The Intern with the $9,000 Handbag

hermes to workWe got an interesting e-mail from reader N:

I am an intern at the equivalent of a BigLaw firm in Singapore. I have a Birkin bag (a small one, 30cm) and am wondering if it is appropriate for me to take it to the office. I’ve heard two conflicting opinions: (1) you should dress what you would like to be, ie, if you want to be a partner one day, dress as such; and (2) dress appropriate to your level in the firm.

We have MANY different opinions on this issue, actually, so we’re going to try to put them in cohesive format.

First: No matter what reader N decides to do, we beg of you — please do not walk around the hall with your handbag unless you are entering or exiting the building.  We have seen women do this carrying multi-thousand dollar bags, and we have seen women do this carrying $50 bags, and it is never a good look. If security is a concern in your office, lock it in your office drawer while you move about the halls.

In general, we don’t have a problem with dressing for the job you want to have — or even with carrying an expensive purse.  But here, where the Birkin bag is known for being an exclusive, highly sought after bag (complete with an only recently debunked “waiting list” myth) that costs more than some cars — and where it has been popularized more by socialites than businesswomen — we’re just a bit hesitant. The fact that you have one of the smaller ones, which will not fit work papers inside it, doesn’t help matters. (We’ve heard the $9,000 figure quoted, but in all honesty we don’t personally know how much they cost, and the Hermes website does not report the fact.)

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Now, some people will not even recognize a real Birkin bag, in which case it won’t be an issue. For those around you who do know what a Birkin bag is, though, our main hesitation towards carrying a Birkin bag at a young age is that it conveys something about you that isn’t necessarily a good thing: you’re rich. Or perhaps your parents are rich, or your fiance. Still: you’re not working for the money. (Certain engagement rings can convey something similar.*) So what does that mean? It can be a good thing for some employers, who may reason that your love of the work is what keeps you coming in to work every day. It may also be a positive for employers who see you — and your wealthy connections — as a powerful tool towards getting new business.  On the other hand, other employers may worry that you’re biding your time — until the trust fund kicks in, until you get pregnant, or, you know, until your sex tape leaks and you get your own reality show.  You may find you have to work even harder to get the respect that you deserve. You might also find that your personality, your wardrobe, your attitude, and everything else about you will be under extra scrutiny as people try to reconcile their first impression of you (rich girl, maybe a materialistic girl) with whatever else your work product says about you.

Even with all that said, though, we are drooling over the pictures of the “blue jean” leather Birkin 30 displayed on the excellent site, PurseBlog (pictured above) — it is a gorgeous purse.  You might just wait to carry it until you’ve earned enough paychecks there to afford it on your salary.

Readers, what are your thoughts?  What would you think about an intern who carried a Birkin?

*For some reason, while both a fancy handbag and a large engagement ring can send vibes of “I’m rich, materialistic, and show-offy,” we’ve never really gotten those vibes from a good watch — particularly one lacking bling.

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Comments

  1. I have a similar issue. I work in a medium sized law firm (40 attorneys) where all of our parking spaces are grouped together. I am a senior associate. I used to drive a junky car but recently upgraded to an entry-level luxury car after driving my junky car into the ground for 10 years (went from Chevy to a BMW).

    I am very self conscious because I am sure the partners see my new ride and may be thinking that they pay me too much or I have an alternate source of income someplace else and, as such, I’m not as dedicated to the firm. I am sure a million thoughts go through their head. At the same time, I am single, have been diligent in saving money and can afford my car payments, so why shouldn’t I be able to drive the car I really want to?

    • You can drive the car you want to. People will think what they think. What you do with that info is up to you. (i.e., is it worth it to drive a luxury car if it means you have to dispel assumptions that you’re not dedicated, superficial, a spendthrift, etc.? If yes, then it is what it is! If no, don’t drive a luxury car.)

    • anon - chi :

      FWIW, I think there is a big difference between a senior associate rewarding herself with something nice after years of hard work and a summer intern carrying an item that the most senior people in the office may feel is extravagent. I’m sure the Birkin is beautiful, but I would save it for after I got a firm offer and after people in the office had already gotten to know me. Otherwise, you risk alienating people who, perhaps unfairly, develop a negative attitude based solely on their perceptions of the bag.

      But as for the BMW – I say, enjoy it!!

      • I agree- as a senior associate, it says that you’ve worked hard and saved appropriately — as an intern w/ something like a Birkin it says that you’re a spoiled daddy’s girl (may not be true, but that’s the impression you’re going to have to work to dispel)

    • Plus, anyone who’s paying attention to what kind of car you drive probably knows you were driving an exceedingly unflashy car up until this new acquisition. I wouldn’t worry — ignore the haters!

    • I bet the partners were wondering why you were still driving a junky car when they pay you so much :). An entry-level luxury car is hardly an overindulgence for a midlevel professional. I doubt anyone thinks negatively of it.

    • FWIW, I just bought an entry level luxury car, and I am a second year associate (thank you law school scholarship and SO who also has a well-paying job). I don’t give a hoot what anyone thinks of it. I have a relatively long commute, and I wanted to drive something that I really enjoy driving.

    • Biglaw Refugee :

      Actually, partners love when associates buy fancy cars and houses — just one more ratchet on the golden handcuffs. That said, I’ve never heard any lawyer begrudge another a mid-model BMW or Mercedes or whatever. If you showed up in an Aston Martin, you might have reason to worry.

    • I have the same issue and have recently tried to downplay other areas of my life. I am married to a physician and get a lot of “rich doctor husband” comments. Last year I made the mistake of buying a bmw convertible (because I got a great bonus) instead of the junker I had from lawschool (!). You would not believe the comments I have gotten. I’ve tried to stress the fact (just in conversations) that I don’t want kids and that my husband is the “poorer” type of doctor and is waiting for me to make partner so he can be a house husband, but I still get the comments. One partner even told me that I didn’t need a big raise because it wasn’t like I “needed” the money. So, I’ve tried to lessen my clothes lifestyle even while I still love the stupid car I drive . . . and I never wear my engagement ring anymore.

      • divaliscious11 :

        That’s pretty sad of them and for you, but don’t let it get you down. Wear your ring, enjoy your car, and I’d give them crap right back, keep being very good at my job and stop apologizing for enjoying the fruit of your own hard work!

    • Can’t win for losing – in big law, drive a civic, and have been criticized for not driving a “lawyer” car – with suggestions in the Lexus line.

      • Same here! I was driving my junky car during my first year at my firm. One partner saw my car leaving an out of the office meeting. As soon as I upgraded (junky car died, bought a Honda- so not luxury!), the partner started teasing me about my junky car and how embarrassed he was for me. Now anytime I go to lunch/drinks with him he tells the new round of associates/partners about my embarrassing ride. Soooo annoying.

        Also, the partner who rags on my old car drives a Honda too.

    • Anonymous :

      I’m in the same position. I’m a mid-level attorney who makes good money, my husband makes good money, neither of us has student loans (because I had a law school scholarship and went to law school part-time while working), we have no credit card debt, and we have no children or plans to have children. I just bought a Lexus IS 250, and feel ridiculously self-conscious about it even though it cost less than my husband’s truck!

      However, I think an entry-level luxury car is not unreasonable for a mid-level associate. I also have a long commute and it’s a lot more pleasant in my new car.

      So, enjoy your BMW, and I’ll enjoy my Lexus. :-)

  2. I’d much rather see an intern carrying around a birkin than one of those god awful louis vuittons!

    • Agreed! The birkin is at least tasteful. I have no idea what the rest of your wardrobe is like, but please, please, please don’t go around plastering yourself in logos. It makes the worst impression possible – (1) obsessed with status; (2) too much money to know what to do with it; (3) no taste.

      • Wow, I think these comments are kind of harsh. IMHO the LV and Birkins are both gorgeous and I covet both. How you choose to spend your money is up to you!!

        Also, I view the Birkin and LV bags the same (aside from the obvious price point differences) in that they’re both status bags. Anyone who can recognize a Birkin will know what a LV or Chanel or Kate Spade bag looks like, etc. The appearance and absence of the “logo” won’t make a difference for those that care. For those that don’t care (like my husband) all purses are alike.

      • Clearly you have never spent much time in Asia–it’s luxury purse and logo central. It’s A BIG DEAL to carry around the latest purse in HK or Sing. It just is. So while, by US standards, we think this is over the top, in a cultural context, I would still say it’s flashy, but not crazy.

        All of my friends who live in Asia carry (by US standards) ridiculous statement purses. Not all of them are super-flash, but all of them scream “I spent a few grand on this Bally/Gucci/etc. handbag.”

        I still think this is OTT for a summer though.

        • MJ, exactly! I live in Singapore and I see more luxe brands daily (think LV, Cartier, BV, etc) than I’ve ever seen in any country in Europe or even the US. When I started work as a junior manager in a Big 5 Accounting firm ages ago, even my PA wore a genuine Cartier and carried an LV!!

          Please do not apply US standards (they are way too conservative and self conscious) in Singapore – regardless of whether it’s an intern or a partner. In Singapore a partner (female) will probably drool over your bag loudly before walking upto you to ask “so much did you pay for it?”:) The average middle class woman in Singapore will have atleast 1 luxury brand that she proudly flaunts. Heck, at work, even the 25 year olds discuss whether to use SKII or La Mer!!

          I suffer from the “rich woman” tag at work as my husband is a banker and I can tell you, that will never go away – no matter how well I’m regarded at work/ what I wear/drive etc.

          So I say, enjoy your money, enjoy life and quit worrying about the rest.

          And Kat – this is probably the only time I have disagreed 100% with anything you have said. Why is it an issue to carry a bag outside at lunch? You would raise eyebrows here if you didn’t …unless you carried a designer wallet of course:)

          • Kat – Apologies, I misread your statement. Yes, carry bag to lunch. No, do not carry it around the halls (why would anyone?).

            This reader email really brings out the big difference between countries. I always used to wonder why the over-achieving ladies on this blog were so worried about how people would perceive anything & everything they did……till I realised it was just a ‘country’ thing.

            I think I’ve mentioned before in Asia, no one cares…..as long as you work well !

          • Reader N – do not fall into the Asian trap of revealing how much you paid for the bag when asked. It’s the most common question asked in Singapore…how much rent do you pay/what did you pay for x, y, z….?.

            Just accept compliments with a “thanks” and think of a suitable reply to the latter $ query that will invariably follow….

    • Amen, sister.

  3. What would I think? I would think — how the hell does a law student have $9000 to spend on a handbag? I don’t have that kind of money.
    Generally, my advice is not to dress better than the attorneys working there. The only exception I could see here is that (I don’t know the Singapore market at all), if that were more expected or more common.

    • I’m so out of the high-end luxury loop that I had to go look at Birkins on eBay. Holy Shamoley, Batman! Those suckers are expensive. $9K is on the LOW end.

      All that money would be wasted on impressing me, I guess, since I can’t tell a $90 purse from a $9000 one…

      • divaliscious11 :

        Valid point, but only if you assume she was trying to impress you, versus buying something she loved for herself…..

        • Honestly, I would think she was spoiled. Completely wrong of me, and I would work and working to control that impulse, but I think if a summer intern walked in with a 9k bag, I would think “give me a break” and my first impression might be of spoiled rich kid, depending on the overall attitude. Totally not fair, but I just thought its fair to let the intern know.

    • Most people who receive and carry around Birkin bags actually get them through inheritance, which is how I assumed the SA in the article got hers, since I can’t imagine any SA in their right mind spending that amount of money on a bag that cannot be used for schlepping files AND saving the whales.

      • That’s not to say that I wouldn’t get one for myself, but I tend to see it more as a “I’ve lived in this profession for xx years/just gave birth to triplets with no pain meds/eradicated cancer this morning with my bagel, and so therefore will treat myself to something veeerrryyy nice.” Obviously, if I know the various ways (aside from purchasing) a Birkin, I would like one, even one that doesn’t simultaneously save the whales. But if she got it from her lovely, deceased grandmother, I can’t really fault her for it.

      • I know this totally harsh, but if I was an attorney or fellow SA at that office my first thought would be, “Wow, her daddy’s got some money.”
        As I said, I know that’s harsh but I’m being completely honest right now. If you don’t want to risk people thinking that you’re a spoiled rich brat, I migh refrain from carrying that bag around. Maybe save it for once you have a job after graduation?

        • Admittedly, if I saw a law student carrying a birkin or any other major luxury brand bag I’d also jump to the rich-daddy assumption BUT it wouldn’t make me think less of her. At all.

          • Yes me too;
            I would think she is wealthy and would probably be tempted to observe her attitude the first couple of days to classify her either as a) old money, great education, classy or b) nouveau riche, show off and probably condescending maybe even gold digger

        • I didn’t mean to say that her carrying around a very expensive bag would per se make me think she was a spoiled brat. Unless she did, in fact, act like a spoiled rich brat. But I think we can all agree that there are people out there who would think that when seeing a young woman with a bag like that. It’s a pretty unfortunate truth.
          But as long as she (like every other summer associate) shows she can and will do the work like the rest of the summer associates, that’s what’s most important.

