“Shopaholics” by Stephanie Jimenez
My daughter is awaiting a bonus check from work in the next month or so and I was surprised to hear she is considering buying herself an “it” bag with part of it. This is the girl who loves to save her money, not spend it. I love that she’s thinking it all through and thinking of it as an investment, which in essence it will be.
The apple didn’t fall far from the tree as her momma is a handbag girl too. I don’t have a lot of bags, but some of the ones I have I cherish. My most cherished one? A Valentino “Rockstud” crossbody I bought in the Valentino store on the famed Via dei Condotti on our mother-daughter trip to Rome. For the record, daughter got a Prada.
Valentino, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, Hermes, Celine, Saint Laurent. All handbag heaven. But not every one can afford a top-of-the-line handbag so let’s look at just a few of them and use them for either shopping tips or inspiration for more affordable models. One thing I’m adamant about: stay away from fakes and cheap knock-offs. It is a seedy industry and no bag is worth supporting what the money goes to. You’re better off buying a nice bag at Target then one from an overseas trader.
If money is no object, probably the most coveted bag of all is the Hermes “Birkin.” You’ve seen the structured bag on the arms of everyone from Martha Stewart on her way to court, Carrie Bradshaw in “Sex and the City,” and on every Hollywood celeb out there. Personally I’m not a big fan because I think many buy one not for their love of the bag itself, but for the love of the attention it brings them.
What I do love about the bag is that it’s stood the test of time and its origin is authentic. It all came to be when a great-great-grandson of the Hermes founder sat next to British actress Jane Birkin on a plane in 1983. Birkin had a carry-on for her personal items, but they kept spilling out. A year later the Birkin bag debuted and the rest was handbag history.
The Birkin’s structured and more formal cousin is the Hermes “Kelly” bag, named after Grace Kelly when a photo of her carrying one appeared on the cover of “Life” magazine more than half-century ago.
Both bags are obscenely expensive….starting at $7,000! So there’s that. But, each bag is handmade and just choosing the skin for one can take up to two years. The base has three layers of leather (genius!) and all bags have either yellow or white gold hardware. Then there are the locks. A tiny Hermes- stamped padlock and specially numbered keys go to each owner.
Becoming an owner is not as easy as walking into a local Hermes boutique and buying one. Waiting lists can be as long as six years, although I’m beginning to wonder about this because every celebrity and reality “star” seems to have multiple Hermes bags. Although getting one was once difficult as documented in the hilariously entertaining book “Bringing Home the Birkin,” I’m thinking if you’re a Trump, Kardashian, or even a Real Housewife, all you need do is ask.
Very few of us can afford or would ever want to spend so much on one little purse, but whether you analyze designer bag offerings to purchase or for mere inspiration, they’re worth a look.
They are what inspire retailers on what to offer so if you can’t afford Celine’s bag with “wings,” you can probably find a similar one at Macy’s or a local boutique. One of my favorite purse purchases is a black round crossbody I found at Charming Charlie. It’s fun, it’s functional, and it was oh so affordable. My Tod’s “D Bag” that I bought at Bergdorf’s on a visit to New York was not. But, it was my first “big” bag buy and it will always be special to me.
Look around any mall or airport and you’ll see one bag in multiples: Louis Vuitton’s “Never Full.” I feel lucky to own one as it is the perfect bag and the perfectly named bag. It literally is never full and is sturdy yet lightweight.
So there you have some of what are considered high end bags. On the next “expensive but maybe the perfect gift” level are fabulous bags by Tory Burch, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Coach, Burberry, and Marc Jacobs. Tory has some of the industry’s cutest and most popular crossbodies and totes, Spade makes some beautiful structured bags, and who doesn’t love a little Burberry plaid? I also highly recommend Longchamp’s “Pilage” tote and Tumi’s “Capri” crossbody, both of which I never travel without.
We can’t all afford a Chanel or Saint Laurent, but we all need purses, just not a ton of them unless you collect them like so many celebs do. Handbags are one fashion area where less is truly more. Think about it, if you save your money and buy a more expensive classic bag that will last for years, you can buy fewer bags in general and always be in style.
I’m also not of the thinking that you need to match your bag with your shoes so the fewer the better idea is right up my alley. The only time I do try to have a cohesive accessory look is perhaps a formal affair.
So what bags does every woman need, whether buying the real deal or a real bargain? Here’s my take.
A timeless crossbody. These can be worn over one shoulder or across your body. They are medium-sized and free up your hands so you can shop ’til you drop, take photos, or hang on to stairs and escalators while carrying other bags. They can also go inside a bigger tote or bag. I actually have several, including my beloved Valentino and Tumi, along with Michael Kors’ “Jet Set” that I find to be the perfect size.
A roomy tote. Look for minimal design in these so you can fill them up and yet not have them feel heavy on your shoulder. They should fit all your personal items and maybe even a laptop and emergency ballets or flip flops. Enter the LV “Never Full.” I also love Tory Burch and Longchamp totes.
The hot tote right now is Goyard’s “St. Louis.” The reversible bag is soft yet sturdy, functional, can hold a ton of stuff, but doesn’t have any inside zippered compartments or pouches. They are also extremely light due to the fact that they’re made from resin-coated linen. Each bag is hand-painted and you know you’ve got the real deal if it’s bumpy to the touch. Want one? Good luck. They’re only sold at Goyard boutiques and a handful of authorized retailers.
Something structured. These elegant bags have top handles rather than shoulder straps (some have both) with the queen of them being a Birkin. They are stiff and sturdy and present an “all business” look to even the most casual attires. Great for business meetings and work days, the classy tailored bags fit lots of stuff. I don’t have one because I haven’t found the need for one. Think Kate Spade, Michael Kors, or Lanvin’s with a detachable shoulder strap.
A classic clutch. These are perfect for travel or for work-to-evening days, as they can be used on their own or slipped inside a tote. They literally come through in many a clutch situation! Similar to crossbodies in that they only hold your essentials, they add a bit of elegance to your look. I found a perfect black Rag and Bone on sale as well as a camel one at a little shop in Norman, Oklahoma for a steal.
Backpack. I’m not talking North Face here, I’m talking style for those times when any of the above designs just don’t fit your function. Tumi is your go to place for this, as is Rebecca Minkoff for her popular “Julian” version seen above. I also really like Sole Society’s selection and Herschel is also popular though pricey.
A weekender. These are practical, roomy yet stylish bags you can use for a weekend away or for the gym. I automatically think Land’s End or Vera Bradley duffels but you can virtually find one anywhere. Sole Society’s “Mason,” pictured above, is particularly nifty in that it has a zippered bottom section where you can keep your shoes separate from clothing and toiletries.
Bucket bag. Years ago I had a winter white Coach bucket bag that I adored. Oh to have it now…or better yet, this Burberry “Ashby!” The trend came back in a big way a couple of years ago with Gavriel’s much sought after version. Often sporting a drawstrings, bucket bags are structured, but not too structured and fashionable but not too trendy. Think of them as the happy medium between a structured bag and a tote.
Evening bag. Most of us will never achieve Judith Leiber bag status, but we can dream, right? The legendary evening bag designer’s gems are more works of art than plain purses. If you’ve watched any awards show, you’ve seen a Leiber. Remember the adorable cupcake purse Charlotte’s young daughter hides her cell phone in during the first “Sex and the City” movie? It was a Leiber. When choosing an evening bag, whether Leiber or low-cost, think small, chic, and one-of-a-kind. This is also where you can have fun with bling and embellishments!
So there you have it: the 411 on all things purses. Have fun choosing yours and remember, “behind every successful woman is a fabulous handbag.”