Wardrobe Basics: Handbags

Let’s talk about handbags for a second.  I think many people are either big handbag people or not.  I am a big handbag person.  I love them. I  like to collect them, and have more than I would like to admit.  I did do something to my handbag collection about a year ago that I never thought I would do: purge them.  I purged every cheap handbag (note, cheap looking, not cheap in price), because nothing kills a chic outfit quicker than a cheap handbag.  Every woman, especially if you are approaching or are over 30 should have what I call  a “Big Girl Handbag”.

What is a “Big Girl Handbag”?  A bag that looks expensive.  And is real leather.  Unless you are vegan.  If you are vegan, shop Matt and Nat bags.  Best vegan bags I have seen.  If you are not opposed to leather, then you need a leather handbag.  A classic leather handbag.  One that isn’t worn, tattered, or embellished beyond belief.   Because again, this kills and cheapens an outfit.  This bag does not have to be designer, and you don’t have to drop 500 dollars on it, but it needs to look like you did.  If you want designer at a discount, try Gilt, Last Call, or a local consignment shop.  You will not regret investing money in a classic designer bag because if you care for it, you will have it for years.  I promise.

I always encourage my clients to buy one nice handbag, to which they ask, “Ok. But what color?”  This might come as a surprise, but if I were going to buy one nice bag, I wouldn’t buy black.  While black is extremely versatile, I find that it looks heavy during the warmer months and is not the bag that I reach for constantly.  A grey, nude, or colored bag is one that I reach for all the time, and is what I would recommend to a client.  In fact, I reach for my maroon colored bag more often than any other.

So, what are some of  my picks?

This Halogen bag comes in at right over 150 dollars and looks a lot like a Rebecca Minkoff bag, but for half the price.  It is a classic shape and the color will go with virtually everything.

Halogen® Chain Tote

Thanks to Grechen, I am kind of obsessed with Clare Vivier bags.  This will probably be my next handbag purchase.  The shape is classic and the lines are clean.  This bag will last for years to come.

This grey satchel is ladylike and is perfect for work.

This bag is just over a 100 dollars and its blue color is actually really versatile.  Plus, you can wear it multiple ways.  Bonus!

This burgundy J.Crew bag is another one that will go with everything and will last for years to come.

Brompton satchel

My current designer obsession is the PS1 bag.  Since I already have basic colors, I would spring for this gorgeous teal color. 

large product image

While all of these picks are over 100 dollars, you can find a classic leather bag for under 100, but I can guarantee you won’t feel bad if you save up for one of these bags.  What are your thoughts on handbags?


Filed under Client Cravings, Closet Cravings, Couture Cravings

20 responses to “Wardrobe Basics: Handbags

  1. We are definitely on the same wavelength when it comes to thoughts on handbags!! You know I love myself a good bag. When I was younger, I didn’t care too much about having a good quality handbag to last forever (although I did want a Coach leather bag in hs), but once I started buying leather handbags, I could just see and feel what a difference it was to spend money on a nice bag. There are wonderful bags at all kinds of price points and I agree that a consignment shop is a great way to go designer without spending a boat load of money (that’s how I got myself a Chanel).
    I love all of your pics, especially that PS1 and J. Crew bag!! I’ve never spent more than $500 on a bag, but I’ve been wanting to have my next purchase be a big one (I
    really have my eye on an Alexander Wang or 3.1 Phillip Lim).

    • I still can’t believe you scored a Chanel at a consignment shop that wasn’t over 500 dollars. Impressive! I love your handbag collection!!!

      Grechen’s 3.1 Phillip Lim is fabulous as is her Alexander Wang, but I think she sold it……

  2. I am not a bag person but I am really in love with Clare Vivier’s, I am planning to invest in one for next year, I don’t know yet which one, I really like the silvery ones…maybe I should go for the brown, I already have the black one…Any help is welcome!


  3. we have already discussed this, so you KNOW my opinion. bravo for addressing this issue…too many women don’t consider their handbag to be an essential part of their outfit. it is.

  4. Yes! I have a kind of khaki green one that’s leather and super neutral and the best thing I have ever bought. I like handbags that compliment an outfit without distracting from it…

  5. love Clare Vivier, just sad that the flaps are loose on that bag–I’m putting her messenger bag on my wishlist for Christmas!

  6. Kristi

    Thanks for the vegan shout out 🙂

  7. I love my big girl bags! I have a natural colored Michael Kors and a gray limited edition Coach tote (no logos, just leather) that I consider my most grown up bags. I’ve also recently been gifted a red Elliot Lucca hobo that I love soooooo much. You can find a ton of good big girl bags for under $200 that will last for years. Great post!!

    • This is very true! What a great gift to get, Cathy! I have to say that I really like some of the limited edition Coach bags. I don’t like the logos, but really have loved the all-leather ones. Great buys!

  8. I have to admit, I’ve never bought a big girl’s purse… I definitely see the merits of saving up and investing and have wanted to do so. But: when I am investing, I become super indecisive, because I know I’m buying one for more money, rather than a couple for a lot less money – so I get all nervous about making the right choice! I love these suggestions for classic picks that will go with a lot and last for years. Maybe this will help me make a decision!

    • I find that many of my clients have a hard time with this, too. That is when I go into my cost-per-wear-speech. Totally worth the investment. If you do buy one, let me know so I can drool over it!

  9. Kate

    I definitely need more leather bags in my collection, I’ve still got too many ‘casual’ bags from my college days. Something I always get hung up on, though, is the hardware. For some reason I can’t get over wearing gold jewelry and carrying a bag with silver hardware…it just seems like it doesn’t fit! I’ll often like a bag but wish the hardware was different…is this a crazy detail to be obsessing over? What’s the rule on mixing metals??

    • So many of my clients are bothered by mixing metals. It doesn’t bother me in the least bit, and I actually mix metals most days. I think mixing metals is interesting than everything matching, but like I tell my clients, you have to be comfortable in anything you are wearing. Give it a try one day and see how you feel.

  10. I’m w/ Anne…I drool over triple-digit bags and I could definitely afford some of the cheaper ones you mention, but something in me just triggers a red alarm in my head when I even think about spending so much on one item. That’s not to say I don’t look for quality in bags…one of my go-tos is a leather bag that I scored on clearance from H&M for $40 four years ago (and that’s the most expensive bag I own). I condition it regularly so it still looks great. Even though I don’t spend a lot of money on clothes/bags, I still like to take good care of my things so they’ll look good and last as long as possible. When I’m ready—if I’m ever ready—I’ll take the plunge, but not a second before.

    And I totally agree with what you said about black bags…I don’t own a black bag and although I was on the hunt for one for a while, I realized I would never use it. A colorful, beige-ish, gray, or camel bag is way more versatile in my opinion.

    • You condition yours? Well done! The farthest I go is stuffing them with paper and placing them in their dust bag. I have always been a lover of expensive handbags, but I know they are not for everyone. And, you can totally find nice leather bags for under 100.

  11. I adore the PS1 that you’ve shown, but isn’t that a $1000 bag? Wayyyyy too much for my taste. (OK, I’ve got the taste, just not the budget!). I would be very happy with a J Crew “Darlington Satchel” in black, or an “Edie” in pecan. I’m pretty hard on my bags, so they don’t last a long, long time. But once in a great while, I do condition them. Oh, and do I get extra points for storing them in their dust bags out of season?? ;- )

    • Um, yes. It is over 1,000. I do not have the budget either. I will hope for a sale or start begging my husband to allow me the budget. I am more likely to find it on sale.

      I don’t condition my bags either, but I guess I should start! And yes, points for you for putting them in their dust bags!

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