          • True fact. If she acted like a spoiled rich brat, even if she got her purse from her grandmother, I’d probably think something like “grr, stupid oil money” or something of that nature. I can’t imagine anyone’s parents buying them a Birkin bag for the heck of it (even though I’m sure it happens-those people just aren’t me/my friends/anyone I’ve ever met), and so that’s why I assumed that she had to have gotten it by inheritance.

        • Oh I posted before I saw you had already written exactly what I was thinking!

    • A daddy’s girl… at least that’s the impression I get… which does not equal responsible future employee – it equals spoiled brat who doesn’t work hard.

      • I had a friend who scrimped and saved for 5 years to buy a Fendi at 26. She had rich parents, but insisted on paying full rent, doing all chores (in Asia without a helper – that’s something), paying all the bills etc as she stayed in their apt. She didn’t even have a credit card – paid for the bag with cash that she’d stowed away for god knows how long- and was the thriftiest person that I ever met (apart from the Fendi which she’d coveted for ages).

        That doesn’t make her a daddy’s girl as over 50% would have assumed.

        Why are we all so judgemental?

        • Good for your friend – that’s awesome.

        • In that case, I would have to work to not judge her for spending her money on silly things. Judgmental of me? Absolutely yes. I admire people for saving up for things they want. I just can’t really fathom that being a $9k bag. The list of things I’d rather spend $9k on is very nearly infinite.

  4. I would, however unfairly, think negatively of an intern with a Birkin. Because it’s such a status symbol, I would think that the person is overly concerned with material things, status and how they appear to others, and because the money had to come from somewhere, that the person was likely from a family w/money and may have an entitled mindset. Even if the person purchased the Birkin after some time working, I would still think negatively of them…misplaced priorities, etc. But I am not a handbag connoisseur and have never spent more than $70ish on a handbag, and can’t imagine spending $1000+ on something that you use to carry stuff around, just because it means other people will think you have money – I’m probably in the minority on that one.

    I know someone who purchased a Mercedes (albeit probably used) while working as an entry-level local govt attorney (not a clerk for a judge), and happen to know for a fact that she does not come from family money – that was a turnoff as well – it screams “status climber” to me – but that’s just me. BTW, I’m really not that judgmental in general – just get along best with people who aren’t overly concerned with status.

    • I don’t think that buying any sort of expensive item necessarily says that a person is a status climber. Some people truly like the look (or whatever quality) of a certain car. Just because one person does not value that particular item as highly doesn’t necessarily mean that the other is a status climber.

      • Agreed. I am saving up to buy very expensive shoes, because of the quality of the workmanship and the luxury of not having aching feet at the end of the day. It will be a gift to myself, not a symbol of my wealth. When expensive equals quality, I don’t think ownership of an expensive item automatically makes it a status symbol.

        • I agree with you here. My boyfriend did a project in law school about the counterfeit bag phenomenon and read some study that said there are two types of luxury buyers: those who buy to show/prove/imitate status and those who buy for the design/workmanship aspect. The only person who knows who is what type of buyer is the buyer herself. And even then, so what if she has the bag to show her $$ status? It’s just a physical possession and I think the only people who would be truly put off by this [jealousy that would affect their relationship, not just raising an eyebrow about how she may have acquired it] are those who are insecure or threatened by people who might have more than themselves

        • See for me this is the difference between a 900 bag and a 9000 bag. I am more than ok paying 300 for great comfortable shoes. I would never pay thousands for them.

          • Same here, I would go for 1000 $ bag but not more (that being a major splurge once every couple years).
            Of course, this reflects my current financial limits and priorities.
            If I could have 10 times the income I have now, I would probably change my spending habits too.

    • I think it depends on the perception more than anything. To one person, $200 shoes would seem extravagant, to someone else, $600 shoes would not seem extravagant. You might not be a status climber, but others may see you that way because to them, $200 is “very expensive” for shoes.

      In the “Mercedes” example above, other aspects of the person comport with the status climber thing, but I agree it’s not always the case. One of the senior associates in my group drives a BMW but in no way gives off a status climber vibe.

      • A used Mercedes can cost the same as a new Toyota/Honda or the like. If the person can afford it, it is not for others to judge.

        • Heck an entry level new Mercedes can cost the same as a fully loaded “luxury” Ford.

      • also, I know absolutely nothing about cars, but if luxury-brand cars actually do perform better or last longer, I would just judge cars as a good investment, like a nice pair of expensive shoes you know you’ll get the wear out of.

        • FWIW, I have driven a friend’s 7-series BMW and I can tell you…for someone who loves to drive, it really does feel incredible to drive. You can feel the power of the engine, the tightness of the steering, etc even just pulling out of a parking lot. And it is very comfortable for long rides, and is very elegant looking.

          That said, I drive a 15 year old Saturn and I love the way it handles; it has amazing pickup as well! But one day I hope to have a BMW.

    • just going to put this out there:

      someone who judges people based on what handbag they carry (or what car they drive) is being superficial. it does not matter whether the judgment is positive or negative.

      • This is true. But if you know that people might judge you negatively for something that’s easily avoidable, why not steer clear of ruffling feathers?

    • Agee — if an intern is carrying a bag worth more than twice what my first car cost, then I’m going to assume it was paid for by her rich parents – and that her work ethic is likely non existent (if her parents paid for that bag, it follows that they also paid for everything else, up to and including her rent).

      • Again this is a “country” thing.
        I live in Africa, it is very common for parents to cover their children’s expenses until they get married (sometimes beyond).
        Parents pay for their children’s education, and let them leave with them until they get married. Sometimes the children will still stay with their parents after marriage and have their kids their too.
        This does not affect people’s maturity or sense of responsibility it is just a social thing that is expected in some cultures, as leaving your parents or elderly alone can be considered disrespectful… country thing.

      • While I agree that a $9000 bag is a bit over the top, it’s a pretty big jump to assume that one extravagant handbag makes someone useless and lazy. My parents didn’t have much growing up, so when they were in a position to do so, they wanted to give their kids what they didn’t have as children. They were generous enough to pay for my undergrad and law school tuition and helped me out with bills along the way–and I am an extremely hard worker. I worked like crazy to get into the best school possible, I have a big firm job, and I am eternally grateful to my parents for helping me out along the way. I saw how hard they worked to get where they are, and that has been inspiring–not a license to mooch and lounge around. I had no control over the family I was born into, and I would like to be judged for who I am, not for the source of my tuition and rent money up to that point.

        • I think we’d all like that. But our backgrounds also play into who we are, and someone who has not had to pay her way through school and living expenses will sometimes have a different outlook on money and personal responsibility than someone who has had to pay her own way. Doesn’t mean either one will be more hardworking/risk averse, etc. than the other, but sometimes that’s the way it turns out.

          • Anon at 10:47 :

            Oh, I agree completely, and I do not mean to ignore the fact that upbringing and experience with finances early on will affect us. I was just taken aback by how harsh Shayna’s judgment appeared to be. I may have had my parents’ help growing up, but I wasn’t lavished with opulent gifts. I have gone out of my way to engage in financial planning because, when I finished school, I was on my own with no money to my name besides the money that I would be making in my career (and a small amount in the bank from my summer associate positions). Parents with money does not necessarily equal kids with overflowing trust funds.

  5. I’ll be very curious to see the responses to this. I have similar issues — my husband saved a lot of money during his young manhood to buy his eventual wife (luckily, me) a 2.5 ct engagement ring, and the car I bought myself is a ten-year-old Porsche 911 (for $22k, it’s cheaper than many new less flashy cars but because Porsche doesn’t change its body style very often and I bought it in excellent condition, it looks brand new). I’m a state prosecutor, so these two accoutrements stand out. I always take off my ring in court and when meeting with victims and opposing counsel (who are usually PDs or sole practitioners, not biglaw) and find myself explaining away the car by saying it’s ten years old.

    As for the Birkin — I think if N’s clothing is tasteful and not covered in CCs or LVs, and if she just uses the bag back and forth to work without flashing it around, displaying it on her desk during the day, or wearing it prominently on her forearm at work events, she’s good to go. The people who know what it is will appreciate it, and the people who would get all huffy about it probably won’t know what it is.

    • I completely agree! Also, it makes me sad that you have to take your engagement ring off in certain situations (but I respect your tact). We should live in a world where you can be proud and not ashamed that someone thought so much of you (before he even knew you) to scrimp and save for that ring (which I bet is gorgeous).

    • Honest question here: What is it exactly that the people who know what the bag is would be ‘appreciating’? Because I am thinking after you ‘appreciate’ the material and craftsmanship, are you then appreciating $8000 of pure status symbol?

      • I think it would be appreciated as any luxury item is – for its craftmanship, design, functionality, rarity, and slow rate of depreciation – and then the conversation would flow as ERP has outlined below. That’s how I would react, anyway.

      • Original artwork, fancy cars, fancy wine, etc are all both status symbols and things that can be appreciated on their own both by people who can’t and who can afford them. Designer bags are the same IMO.

    • I’m also curious to see the responses.

      I think on the one hand you shouldn’t be concerned with status symbols, and likewise should not be concerned with people who are concerned with them. I take the subway every day & about half of the subway car on my morning train ride usually has a bag with some sort of logo. Living in NY, where fakes are sooooooooooo incredibly common, I don’t even think about it — more than half the time the bag is from Canal street & the only thing it makes me think is that the person could have bought a better non-logo bag for the money.

      But it’s sad to think that people are being judged as “status climbers” or entitled just because they purchase something that, at least theoretically, connotes quality (I am not thinking an LV logo bag here, so much as a good car or a bag that will seriously last generations). Obviously there is a difference between a nice, classic cartier watch and a blinged out equally expensive & just plain tacky watch . . . . But I feel like so many times the judgment is not about that, but just about “you spent too much money on yourself! how dare you!”

      We all work hard. We should be able to do what we want with our money. But at the same time, people who are above you, and others, may well resent you at work for whatever they perceive your $9000 bag to imply — I would play it safe. Unless it’s super common to have “fancy” bags in your office (which it may well be), leave the Birkin at home.

      • It’s a question of what values you have – and if you value status then it follows that you purchase status symbols – tangible, visible, things to show others your status… so it’s not about saying whether it’s good or bad that you spend your money on this, that or the other, just what others are able to tell about you.

        • divaliscious11 :

          No possibility of valuing quality – i.e… paying a lot once versus paying and replacing cheap stuff over and over again?

    • I think that visible indicators of wealth can prejudice a jury against your case, so it’s a good call that you’re taking the ring off.

      • I agree with this statement. I am a public defender in a small county in Oregon, and I have found that juries respond so much better to me if I don’t wear a matching suit or anything that is obviously expensive. I’ve even given up using my good bag on trial days. I just use my everyday carry-all.

  6. I’m curious about the general Corporette consensus – what size engagement ring would make you form a negative opinion of the wearer? Does it matter how old she is, or how long she has been working?

    The reason I ask is that, unlike the Birkin bag, it is fairly likely that the woman wearing the ring is not the person who picked it out, and it seems strange that someone would form a negative opinion of another person based on the size/blingy-ness of a gift.

    • The size of the ring is irrelevant. If she shows it off and it’s been more than a week since she got engaged, I’ll probably form a negative opinion no matter how big it is.

      • Similarly curious as to the size question. I LOVE diamonds, and am hoping for one larger than a carat, but wonder if opposing counsel will think I’m less serious as a result. I’m less worried about my colleagues, because a carat seems de rigueur at my firm.

        • Nancy P –
          OMG – how do you know that?? I can’t even tell you the average size of the engagement ring among my circle of close friends, much less my circle of colleagues. I’m sorry, but I am judging you as a status climber right now. If you don’t want the judgment, you best be discreet about those aspirations.

          • I know what a carat looks like. Judge away, I like my jewelry.

          • anon - chi :

            Geez, seriously? My guess is that Nancy P is close to getting engaged and has looked online and/or in stores, which would explain why she can identify the approximate size of the stones in her office. That has nothing to do with being a “social climber,” whatever that means. And there’s nothing wrong with liking nice things, either.

          • I think you only have to do a little ring shopping to know what a carat looks like. Why does wanting a ring more than a carat or noticing other people’s rings make you a social climber? Some women have big hands and want a stone that won’t look dwarfed on their fingers, just as many very petite women I know specifically requested a diamond smaller than a carat so it didn’t look all Real Housewives on their hand. I looked around at plenty of hands when my fiance and I were ring shopping – it helped me to see styles and sizes “in action” instead of just in the case. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

          • I’ve never owned a diamond (and won’t any time soon) but I can tell a carat! I do my homework and get to recognize things I want so that eventually when I finally but them, I know I bought the correct size, quality etc. There is nothing bad about doing your homework before a major purchase.

        • I wouldn’t worry about other lawyers. I would worry about juries and, depending on your practice area, clients. Juries can be prejudiced by visible indicators of wealth, and while some clients want to see their lawyers wearing expensive clothes and jewelry, others will think they pay you too much. So plan to take it off for trials and some clients and you’ll be fine.

        • Shame on you. Do some reading on the diamond industry please.

