The lunchbox purse: hardly functional, subjectively beautiful, totally '90s
The lunchbox trend also beautifully coincided with the '70s throwback style that was hitting the Alternative Nation-television waves, hard. The 1994 If I Were a Carpenter Carpenters tribute album introduced me to the awkward brother-sister duo in such a way that, much to my parents dismay, made me like their music. It was a genius gateway to the '70s that I wouldn't otherwise have had, featuring bands I loved -- like Babes In Toyland, Sonic Youth, Shonen Knife -- playing songs a hardcore teenage '90s me would have deemed utterly lame otherwise.
Like the Carpenters tribute, there was the Saturday Morning Cartoons' Greatest Hits and School House Rock! Rocks compilation albums. The records also featured many of my favorite bands covering songs of a childhood I had no connection to, because I wasn't born yet. These albums seemed like part of the same general decade-specific aesthetic. (Especially because, the more vintage your lunchbox purse, the better -- so a '70s-era Charlie's Angels or H.R. Pufnstuf tin pail made you extra cool.)
I would later come to better understand this nostalgia once I was old enough to see teenagers mimicking what my precious '90s looked like to them -- children born in my favorite decade who had no clue what it was really like to be there.
Regrettably, the '90s were not like things are now, where we can and will take pictures of ourselves at every waking moment, whether on the toilet or semi-enjoying a concert, so I don't have photographs of every outfit I wore to school, or pictures of any of the ten lunchbox purses I owned. It's probably better that way, though; it's easier to wax nostalgic when photographic evidence isn't plentiful. That way you can fill in lapses in memory with much better stories about a time when computers were only used in a place called a "computer lab" and a lunchbox was all you needed to carry your whole life in.