I'm obsessed with the British film, An Education, and starring the ever-so-coquettishly-ethereal Carey Mulligan playing smart schoolgirl Jenny -- she's playing Daisy Buchanan in the 2012 adaptation of The Great Gatsby, by the way. One of the best lines in the book, uttered by Daisy, is "All right... I'm glad it's a girl. And I hope she'll be a fool -- that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool." Good stuff, Fitzgerald.
Anyway, a couple of my high school friends found An Education to be atrociously boring, but I beg to differ, as not only do I have a penchant for coming-of-age films and novels (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn comes to mind), but also I really enjoyed the contrasts between Oxford-bound schoolgirl preppy and worldly belle du jour, as evidenced in Jenny's costume. Set in 1961 England, it plays upon the excitement and confusion of growing up in a modern society that threatens to be torn down by nuclear bombs every day. It's about romantic love and disillusionment and falling in love with the world again. And realizing that your dowdy-looking Cambridge-graduated high school teacher might be right about some things after all.
The costume is designed by Odile Dicks-Mireaux, who worked with the director, Lone Scherfig, to brilliantly weave together the concept that clothes provide transformation of identity. While the expensively-dressed Helen, played by Rosamund Pike, looks sophisticated and worldly, she fails to exhibit Jenny's self-introspection and education. For example, when Jenny first meets her at a concert, Jenny begins speaking in French, assuming Helen would understand her. Additionally, the camera shows Jenny blissfully appreciating the music while Helen stares dumbfounded at the stage.
But still, much attention should also be given to Jenny's schoolgirl dress, for even if you don't care much for the A-line skirts, who can deny the whimsical yet serious pleasure of a leather satchel bag?
I own one myself, in red, made by the Cambridge Satchel Company in Cambridge, England. Individualistic as I think I am, I got my initials monogrammed on it in gold emboss. It is technically called a batchel (briefcase and satchel combined) because of its top handle, but you can also buy the traditional satchel without the handle.
The batchel is superb for heavy school books and it'll make you feel smart -- even if your mind is flitting off to a world of dazzling balls, scandalous French music, and memoir-worthy escapades.