As with most community setbacks – hurricanes, potholes, inane politicians — New Orleanians were quick to turn the NFL’s new bag ban to their advantage. Judging from the fashionistas at the Saints season opener Sunday, more than a few local entrepreneurs have been burning the midnight oil turning out see-through accessories for game day.
In June, the NFL announced that most purses would be banned in stadiums nationwide. The exceptions: small clutches, about the size of one’s hand, and clear plastic or vinyl bags no bigger than a foot square.
One-gallon clear plastic freezer bags also got the nod, although our kind of fans — prone to black and gold sequined jumpsuits or sparkly Who Dat body paint — are not likely to choose such an unstylish option. Nor, on Sunday, did they. The exception were those caught unaware of the new rules, who were sent back to their cars to stash their purses but given tear-off baggies as substitutes by accommodating stadium workers. It brought to mind those early TSA days, when baggies for stowing portable liquids were passed out to travelers like so many perfume samples at airport screening stations.
My own clear Saints sac had been a spontaneous buy. I was driving down Oak Street last Friday when I spied a sidewalk chalkboard message outside Abeille NOLA: “We have NFL approved clear purses.” I pulled to the curb and returned to my car 10 minutes later, $56 poorer, but armed with a clear plastic clutch with gold rivets, a perky gold chain and a glittery black and gold zip bag inside.
“When did you get these?” I had asked the salesgirl, as I perused the last half a dozen or so clutches on the shelf. “An hour and a half ago,” she replied.
Earlier in the week, I had discovered that I was too late to the peekaboo purse party at Fleurty Girl. The store is selling a signature bag ($35) made from the kind of thick plastic hung in strips in front of store freezers – hefty but pliable. Swamped with pre-orders and facing an almost three-week wait for delivery, however, the boutique stopped taking orders.
The Saints organization attempted to prevent potential bag frustration on the part of its fans. A letter sent in early August to season ticket-holders announced that 10,000 see-through bags were available to them on a first-come, first-served basis at the Saints training facility on Airline Drive. Each account was limited to a single bag, however; and since my own seasonal block is a quartet, that meant no universal fashion accessory for the women in our group. Which is fine, because the Saints carrier looks like a clear grocery shopper, with thick black handles and a gold fleur de lis. I could do better.
One popular see-through style on Sunday was the backpack version – drawstrings around a gathered bag that can be slung over your shoulder or tossed to your rear. Think Urban Outfitter shopping bags.
At halftime, I made a dash to the Saints Team Store on the plaza level of the Superdome. It’s spacious and well stocked, although the only NFL-approved bags were being held behind the check-out counters. I snapped up one for $10, even though it’s a clunky 12×12 vinyl shopper with short black handles and a decidedly unappealing NFL logo front and center. My friend Gretchen and I did snag some great gold pins and Saints keychains to adorn our clear vinyl accessories – her idea, but then she’s an artist.
On Sunday at the Dome, I rubbed shoulders with a pair of Saints nuns, a Saints Santa Claus, a voodoo priestess in a black and gold feathered headdress, people in wildly tousled black and gold wigs, fans with thigh-high Saints boots and assorted fleur de lis in every kind of shiny material on every body part imaginable.
When it comes to accessories in New Orleans, it’s not what you buy but how you wear it that counts.
A SAINTS MOMENT I: On Sunday, as the Falcons threatened to score at the Saints 4 yard-line with 49 seconds left in the game, I sank to my seat and buried my face in my hands. A kindly guy in a white Malcolm Jenkins jersey, passing by on his way to the center aisle, paused to put a hand on each of my shoulders. He leaned down and whispered, “It’s OK, honey. You’re gonna see it’s gonna be all right.” And it was.
A SAINTS MOMENT II: In line at a Zatarain’s booth, as I was sampling the new boudin (not bad) and eyeing the alligator sausage, a man behind me asked, in a perplexed voice, “Do they sell just regular hot dogs anywhere here?”