          • Agreed. When my bf and I finally get engaged, we are definitely not going the diamond route. We’re both appalled at the diamond industry, and although you can get perfectly fine diamonds online from Canada, I don’t want to contribute to the whole “engaged must have a diamond” thing because most people won’t go the Canadian route. I also figure it will be a good conversation starter (why don’t you have a diamond? “well, these are my concerns about diamonds”), especially since my boyfriend loves buying me antique jewelry with a history or story behind it (he got me a beautiful Byzantine-era ring with a pink semi-precious stone for our one-year anniversary). I find it interesting that so many of us here are socially concious and refuse to shop at Wal-Mart because of their business practices, but have no problem with the diamond industry’s practices. Status, indeed.

      • la peagoise :

        how would one “show off” a ring? do you mean obviously pointing it out, as in, “check out my new ice?” or would simply wearing it qualify as showing off?

        if you’ve got a big ring, you don’t really have to do a lot to show it off… my sister has a carat-ish (but flawless) diamond ring and i notice it all time. i have a vintage-looking diamond ring with four smaller diamonds mounted in a way that it looks like one large one…people notice it all the time. i’m not doing anything to show it off, but would that count?

        • I meant the former. Also, don’t post it on facebook with the caption “BLING BLING look at my ring!!!!!!”

          Yes, true story.

        • I agree completely. My law school roommate had a big ring and was known throughout the law school as the girl who got the big rock. It was probably 2-3 carats and looked even bigger because she was a very petite woman. When she got engaged, she pretty much kept to herself and it was others who brought it up.

          • Ha — I had a good friend in law school who was marrying some internet millionaire and she had a habit of raising her ring hand and waving it around in some way that always managed to catch the light. She also had a habit of tapping the fingers of that hand against her mouth while she was thinking. Looking back, it was kind of hilarious.

      • “Personally, I think it would be perfectly tacky to wear diamonds before I’m forty…”

        “.. . of course they are perfectly lovely on older women, but…you DO understand!”

        – I know a lot fellow readers must know what movie that’s from! : )

    • On the one hand, no, she didn’t pick it out. On the other hand, she likely had some input and/or picked a person who thought to get her a really tacky ring :)

      I am mostly joking with that. I have become very de-sensitized to engagement rings. I would only form a negative opinion in certain contexts. Like, if you’re volunteering at a soup kitchen, leave the 2.5 carat diamond at home. Same if you’re representing an indigent defendant, or working at the pro se office, or wearing your ring to treat patients in the ER (that’s just gross, actually), etc. Context is everything. What you wear on your own time is your business — I would just question the judgment of wearing something obviously expensive in certain situations, which I do think is a valid judgment apart from “but she didn’t pick out the ring . . “

    • Honestly, I’m probably not going to notice your ring unless: (1) your ring blinds me or (2) it looks like it’s weighing your hand down. Even if you’re not the one who bought it, like it or not, your ring still reflects on you because you’re choosing to wear it and most likely had some input into what the ring looks like.
      (I know I’m in the minority, but I specifically told my boyfriend (now husband) that I did not want a diamond. Almost all married women I know had some input into their engagement ring.)

      • More power to you for not wanting a diamond! I agree completely.

      • Yes – I have many friends getting engaged/married at this point in my life, and a substantial percentage of them helped pick the ring and I don’t know anyone who said they had zero input. So while I don’t consider myself someone who judges strangers/coworkers on their rings, if I ever catch myself distracted by one, I doubt I’d think she had nothing to do with it.

      • Another Mel :

        Yay! Another person who doesn’t want diamonds. I love rubies and whilst I didn’t have any input into my engagement ring (in fact I had no idea) thankfully my husband got me a ruby engagement ring.

        I have recieved some fabulous comments from people including:
        “can it really be an engagement ring if its not a diamond”
        “is that really what you would have picked for yourself?!!”

        • and people are apparent utterly tactless. You also apparently found a really awesome guy who knew you well enough to a) know you didn’t want diamonds and b) know what you do want. I feel like that’s pretty impressive for a guy.

          • My engagement ring is a sapphire, 1.2ish carat, which yes, I asked for specifically, and I LOVE it. I want to do public defense. I have no idea whether it’s too “blingy” for clients and court. Sapphires are much less expensive than diamonds, even nice ones like mine, but it’s still shiny and eyecatching. Opinions?

    • For me, it’s not really the size that makes me judge. When I have noticed engagement rings and judged the wearer, it’s been because the ring is large AND exceptionally garish, and the rest of that person’s clothing and behavior reflects those values. In a professional office setting, it’s never been an issue. Provided it’s not giant cocktail ring-size, I think anything goes with the proper considerations (don’t wear too much jewelry, think about which clients you’ll be seeing, etc.)

    • For the ring thing, I would take your hand movements into account. If you use your hands a lot when you speak, then maybe a smaller stone or leaving your ring at home would be a better idea.

    • The process of mining diamonds has killed and maimed a lot of people, started wars that caused unprecedented suffering and destruction in places like Sierra Leone, and wrought wholesale devastation of the environment in many places, including Africa, South America, and Canada. I would implore people contemplating purchasing a big diamond – especially a perfect, clear stone over 1 carat in weight – to read the book The Heartless Stone, by Tom Zoellner. After I read it, I decided I had no desire to participate in perpetuating the abuse of human life and the Earth by buying or wearing a diamond, and I told my husband never to buy me one. My engagement ring is a diamondless heirloom, and my wedding ring is a plain titanium band. I am just as married and committed to my husband as the woman walking around flashing a 2.5 carat rock that some Sierra Leonan probably lost a limb to bring to market.

      • Anonymous :

        1. People from Sierra Leone call themselves Sierra LeonEans, not Leonans.

        2. Not all diamonds come from conflict zones, and you shouldn’t assume that every woman wearing a diamond is somehow implicated in the trade in conflict diamonds.

        3. I certainly hope you didn’t type your post on a computer or smart phone, because the trade in coltan (used in computers, cell phones, DVD players and a host of other electronics) has funded and indirectly led to as much if not more devastation in the DRC as the diamond trade did in West Africa.

        • Except that most of us on this website NEED to have a computer and cell phone to do our job, while NONE of us NEED a huge diamond.

          • divaliscious11 :

            Oh, so its fine to pillage because you NEED something to make your work easier. How on earth did work get done before the 70’s….

          • and if we are contributing to the exact same kind of devastation, we do not NEED to be self righteous about it.

        • “2. Not all diamonds come from conflict zones, and you shouldn’t assume that every woman wearing a diamond is somehow implicated in the trade in conflict diamonds.”

          This is why I recommended people READ A BOOK about this subject. Whether or not the diamonds come from a “conflict zone” they still contribute to environmental devastation and social injustice. South American diamond-mining operations are not in conflict zones but they still have caused lots of problems. The other issue is that the process of “certifying” that diamonds are conflict-free is pretty laughable. In Zoellner’s book and several others, diamond brokers in Antwerp and other places basically admit they have no real idea where diamonds come from when they land in their hands. For awhile, South African diamond miners (who were “independent contractors” paid by DeBeers) were smuggling conflict diamonds out of Sierra Leone in dead bodies, and then claiming they were “conflict free.” Please do some substantive research, and then I’d love to discuss this with you further.

          • Not disagreeing with the validity of your point, or that terrible things have been done with diamond money, etc., but I do think its not particularly effective to pick one thing (i.e., a diamond that you will buy maybe one or two of in your life if you are like most people) to hang your social consience hat on and then jump on anyone who has *gasp* dared to engage in that activity. The number of things you buy that go to support terrorism/war lords/drugs are actually pretty high and include a lot of things used in your and everyone else’s every day live s(see the cell phone example above).

          • “but I do think its not particularly effective to pick one thing (i.e., a diamond that you will buy maybe one or two of in your life if you are like most people) to hang your social consience hat on and then jump on anyone who has *gasp* dared to engage in that activity.”

            Why not? I shouldn’t stand against one type of injustice because there’s so much of it out there? Sorry, I don’t buy the argument of “well, there’s just so much wrong with everything, why pick anything to care about?” Some things are way worse than others, and to me, the diamond industry is one of those things. And believe me, I have not “hung my social conscience hat” on the diamond industry, and that’s a pretty ridiculous assumption to make. Everyone – EVERYONE – can at least TRY to do something SMALL to create positive change in the world. I try not to buy things that are made in China. We eat locally-grown, organic food as much as possible. We recycle. We shop at local businesses to support our local economy. I do volunteer work and donate money to causes I care about. Yes, there are a lot of bad things happening in the world. But guess what would happen if everyone threw up their hands and said “oh well, I guess that’s life” and went on their merry ways, consuming and generating waste in an anesthetized fog, oblivious to the suffering of others? There’d be a lot more bad things, and they’d be a lot worse.

          • A. by all means, pick a cause and be passionate about it. You know what really would have been very effective in this conversation? “Because this is a personal passionate of mine, I just want to ask everyone considering buying a diamond to do some research into the history of the diamond industry and so many people who have been harmed.” Your comment was so off putting and self righteous I just rolled my eyes, and suddenly have the desire to go buy 8 diamonds while I eat beef that’s not grass fed.

          • @Ri – Nicely put.

          • @Ri — you are a voice of reason

          • “Your comment was so off putting and self righteous I just rolled my eyes, and suddenly have the desire to go buy 8 diamonds while I eat beef that’s not grass fed.”

            What a mature and eloquent response. Why let logic get in the way of your own righteous indignation, eh?

          • Same Anonymous from 5:28pm :

            While you were busy “reading a book” about the subject and eating your grass-fed beef or whatever, I was practicing human rights law in West Africa for more than 5 years. So get off your high horse. Posting on the internet in all caps doesn’t make you seem like an expert, and the fact that you’re doing it on your coltan-filled laptop while telling an experienced human rights practitioner that you know more than she does makes you seem like a fool.

          • So you read one book, with a clear agenda, and now you are Ghandi? Puh-lease (from a girl with a less than perfect 1/2 carat engagement ring).

        • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b4/Global-mined-tantalum-production-1990-2009.png

          Yes, there is coltan mined in DR Congo. But guess what — we’re opening mines right here in the US to meet demand. DR coltan production share has been near zero for many years and has only crept up recently because of the closing of a couple mines in Australia, as well as reduced demand (better quality ceramic capacitors).

      • Please do not judge everyone wearing diamonds as perpetuating the conflict diamond trade. My husband did a lot of research and specifically sought out a jeweler that specialized in conflict-free gems and bought a sustainably mined diamond.

        • Plus many artificial diamonds look darn near perfect, and I highly doubt you are qualified to tell without examining under a microscope if the “diamond” is a diamond or not. Your high horse does not serve you or your cause well at all. I completely agree with your position and know your arguments are valid, and yet the way you made them did a lot of harm. Alienating potential allies with self-righteous grandstanding is never a smart move. I expect you’re just going to smart mouth me the way you’ve done anyone else who takes issue with you, but I had to try.

    • I have a similar ring question. Before getting engaged, my husband and I had decided on a moissanite, which looks like a diamond to most people, but is a man-made “white” stone (more flourescent/brilliant than a diamond, sometimes yellow/green in different lights). I had asked for the equivalent of a 1ct diamond, since I had seen that liked how it looked with my hands.

      He had agreed to the size, but in the excitement, the jeweler got him to buy the roughly 2ct version (meaning it looks like a 2ct diamond). It’s set off by 4 small (2mm diameter) diamonds on each side and the wedding band matches the engagement ring with 10 of the 2mm diamonds.

      I feel sometimes like it’s quite a bit of bling. On multiple occasions, people have commented on it when I’m not trying to show it off in any way (but obviously have it on). I think most people assume it is a diamond, and while I am not ashamed in any way to explain what it is (and most of my friends etc. know if it’s come up), I also don’t feel like I need to respond to a comment of “beautiful ring” with “thanks, it’s not a diamond.”

      The problem is that a diamond of this size and apparent clarity/brilliance would cost roughly $20k, and I’m going to be a first year associate at a “big firm” this fall. I also usually like to wear a matching 8mm moissanite in a thin necklace (also a gift from my husband). At least one partner at this firm has commented on the necklace before, and by the way she did it, I think she thought it was also a diamond and was surprised.

      I’m not sure if I’m sending the wrong impression … do these pieces of jewelry make me look like I’m a social climber or materialistic? (I should say that other Coach purse with a tiny label I don’t think I wear anything else that would cause that label, at least that I know of…). I’m really curious though, what you guys think.

      • By way of background: I consider myself to be incredibly frugal (or ridiculously cheap, on bad days). I’m in BigLaw in a non-NYC market.

        My husband bought me an engagement ring that is approximately the same size as your ring, and it’s a perfect diamond. If I had picked it out myself, it would have been 1/4 the size and I’m somewhat horrified that I own a ring that costs about ten times the worth of my crappy car (what I mean to say is that I didn’t “ask for,” “endorse” or “suggest” a ring of this size, quality, or cost — if given the option, I would have spent the money on paying back student loans!) But — to be clear — now that I have it, I love it and it’s perfect.

        What I’m getting at here, though, is that my ring doesn’t particularly stand out in BigLaw. It might be on the larger end of “normal” but it’s still normal. I wear my engagement ring and wedding band every day. I would probably the engagement ring off for trial. Otherwise, I feel no need to explain myself.

