Mirror, Mirror: With clear-bag rule, NFL's a fashion trendsetter

Black-trim satchel, atwww.clear-handbags.com, whose home page says "Welcome NFL Fans!"
Black-trim satchel, atwww.clear-handbags.com, whose home page says "Welcome NFL Fans!"
Posted: August 22, 2013

As we move into fall, Eagles fans are finding they need a spring staple to take with them to the stadium: the transparent tote.

You wouldn't think the NFL policy allowing only these kinds of bags would be a problem for lovers of fashion and football. After all, translucent bags have been in the fashion realm for decades. Our favorite brands from Hammitt to Chanel offer a bunch of plastic pocketbooks with chunky hardware, perfect for Monday Night Football, yes?

No.

"It's OK if the bag has a logo, but it has to be clear," stressed Norman Vossschulte, the Eagles' assistant director of guest experience. "There are 70,000 seats in the stadium and everyone is trying to get in at once. We need to be able to see at a glance."

Herein lies the problem: Clear looks are more spring sizzle than fall fab, so what stores are selling now - that emerald-tinted Furla, for instance - won't pass. It's no wonder I saw so many women at the Linc Saturday with bedazzled cellphone cases and colorful clip-in extensions carrying Ziploc bags packed with keys, cellphones, and diapers.

This year's annual spring review by the NFL of its safety policies came on the heels of the Boston Marathon bombing. Clear bags, it was decided, would make the screening process smoother and easier.

Security guards still use metal-detecting wands, including for when you are carrying an opaque bag (no larger than 41/2 by 61/2 inches) for, say, feminine products.

"We don't want people to stop bringing into the stadium the things they need," Vossschulte said. "We just want them to be safe."

We can dig it.

But do so many of the NFL-compliant bags have to be so flimsy and bland?

The Eagles sent complimentary 12-by-12-by-6-inch totes with the green-outlined Birds logo to its season ticket holders in July. The short-handled bag didn't have a zipper or a clasp closure. (While transparency may help stop people from sneaking guns into a game, it won't deter a crook from reaching in. After all, he has a clear view of your wallet, smartphone, and Make Up For Ever lipstick.)

Now that the preseason is underway, they've made a version with a zipper, and there will be additional logoed styles of clear bags available in the Eagles pro shop soon, including a drawstring backpack, a strapped purse, and one that looks like a lunchbag. Prices will start at $15.

Not the coolest of looks, but it will do.

Although many will use the clear bag as just a means to a security end, the clear trend wasn't always so utilitarian.

Clear accessories started appearing in fashion shortly after World War II as part of a trendy movement to embrace man-made materials - polyvinyl chloride and acrylic - said Clare Sauro, curator of Drexel University's Historic Costume Collection. Some of the inspiration came from the famous glass slipper featured in Walt Disney's Cinderella in 1950.

See-through looks reemerged in the 1960s with a futuristic, space-age bent to them, including raincoats and heels.

During the minimalist years of the 1990s, clear looks moved in and out of fashion, but late in the decade they became linked to security when high-end retailers started to require employees to carry transparent bags to deter pilferage.

"That's how they became a staple with fashion insiders," explained Karen Giberson, president of the New York-based Accessories Council. "These aren't new security measures for our industry."

The mainstream saw a slight comeback for clear accessories in 2007 with the rebirth of Lucite's popularity, said Laura Rottmann, owner of three-year-old www.clear-handbags.com, which experienced a 200 percent increase in business in August as a direct result of the new NFL rules. She eventually put on her home page: "Welcome NFL Fans!"

For now, it seems the NFL style requirements are a little ahead of, or behind, the trends, depending on how you look at it. Brands like Kate Spade and Tory Burch will be offering tinted bags for fall.

But, Rottmann said, fall's mod looks are sure to bleed into spring, and she predicts that more clear bags will turn up again. In fact, because of the NFL rules, clear bags likely will be manufactured through fall 2014.

In the meantime, Rottmann said, she will sell her collection of clear bags trimmed in colorful leathers to her clients who work in retail, prisons, and casinos - and who go to football games.

Privacy pouch included.


Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or ewellington@phillynews.com. Follow her on Twitter, @ewellingtonphl.

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