The Incredibly Frustrating Search/Guide for The Perfect Handbag: Part I

Thursday, May 31, 2012

While some girls may have their dream purse all picked out and ready to go (it's only the matter of paying for it that's a problem, right?), I've never quite settled on one. Sure, as a bag girl there have been tons of beautiful handbags and purses that I've admired, but there's never been a definitive answer to the age-old question, "If you could only carry one handbag every day, what would it be?".

Since my summer classes have yet to start, I'm still enjoying a lot of relaxation time (read: sleeping till noon) and have decided to tackle this incredibly pressing problem once and for all. It's highly unlikely that I'll be actually buying any of these bags in the near future (budget issues!) but maybe as a gift when I graduate in two years? In any case, I'd like to know what to spend all that money on, should it ever fall into my hands. =)

Whether you're also looking for your perfect bag, or am curious about my process, let the search begin! (Warning: prepare for some handbag snobbery).

1. Try process of elimination. Since I don't know what I want, let's start with eliminating what I know I don't. Because this is meant to be an everyday, "go with any and every outfit" type accessory, all prints and heavily patterned logos are out. Yes, I am one of those people who believes that no one should be able to swiftly glance at your purse and immediately know what brand it's from. Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Fendi, Michael Kors and the like are all out. 

2. The age issue. As we know from this post, I'm a big believer in carrying a handbag that accurately reflects your age--go too old or too young and you simply don't look right. Chanel, Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, and anywhere your (1%) mother or grandmother shops are all out. 

3. The unique, or different factor. I could write on this topic endlessly, but I'll try and be brief: I, like everyone else, like to have material things that not everyone does. It makes me feel more special and while that definitely makes me shallow, I don't particularly care. The problem, of course, is that having truly unique possessions is incredibly difficult unless you're very wealthy. (This is the attraction of customized items--you've got something exclusive that no one else does, largely because no one else could afford to do the same). Example: looking for a lightweight, easy-to-carry-on-a-daily-basis bag at a reasonable price point? Get a Longchamp! It satisfies all those qualifications, and as you will very quickly notice, millions of women have realized this as well. I love my Longchamp as much as the next girl, but seeing at least 3 other women in the subway car carrying an identical one makes me like it less. Sad, but true.

You know what this looks like.

The solution is to choose from a designer/company that not everyone would think of. The brands I've already crossed off for being either too loud or too old makes this a lot easier, of course, but there's still some editing work to be done. I am in my early twenties, which means that just as surely as I buy my furniture from IKEA, Marc Jacobs is my go-to handbag brand. So shocking though it may be, that brand has also been cut from the list of potential purse options. If I really loved a bag from this company, or any other that I've already crossed off, I might consider it. But I don't. I actually find a lot of the Marc Jacobs bags to be too casual-looking for what I have in mind.

4. Avoid trendy-classic bags. Does that sound like an oxymoron or what? We all know that there are certain truly timeless handbags that are not associated with a particular season or year--like the Birkin, or Chanel 2.55 quilted--and then there are some that are. This season it's the Celine Mini Luggage Tote that I see positively everywhere (seriously, just Google Image it). Don't get me wrong, that bag screams "classic" as well, and it'll certainly never look unstylish in any season or year. But it won't look exactly right, either. Every time I see that bag in the future, I'll think it's "last season". 
And if you think I'm being ridiculous (maybe I am, but damnit I'm a bag girl at heart!), just think of the Chloe Paddington. Remember how many "so classic" and "you could wear it forever"s surrounded it? If I saw someone carrying that now, I would assume they still use The Weakest Link catch-phrases and have a flip-phone with Orlando Bloom as their wallpaper. 

Blast from the past!

5. Wearability for your life. Remember, the whole goal here is to find the bag that you can and would carry every single day, so it has to suit your lifestyle. More work-oriented gals would probably enjoy something larger with more shape to keep things looking professional, while a student might prefer something smaller with less structure. Even the girliest of girly-girls would admit that functionality trumps aesthetic design, so above all else make sure your style of bag works for you. 

So if you're in the market for your perfect bag, figure out what kind of style you want (messenger, tote, crook-of-the-arm) and general size and meet me back here for Part 2! I promise to actually discuss my potential handbags in that one! 

I know this whole post was bitchily heavily opinionated so if you agree/disagree, I'm open to feedback!

And if you already have or know what your perfect bag is, please leave me a comment!

I could always use more pretty purses to drool over!


  1. I stressed over my "expensive" (a.k.a. over $500) bag purchase for about a year, and after fighting long and hard, I gave in to the Louis Vuitton urge. I, too, do not care for overly monogramed bags, but I decided on the LV Wilshire GM simply because it met my needs, and the coated canvas withstands wear better than leather.

    Now, I have a neon pink Marc by Marc Jacobs bag for summer weekends. However, I am thinking of a Prada for my next bag....just not sure which one. I'm a 31 year old professional, so I think I'm in the right age range, but I agree with you on the age issue with bags. A teen with a Chanel just looks weird.

    Here are a few bags or designers I'm liking right now:
    Balenciaga Arena Classic Velo
    Marni Small Belt Strap Hobo
    Derek Lam Kyra Hobo (on sale at Barneys right now)
    Proenza Schouler
    Z Spoke by Zac Posen
    Coach Classic Leather Stewardess Bag
    Kate Spade

    1. Right, it's not that LV or Gucci or whatever bags are bad or anything. They're still good quality and will last for years, and again if it it works for your needs, is strong and durable, that's mostly all that counts!

      The neon pink Marc Jacobs sounds great, especially for summer! I love bold colored bags, especially when they're a bit more expensive and most people would opt for a neutral.

      I LOVE your list of bags/designers and believe me, some of them will make an appearance in part 2!

      The Coach one in particular really stuck out to me, (and how gorg is the stewardess bag?!) because it really highlights the difference between original Coach and today's Coach. The difference between streamlined leather bags and all this strange, splashy "c" business is huge. Plus, the original Coach bags are very reasonably priced!

      So glad they brought them back!

      What Prada were you thinking of?

    2. I know! I love the classic Coach bags, but I'm not a fan of the "c" pattern bags (bought a couple years ago because they were popular but gave them to family members because I never used them). I have a feeling that I may have to buy the Stewardess Bag as soon as I get my next Coach coupon.

      As for the Prada....I am very indecisive at the moment, but these are the options I'm pondering:
      Vitello Daino Hobo Bag (both versions)
      Vitello Daino East/West Satchel
      Vitello Daino Top Handle Bag
      Calf Leather Hobo Bag
      Deerskin Tote (two different styles)

      Decisions, decisions...