        So if you’re a “social climber” then so am I and I think pretty much every single female associate at my firm is, too. I wouldn’t give it a second thought.

      • “… do these pieces of jewelry make me look like I’m a social climber or materialistic?”

        I’m sorry, but yes. If I saw it and did not know it was a moissanite (and I did not even know that word until I read your post), I would be judgmental. Sad, but true.

      • I hate to say it, but I might mention what kind of stone it is if someone commented on your ring. There’s just too many assumptions people will be making – as evidenced by this thread – otherwise. A simple “Thank you, it’s moissanite, which I’ve always thought is so pretty,” might do wonders to dispel them.

        And, I guess, in some sense it’s not even that bad to have to make the comment. People buy huge ass diamonds to convey something specific; it’s not like they exist in a cultural vacuum. If you don’t want to convey that message, it makes sense that you have to go out of your way to do so.

      • anon - chi :

        I wouldn’t worry about this. A 2 carat diamond in BigLaw is not unusual and will not attract stares or speculations on your morals, I promise. ;-) You certainly don’t sound like you would draw attention to your ring in a way that would make people judge you harshly, in any event. So wear it and don’t apologize for loving your ring!

        • SF Bay Associate :

          Two carats is definitely not unusual at all around here. Several of the rings in my office are bigger than that. Don’t worry about it.

      • divaliscious11 :

        If someone says you have a beautiful piece of jewelry, the appropriate response, if thank you. It is none of their business the cost, value or substantive make-up of your jewelry. And unless you are walking in the room, Left hand up and first, my guess is people notice that your married, and than move on….

      • I think not. But then I don’t judge people by the size of their rocks, label on their clothes or logos on their bags.

    • I think there’s a HUGE difference between an engagement ring, which is a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime gift of extreme symbolic, emotional, etc. meaning that you receive from the most important person in the world to you and a purse.

      Right or wrong, even if the purse was bequeathed to you by your dying grandmother who raised you and it was her sole wish that you carry a birkin every day and it has just as much meaning to you as an engagement ring to someone else, most people will see carrying around an extremely expensive status-symbol purse in a MUCH MORE negative light than a big ring, and I really don’t think the two are comparable. Wear your engagement rings with pride ladies!*

      *Exception if you threw a fit b/c the original ring was so small and required that it be exchanged or guilt-tripped your fiance into getting a second mortgage just to buy the ring of your dreams.

    • I worry about this too. I have a large-ish engagement ring (2.5 carats) in a vintage setting surrounded by smaller diamonds. I love it, and it was passed down to my husband from a grandmother. I used to work in a big east coast firm, and I felt like no one noticed. But I’ve recently switched and now work for the government, and I feel like people stare, and I have even gotten a few comments. I usually just say something like “thanks, it was my husband’s grandmother’s” and hope that dispels assumptions, but I wonder if I should stop wearing it, though that would make me sad. I don’t regularly appear before juries.

      Thoughts?

      • I doubt anyone’s judging you for it, and even if they are, their judginess won’t harm you. I’d take it off for juries, but you’ve no need to justify it to your coworkers (and seriously – government pay isn’t so bad that a nice ring is out of reach for most government lawyers, and besides, it would have been paid for by your husband and not you).

    • One thing to add, as this is a personal sore spot for me. I got engaged when I was quite young, and my now-husband gave me his late mother’s ring. It is much larger than we could have afforded then and definitely not the kind of thing we would ever buy on our own, but is hugely emotionally significant for both of us. I have always been really bothered to know that people — more back then than now, as I have “grown into” the ring — are judging me negatively because they think I’m some spoiled princess who asked for an enormous rock. So please consider, before you judge, that the fancy engagement ring or the Birkin bag might be treasured family heirlooms!

      • Ring, yes — absolutely! I have seen many women wear engagement rings that have a long family history (I inherited a necklace made out of my great great grandmother’s stone, and while I could never afford a diamond necklace myself, I wear it as a treasured family heirloom proudly) – but a Birkin bag? Likely a gift, but somewhat less heirloom oriented.

        • Shayna – to each her own. How do you know you won’t someday pass on a treasured item (ring or not) to your kids/siblings/whoever?

        • My friend had a classic Gucci purse and wallet passed down to her from her grandmother, who carried them with her constantly. The purse and wallet are very much a part of the image she remembers of her grandmother, so she treasures them. If my friend had received a piece of jewelry from her grandmother instead, it would likely have had less meaning for her. Jewelry is not the only hand-me-down that can claim sentimental value.

  7. The intern’s personality, intelligence and work-ethic will probably say far more about her than her purse [whether fabulously Birken, or otherwise]. Air of entitlement? Or smart and hardworking?

    The mainstream men probably will not have a clue one way or the other, and the aspiring fashionistas, like myself, [after getting over a quick bout of jealousy] would probably be excited about the Birken and view it as a conversation piece. E.g. what a fablous piece!!! how long was the waiting list? did you have to promise your first baby? etc.

  8. ooh, I’m torn. On one hand, carrying it shows that if you do have enough money (or your family has enough money) to obtain such a bag, you have very nice/mature taste. (Assuming here that it is not a “notice me” or distinct color, even if that’s the classic orange).

    I don’t think (or wouldn’t like to think) I would judge the OP as entitled. However, I would notice it and guess I would be vaguely jealous, for lack of a better word.

    As an intern, you may or may not need to be carrying a laptop/papers back and forth — that could answer this question for you.

  9. I may be in the minority here, but I judge people based on their attitude about their possessions and not about their possessions themselves. The senior partner who comes in squealing about her new handbag is much more annoying than the trust-fund summer intern who carries a tasteful bag and doesn’t show it off. Ditto with the woman who flashes her engagement ring compared to the one who doesn’t. So long as the bag is work appropriate and the intern isn’t carrying it just to show it off, I can’t see what the problem would be.

    Then again, I picked up my friend’s $3000 Botega something handbag a couple weeks ago and said I was surprised it was soft because I didn’t think a woven bag would feel so nice and is it really woven, to which she replied, “um, it’s hand woven, and it cost $3000 so I hope it would be soft.” And then I put it down lest I spill a drink on it. Needless to say, I am not a bag person.

  10. Without knowing what type of Birkin, it’s hard to help much. Many people will not even recognize one. In fact, most people would not likely recognize one. Further, you could potentially get one for $1,000. If the OP’s bag is something like the one below (see link), then dammit, carry your bag, woman! However, if we are talking one of the $10,000 or higher, then be careful. Don’t carry it on the first day. Gauge the scene carefully and observe other interns.

    http://www.ecrater.com/product.php?pid=7458671

    Also, be honest with yourself about the stereotypes and stigmas you want and are willing accept. What many women forget is that we are responsible for our own reputation and attached stigmas. Make your choices based on stereotypes you know – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that you are willing (and WANT) to live with.

  11. I like lawyer’s observation that the people who know what it is will appreciate it, and the ones who would get huffy won’t recognize it. This is true; if I knew a young associate was carrying a very expensive handbag (or wearing an expensive watch, shoes, etc), I would suspect that they got the job through daddy rather than merit. But unless it’s got prominent logos on it, I won’t recognize it. So this may be another lesson; if someone compliments you on the bag, but seems not to know its price or the brand, be discreet. Just say, “Oh, I just love (the color, the size, the leather, etc). ” Or say, “Yeah, I put in a lot of hours at my last job to save up for it. ” (only if that’s true, of course!) Don’t mention price or brand unless asked specifically.

    • Agree. Carrying an expensive bag is not the issue. Letting everyone know that you are carrying an expensive bag is. Even when complimented, don’t draw attention to the price or status of it.

      In regards to the ring issue: I wear a beautiful, but not (compared with others in my industry) large diamond engagement ring. I am in medicine and I find it tacky for other physicians to wear very large (to my mind 1.5 carat and higher) when caring for patients. I think it distances you from your patient in an inappropriate way. Some of my colleagues who I am close to wear a simple wedding band at work and save the bling for pers0nal time, which strikes me as an appropriate compromise.

    • Right, carrying it is one thing; volunteering the brand or what it cost is an entirely different thing, I think.

      (FWIW, if I recognized that someone was carrying a $10k bag I’d assume we had very different priorities, but I like to think I wouldn’t let that spill over professionally, though I suppose some of it might unconsciously.)

    • I would never think to mention price or brand in response to a compliment! Do people actually do that???!!!
      Eek! I actually am always at a loss of how to respond when someone does ask me how much something cost or who made it b/c I think that’s an incredibly tacky question coming from most people (i.e., unless I know you really well). It would never occur to me to volunteer the information, and I am really surprised to hear that anyone would.

      • I had that same thought!

      • In my experience, men are worse about this. I had one co-worker who spent months telling me about how he was going to go ring shopping and spend $X on the ring (more than my car cost) and it was incredibly off-putting. I doubt his fiancee ever mentioned how much the thing cost.

        • Chicago K :

          My fiancee was at a guy night shortly after he proposed to me, and all the men went around saying how much they spent on engagement rings. I didn’t have my ring yet so there was no way for my guy to comment, but I was shocked they would even think about sharing this! You are so right that it’s a guy thing!

      • I only answer with price and/or brand if I got a hilariously awesome deal, and it’s someone that I know well and feel pretty comfortable around. I keep trying to stop, but I’m so darn proud that I got the DvF dress at Off Saks for $70! People probably think I’m crazy.

        • I do the same thing! But mostly my reply is “it’s Target!” Obvi not trying to impress with my response.

      • I never do – unless it’s a close friend, and I found it on a great sale :-)

    • I think you’re exactly right. Most people won’t even know what it is (or how expensive it is). The problem will be if someone does recognize it… because I have to be honest: if one of our summer associates had a Birkin bag, there is a strong possibility that someone will notice, and there is a good chance “someone” will mention it to other people…. and before you know it, the whole firm will know and you’ll be referred to as “the summer with the Birkin”.

      I HATE the idea that we’re judged by our belongings (whether they are high end or low end). Having said that, I wouldn’t bring it as an intern. The fact that enough of us here would make some negative assumptions is reason enough. Save it for when you’ve got the job.

  12. I’m really curious if everyone would KNOW it was a real Birkin. There are so many knockoffs (at least here in NYC) that I might guess at first that it was a good fake.

    • Yes. I assume at least 80% of the bags I see are fake.

    • Whenever I see a Louis Vuitton, Hermes, or Dior bag, I automatically assume it’s fake. Especially around here, where for quite some time it’s been popular for women to throw “purse parties” in their homes where you can buy very convincing knockoffs for under $100.

    • The thing is, if you own a real one (any brand), you can easily spot a fake. Even a “really good fake” that fools everyone else. The color(s) might be off. Something might be the wrong size. The material might be shinier or more matte.

      Anyone who thinks they are fooling people is only fooling themselves!

      • I hate to say this, but that’s not true.
        Knock offs come in different types. Some are terrible. Some are so so. And some are so good that it’s next to impossible, esp. without looking inside, to tell. Women have spent hundreds of dollars on good knock offs — hundreds! As in what other people pay for “splurge” bags.
        Anyway, I have lots of issues with knock offs, and think its actual kind of sad to buy them if you think it through, but don’t kid yourself that you can ALWAYS tell the difference.

      • I think this is something people who spend money on authentic bags tell themselves; I don’t necessarily think it’s the truth. I am not judging as I have done this myself with Coach bags, but the bottom line is, there are very good fakes out there and I have been fooled several times now.

  13. I think that the intern should wear her purse if it is something that she does not use to make a statement about what she can buy/who she is, etc… If you just so happen to have been given a birkin bag why should you be faulted for that? or if you chose to save for a birkin bag, yes that does say something about you (not sayign it’s negative), but who cares? wear it, don’t flash it, and live your life. I bet most people wouldn’t even notice. BUT, if you choose to wear it in hopes that it is impressing other people, leave the bag & that terrible way of thinking at home. :-)

    • This is impossible – since it’s not up to her whether her carrying it around is a statement or not – it’s up to the perceptions of those around her. I would err on the side of caution and leave it at home.

  14. It is totally unfair, or in your words ‘strange’, to form a negative opinion based on a gift, but I know several women whom have thrown fits or delivered ultimatums in order to get a ring that is big enough or flashy enough to fulfill girlhood/advertising-implanted fantasies. I guess I somehow (unfairly) suppose that’s what a newly-met woman with a monstrous ring just begging for a mugger has done as well. I would never say anything to anyone about their ring – whether it was big or small – and I am more than happy to have them changing my mind away from my assumption that they may be materialistic. I confess, however, that a bursting-bubble presumption of materialism instantly arises.

    Ditto for a Birkin. I’d immediately assume the intern is materialistic, but it would be pretty easy to change my mind.

    • I’m just generally curious about those women who throw fits for a larger ring. How do you even do something like that? There’s something really off-putting about a person who would do something like that.

