Why the ‘ludicrously capacious’ bag on Succession was such a faux pas for the very wealthiest

March 31, 2023

If you are a Succession fan—or even if you aren’t—we need to talk about the scathing attack that Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) makes on an interloper’s fashion sense during episode one of the HBO superseries: In particular, a handbag that he deems “ludicrously capacious,” reports The Guardian’s Chloe Mac Donnell.

The handbag at the crux of Tom’s lecture is from Burberry and costs over £2,500 (US$3,092) at retail. It’s carried by Bridget, Cousin Greg’s (Nicholas Braun’s) unexpected date to Logan Roy’s (Brian Cox’s) birthday party.

Logan’s assistant Kerry immediately makes it clear that “Bridget Randomf*ck” is an unwelcome guest. As she reminds Greg, it’s an intimate party at the home of one of the richest men in the world, “not a fucking Shake Shack.”

But it’s Tom who really captures the family’s issue with Bridget. Her clothing—and worst of all her “monstrous” bag – signifies that she is not part of their world. “What’s even in there?” Tom laments. “Flat shoes for the subway? Her lunch pail? It’s gargantuan. You could take it camping. You could slide it across the floor after a bank job”.

Bridget’s excess baggage hints at everything she lacks, and everything the Roys and their ilk are accustomed to. Bridget lives in a world where she has to schlep. The Roys simply glide.

The world of schleppers is, of course, full of bags. Filled with last night’s leftovers for lunch, trainers for the commute, reusable water bottles, makeup, gym gear, the list goes on. Sometimes you even need a second one: Bridget definitely has a reusable tote with a Girl Boss slogan on it buried at the bottom of that Burberry.

A mini bag, or even better no bag at all, is the norm for Logan’s invited guests. They use their phones to check in with their wealth managers, not to create Instagram content, another faux pas Bridget makes.

But it’s not just the size of Bridget’s bag that jars. Although logo-less, its vintage check print makes it instantly recognizable. This is a logoless logo that has a long and somewhat complicated relationship with class prejudice.

Burberry is a luxury brand. but it’s not a brand that is part of the Roy’s wardrobe roster. Their aesthetic is quiet luxury. It’s stealth wealth, exemplified by Gwyneth Paltrow this week in the courtroom in her £1,500 cream knitwear. It murmurs money, like a whispered recommendation for the best masseur amongst one percenters.

It’s old money rather than a nouveau aesthetic. Heritage luxury brands such as Loro Piana, Max Mara, and Brunello Cucinelli epitomize it. Their pieces allow their wearers to go incognito; on first glance Logan’s quarter zippers and cozy cardigans could be from M&S. It’s only those in the know that will recognize they are, in fact, a silent signifier of his wealth.

Bridget’s bag, meanwhile, is loud luxury. A cry for attention. It shouts “look at how much I spent”. It’s also the type of bag that is quickly duped and illicitly sold on Canal Street.

What makes the scene even more cutting is that this observation of conspicuous consumption comes from Tom, the original Roy family interloper. An aspiring scion-in-law who used to wear red chinos and, at one stage, found himself berated for wearing a branded Moncler vest to a Davos-esque media conference. “Nice vest, Wambsgans,” quipped Roman (Kieran Culkin). “It’s so puffy. What’s it stuffed with, your hopes and dreams?”

The fact that Tom now can recognize a Burberry bag as an accessory of a social climber says a lot about his own ascent towards the moneyed world he now sits in.

Tom’s comments are not only a burn to Bridget’s character but to Burberry too. A paparazzi image of Eastenders’ Danniella Westbrook taken in 2002—clad head to toe in Burberry check; her baby daughter dressed up to match while Westbrook pushed a coordinated pram—continues to haunt the brand. Since then, the company has worked hard on damage limitation. This season, the trademark check in its tan, red and black colorway was nowhere to be seen in the debut collection from new creative director Daniel Lee.

In the marketing blurb for the bag Bridget carries, its design is credited to Lee’s predecessor, Ricardo Tisci. “It’s a future classic that’s set to star as the headline act of countless ensembles,” it reads. No doubt the headlines caused by its role in Succession were not the type Burberry had in mind, says Mac Donnell.

Research contact: @GuardianUS