As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have a problem. I do. I am ridiculous about handbags. Any woman knows that it truly is the accessory that can Make All The Difference. You can get away with schlumping to the grocery store in old jeans and a t-shirt if you have a fantastic bag on your arm as your escort. Yet, like the jeans we wear, the lipstick we use and the condition of our fingernails, our handbags can really play a huge role in making us look like either, “nice bag, Lady!” or “Nice. Bag lady.” ( I also love punctuation, but that’s another day.)
Here is a quick quiz to see if you need to get yourself a new arm companion. (I’m talking about handbags, you’re on your own with your choice of men.)
- The handbag you carry every day is A) less than six months old B) less than five years old C) inherited from your mother D) from high school
- Your handbag would be classified as A) a casual tote B) a satchel C) a rectangle with little feet and a flap D) a stiff, mid sized double shoulder bag
- The color of your handbag would be described as A) cobalt blue, color blocked with hot pink B) greige (a dusty taupe color) navy or forest green C) cognac or black D) bright white, brown or baby poop tan.
- The interior of your bag has A) pockets for both your smart phone and your tablet B) an inside zipper and an additional slot. C) unfinished bare leather or a silk lining D) a white or black lining that feels stiff and crunchy.
- The handles of your bag are A) nonexistent, it’s a clutch B) short drop less than eight inches (maybe with a strap for cross body) C) double handles that retain their shapes D) double handles with piping along the center. One of them has a clip on hand sanitizer attached.
- The exterior of your bag features A) animal print patterns and texture B) pebbled leather and a tassel C) A turn clasp or a lock D) a lot of zippered pockets and open slots.
- You left your handbag in the conference room after a meeting. A co-worker A) brings it straight to you and asks where you bought it B) holds it up at the water cooler where the cool girls are talking C) skulks out with it to sell it for rent money D) leaves it where it is, she doesn’t want to be seen carrying it.
- You bought your bag A) at the mall, duh B) at a department store or on-line C) Across the pond after you made an appointment D) they’ve been closed for years.
- The major selling point of your handbag was A) it came with free cologne and a coupon for next time B) it got five stars on the website and it was a great style for work to weekend. C) The prestige D) The lady in the commercial looked happy when she could find her umbrella from the side pocket.
- If you had been shopping with your best friend when you spotted it, she would A) buy the exact same one, maybe in a different color B) wish she had spotted it first C) order one in a bigger size for herself D) just smile because best friends love you despite your flaws.
If you have answered mostly A’s, you do NOT have an old lady bag. Price range here is not the point. The color, the trendy shape and the sleek designs give off a young urban vibe. You are slightly ahead of what’s hot (and what’s not) and you don’t think in terms of “is this practical” but rather, “is it pretty.” The only thing to be careful of here is to make sure that people don’t think you took your daughter’s bag. Some colors can look TOO young, especially if your clothes are in an entirely different spectrum of color. Cobalt blue is the hot color this season. You can find it everywhere from purses to sweaters to kitchen utensils. These kinds of colors are more of a flash in the pan, so think about your cost per use before you invest too heavily in something that will be forever relegated to the bowels of your closet once the trend passes.
If you answered mostly B’s you have really nailed the balance of classic and trendy. Quality bags will always be in style because they are well made and they have little touches that make them look current. Buckles, tassels, bits of hardware keep the bag looking fashionable while the material is deep and rich looking. Price points here can go from reasonable to ridiculous, but this bag, because of its neutral, yet un-brown color, will give substance and style to everything from your dressiest coat to a jean jacket.
If you answered mostly C’s you probably will pass this bag on to your own daughter, as well as your 10 mm pearls. This bag is classic and expensive. Carrying one looks like you have enough money to buy a true designer bag, but remember that most YOUNGER people won’t have that kind of cash….(unless they are the people chased by paparazzi because they are famous, or famous for being famous, or they ran off with someone’s rich old husband.) Off set the “classiness” of these true designer pieces by wearing them with jean jackets and artisan silver, or faded jeans and a gauzy scarf. The seemingly unbalanced look of super classic with super casual some how works every time. If you don’t believe me, creep on some of those pictures of French women.
In case you didn’t figure it out before, if you answered D to most of these questions, then you really need to get yourself something new. A safe bet to look chic without trying too hard is to choose a color like navy blue, forest green or deep, rich red. These jewel tones blend as pseudo-neutrals with other pieces and they offer a pop of style and color without being an in-your-face-glittery-pink. Pebbled and textured leathers have a more youthful, muted look than a stiff and shiny one. (However, please note here that it doesn’t include patent leather. Patent leather looks young.)
Before you rush out and buy something, take some time to look on the internet at different websites. Look at magazines and pay attention to details on television and movies. What kind of bag do you admire on someone else? Go to a store and pick up a color you’ve never touched before. Mentally think about the clothing that you own and judge how it would look paired with your wardrobe.
Take all the paper out of the bags in the store. It’s kind of obnoxious, but if you put it back, it’s forgiven. Carry it without the tissue paper plumping it up. Is it heavy? Too dark to see anything inside? Does it catch on your arm? Read reviews that other people have written about particular brands and styles.
Don’t be driven by the brand. Look at the features that you like and rate it objectively. Bring someone you trust for a second opinion. Buying a new bag should be a fun adventure, so don’t let it get you crazy. When in doubt, wait it out. Don’t buy something just for the sake of buying something. When you find The Bag, you’ll know.