      • I’m curious too…honestly, I don’t want a large diamond ring for several reasons (including concern about conflict diamonds, the fact that I don’t particularly like the way the look, my hands are really small and it would look funny, I would worry about catching it on things…) but regardless, I was taught to be gracious and thankful when receiving a gift no matter WHAT it is or who it’s from. When my mother bought me a gold watch (not Cartier but not timex) I felt really guilty and conflicted because I didn’t think it would work for me, but I knew she spent a lot of money on it (for her) and really loved giving it to me and I didn’t want her money to go to waste, but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

  15. I had an intern who wore high-end designer clothes, carried designer handbags, lamented that her expensive sports car didn’t do well in the snowy winters here, and sported a very ostentatious diamond ring and an expensive Tiffany necklace. I admit that she got along well with several of our (significantly older, male, and primarily divorced) higher-ups. But frankly, it all came across very badly to me, and the office staff DESPISED her for it.

    It’s one thing for an attorney to wear expensive clothes and such. Not only does our profession expect it, to some extent, but our salaries are significantly higher than the salaries of those who answer the phone, type out the letters, and empty the trash. But interns are -students-, and they don’t typically make the kind of money in a year which merits frivolous clothing purchases. It seems classless and rather nasty towards the staff to rub expensive clothing in their faces each and every day when you haven’t even received your degree yet.

    And, in the meantime, -I- don’t make the kind of money to buy the clothes or cars she had, either. Her dressing that way sent me the message that she expected attorneys to dress that way, and that was a subtle critique of my own dressing habits.

    I don’t care if an intern is rich, and I don’t think having money is inherently a “bad” trait. However, I -do- care if an intern demonstrates a complete lack of consideration for how other people will take her dressing habits, and whether she’ll give offense.

    And I have to say that, yes, I put her insensitivity on such subjects in her evaluation. Somebody thinks they can be a good attorney – let alone a “rainmaker” or a good trial advocate – while spending an entire summer completely obvious that she had alienated 90% of the office, despite subtle hints in that regard? Yeah, right.

    My advice would be to dress as nicely as folks one or several rungs up the ladder (depending on how horizontal or vertical the hierarchy runs), but an intern should never aspire to dress as well as a partner, and NEVER dress simply to show off wealth.

    • And that should say “oblivious” instead of “obvious”. Must not type and speak on phone at the same time. :/

    • divaliscious11 :

      But none of the “tone deafness” about her attitude was because of her nice things. She sounds like she’d have been a pill in a burlap sack!

    • “And, in the meantime, -I- don’t make the kind of money to buy the clothes or cars she had, either. Her dressing that way sent me the message that she expected attorneys to dress that way, and that was a subtle critique of my own dressing habits.”

      This statement makes it very clear that your post says a lot more about you than it does about the intern. It’s sad that your personal feelings about her made you unable to objectively evaluate her job performance.

      • Uh, no. I’m more than able to recognize knee-jerk reactions when I have them and separate them out from my evaluation of an intern. It’s this neat little trick called “self-analysis”.

        My problem was that she showed no capacity to do the same, to evaluate how her actions would make her appear to others – specifically, our office staff and others. I thought I made that pretty clear in my post; apparently not.

        Besides which, the intern who initiated this thread asked if bringing a $9000 bag in would cause problems. There are plenty of people would feel pissed off and not be able to identify why.

    • Oh wow. I am so sick of lawyers looking down at students because they, as you would say, “haven’t even received their degree yet”. As if there is a world of difference once you complete an extra 8 months of school and get a piece of paper. PFFFT. If anyone has extra money to throw around on expensive clothes or accessories, it is likely to be a student who may live at home, receive help from their parents, etc, not someone like me, 35 with a mortgage and kids. If it is classless and nasty for a student to “rub” something in the staffs faces, it is classless and nasty for a lawyer to do it too. At least if this student is young you can shake your head and say something about being young and not knowing any better. Grow up. You should be the mature one to set an example.

      • Agreed… to add, what if the “intern” happens to be a student that is a bit older and worked in a professional environment prior to attending law school. Do I lock away my old suits and go out and find a new wardrobe intended to not fly in the face of staff? Give. Me. A. Break.

    • I have to ask how wearing nice clothes is considered “rubbing the staff’s nose” in it. Most people don’t place any value on clothes, and I’ve gotten a lot of really nice stuff off of (gasp!!!) ebay. Your tone shows you didn’t like her, plain and simple, and you used the way she dressed as a reason to excuse this dislike. If she were snotty, that would be one thing, but taking pride in the way she looked and dressed? I fail to see how that’s a problem (and for the record, you didn’t say anything else about her performance or how she behaved, which leads me to believe clothing was her only problem and you gave her a crappy review because of it).

      Grow up.

  16. Related topic. I have a slightly senior, but not in my group, colleague who frequently asks me how I can afford to go out to eat “all the time.” My answers have been A. that I don’t go that much (maybe once a week, which is maybe more than some people do, and maybe I go more often than that on average), B. that I don’t always pay for myself (which is not really true, but I do occasionally get taken out by family members or my bf), or C. that it is my fun activity and I don’t take a lot of vacations or buy designer clothes or things (which is the truth). But she keeps asking. I think she is kind of frugal, and she definitely makes about 50% more than I do, but I find the line of her questioning inappropriate because frankly it’s none of her business how I spend my money. She also, when she found out where I live, hinted strongly that I live in an expensive area even though I only live 4 blocks from her. I found myself explaining that I lived on a busy street and so it was cheaper than other apartments in the area (not true). Any thoughts on how to deal with this? My lifestyle isn’t extravagant at all for someone in my income bracket – certainly none of my other coworkers live more frugally.

    • Your colleague is behaving inappropriately.

    • I think a polite but firm and closed ended “well, we all choose to spend money in different ways.” And end it there.

    • anon - chi :

      Here’s my guess: None of this women’s comments really have anything to do with you or how you spend your money. She sounds nosy and judgmental, and she probably would be even if you ate out half as much and lived in a worse area. If it were me, I would stop providing these long excuses and explanations about how I spent my money – that might mean telling this woman you are uncomfortable talking about your finances, or just shrugging off the questions with a smile. Just don’t take this woman’s comments as an indictment on your lifestyle and let her make you self-conscious. It’s really nobody’s business but yours.

    • I would just respond by saying, “I structure my budget so that I can afford to do the things I like.” Repeat as needed, and refuse to say anything else. And definitely, definitely don’t go into the details of any specific purchase or choice. Because you’re right, it’s none of her business. Hopefully, if she gets the same boring answer over and over again, she’ll get bored and find someone else to pick on.

    • The next time she grills you about it, I would answer by saying “why do you ask?” or “haven’t we talked about this before?” or even get more assertive if you’re feeling up to it “why do you KEEP asking?” or “haven’t we talked about this more than once before?” or “I’m not going to answer this line of questioning again.” You could even try joking about how obsessed she seems with your habits if you think that might get the message across. These responses will hopefully point out how inappropriate she is being in a subtle manner. I’ve dealt with people like this and their inquiries are typically motivated by a combination of curiosity and jealousy.

    • Thanks for all the advice, everyone – it’s helpful. I probably have been over-explaining.

      • I would say your coworker is probably a bit jealous, a bit naive and very nosy.

        It reminds me of a boss I once had, who always, always went out to a sit down lunch every day. He also bought breakfast from the coffee shop in the building every day. As a young employee just starting out, I DID wonder how he could afford to eat out every day, as I was flat broke back then and really just didn’t understand that people really did make THAT MUCH more than me.

        To make matters worse, he would CONSTANTLY ask me if I went out for a nice lunch. I always said no, that I brought my lunch. I know he was just being nice and trying to make conversation, but it was really awkward.

        Finally one day I made a comment about eating out daily really adding up, and his entire attitude changed. I honestly don’t really think he’d ever thought that there are people who can’t afford it. He told me he really valued getting away from the office at lunch to take a break from work, and that he was only encouraging his staff to do the same.

    • I think she is plain rude, that is too intrusive

  17. The Birkin is just so in your face as a status bag. Say I who at 52 bought my first visibly logoed bag EVER. But in Singapore the entire class and social signaling system may be different.

    Me, just me, a 53-year old liberal Democrat with a terrible weakness for luxury goods, I’d be put off by an intern with a Birkin. But an associate? Someone who has been working? You go right ahead. Again, it’s just me. I’m only a data point, not an arbiter per se.

    • LPC – How do you know the intern hasn’t worked prior to this job? Even if that’s a fair criterion….

      It might be a graduation gift/whatever….she doesn’t have to “earn” the right to it.

      Let’s live and let live, please.

  18. I am shocked by the comments so far especially for a website that regularly highlights very expensive clothes, shoes, and handbags.

    Putting aside the intern aspect for a second, we all work very hard for the money we make and I’m surprised that people make such harsh judgments about what other people choose to spend their money on. For some people it’s clothes, for other people it’s cars, vacations, homes, or the spa. I don’t begrudge anyone their fancy handbags or shoes. I might be jealous of them, sure, but I don’t think it speaks to their desire to be a social climber or give off the impression that they come from money. Why can’t we buy nice things for ourselves because we’ve earned it?

    • Hear, hear!

      If the question-asker spent $10,000 on a vacation that no one else knew about, it seems like that would be okay, but somehow spending that much on an item that brings her joy daily (and is functional) is not?

      • I did spend roughly $13000 on a vacation as a 4th year associate. I hadn’t had a real vacation in like 10 years, and it was for 2 weeks to a “once in a lifetime” type of place. I guess the difference is that what I spent on a vacation wasn’t obvious like the price of a Birkin? People can spend their money however they want. I care a lot more about attitude. We’ve all worked with that coworker whose father owns the company and they never had to work at anything a day in their life. I’ve also worked with coworkers whose father’s name was on the door, and they worked as hard or harder than I did. It’s the individual person that matters.

    • anon - chi :

      I’m in the “don’t carry the Birkin” camp, but it has nothing to do with whether the intern is entitled to have the bag, or whether it’s silly to spend money like that. I think it’s a silly decision to carry a bag like that as an INTERN when you are presumably still aiming for a permanent position all summer long because you risk alienating someone in the office. I don’t think it’s worth the risk.

      • I will grudgingly agree with you that she should consider leaving the bag at home so as not to alienate anyone. But I do think that some folks are acting like it’s not okay to have something expensive because the simple fact of having it means that you’re lazy or flashy.

        As someone who covets stupidly expensive fountain pens (definitely an item that some consider frivolous or silly), I feel the need to defend the right to a little frivolity.

    • I do agree with you. For me, certain luxury items are absolutely worth the price and we may (and should) spend our money as we please. I love Hermes and Chanel handbags. fine jewelry, and well made shoes, and I carry them unapologetically and without anxiety.

      I would not, however, dismiss the anxieties that some really do women feel. The comments on this blog over the last year + demonstrate that there are real issues and a lack of consensus regarding professional women’s appearances, whether it’s wearing a skirt rather than pants in front of a judge with a known preference, taking off the Rolex to dress “down” for a jury, or whether hair of a certain length infantilizes you.

      Yes, it matters how you present yourself (carrying a demure Birkin vs. squeeing with ostentation over your latest purchase), but frankly that’s personality and hard to change. My guidance is to consider your surroundings. A midsize firm experiencing layoffs in a cash-strapped Midwestern state? Think twice, perhaps. A big firm in a big Asian city? Go for it.

    • But isn’t the whole point that she hasn’t earned it because she is an intern? That’s the whole reason people are saying they might view her as a social climber or come from money, because since she is so young she either 1) choose an expensive bag over say, saving for a house, family, etc. or 2) mommy and daddy bought it for her

  19. Eff what people think. Carry the bag if you want to, don’t carry it if you don’t want to. Anybody who judges anybody by a purse is ridiculous.

    • Judging by some of these comments, ridiculous Corporettes are out en masse today.

    • You may be right, they may be ridiculous, but if their opinion matters in whether you get an offer, what they think. If it matters to them, you just have to decide how much you want to work somewhere it matters.

  20. Thanks for this thread — this discussion has been fascinating.

    I had to deal with a similar issue directly about a month ago. I’m a 2010 law school grad looking for nonprofit work to do during my deferral year, and I have a 2.5 carat engagement ring (just a simple solitaire, but I’m not going to pretend it’s small or unnoticeable). I haven’t been wearing my ring to interviews/meetings at nonprofits. I don’t want anyone to get form an opinion about me based on something as silly as my engagement ring, especially in the nonprofit sector. You’d hope that no one would think poorly about my good intentions because my fiance has the money to buy a large engagement ring (because I definitely don’t have that kind of dough!), but I just didn’t want to risk it.

    Similarly, if I were the OP, I would not risk carrying the Birkin. And this is coming from a girl who covets Birkins big time! :)

    • If I found out that someone was engaged or married and not wearing a ring because of what others might think, I would think less of her for putting her own insecurity and others’ perceptions ahead of her marriage. Now, if she simply never wears it that’s something else entirely, but if she removed it in certain situations because of what “people” might think, that’s really sad.

      • I don’t like the fact that someone might think differently of me for having a large engagement ring, but it seems to be a valid fear, judging from the opinions on this thread. I actually scored one of the internships, and I certainly plan on wearing my ring to work everyday, as I would with any other job.

