Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How To Look Expensive: Invest in a Great Bag

Thank you for joining me for another installment of How to Look Expensive. Here it is: Invest in a great bag. And by "great bag" I mean a bag that you love, a bag that is made to last, a bag that is versatile, a bag that is classic without being boring, a bag that is functional. I admit, it's a tall order, especially if you are on a budget. That's why I want to make sure I have you convinced, and give you a few tips for success. Allons-y.

Arguments for a great bag. In the long run, buying a more expensive, high quality bag will save you money. There are bags in quality materials to be had for less than $130. Cheaper bags à la Target usually start around $30. If your budget is tight, $30 is $30, and I'm sure you don't want to keep shelling it out over and over as your bag wears out. Even if it is still functioning (i.e. the straps haven't broken), a poor quality bag will start looking raggedy and will not help you look expensive.

Another argument. A great bag will elevate the simplest of outfits. As long as the fit is good, Old Navy jeans and a Target tee will look like a million bucks when paired with a leather bag. And there is no reason not to keep a great bag for years; you may outgrow you favorite jeans, but a few extra pounds won't make a new bag necessary.

My great bag: a pebbled camel leather tote from Banana Republic, unfortunately no longer available.

Now for some tips to get you started and to help you make a smart purchase:

Be honest about how much space you need and what style suits your lifestyle. If you are a busy mom you will probably need something that allows you to go hands free from time to time, and provides enough space for all of the "mom stuff," like diapers and wipes.

Choose the color carefully. Look at the color story of your wardrobe, and  evaluate what would work best with with the majority of your wardrobe. If you wear mainly neutrals, a bright bag might be best for you, a statement piece that becomes part of your signature look. If you love patterns and colors, a neutral that complements your prominent color scheme might be the way to go.

Don't forget the hardware. I have a cool complexion, so I look best in silver, and therefore 95% of my jewelry is silver, stainless, or white gold. It just makes sense to keep things cohesive and choose a bag with compatible hardware. Also, pay attention to the quality of the hardware. Sometimes even leather bags with leather bag prices have cheap zippers, clasps, etc that can take away from the bag's overall appearance.

Pay attention to the material. Not all leather is created equal, and not all types of leather wear equally well. It helps to shop above your price range to get a feel (literally, sometimes) for the best quality, and then go from there. Also keep in mind that very smooth leather scratches more easily and therefore shows wear more readily. Conversely, pebbled or textured leather more discreetly absorbs wear and tear.

Avoid the bags that are prone to being "knocked off." You know the type, items like the ubiquitous Coach bag with the multidirectional c's. Best case scenario, you spend lots of money to look just like everybody else, worst case you are duped into buying a fake.

Avoid bags that are too "trendy." I don't mean that we all have to buy a classic Kelly bag. But. I would not spend $100 plus on a leather bag in a neon color. Unless you love neon colors in and out of their trendy phases. You have to know yourself and what you really like.

If your budget is very tight, and a leather bag is simply out of the question, I would look for a canvas or nylon bag with leather straps. Straps and handles are the first locus for wear. No matter how good a PU bag is you can almost always tell that it isn't genuine leather by the cracking and splitting that occurs on the handles.

And there you have it! Come see me Friday for my seven favorite bags on a budget!


  1. I got "my precious" for Christmas. My Coach Legacy Duffle in cognac matches everything. I've also hunted down a matching leather cream so I can keep it in good repair for a decade or so until it wears out. As far as tees go, I'm loving my Kirkland from Costco v necks. When you discuss bags again, could you address length etc? I can't wear a crossbody bag with these hips.

    1. It sounds lovely! It's only been in the last year that I realized the versatility of cognac - definitely a winner.

      I've never tried Kirklands before; I'll have to look into it. I wear tees everyday!

      Bag length... Good topic! Thanks for the suggestion, Jessica!

  2. Great post and very helpful! I would like to buy a bag similiar to yours, since I am a mom that wears a lot of neutrals/black. Any bags that you would buy IF you were in the market? Thanks. :)

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