As grown-ass, working women with busy lives, our purses are our lifelines. With everything from emergency tampons to our hard-earned money to an extra pair of underwear (just in case!), they're our steadfast sidekicks the minute we leave the house. Because of this, investing in a purse that fits your needs is one of the most worthy purchases you'll ever make. But if you're going to pick just one, how do you know if it's worth it?
To find out, I consulted an expert (or should I say the expert), Tina Craig, aka "The Bag Snob." Her blog, which has been around since lonnnng before the days of fashion blogging as we know it now, is all about her love affair with designer bags. So naturally, she knows a thing or two about what makes a bag worth investing in.
"Your bag is your calling card!" Craig tells me in an e-mail interview. "It makes a statement to the world of your style and taste without you speaking a single word." It's also one of the few things that can increase in value over time (hello, vintage Chanel 2.55) and something that you can have forever as long as you give it the care it deserves. Beyond that, it just kind of makes you feel like a grownup, which is always a plus in my book.
As you start saving up for a big-girl bag, here are Craig's tips on what to look for, and a few worth investing in.
1. Buy The Best Bag You Can Afford
Christian Dior Black Leather Lady Large, $2500, WhatGoesAroundComesAroundNYC.com
When it comes to bag shopping, you should treat yourself — within reason. "Buy the best bag you can afford — whatever your budget is," says Craig. "Choose one well made handbag rather than several cheap bags because the quality is in the price!"
2. Determine If The Bag Is Well Made
Chanel Vintage Caviar Maxi, $4950, WhatGoesAroundComesAroundNYC.com
Before you drop any serious cash on a bag, it's important to make sure it's actually worth what you're spending on it. "I like to start with the stitching," says Craig. "Is it crooked? Is it fraying? That's the most obvious sign." She also suggests checking the inside to make sure the interior stiching is just as good as the exterior. "Then I look at the hardware, does it feel flimsy? Will it fall apart within a few uses? Lastly, I pay close attention to the skin or material quality."
3. Keep It Neutral
Saint Laurent Small Sac de Jour, $2950, Barneys.co
A colorful, trendy bag may be fun in the moment, but the reality is it will either go out of style or you'll get sick of it before you've worn it enough times to make it worth the investment. "Go neutral," says Craig. "You can not go wrong with a beautiful camel or gray bag year round. And stick with simple lines. The tassels and dangling beads may tempt you now, but you'll tire of it quickly."
4. Choose Something Multipurpose
Eddie Borgo Pepper Saddle Matte-Leather Shoulder Bag, $1450, Netaporter.com
The best bags are the ones that can give you the most bang for your buck, especially when you happen to be spending some pretty big bucks on it. "Find one with convertible straps," says Craig. "Best case scenario is a bag with both a top handle for lunches or evening events, and an optional shoulder or body strap."
5. Make Sure It's Easy To Use
Proenza Schouler PS1 Medium Shoulder Bag, $1780, Barneys.com
"Stick with easy to open bags," says Craig. "If you're using this daily the last thing you what to do is deal with tricky closures when the phone rings or standing at the grocery check out line!" Test the bag out before you buy it (which means buying IRL is usually preferable to buying online) to make sure you won't be fumbling with it every time you need to answer your phone or refresh your lipstick.
6. Choose Size Wisely
Moreau Brégancon Open Tote, $2300, Barneys.com
Approach your bag purchase using the Goldilocks method — look for something that's not too big or too small, but just right. "Big is not better," says Craig. "If you can take a nap in it, you'll most likely be tempted to carry everything (and your baby in it). Get a medium size that can hold all your essentials, but not the kitchen sink." And too small means that you may have to sacrifice some of those essentials, which just isn't going to cut it.
6. Do A Carry Test
There is nothing more annoying than when a bag constantly slips off your shoulders, which makes the carry test essential before a purchase. "I like to bring my heaviest winter coat when shopping for a perennial bag to make sure it stays on my shoulders or arms," says Craig. "I also do this with tank tops to ensure the bag doesn't leave marks on bare skin."
8. Go Vintage
Chanel Large Kelly, $3300, WhatGoesAroundComesAround.com
If buying a brand new designer bag isn't quite in your budget just yet, consider going second hand — It's basically the same thing, especially with classic bags! "My collection is filled with rare finds what What Goes Around Comes Around," says Craig. "One investment piece that I love and carry no matter the season, is my mini orange Hermès Kelly bag. Mini Kellys are not produced very often, so I was thrilled when I found this one at What Goes Around Comes Around's SoHo store! Orange is the signature color of Hermès and this bag is hard to find in excellent condition. What Goes Around Comes Around made the search effortless for me." If The Bag Snob can carry second hand, the rest of us definitely can too.
9. Take Care Of It
Prada Galleria Soft Medium Leather Tote, $2095, Netaporter.com
Once you're the proud owner of a big girl bag, make sure you take care of it. Even if you're using it every day, it's important to give it a little extra TLC to make sure it stays in good shape for the long haul. "It doesn't take much to care for the bag: never overstuff the purse or leave it in direct sunlight for long periods of time and always keep it in a dust bag when it is not in use," says Craig. This will help maintain any designer bag's worth, and keep you feeling proud of it for years to come.