My latest purse lusts: the Coach 'Sabrina' in black leather with silver hardware and a Chanel wallet clutch on a thin chain strap.
Do you find yourself falling out of love with a bag after 2-3 months and not using it anymore? Do you buy a purse and discover that you can count the number of times you've used it on both hands? Or maybe you find that you only use about 1/3 of your purse collection regularly?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you're not alone. I went purse-shopping with someone recently and was surprised to discover that not everyone thinks through their purse-purchasing decisions as thoroughly as I do. Although I'm a lot more thoughtful about the purses I buy nowadays, I, too, used to wind up with a lot of handbags I would rarely use. I hope these tips (based on my own experiences and how I shop for purses) will help you find a stylish, versatile number you'll use many times and love even 5-10 years down the road. Enjoy!
1. Peruse as many sources as possible for inspiration. Browse websites, flip through magazines, read blogs. People-watch in neighbourhoods known for stylish pedestrians. I find that looking at as many handbags as possible gives me an idea of what I do and don't like, and how a handbag will look in action. For example, the oversized Louis Vuitton Speedy looked great when it was displayed on a shelf, fully stuffed and backlit. But when I saw it hanging off the forearm of many a stylish girl on the street, I didn't like how it sagged in the middle when the purse was half-empty.
2. Assess your needs. Do you need a bag for the day or evening? What are the top items you carry all the time and require compartments for (e.g. cell phone, lip gloss, etc.)? What are your pet peeves with the bags you currently own (e.g. all the contents fall to the bottom and you can't find anything without digging, there are too few/many compartments)? Is there a size of handbag you would consider ideal, or a size that you would deem cumbersome? How do you usually like to carry your bag--on the shoulder, cross-body, in your hand, dangling from the crook of your elbow? A bag that doesn't meet your needs, or irritates you when you use it, is a bag you'll fall out of love with quickly.
I like my evening bags to be as tiny as possible so that they don't feel cumbersome while I'm clubbing and dancing up a storm. Coach wristlets are perfect for stashing my essentials, and the wrist strap makes it easy to dangle the bag from the crook of my elbow while I'm sipping my gin and tonic.
3. Research. If you're planning to splurge and spend a lot on a designer handbag, really do your research. Go into the store and ask the sales assistant questions as you examine the bag up-close. Talk to people who own the handbag you're eyeing. I find The Purse Blog and The Purse Forum to be valuable sources of information. Owners of the handbags you're coveting might comment on the pros and cons of the bags in the forums, or offer you advice on how to authenticate the designer bag you found on eBay. It was in The Purse Forum, for instance, that I learned about the difference between lambskin and caviar leather in Chanel purses (caviar leather is a lot tougher and therefore more suitable for clumsy me).
4. Envision yourself using the purse. Open and close zippers and closures. See how easily they do up if you have to manage with one hand. Carry the bag the way you would usually if you were walking down the street and see if it feels comfortable. Stuff what you would normally carry into the store's display model and see if the bag is spacious enough.
I emptied the contents of my MEC travel bag in Selfridges and stuffed them into this Chanel purse to make sure it had enough space for me to use as a day bag.
5. Take the time to think it over. Whether it's a lap around a mall or sleeping on your decision for a day, a week, or a month, not rushing into buying is always a wise decision. If after some time passes you still can't get the handbag out of your head, chances are it's a good one.
I took about a week to think over whether this Coach bag was right for me.
Are you an impulsive purse shopper or do you think through your purchase as obsessively as I do? What do you look for in a purse?