yet…Walgreens’ fall wine-bag collection should be in any day now. I have in mind a new blue pin-striped beauty. It would go with everything.