When I think of the contemporary Southern Belle, I think of a sophisticated woman with grace and style. I think of a woman who's crafty -- in all senses of the word. I think of Julia Sugarbaker from Designing Women. I grew up watching Julia simultaneously shatter, embody and ameliorate all Southern Belle stereotypes: smart, fashionable, clever, outspoken, polite, enigmatic.
I adored Julia.
When Alesya Opelt from Aleysa Bags sent me her new bag for review, I knew I had found a bag that Julia would embrace. Based in Charleston, South Carolina, Aleysa Bags embody the style and charm of modern Southern culture.
Plus, there's definitely more than meets the eye with this laptop bag.
First, Alesya's Southern charm actually starts BEFORE I even get to the bag. The packaging is delightful. The bag is cosseted in its own bag which came with Alesya's standard card as well as a personal card and note to me. And the whole kit-and-caboodle was packed in a sturdy, stylish box.
Below is a pic of the card as well as the initial impression upon opening the box; you can see a full slideshow of the unboxing on my Flickr.
When I first examined the Alesya bag I thought, "Wow - a gorgeous shoulder bag. Wait... it's a laptop bag?"
Yes, it is.
A shoulder bag, in supple leather with well-appointed hardware and careful stitching, is designer Alesya's disguise for toting around a laptop. The laptop sleeve is hidden under the bag's front zippered flap, at the widest part of the bag. Fully secured under an adjustable velcro strap, my 15" MacBook Pro is fully protected and concealed. Out for sushi with friends after work? No one will ever know I'm toting a laptop.
Clever, right? Really smart design. Now, the hidden sleeve is a tight fit; my Macbook Pro 15 cinched her girdle (ahh, the price for fashion) as I slid her in. An Air or a smaller Macbook would be perfect. If you have another laptop model, you're going to want to measure it and check w/ Alesya to make sure it will fit. And I was super-careful when I zipped up the bag to make sure it wouldn't scratch my Macbook - the zippers are very close to the corners and edges of the laptop when you're closing it. This is necessary to make the design work and keep the bag a reasonable size. I think this will get a little less dicey once I use the bag a bit and break in the leather and the zippers. (If you want to see this in action, there is a great video on the Alesya Bags site.)
The front flap of the bag provides storage with its own zippered compartment. Inside are pockets made specifically for pens and my iPhone. These are easily accessed, even while wearing the bag on my shoulder. The bag's back zippered compartment provides access to a large storage space. Books, work documents, notebooks, all easily stow away for me to take home.
My fav smart feature of this bag is the zippered top pocket - Alesya explicitly designed it to avoid "the black hole syndrome." Oh, yes! No more rummaging around in the depths of your bag! While at first glance, the bag's top compartment might appear to be the main pocket, it's actually a clever shallow space for storing keys and lipstick. It fits my small wallet, too.
The strap on the Alesya has an 8" drop, and the width of the strap (1.5") means the strap doesn't dig into my shoulder when I weigh my bag down with stuff. I packed the Alesya bag full, and it sat comfortably under my arm. There are some great pics of the Alesya stuffed full on her site.
Other great things ... The colours: my bag is purple - called Exquisite Eggplant; it also comes in Equestrian Tan and Kelly Green Girl - year-round colours for a year-round bag. The feet: there are little feet on the bottom of the Alesya (you know how I love little feet!). I had trouble standing it up with how I had packed it, but, at the same time, I'd never put this baby on the floor. It's a bag that needs to be shown off.
And shown off, it is. I've taken my Alesya to meetings, workshops and dinner dates over the last few weeks and got all kinds of compliments. Like a Southern Belle, the Alesya has style and sass, and as a newcomers to the laptop bag scene, offers some is stiff competition.
You can purchase your very own online at Alesya Bags for $265 USD (remember, it's leather!). You can also find Alesya Bags on Facebook; and you can follow the designer on Twitter or check out her personal blog.