Let's Discuss! Women + Age-Appropriate Handbags

Friday, January 20, 2012

I'm a little nervous about putting up this post, since it's of a different kind that I normally do, and is so heavily opinionated that I might come across as slightly b*tchy. But it's here anyway because as the title suggests, I want to hear from you!

This whole topic was sparked by one of my best friends. She is 19 years old and is planning on purchasing the famous, timeless quilted Chanel bag. Let's drool, shall we?
It's gorgeous, it's the epitome of the "classic bag", it'll last her forever and...

She would look ridiculous wearing it.

My friend doesn't wear makeup, and only looks about 16. On her, a bag that expensive and coveted would be assumed to be some knockoff she picked up in Chinatown, or something she borrowed from her mother. In any case, it's a black leather bag with a heavy gold chain and anyone carrying it ought to at least be in her thirties. This is simply not designed for a very young woman to wear.

Which made me remember this picture.

Ashley Tisdale, best known for her role in Disney's High School Musical, age 26, with her blue Birkin.

Yes, the bag that has notorious waitlists to get it, a glamorous and romantic history like no other, and is the only purse to be a status symbol and the subject of several books. 

That Birkin.

Even in the funky blue color she owns it in, the handbag looks absurd hanging off her arm. She's just too young for it.

For comparison, here are some other Hollywood women who also carry the coveted bag:

Eva Longoria owns it in several colors, but even with this somber black one, she looks perfectly fine with it at 36.

Though I hate to include her, here's Kim Kardashian with the Birkin, also in black. Maybe it's another part of her in-your-face persona, but I think she looks a touch off with it. It's not something you immediately notice, as with Ashley, but even she looks a little young for it at 31.

But when you see this iconic purse on an older woman, it looks so much more fitting and suitable. Here's Martha Stewart (in her sixties) pictured with a gorgeous chocolate brown Birkin. It's so becoming on her, and it's also understated in a way that doesn't come across with the younger ladies. This is the very difference between being able to pull off a fabulous handbag, and a fabulous handbag looking right for you.

What gives, then? Is it a question of age or the age you dress? Are certain "classic pieces" only meant for a certain age bracket? I would say that you ought to be in your forties, at least, for the Birkin to look appropriate on you, but Eva doesn't look wrong with it and there's nothing off-putting about Kim's photo (apart from who she is).

And exactly what is it that makes the Birkin only look right for a certain age? Is it just the style of the bag itself, or is it also the amount of money, and to a certain extent, prominence you need to own one?

I completely understand dressing and accessorizing older to come across as more mature (I'm sure I'm guilty of it all the time!) but when do we know when it's visibly strange like with the picture of Ashley? At what point can we get away with dressing more mature until it has the opposite effect--when, instead of coming across as more elegant and ladylike, we look like girls playing dress-up?

Tell me what you think!


  1. Great post! I've recently ditched some very colourful bags that I felt were too young for me, as I near the ripe old age of 30. What's an age-appropriate bag now, if I'm still too young for a Birkin or Chanel (copies of course)?

  2. Thanks, Joy!

    I'm not sure I can think of any particular bag, but if we're talking brands and the sort of style they emulate, I would say Kate Spade, Tory Burch, or Michael Kors to name a few.

    Again, I hate to turn this into a brand thing, but those three tend to put out handbags that are a perfect mix of those "timeless" designs with a more modern twist. In any case, they're a good reference point for finding a style you like and then finding that design of purse at the price point for you!

  3. Great post! I agree with you btw. I can't really answer your questions though...when it comes to picking bags and accessories for myself, I just know. Granted though, I don't have any designer bags whatsoever! (in my early 20s)

  4. I agree with you. The Birkin has never been my thing but the Chanel is. I have a classic looking Prada and plan on buying my first Louis this year (I sound like I know them, Louis and I hangin out) but I think the big Chanel would look stupid on me now. I'm 22 I saw a medium sized one in forest green the other day and though okay this is doable but that huge bag and my small frame don't go yet. My style is quite classic, I always dressed simple in an...Audrey Hepburn kind of way but I don't think it's the age. I think it's the persons personal style. If you're rockin sweats and a bun all day in bubble gum pink maybe your handbag will look out of place. As you mature so should your handbags.


  5. Brighton Fashionista Runway Zip Crossbody Shoulder Bag Black Gray Leather. Is this age appropriate for a 51 year old

  6. I get a feeling this article is saying if you don't have a name brand bag about the time your 32+that you are acceptable? I'm 28 and I don't feel purchasing name brands are appropriate if your older it shows maturity that you don't need a name to validate who you are!

  7. People should wear the accessories they enjoy