I’ve been using cycling musettes on and off the bike for over decade. Musettes were originally designed as feed bags for cyclists during road races. If you search for musettes online, you’ll also find references to WWII canvas, military fieldbags (“musette bags”) and other types of pocket-sized canvas shoulder bags.
Foremost, I love the cycling style musette’s low-volume, low profile carrying capacity (a friend refers to them as the essence of purse). A well designed musette should be large enough to carry daily items–cameras, sandwiches, notepads, pencils–but small enough to be rolled up and stowed away inside another bag. I prefer versions made out of lightweight cotton or waxed cotton with minimal hardware or embellishing details. A musette should always be rectangular in shape. I’m on the fence about whether a musette should have a formal clasp or button closure. I’m pretty sure a modern musette should have a fold-over flap.
Everybody’s favorite musette seems to be the one sold by Rivendell Bicycle Works during the early days of the company (and in the late days of Bridgestone through the B.O.B. Gazette). The Riv version came in both waxed cotton and untreated cotton canvas (some were made out of Filson fabrics, I believe). The Riv musette had a large main cargo pocket and two front divided pockets. Since the bag was designed for cycling, it came with a secondary sway or waist strap to prevent the bag from shifting during rides (I always removed this strap). I’ll post some catalogue images of the Riv musette tomorrow.
Here are a few more examples of traditional musettes (promo text ads to their appeal):
Traditional string-style shoulder strap (out-of-business bike shop)
Gift addition to my collection (note: simple button closures)
Nice cotton Pinarello with broad strap
I’m working on a design for an Archival Clothing musette. At the moment, I’m investigating successful historical examples and contemplating design decisions: size, hardware (any?), fabric (waxed cotton!), shoulder strap options (string strap or cotton web), button/strap/toggle closure, etc. If you see interesting (vintage!) examples of musettes that please you, forward them along.
For now, here’s a quick visual inventory of bags w/musette-like profiles that interest me:
Original Gilles Berthoud Musette (nice canvas color)
Army Surplus (love the vent holes)
Chapman field bag (single strap closure; game net)
Brady bag (mere most minimal)
Brooks Messenger Bag (steroidal musette)
Hunting World Sling (adjustable web shoulder strap)