        I’m quite comfortable with the fact that my eventual marriage comes first, and so that’s why it wasn’t worth it to me to risk an interviewer thinking poorly of me because I have what some might consider a flashy ring. I wanted to be considered for the job because of my credentials and personality, not taken out of the running because someone made the mistaken assumption from my ring that I’m a spoiled brat. That’s been accomplished, and now I have no problem wearing the ring. For me, it was all about managing the first impression since, as they say, you only get one shot. I guarantee no one will remember if I wore a ring to my initial meeting, which is the whole point.

      • I might not wear a 2.5 carat to an interview, but just because it might be distracting not because of what people might think. Along the advice of make sure your clothes make you the main event, even if all the person would think is “wow a gorgeous piece of jewelry” I want the focus all about me and my work not my suit or my jewelry.

    • I work at a nonprofit, and asked my now-husband for a smaller ring as a result. When I really thought about it, I felt weird working with people who were barely getting by while I flaunted something so ostentatious. I am also a bit of a hippie tree hugger type, so YMMV.

      :)

    • Not a Coffee Snob :

      I was in a situation two years ago when hiring at a nonprofit for a reasonably prestigious but low-paying position; a woman (she was in the midst of a career change – she had formerly been in journalism, though, so not a high-paying position either) who had a HUGE ring was criticized in internal discussions for her perceived motivations and ultimately not brought back over those concerns. She had also expressed in her cover letter (candidates were asked to state a salary requirement, which I disapprove of, but I digress) that the salary was not important to her, which didn’t help.

      I didn’t agree with the decision not to bring her back, I thought she was great and I didn’t have a problem with whether she needed the salary as long as she was motivated to do the work. However, I was an intern and my career ended up diverging from that world. All others in the room had committed to public service for most of their lives, and perhaps that was a bit of a personal issue for them as well.

  21. Its less about how expensive your bag is, and more about the attitude you convey carrying it. If you are self absorbed, snotty, and pretentious I am going to hate you and your little birkin bag. If you are humble and a hard worker, who cares?

  22. Perhaps I am missing something… but what exactly is wrong with being a “status climber?” Don’t we all, in one way or another, attempt to raise our own status in society and, hence, do things that we believe will help with this mission? Perhaps it’s your car or your jewelry or your handbag or your bathing suit or your husband, job, profession, kids, stories of how you can multi-task, what you completed or did last month, et cetera, et cetera. Why the negative connotation strapped to “status climber” here? Aren’t we all status climbers, trying to make ourselves look good – great – maybe, even ‘better than’?

    W – you are so right on!

    • Um, no. I could more or less give an f-rhymes-with-duck about what other people think of my “status” or position in society. I have an extremely negative opinion of anyone I meet who does seem hung up on such ridiculous pursuits, way more negative than my opinion of someone carrying a nice handbag. In fact, I got so sick of hearing women talk about their kids’ private schools, their new cars, their fancy vacations, their husbands’ bonuses, etc. and engaging in passive-aggressive social competition more ruthless than what happens on Wall Street that I rarely serve on charity committees any more, and choose to just donate money anonymously, or actually spend time working directly with the less fortunate (which most of the ladies on my committees would never deign to do, as they might ruin their manicure). I don’t care about being better than anyone else; I care about helping people who need help. I think, actually, people who would put other people on a “lower level” because of their possessions are shallow and kind of awful. I would neither socialize with such people myself or allow my child to be around their children, because I think anyone who would proudly brand themselves as a “social climber” has extremely compromised and deficient values and is probably very likely to emphasize and reinforce behavior that harms others, as long as it benefits them. We are all humans and we all put our pants on one leg at a time. If you’re looking to “better yourself” – go volunteer with homeless kids or feed people at a soup kitchen. Do something to alleviate suffering in the world. That’s how one “elevates” oneself, not by caring about superficial BS and what people do and do not have in comparison to you. My $.02.

      • Little Lurker :

        Agreed. X100.

        I have this conversation with people All. The. Time.

      • Amen!

      • hmmm… perhaps you misunderstood my point, because i agree with you 100%. yet, it seems clear to me that each of us, in one way or another, cares what others think about her and, therefore, tries to make herself look better in some way or another. it might be materialistic for some and for others it might be something entirely different, as you so adeptly pointed out above. but we each have people and groups whose opinions matter greatly to us. i would be surprised if anyone here could honestly say they didn’t care what ANYONE else thought about them. of course we do. it’s human nature. so, if ‘status climber’ refers solely to someone who attempts to use material possessions to raise her status, then this is what i was originally missing.

  23. Unless this intern was a child actor or model, she did not “earn” the money to pay for a $9000 bag. The money was earned by someone else, be it parent, grandparent, boyfriend, husband, whomever. If I knew a volunteer (or intern, whatever) was dragging around a $9000 status symbol, I would think (1) spoiled, (2) superficial, and (3) never had to work a day in her life. I would think that this is someone who is used to getting things they didn’t have work for. It would create a strongly negative first impression.

    • divaliscious11 :

      Why not? She could have worked all through high school, undergrad and law school and saved the money. She could have saved money for college but earned an academic scholarship and rewarded herself with the bag for her hard work and achievement. She could have bought it used at a consignment shop? She could be an intern, but be going into law as a second career. What you think of her based on her purse is based upon a heap of assumptions, none of which you know to be true or accurate….

      • Yes, all that could absolutely be true. Hey, maybe she found it somewhere.

        I took the tenor of the question to be, how would people react, and that is how I would react. My first guess would not be “wow, that 21 year old must be a really hard worker to be able to afford to work without pay AND carry around a bag worth as a much as a car.”

      • “Why not? She could have worked all through high school, undergrad and law school and saved the money.”

        If someone works that hard, for that long, and spends the money on a damn purse – oh, man. I am not even sure what to say about that. I actually have less of a problem with someone who is making bank (or whose husband is) spending that much money on a bag because hey, the money was laying around, why not shell out. Please, ladies, do not work and slave to spend $9,000 on a purse. Put the money in savings and then when you’re 55 you’ll be able to buy all the purses you want.

        • divaliscious11 :

          Assuming of course you aren’t dead…. and who wants to wait 30 years to be fashionable?????

          But seriously 1) $9K is not THAT much money, its not even one month’s salary in first year of BigLaw; 2) I know LOTS of people who blew that much, or more traveling for 3 months – and blah blah blah on the experience of a lifetime, because I am willing to bet if the intern has a Birkin, she’ll get her travel experience eventually; and finally – maybe she thought that was a better investment than putting her money in a bank account earning 1.1% interest. Considering that in many instances, a used Birkin can go for MORE than a new one, might have been a better investment, in her opinion.

          The bigger point is just because something isn’t valuable or an act of good judgement to or for you, doesn’t mean its wrong, just not your thing. The visceral reactions of some othe posters suggest that the bag, or outfit, or ring etc… would just be an excuse to be nasty….

          • Anonymous :

            Yikers! $9K “is not THAT much money”? That kinda boggles my mind. And I’m in NY BigLaw!

          • $9K is a huge amount of money. Not that I haven’t spent that much, we took a European vacation a few years ago that cost more than that. But I was not in denial that it was a lot, a LOT, of money to spend.
            If you’re getting 1.1 percent interest on your money, you really need to get a better financial advisor.
            This is why so many young women are in financial trouble. This idea that “what the hell, I could be dead tomorrow, let’s buy some shoes!” Someone could die tomorrow. Someone could also live to be 78 and have to eat cat food to stay alive because they have no money. Even if someone gets a professional degree, marries well, has a wealthy family, etc. – it can still happen. Women are mortgaging their financial futures against pretty shoes and handbags. It is not worth it.

            I LOVE pretty things and I have plenty of them. (I don’t think my Buddhist goal of letting go of desire for material things is going to happen in this life – maybe the next one.) And I have spent a boatload of cash on silly things over the years. But now I have reached an age where I’m looking back and saying “damn, what I could do with all that money, if I had just been a little smarter.” I do not think it is a good idea for any young woman to spend $9,000 on a bag because there are SO.MANY. other good uses for that money that will pay dividends later. And I actually don’t judge people I see with “status” bags – really. I have a hard time telling fake from real, anyway. The most I do is just think to myself “I hope she didn’t put that on a credit card.” I don’t make assumptions about character, etc.

            If someone has the money laying around – meaning they have no or very little debt, a nest egg of savings, and they just find themselves with 1 or 2 or 5 or 10 thousand dollars to spend on a bag, more power to them. But honestly, ladies, please think about it. Don’t buy clothes and accessories like there’s no tomorrow, because there most likely will be a tomorrow, and it would suck an awful lot not to have the necessities because you wanted the fripperies.

          • Oups 9K is a Great yearly income in my country (as in you have a bachelor and master and been working for 3 years). But if a person can afford it why not?

          • @ A. – you chose to take a $9000+ vacation, so why do you get to judge (and that’s exactly what you are doing) other people’s choices? I could just as easily make a case that your vacation was a frivolous waste of money with no return on investment (and huge environmental repercussions). You could have donated that money to charity. While I think it is admirable that you do good work in your life, being a judgmental hypocrit doesn’t make your point effectively.

        • >>If someone works that hard, for that long, and spends the money on a damn purse – oh, man. I am not even sure what to say about that.

          This. Thank you.

          And, it’s a near-unbelievable situation that someone in high school would have started to save up for a 9K Birkin to be purchased during law school. Could it happen? Sure. But it’s not very probable.

          • divaliscious11 :

            I took my first real paycheck and bought a Coach bag…at 16. And 25 years later, I still have it and still carry it.

            I also worked through high school and college. I had almost a full academic ride in undergrad, so my money earned was my pocket money – I worked at the Clinique counter in a multi-college area…My commission checks were niiice! I probably made between $12K-$15K a year (pt during school, full time in the summer)without any real bills while in undergrad. Just saving half my checks would have made buying a Birkin possible.

            I worked a different career for 10 years before going to law school, so when I was an intern, I had lots of nice things, that I purchased for myself, in addition to a few nice things my husband purchased for me as well.

            I certainly wasn’t the only married, second career, or student coming from a comfortable background in law school, or even undergrad.

          • Seconded (or thirded).
            It’s not that she had or raised the money to buy the bag, its that THAT’S what she chose to spend her (or someone else’s) money on? Seems shallow that she needs a branded bag like that to validate her.

        • For someone who has been posting up and down this thread about hating it when people judge others for what they do or do not have, you’re being awfully judgmental about how people spend their money. I would never spend that much on a bag (hell, I wouldn’t spend more than about $100 on one, I’m not really a purse girl), but who are we to judge? You apparently spend money on vacations sometimes (my preferred splurge as well). Some people spend it on property, or jewelry, or their family, or eating out. Some put every dime in a savings account (which I wish I was disciplined enough to do!). Some spend it on purses. None of those choices is more or less valid than the others.

          I mean this sincerely and with the best of intentions: I really think you should re-evaluate how you view other people. Your posts on this thread have been a little over the top in the amount of vitriol and anger about people’s spending habits. It’s fantastic if you have certain values and priorities that you’re honouring, but it’s really coming off like you’re bitter. Given the tenor here, I think it’s likely that your views, even if unspoken, are visible in face to face interactions as well, and that isn’t going to do you any favours. I have a judgmental streak myself, but I’m actively trying to curb it – at the end of the day, none of us know each other’s lives and none of us are qualified to judge.

    • mm, I wouldn’t be so sure that a student couldn’t earn the money to buy such a bag. For example, I had a full scholarship to college, including room and board. For my sophomore-senior years of college, I worked in the tech department of a publishing company and made $30/hour (20 hours/week during school, 40 hours/week on breaks and summer). You better believe I made enough money over those three years to buy a Birkin or other status bag, and I am not unique in that regard. In fact, I had friends who had so many scholarships and grants that they actually made a profit.

      • I would assume that the money to buy the bag came from someone or somewhere else … or perhaps that she inherited the bag from her mother or sister. Or bought it used for the $2500 price ranges I’ve seen around. Or bought a good fake for $400.

        But none of those things say anything about her other than that (a) she is aware of designers/handbags, and (b) she was raised with some exposure to money. A lot of posters are making other leaps regarding character, work ethic, etc. based on money and bags which, to me, seems incredibly ridiculous. It says more about the judger’s background than the Hermes owner’s, in my opinion.

        However, I’d say this discussion would have me rethinking any plans to carry the Birkin. If people on a message board are so judgment of a Birkin, who knows what the people in my office would think! I wouldn’t risk it – its just a bag and isn’t worth derailing your career over.

      • @Ariella: More power to your friends who were actually able to “make a profit” on their scholarships. But did they also have someone who was going to pay their rent for them? Buy furniture for them? Buy a work wardrobe for them?

        It just seems that — to me — a early to mid 20something would be interested in putting whatever cash she had saved via scholarships into things she actually needs for adult life. Unless, of course, she’s got somebody fronting the bill for that too…..

    • Wow- lots of assumptions there. You really have no clue what this woman did before law school. She may have had a career prior or she saved up for years to buy the bag. Additionally, designer bags and accessories are huge in certain parts of Asia. Women will save up for years in order to buy a designer bag or other designer accessories like scarves, wallets, and hand towels. These are not women who have huge salaries or who are otherwise extravagant.

