20 Years Ago, Monica Lewinsky Had a Handbag Line. I Set Out to Find One

So goes the criticism I received on my most recent eBay purchase, a handbag from Monica Lewinsky’s short-lived 1999 collection. The homespun design features a Laura Ashley-esque floral pattern sewn over a parakeet green, faux-velvet base. No matter what anyone says, I love it.

Even as the most questionable elements of noughties fashion sneak back into style (see: low-rise jeans, visible thongs, and chunky Steve Madden flip flops), The Real Monica Inc. remains a neglected footnote from the era. 

Lewinsky’s tote bags are relegated to the laundry list of her first awkward post-Clinton ventures, like working as a Jenny Craig spokesperson and hosting a questionable Fox dating show where male contestants competed for love—in wrestler masks.

Kooky hustles aside, Lewinsky needed the money. In a 2000 New York Timesfeature, the former White House intern admitted that she started the collection to help get out of debt. Working through legal fees to the tune of $1.5 million, with a name the press mercilessly maligned for months, the amateur knitter had little to lose. 

Though every bag came with a tag that reads, “Made just for you by Monica,” that's not entirely true. According to the Times, Monica designed the handbags, but each one was handmade in a Louisiana plant.

The totes were stocked by New York's Henri Bendel, L.A.’s Fred Segal, and the World Wide Web’s TheRealMonicaInc.com.

That URL went dark in 2004. Bendel’s closed last winter. In an email, representatives for Fred Segal wrote, “Unfortunately we don’t have an information on [the bags].”

Through her representatives, Lewinsky (very kindly) declined to comment.

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