The Ultimate Guide to Designing Your Dream Bag {with Boondock Studios}


Image credit @boondock_studios

Have you heard the style authorities wax poetic about that legendary bag that is everything one could ever want or need?

This mythical creature stands up next to your most polished work attire, but looks right at home with your casual weekend clothes. It’s a classic, but one that makes a statement. I’ve even heard that it can give you a fashion pass on the days when the rest of your outfit veers toward the schlumpy.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen designer logo bags proferred as the end-all-be-all answer to the legendary bag search, although I never quite figured out why–perhaps directly advertising “I am willing to pay good money for a bag hundreds of other people carry” equals style for some? There are very few “It” bags that will cause me to assign style points (although, I will admit, I’ll endure a tiny twinge of benign jealousy upon encountering a real Birkin).

What will cause me an outright pang of jealousy (sometimes even accompanied by downright swooning)? When I see a bag so perfectly, so lusciously designed and crafted that it seems to be an extension of the wearer herself. With this bag, you notice the style, the luxurious craftsmanship, and the sheer beauty of the bag, but you might have to sheepishly inquire as to the designer, because the bag isn’t a name dropper.

After spotting a few of these beauties in the wild, I decided to hunt down my very own trophy. I was ready to spend a bit more to capture my prey because I planned on having this bag FOREVER (also, you all know my life philosophy–buy less, buy better).

Alas, after a couple of years (yes, years) of looking, I lost hope. I had already formed quite a picture of what I wanted in my head, and couldn’t find a bag that exactly matched it.

Finally, I had a stroke of genius and contacted local leather artisan Boondock Studios about helping me craft a bag that met all my needs and wants. If I was going to invest the amount of a rent payment, I wanted it to be designed precisely to my specifications.

Well, I can’t say my dream was realized, because my dream was too dang small, people! I brought my hieroglyphic design sketches to a meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Boondock (not their real names, but seriously-nothing is sexier than a husband and wife artist duo), who I first met at our local farmer’s market when they were new designers churning out the most fantastical leather masks. Now they make the leather, knitting, and woven dreams of people all over the place come true.

The discussion became very animated as we excitedly bantered about leathers, seams, linings, and studs, while Mr. & Mrs. B threw out design suggestions I hadn’t even dreamed of. I knew they “got me.”

I’ve had this bag for a week now, and I am over the moon. It has exceeded my wildest expectations, and the more I use it, the more I love it, because I’ve realized just how much of my life is spent on the go (and therefore lived out of my bag), and how much easier and enjoyable having one designed just for me has made my life.

I have been plied with so many compliments on it, that I decided to write a post about it and give you:

The Ultimate Guide to

Designing Your Very Own Dream Bag

with Boondock Studios



Think about your REAL life.

Being a mom to a small child is a huge part of my life now. If you have a small child, might feel, like me, that there’s never enough time with your child. I want to BE WITH my family when I’m with them, which meant designing a bag that not only looked amazing, but had all the practical amenities that would make my life easier.

A few design factors that emerged from that reflection:

  • Backpack style-great for Farmer’s Market, cycling, or errands.
  • Drawstring opening-To have a bag that I could easily get in and out of, I asked Boondock to create mine with a drawstring opening so that I can get into it without taking it off my shoulder (without a flap–who has the coordination for that?).
  • Deep interior pockets-I was so tired of my sunglasses and lip liners falling out into the main portion of my bag. With deep pockets, where I put things is where they stay (including sippy cups and bags of cheerios!).
  • Exterior pocket against my back-When I travel, I wanted a place I could keep my phone and wallet that couldn’t be pickpocketed.


backpack back

Be open to new ideas.

If you’re collaborating with an artisan to design your bag, they will have ideas that are born out of working with materials that are familiar to them. They know how the leather or fabric will behave in certain situations, so it’s best to listen to their ideas. They also have resources you may be unaware of, so they may be able to create things you couldn’t anticipate.

Ideas from Boondock Studios that made my bag SO MUCH BETTER than I could have dreamed include a curved base (it’s like a backpack hug), exquisitely knotted leather rope drawstring, high-quality features like saddle stitching and heavy-duty rivets and screws so that my bag could take the constant beating of being drug around by a child, and using custom-printed fabric for the lining (how cool is THAT?!)


Remember what you love.

Being a mom didn’t cause my style personality to change. Designing a bag with rock n’ roll details like studs, fringe, and skulls expresses my style and makes me smile every time I look at it (and really, that’s what a phenomenal bag is all about, right?).

backpack skull


Image credit @boondock_studios

Don’t punk out.