      • If she’s a young woman asking then assuming the money to buy it came from family, and that the rest of her life is similarly comped is not a far reaching assumption.

  24. divaliscious11 :

    I say carry your bag, wear your diamonds or your furs or whatever…. If you are an arrogant person, it will come across whether you have a $10 bag or a $10,000 bag. I have NEVER understood the derision why do you care how other people have spent their money?
    Contrary to the opinion of some of the regular posters on this blog, everyone who carries a “designer” bag is not, a braggart, self centered, or deserve to be judged as “status climber” or anything of the like. And really, the term status climber suggests you have insight into their finances etc… that in all liklihood, you don’t. First year associate – you may know their salary, but do you know what their bills are? What other income they may have? Spousal income? Inheritances etc…?

    Sometimes people like very nice things, of good quality, and are willing to spend top dollar for them. Nothing wrong with that at all. People are free to spend their money on whatever they want, and what you as an individual value may simply be different from what they as an individual value. If there was an intern at my job with a Birkin, I’d think she had a fab bag, some other source of income, and hope she was as fab an intern as her taste in bags….

    As I have said before, if you are being negatively judgmental about what someone else HAS, versus what they DO, some introspection may be in order….

    • anonymous :

      i completely agree.

    • All good points, Divaliscious. The use of the term “status climber” definitely seems to arise out of sour grapes/jealousy. After all, aren’t we all climbing the status ladder? Or are we just treading water because it would be unseemly to make more money, buy nicer things, go on vacations, and send our children to college?

      • There also is a nasty class implication of “status climber,” as though there are only a few people who deserve to have the expensive things (i.e. people with family money) and the rest of us are somehow imposters. Many of us grew up in families that sacrificed nice things in order for us to get an education, and additionally worked very hard to achieve what we have achieved. I’m not saying that you should be ostentatious in what you acquire, but there is no problem with the actual acquisition, if you came by it by hard work.

      • I don’t know if people are understanding the term status climber. A status climber is one who buys a brand name purse over most things, like food, savings, etc. A status climber is not someone who buys a bag that they can afford. Its someone who is struggling with bills but carrying around 9k purses.

        • That is why people are saying it about the intern, because people might make that assumption about a young women who choose to get such an expensive handbag.

    • Agree. I can’t believe that people put so much time and energy into worrying about what other people have.

    • Completely agree. People don’t know the sacrifices or trade-offs a couple or a person will make to own nice things of good quality. I’d rather drive a nice car than eat dinner in restaurants (I’ll happily cook something just as good for 1/3 the cost) or drink in bars. Making assumptions about people based solely on their possessions speaks more of the person making the assumptions than the people that own them.

    • Look, OP could very well be a smart, hard-working woman. All we know about her is that she has a $9000 bag. But the ownership of a $9000 bag says something. The whole point of the purchase is to draw attention to the fact that you have a lot of disposable income and what other people to know it. Why else would you buy it?

      • We dont even know that she has a $9K bag!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        That was a guess that Kat made in her post! Her bag could have cost less, or nothing (as in inherited).

        Oy.

  25. I say carry the bag, wear your ring, and drive your car with pride. Don’t be ashamed for what you’ve earned or what your family has. You shouldn’t flaunt it by any means, but you have every right to buy a nice car, carry a beautiful bag, and wear nice jewelry in spite of the “good opinion” of others. I’m not going to apologize because my husband bought me an expensive engagement ring or because I drive a luxury car.

    Actually, I bet most people won’t know that the bag is THE most sought after bag on the planet, especially men (Men don’t know designers like the scene in Legally Blonde). I would only be concerned that the bag could become a target for theft if people do know.

  26. Whenever an associate at my firm buys a new car or house, a partner at my firm comments, “Good! I like to see the associates in debt. Makes them work harder.” Tactless, but true.

    An intern with a Berkin sends the message that she doesn’t need to work. She hasn’t worked long enough to buy that bag by herself, so she’s either a trust fund baby or her parents/significant other lavish her with excessively expensive gifts.

    While it’s true that you should dress to the level you wish to achieve, the key is to do it within your current budget. An intern, on an intern’s salary, simply cannot afford a four-or-five-figure bag. I’m surprised by the number of comments that say she’s entitled to the bag because it’s her money. But how can she afford such a purchase? Mathematically speaking, there is no way she has saved six months of salary, fully funded a 401k (or equivalent), started saving for a house down payment, paid normal monthly bills, and still have enough left over to afford that lavish a purchase. Are people suggesting that we should forgo financial security in order to carry a pretty bauble?

    • Of course you shouldn’t skip your rent payment to buy a purse. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that. I just think that people enjoy different things. You enjoy having six months of salary saved, which is great. The OP might enjoy purses, with this being her one big purchase. I don’t think it necessarily says anything about her work ethic.

      Although I will grudgingly admit that maybe she shouldn’t carry the purse because of the assumptions people might make about her, I don’t think that those assumptions are always accurate.

      • Many people would say that it is fiscally responsible, not just enjoyable, to have a six-month cushion saved, etc. I tend to agree, so if OP doesn’t have that and went out a bought a $9K purse (and nothing suggests this is the case, she may have plenty saved up and be Suze Orman for all I know), I don’t think it says anything about work ethic but I do think it says a lot about basic personal finance know-how.

        • divaliscious11 :

          There is not one thing in that post that says the poster doesn’t have 6 months or even a year worth of emergency fund saved. Not one thing that says OP is fiscally irresponsible, and in fact the other alternates suggest some fiscal knowledge and sensibility, if she was in fact able to save to make the purchase at full price.

        • Correct, divalicious11. We do not know. That is why I conditioned my assumption on an “if”.

    • “Good! I like to see the associates in debt. Makes them work harder.”

      This made me think about what a famous New York art dealer said about the artists she represented – that she encouraged them to get expensive wives and girlfriends, and buy houses and cars, and get into debt, because then she knew they would produce.

      Debt has become the engine that drives the American economy. Always think, ladies, who you’ll really end up working for, to pay for the expensive lifestyle.

  27. I think in most offices, you need to establish yourself as somewhat scrappy and hardworking before you pull out the bling. But at the very least, you need to figure out whether it’s appropriate for YOUR office. It’s just another part of office politics, and you have to be sensitive to office politics if you’re going to succeed. Although, in my opinion, it’s never a good thing for a female junior associate or an intern to have the largest diamond in the room or the most expensive handbag.

    As for the OP, carry a less ostentatious bag for the first few weeks until you see a well-respected female junior associate carrying a bag of equal cost/status. You will need to be there awhile and get a flavor for the office before you figure out who is well-respected, and that’s part of the point. If you never see a well-respected junior female carrying that kind of a bag (i.e., you only see partners carrying that kind of bag), you shouldn’t either.

  28. I find it hard to imagine men having a similar conversation worrying about whether it will offend a coworker if they drive a nice car to work, etc.

    • Good point. That very thought infuriates me half the time when I’m reading this blog.

      • North Shore :

        We refinanced our mortgage a couple of years ago. The broker said he’d come to our house to do the paperwork. We noticed a flashy red Porsche drive slowly down our street, then park quite a ways away. We have a driveway and normally nobody parks on the street. A few minutes later he walked up the driveway. He must have been embarrassed to show up in that car, and I could see why, given that the housing bubble had collapsed and it was obvious he had made a fortune off those mortgages. I thought it was pretty tacky.

        • Anonymous :

          Why is that tacky? He was trying to be discrete. There’s nothing tacky about making money. Lawyers make money off of other people’s misfortune, too.

        • I would have appreciated the self awareness it showed on his part. Was he supposed to buy a different, less showy car? I think parking it out of sight is sufficient, even though he can’t avoid 100% of people not noticing.

  29. I’m another one who would look askance at an intern carrying a birkin around for everyday wear at the office. If I ran across her over the weekend, if wouldn’t bother me in the least, but at the office I could only see it in the hands of a senior executive. For an intern it’s just too flashy. When you’re early in your career your handbag shouldn’t speak louder than your work.

    It’s interesting to think that the rule may be different for watches though. I’ve had my eye on a Hermes watch for a while, but it’s always seemed a little big-time for my position. Maybe I should make the investment.

  30. I would wait a couple days (using a less expensive bag) to see what kind of bags other women at the office use. I agree that it’s more subtle than something splashed with labels, but if other women are carrying around expensive bags, go for it. If they’re more toned-down, keep it to yourself and buy something less expensive to use for this summer. That’s not to say you can never carry it around.

    And if you get questions, you can always lean in, lower your voice, and say “Can you BELIEVE it’s a knock-off?”

    • divaliscious11 :

      Oh yeah, LIE, that’s a solution…..

    • I don’t think an intern should carry a flashy bag to work, and this is coming from someone who has a couple flashy items of her own. But I think it would be worse, WAY worse, to admit to (or pretend to) own a fake!

      Counterfeit bags are 100% illegal, immoral, and tacky.

      • TM Lawyer :

        FWIW, the legality depends on what you mean by “counterfeit.” Does it say “Prada” or just look similar to a design originally produced by Prada? The former is 100% illegal, the latter is not. If you don’t have a copyright or patent, and the copier does not try to confuse purchasers, copying is 100% legal. Read the (too-often forgotten) Shredded Wheat case.

        As to immorality or tackiness, you are entitled to your own opinion. But the overzealous enforcement positions taken by luxury purse makers does not necessarily equate with righteousness.

  31. Such an interesting post! I think it would be fine to carry the bag, especially in Singapore. I wouldn’t think anything of it if I saw a summer associate carrying an expensive handbag. I might assume they came from a wealthy family and it was a gift from a family member, but that wouldn’t influence what I thought of them professionally. Are rich people really more lazy? They went to law school, didn’t they?! That being said, when I get compliments on my LV purse in a social context, I usually mention that it was a gift from my aunt (it was), because I recognize that my friends would think I’d lost my mind if I spent over a grand on a purse. If a co-worker complimented me, I would probably just say thanks. I’m an associate in nyc and in that context it is fairly normal for people to spend significant money on clothes, vacations, apartments, whatever.

  32. I’m curious–why all the hatred towards LV? It can’t be a logo issue, because everything these days is plastered with brand names (or designed to be easily recognizable.) And the quality is actually quite impressive. I received a LV wallet for my birthday after college, and it’s help up beautifully. I’ve carried it for 12 years and counting…

    • I think it is the logo issue. While you’re right to point out that everything is plastered w/logos now, I think LV is just shorthand for the general distaste for the trend.
      Sure, the same can be said about Gucci or Fendi (though I admit a serious soft spot for Fendi) or Dior . . but it’s slightly less ubiquitous & therefore ignored in the comments (not that it wouldn’t present the same issues).
      The LV is also SOOO recognizable! I was watching Troop Beverly Hills recently (the 80’s movie w/Shelly Long) & her luggage was all LV as shorthand for her spoiled BH lifestyle — this is literally going on decades now!
      If it makes you feel better, there is also a lot of hatred in the comments for the Coach Cs but b/c it’s cheaper that hasnt come up in this thread it seems.

  33. Anonymous :

    It would be interesting to hear from readers working in Singapore on this question. As a couple posters have noted, the culture in Singapore is not what it is in NYC or other US or European cities. I also think more info from the OP would be helpful. Are you an expat intern in Singapore, working at a non-Singapore-based company, with mostly expats as colleagues? Expat packages can be quite generous, and you may not be judged negatively by your colleagues for an expensive bag the way you might be elsewhere.

    • I have friends who are from Singapore. It’s an extremely expensive country to live in with lots of expats from India, China, Malaysia, etc. Based on what my friends have told me, it’s similar to other Asian countries in that image and status and how you’re perceived is of utmost important.

      I think carrying a designer handbag to work even as an intern would be ok in Singapore as it would be in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Mumbai. Now, if we’re talking about a firm that’s in the middle of layoffs, that’s another story and I don’t know what the perception would be.

      • Agreed. It’s a completely different culture there. I honestly don’t think carrying the damn bag would be that big of a deal there.

      • My husband from Singapore says bring it. Singapore is like Newbury St. in Boston. Everything is fancy name brand.

      • fyi – Singapore wasn’t affected the way the US was in 08/09. In HK & Tokyo, they’d probably look down on you if your bag isn’t designer:) Singapore isn’t that bad…but designer bags (the real deal) are a dime a dozen….

        I speak as an Asian woman who has lived here for 10 years.

      • Salarygirl :

        I work in Tokyo and what AN said applies here too: “designer bags (the real deal) are a dime a dozen.” Designer bags are probably more common in some areas of the city than no-name bags. People from all jobs scrimp and save their money for these status items so it’s not a big deal at all- even high school and college students sport LV, Chanel and Gucci bags and wallets here. Men included.

  34. Wow. First, I do not understand the seeming animosity that a lot of posters have towards the children of wealthy or upper middle class parents. Just because you are the child of a wealthy family does NOT automatically mean that you are spoiled, lazy, or waiting to quit your job after your large inheritance comes through. In point of fact, I am the child only child of an upper middle class family – and they taught me the work ethic that’s made me who I am today. So the automatic assumption that wealthy = lazy is fairly confusing to me; they didn’t get wealthy by being LAZY.

