Tag Archives: handbags

Bragging Rights

The other day I was called out in an online forum for daring to suggest that many women’s obsession with Hermès Kelly and Birkin bags is related to their exclusivity and expense. The writer was affronted and claimed that she only loved her Kelly because it “fit [her] style.”

Hmmm; color me skeptical. You can’t tell me that any number of ladylike bags wouldn’t be equally suitable for her life and wardrobe.

There’s nothing wrong with conspicuous consumption or searching out something exclusive, assuming you don’t have to sell a kidney to afford it. But for heaven’s sake, own it — and don’t kid yourself that you’d love “x” just as much if it were widely accessible.

Our collections can include tangible items, knowledge or experiences. Maybe your passion is finding an undiscovered indie band or movie and being the first to tell your friends about it. Or happening upon a gem of a restaurant or a less-traveled exotic destination.

You might seek out limited edition small-batch bourbon, top-of-the-line chef’s knives, up-and-coming artists, or words of wisdom from an obscure philosopher whose works haven’t received mainstream attention. Your ultimate acquisition may even be a handbag with a long history to match its price tag, which makes you feel chic even when you’re in jeans and an old sweater.

Familiarity breeds selectivity as we become better informed and more discerning. We identify ourselves – if only to our secret selves – with descriptors like “foodie”, “fitness guru”, “car maven”, “tastemaker”, “aficionado”, “intellectual”, etc.  — a shorthand for pride in our hard-earned expertise that also resonates with people who share our interests.  Isn’t it human nature to want to blend in and stand out?

I have many indulgences and intend to enjoy what I enjoy — fully, and without apology. It’s all part of the glorious fun of being alive. Still, I try to acknowledge the subtext in any purchase and be honest with the person in the mirror.

That’s what really fits my style.

Old Bags

No, not us of course!! But now that I have your attention, let’s talk about older handbags and how to maintain a long-term relationship with them.

As someone who works from home I don’t crave an extravagant wardrobe, but nice bags have always been my kryptonite. Since I fall in love constantly, I try to hold out for high quality with staying power and resist trendy one-season wonders; plus, I make it a rule to purge at least as much as I splurge.

Why do I love them? Let me count the ways:
1) Bags don’t care what size you are; they always fit
2) They’re a discreet way to schlep your life around with you
3) Good leather feels and smells yummy
4) I’m a sucker for pretty things
5) Some bags even increase in value. More on that later.

Let’s be honest: Everything we put on is a signifier and, like it or not, folks judge us by our appearance. Even demonstrating that you “don’t care” by not wearing makeup or choosing clothes that don’t fit represents a deliberate choice. People who aren’t vain about how they look are still vain about something, e.g., their intellect, achievements, or the belief that it’s better not to seem “superficial”.

In my opinion there’s nothing wrong with vanity unless it’s excessive; it’s a sign of self-respect. So, assuming you’re not taking out three mortgages to fund it, why not treat yourself to whatever gives you pleasure?

Choose wisely. Like great jeans, a black jacket and an LBD, begin with the basics: a cross-body to keep your hands free while doing errands or shopping, a roomy top handle style for business or travel, and a clutch for evening.

Don’t go too young or too old. Backpacks give off a middle school vibe unless you’re under 40 or actually hiking. Conversely, top handles skew matronly so to my eye they look more modern when worn as a counterpoint to casual clothing. However, if you work in an office, a structured bag is always professional. Think “Olivia Pope” with her classic outfits and Prada totes.

If you wear mostly neutrals, consider a bag that adds a jolt of color. You’ll get as much use out of a red bag (which goes with anything) as you will with a safe color like black, and it’s much more interesting.

Keep the relationship fresh. Nothing ruins a look faster than shoes with run-down heels or a bag that’s scuffed, faded, ripped or has lost its shape. If yours needs first aid, your local shoe repair store can usually fix zippers and broken stitches or re-dye a stained bag. For designer bags, ask the store where you purchased it if the manufacturer will repair it.

My favorite rescue strategy is to mail the bag to Leather Spa in New York. They’re not cheap but I’ve seen them work miracles and they’ll give you an estimate before they start.

Have a taste for the exotic? All leathers benefit from regular conditioning and storage (stuffed with tissue to maintain their shape) in their dust bags. If you’re lucky enough to own an ostrich, python or crocodile bag make sure it gets extra TLC.
– For natural or untreated skins, apply a light coat of waterproof spray to protect against dirt and water. Collonil makes a good one; be sure to test a small section first and spray lightly. Soaking the bag can ruin it.
– To avoid dryness, periodically wipe your bag with a slightly damp cloth and apply a conditioner made specifically for exotics. Python is more fragile than other skins.
– Avoid long-term exposure to direct heat or sunlight, as this may cause uneven fading. Exotics also scratch easily.

When to break up. Sometimes you have to move on. Ask yourself if:
– Your bag no longer makes you happy
– It’s in bad condition (cracked, faded, rubbed corners) and can’t be salvaged
– It’s just not your style
– You’ve upgraded to better quality or designers
– You have too much stuff

Time to say goodbye? Consider these options:
1) Give your treasures to a daughter, favorite relative or friend
2) Donate to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Vietnam Veterans of America, etc.
3) Consign the really good stuff. I’ve had great luck with Ann’s Fabulous Finds and The RealReal and hear positive things about Yoogi’s Closet. All are reputable places to buy as well, if you are interested in a “pre-owned” bag. On the resale market, classic styles from brands such as Hermès and Chanel hold their value and can even sell for more than their original price.

Is it worth it? Finally, for anyone who thinks a high-end purse is a crazy purchase, a recent study says the Hermès Birkin (the collectors’ holy grail at $13K+) has been a better long-term investment than either gold or the stock market!

Luckily for my bottom line—and my ever-tolerant husband—that particular style doesn’t float my boat. I might flirt, but deep down I know it’s only lust. The Bolide, on the other hand, might be true love.