You want to create a quality bag that you’ll adore for years to come. It’s worth the discipline of saving up for (and totally worth forgoing those 5 H&M shirts you’ll only wear once).

Don’t cheap out and forgo craftsmanship that will make your bag stand apart from the crowd and bring you joy.

Let everyone else carry a Speedy. You have a {insert YOUR name here}.


Image credit @boondock_studios




Mint Fringe face hide.jpg

a fly that annoys horses and other livestock
a person who upsets the status quo

Apparently, it can be a little unnerving to have a style blogger for a friend. At a party, someone once confided to me that they get a little nervous when they know they’re going to see me, concerned that I am critiquing every aspect of their attire during our time together.
Rest assured, I do not go around secretly evaluating people’s fashion choices (unless you wear scrunchies. I have a preternatural hatred for scrunchies).
However, I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little internal leap of joy when I see someone dressed in a way that showcases all the best of who they are. There’s nothing like seeing someone’s essence expressed in art, and if I may be so bold, I consider personal style an art.

grey dress kick

Art Is Personal

In college, I had a roommate whose parents lived in a charming country house not far from campus. My group of friends spent many idyllic weekends at their house, studying in a hammock on the spacious front porch, wandering with the dragonflies and carpenter bees through the gardens, and savoring late breakfasts while watching deer contentedly chew through the daffodil fields.
None of this halcyon lifestyle happened by accident. As it turns out, my roommate’s mother had completely designed the house and its grounds from well, the ground up. Every nook and cranny was intentionally crafted to evoke a particular feeling—from the compact but well-appointed library in the nook at the top of the staircase to the perfectly positioned laundry chute (the laundry went straight from the master bedroom into the washing machine—talk about an efficient process!). Creativity was king, and while some aspects of her home represented significant monetary investment (I can still remember her quite comprehensive set of Wedgewood China in a design run over by wild strawberries), small touches like elaborate and expensive-looking table decorations conjured up from willow branches commanded an equal amount of territory.
In a rundown town where the biggest form of entertainment was people-watching at the Waffle House (closely followed by activating the entire Walmart aisle of then-popular Tickle Me Elmo dolls simultaneously), she had instead opted to dedicate time and resources into ensuring her sanctuary reflected her self perfectly, and it was deeply felt by everyone who darkened the doors. Being in her house or gardens was like getting to know her, and like her home, she was irresistibly intriguing.


Mom and Corsten steps

We adore climbing steps.

Defy the Status Quo

My friend’s house so clearly stood out to me as art because its very essence defied the mass production with which our society seems to be so comfortable, not only in buildings but also clothes.

Our yoga pants epidemic is completely understandable; with all the other stuff being thrown at us ALL DAY EVERY DAY, it’s a wonder we remember to leave the house wearing pants at all! However, in my daily travels, I still encounter those brave souls who proliferate joy by expressing themselves through their clothes. At first glance, I may not immediately cognize every aspect of their person, but I do get a pretty good read on who they are (Artist? Minimalist? Drama-lover? Conservative? Whimsical?)

By spurning the path of least resistance, by proclaiming their truest selves instead of sending the message currently approved by the “style authorities,” they are gadflies that remind us how piercingly we touch others when we embody the best version of ourselves.


In honor of these irrepressible Devil-May-Cares and the joy they bring to my world, I’ll be highlighting them on the blog and GAD’s  Facebook and Instagram feeds, and tagging them #gadfly–a nod to their blithe disregard for whatever anyone else is wearing and also to the name of this blog (see what I did there?).
I’d love to see pictures of the #gadfly’s you encounter, so feel free to use the hashtag yourself when snapping pics and tagging Girl About Downtown so I can pay homage with you.


Bunny tail

I have an “audience” for nearly all my photo shoots.


Pleated Tunic, Ya Los Angeles via friend’s closet sale (I replaced the shell buttons with glam glass ones for a totally different look!).

Over-the-knee boots, Michael Kors via Zappos.

Tiger’s Eye earrings, Sorrelli via Anna’s.

Tiger’s Eye pendant, Polk Museum of Art Gift shop (unfortunately, I lost the paperwork naming the artist).

Mint Fringe bag, gift from my BFF picked out by my adorable Goddaughter.

Silver Fingerprint Charm bracelet, custom-made gift from the two handsomest men in my life. 🙂