Designer Handbags: A Midwestern Study

12 Sep

I cannot decide how to feel about designer handbags.  I mean, I know I like them.  Nine times out of ten, when I see a bag in a magazine and love it, it ends up being of the $500+ variety.  (This also seems to happen to me with shoes, but that’s another story.)  However, I have a hard time justifying spending hundreds of dollars on something I could, in theory, get from Target.  I know there are legitimate differences in materials, quality, and design.  But in the end, aren’t they all just containers in which which we cart around daily necessities?

No, they aren’t.  They are also accessories.  In the past 4 years I have lived and worked in Kansas City, Chicago, and Denver.  I have observed definite differences in the prevalance of designer bags from Midwestern city to city, which further confuses my own preferences.  What I’ve seen is totally predictable: in KC, you don’t see them as much.  Girls still like to look cute, but seem to have more fun with a variety of cheaper bags than really investing in anything. I would say Coach and Dooney and Bourke are about as designer as it gets on the whole.  People like to keep it real there.  In Chicago, I took the Brown line on a regular basis, and besides Longchamp totes, which EVERYONE had, I did see more of a variety of designers: Coach, Kate Spade, a LOT of Louis Vuitton, and Prada.  I would not feel at my sartorial best carrying a pleather Target bag in that population.  It seemed. . .important to carry a designer bag there.  In Denver, anything goes really. You can carry a cloth satchel and people just assume you are hipster/granola.  You can carry a designer bag most anywhere, and no one really bats an eye.  (Just another reason to love this place!)

So, where has all this observation led me?  A little more about me:  I am admittedly frugal.  I grew up Midwestern middle class.  I took out loans and had jobs in college.  I am not averse to making an investment in something but that something had better be worth it.  In most cases, trends are not worth it to me, unless they are cheap.  If I can’t wear something the next year at the same time, not worth it.  I used to find cute bags in the $50-100 range, like Nine West, at Macy’s when we lived in KC.  I had The Sak when it was big.  However, I once purchased the seminal Kate Spade black boxy tote everyone had circa 1998 (remember those?) and after three days I returned it.  I just could not justify spending $300 on something made of nylon.

I guess that’s where it comes down for me now.  I invest in one good handbag about once a year, and it is of the quality and style that will last me a year.  However, I still have my limits.  I pretty much wait for a Kate Spade sample or surprise sale and, since I like about everything Kate Spade puts out, I always find something perfect, for $150-$200.  Obviously since I bought on final sale, my exact bag is no longer on the site, but it is this one in solid taupe.

Last year it was this one in a semi-shiny copper leather.  They have both been solid investments for me.

I will also say that my nature is to shy away from bags that scream their designer name, particularly in cloth print.  But that’s just me.

What about you?  Are designer bags the only option, a waste of money or good investment?

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7 Responses to “Designer Handbags: A Midwestern Study”

  1. Becky September 12, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    I really like that bag in the photo!
    I hated those nylon Kate Spade bags too. If I’m going to spend $300, it is not going to be small and made of nylon. Bleck.
    I shy away from logos too.
    My current work bag is a Cole Haan that I bought on sale at Rue La La. I love it.

  2. ebj123 September 12, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    To me, I always say that really expensive purses save me money, because I don’t allow myself to buy a bunch of crappy ones at Target. I can buy one $200-$300 a year but I’m absolutely not allowed to also buy a bunch of $30 ones. Admittedly I am an expensive purse fiend, but I always get them on sale and probably not the current super hot version available. I just bought myself a black Marc Jacobs and I have to keep myself from petting it at every available opportunity. My husband thinks I’m insane. Obvs.

  3. andrea September 12, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

    The Coach bags I have all came from the outlet mall, where I got them on super sale. My purses get put on the floor, shoved under plane seats and combined with other daily wear and tear, I can’t bring myself to spend a lot on a purse. Although that doesn’t stop me from lusting after some on occasion.

  4. Erica September 12, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    I can’t pay too much for a bag either even though most people around me do. I was using really cheap bags for a while … Like from Ross … But now I have a nice cole haan cross body that was $70 or so on super sale at off saks. I feel a lot more sassy with it in a nice restaurant or something. Bags have just never been a thing for me.

  5. heycharliesue September 12, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    Argh, always SUCH a hard question for me! I LOVE the look of designer handbags, but I’m ridiculously frugal. So if I DO splurge, I end up not wanting to ruin the purse and eventually never use it (my worst offender was over $500 and I’ve worn it ONCE. Last week I took about 5 Coach bags to consignment. At least three of them were never used.)

    I’ve been drooling over this Kate Spade: http://www.katespade.com/cobble-hill-little-minka/ because it’s VERY similar to the Sak bag (FORTY DOLLARS) that I’ve been using every day for over a year. I think, for me, the answer becomes: Can I buy LEATHER for much cheaper in a similar style? Then I should just buy cheaper.

  6. vandeblogger September 13, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

    I’ve recently become more willing to spend $$ on purses because I’ve decided I’m never going to be a shoe girl so I quit spending money there. I totally get the Denver comment though- I’m from Colorado and you hit it right on! My current favorite is a Dooney & Bourke bag that I LOVE because it’s green and I’m addicted to green accessories.

  7. elleinadspir September 14, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    I love a good bag. I haven’t bought one in a few years, but the last splurge one I bought I am still carrying….but I have my limits. I can’t see going over $300 for one. I agree with the comment that one good bag helps keep me from buying lots of cheap ones.

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