    Second, perhaps I am in the minority here, but I don’t judge people based on their material possessions. One of the former associates at my firm clearly came from a wealthy family and wore expensive shoes and jewelry. That didn’t mean that she didn’t, or couldn’t, do a competent job as a lawyer. It meant that she had nice things, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Third, to the OP – go ahead and wear your gorgeous bag. My understanding of the culture in places like Singapore, Tokyo, and Hong Kong is that bags and other status symbols are imperative. Taking that into account, I cannot imagine why someone would have a NEGATIVE opinion of the OP for having the “it” bag. But even if the OP was in the US, I would say the same thing; she should be judged based on her work product, not the fact that her family might have money.

    From personal experience, sometimes people will comment on “nice” things. I inherited a significant amount of jewelry from my mother and grandmother, and people definitely comment on it when I wear it. But I’m almost 30 years old and a professional, and I don’t see why I shouldn’t wear the things I own just to spare others’ sensibilities. And for some perspective, I am a mid-level associate in the midwest, and work at a small firm.

    • I am fascinated by how different the tenor of this discussion is from many on this site about what is appropriate or inappropriate. I had thought that there was a general consensus here (for the most part) that it is a good idea to think about the messages we send by what we wear, and to make careful decisions based on our priorities, weighing career goals against other values (love of beautiful objects, disinterest in bowing to convention, whatever). But in this discussion, there seem to be many, many individuals who are saying “who cares what other people think if you carry a Birkin bag?” — far more than I’ve seen support the proposition, “who cares what people think if you wear a skintight suit and a blouse cut down to your navel?” Is it more ok to flout prejudice against the rich, than prejudice against those who dress kind of trampy?

      As for me, I treat this question as one about an intern’s strategy for making the best impression. And I would say the best strategy is to play it safe and leave the bag at home, at least for a few weeks until you can see what others are carrying. Right or wrong, some people may judge you for carrying it.

      As for being prejudiced against well-off young people, I don’t think it’s a prejudice, so much as a recognition that it takes a very strong work ethic to succeed in a demanding profession — and that economic need can be a powerful motivator. Why should the OP risk creating the impression that if the going gets tough, she has the option (the luxury) of quitting?

      • Yes.

        Also, the original question puts me in mind of the maxim “If you have to ask if it’s appropriate for work, it’s probably not.”

        However, the points about the regional variability of cultural signaling are well taken. In a place where conspicuous status symbols are accepted and expected, it may be MORE appropriate to provide them – so that others can locate you on the social hierarchy – than to not, as in the US, where we persist in believing in egalitarianism and pulling oneself up by the bootstraps.

        There’s a fascinating research project here for a cultural anthropologist…

    • Exactly! None of my grandparents finished high school, my parents are immigrants, and if they want to scrimp and save to buy me a beautiful handbag for graduation because they are so proud of the first lawyer/college grad in the family, I am going to be proud to carry that. You don’t know how people got their money, or why, or from whom, so stop being so judgy and just do your own work!

  35. I think carrying it around on your first day is likely to make a negative first impression that you will then have to overcome. Whether or not we are all evil people for judging you, I think the sheer number and intensity of comments on this post should suggest that this judgment will occur.

    As others have noted, I think there is additional risk that everyone will assume it is a fake. The coutnerfeit goods markets in Asia make Canal Street look like a backwater flea market. Do you really want to have to spend the summer justifying your real Birkin? “No, its real, I swear.” People are incredibly nosy and tacky, so be prepared to identify its cost, and explain how you got it and why you could afford it. None of their business? Yes, but do you really want to say that to people who may hire you for a permanent position.

    Ultimately, you just need to decide if this is something you want to deal with or not. If its worth it, then go for it.

  36. If the OP actually bought the bag herself, then I have to say that I give her credit for spending the money on something that will last for decades, will never go out of style, and, depending on the color, goes with everything. By the time her grandchildren stop using it, the per-day cost of the bag will probably be about $.02.

    • Let’s be realistic. The chances of a handbag lasting that long without falling apart, getting red wine spilled on it, getting lost, getting stolen, etc. are not good. There are ridiculous assumptions involved here. What if she doesn’t have kids? What if the kids don’t have kids? What if the kids and grandkids are all boys? What if the kids or grandkids think the bag is ugly? Who’s to say people will still even be carrying bags in 50 years? This like women who justify buying a ridiculously expensive wedding dress by saying “I want to hand it down to my daughter one day.” IF the wedding dress survives, and doesn’t become a painful memory of a bad divorce as 50 percent of wedding dresses do, chances are the daughter will think the dress is very old n busted by the time she is old enough to get married. Or she may not decide to get married. Or, or, or, or. Amortization over generations is a great way to think about some purchases – like a beach house, or a vacant lot in an emerging part of town. For a handbag? Not so much.

      • eh. Depends on the handbag. My grandmother collected 1920’s-era purses and I inherited a bunch that are still in pretty good condition. Admittedly, they aren’t used every day because now they look like special occasions purses–and I still use them for special occasions (my favorite is a silver-link clutch that belonged to my great-grandmother, engraved with the year 1919, so it’s been around). If you take care of it and get it carefully cleaned, leather could probably last that long. (and if I’m paying obscene amounts of money for a purse, you better believe I would be freakishly careful with it and get it cleaned–which is part of the reason I will never, ever pay that much for a bag). Even if she doesn’t have kids to pass it along to, it could last decades.

      • Birkin bags actually come with a lifetime warranty (I’m pretty sure) against anything that could happen to it. You send it to France, the guy who made it fixes it, and they send it back to you good as new. I completely agree with you except for the point of the subject of the post (Birkin bags). For a bag that I can wear every single day for the rest of my life and it will be fully functional every single one of those days, I think it’s still (almost) worth it.

  37. A few different things are going on here.

    (1) if you are young and unmarried and unlikely to have a lot of money yourself, carrying a $9000 bag (or driving a $40000 car) is likely to make some people concerned that your money comes from your extremely wealthy parents, who may not have made it much of a priority to make sure you learned to earn the things you have. It may also make some people concerned that you are “dabbling” in any truly hard job because why would a person with that much money available work in the trenches like the rest of us. Surely not be true of everyone, but people make first impressions based on limited information. So no Birkin bag for intern.

    (2) after you have been in the workplace for even a few years, you have had the opportunity to prove that you can work well, and are actually interested in the job. At that point, being seen to consume is generally a plus. It either signals that you plan to be in the high-paying job for the long haul or just signals that you and your spouse, too, if you have one, are successful people who plan to continue being successful. No downside to the associate driving the BMW (except having to pay for it if you get laid off!).

    • p.s. – You also may want to consider the potential judgment/opinions from your fellow interns. No one likes the rich girl who is just there because of her connections, or just there for “something fun to do.” This may not be true of you at all, but it is another thing you may have to overcome.

      • So my “PS” was supposed to attach to my prior post, not this one, where it makes no sense – not sure what happened there!

  38. Setting aside that this is in Singapore and might not be a big deal at all, what I might actually be concerned about is the way the men in the office might react. I would say that most men would not recognize a Birkin, but I would wager that most of the ladies will recognize it. I mean, anyone who has ever glanced at celebrity tabloids would probably recognize it (ok, yes, that is the only reason I know what a Birkin bag is).

    So back to my point about the men. My fear would be that at some point, a man would have whispered into his ear, “Did you know that purse cost $9000!!?!?” And–another generalization here–I think a lot of men would be pretty shocked to hear that someone would spend so much on a bag. I would be worried they would question my judgment. Not saying it’s right. And of course a lot of them would be hypocritical b/c they’re the same way with their cars or what-have-you. But anyway, that would be my concern–that the older male partners on the hiring committee would question my judgment and commitment to the job.

    Again, I’m not saying it’s bad to have or carry a Birking bag! That one in the picture has me drooling. Just that as an intern, I might personally refrain because I wouldn’t want to be gossiped about and have it land in the wrong set of ears, sad as it is that people might do that.

    • This is an interesting scenario. I am very, very sure that my husband would never recognize a Birkin or any other “status” handbag, even if someone hit him upside the head with it and the logo imprinted on his forehead. I am also very sure he would view a very young woman who was carrying a $9,000 handbag as extremely foolish. So if he didn’t know, it wouldn’t matter. If someone told him, though – and knowing the way most offices work, someone would – it would affect how he saw the bag-carrier. OTOH he is in IT and works mostly with male software engineers so I don’t think he’d ever end up in this situation. :) But I do know almost all professional men I work with would have a very negative view of someone – anyone, really – who would possibly spend that much money on a “purse.”

    • I am going to posit that these men have wives or girlfriends, and if these men are senior associates or partners, their wives or girlfriends spend a lot of cash on clothing and accessories.

      • And they all spend money on watches & etc.
        It’s silly. Context is everything. In a big firm envt in Singapore, you’re probably safe with the Birkin. Just give it a week of something more subtle to make sure.

    • A partner in my office bought his wife a $3,000 purse for their 20th anniversary. I asked him what he would think of an associate carrying a $9,000 purse. His response: “Either she’s spoiled or an idiot.”

  39. I have to say, I never would have expected this topic to generate this much discussion, and so many strongly-held opinions.

  40. Anon for this one :

    If it were my bag, I’d leave it at home for the first couple years and then pull it out if it seems appropriate for your office. But I also take issue with the assumption that people with $9k in discretionary cash must lead a charmed life.

    My situation: I came from a perfectly average middle class family in northern NJ. My parents were not big spenders and we did not have a lot of money for extras. We’d take an annual domestic vacation and stay in Holiday Inns – that was about as flashy as it got. But from the time they were married, my parents contributed to a college fund. When it came time for college, I’d earned private academic scholarships sufficient to cover about a quarter of my tuition to a top tier school and the college fund was sufficient to cover the rest including room and board. In high school I had several part time jobs (a little bit of tutoring, some babysitting, assistant type role at enrichment courses for kids) which combined with $50 gifts from grandparents at Chirstmas + birthdays added up to about $125/week or $6000/yr – less about $500/yr in spending. Over 4 years, this added up to $22k. Then I worked some more in college – course assistant during the semester (about $2.5k/term) plus summers ($10k/summer on average) with expenses running closer to $2500/yr in college including paying for my own summer housing for at least large chunks of the summer – leaving me with $40k of savings accrued during college. I graduated with about $62k in the bank before my signing bonus.

    I’m quite frugal and wouldn’t spend my own money on a $9k handbag, but you can sure as hell bet that if I really really wanted an expensive handbag, I would have bought one at that point, if not earlier.

    The concept of saving for children’s education is not uncommon in middle class families. And while I know I’m not representative of the average person, my parents really did earn in line with the national average. Many (if not the vast majority of) people working in the types of jobs Corporette readers tend to work in had upbringings at least as “fancy” as mine. Maybe the equation changes when you go to law school (that $62k would have evaporated if I’d gone on to a top tier law school, I realize) but having an “extra” $9k lying around at age 20-something isn’t really all that hard for me to imagine.

  41. Dear OP: The sad truth is that there will be people who will not like you because of your hair, your accent, your skin color, where you go on sundays or saturdays, something you said once, something you didn’t say . . . your purse. You are obviously an intelligent gal [you read this site, right?], have lots of tact [you were concerned enough to ask this question], and don’t want something little to get in the way of your big dreams. Let all of that show through, with the bag on your arm, and prove all the people who may have negative opinions of you because of your wordly possessions wrong.

  42. I wouldn’t recognize a Birkin bag, even if, as a PP said, someone hit me upside the head with it and the logo imprinted on my forehead. And I’m female! It seems like it has a small, discreet logo. I would just stay away from anything with a logo that can be seen from more than 5 feet away. I’m more judgmental of interns who dress really shabby, with flip-flops and a college backpack. You can buy used stuff and don’t have to spend much money, but look professional or people will think you aren’t serious about the job.

    • Oh my god, yes, on the shabby or skanky interns.
      We just got a batch of summer newbies and it’s disaster and it’s only their first week.
      One girl thought she could wear black sweat pants with heels and no one would notice they are sweat pants!

      • Did she have a sweatshirt with the neck cut out, pulled over one shoulder and big hair with a headband? Because the last time I think I saw sweatpants and high heels worn together was in Flashdance.

  43. Cultural differences :

    Hi OP:

    I grew up in a large city in Asia. Although I moved to the United States in late childhood, many of my friends from my childhood now work in Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, and other cities.

    As some people have already commented, a designer handbag in Asia does not seem as “blingy” as it would in the United States. In Hong Kong and Tokyo, designer labels were everywhere, as are designer cars/handbags/shoes/sunglasses/etc. Also, I don’t know anything about your schooling, but if you had gone through schooling in Singapore and made it to an internship in a “equivalent to” biglaw firm, you are pretty brilliant in your own right, no matter what your financial status may be.

    Nevertheless, I would not carry the Birkin bag because I would want the senior partners/associates/other interns to recognize me for my work, and not gossip about my clothes or bag. Especially as an intern, where you want to make the best impression you can, I would avoid it unless you see that there are other women who carry similar handbags (sorry, I had to Google “Birkin” when I saw this post so I don’t know much about this handbag). I would not worry about people wondering where you got your handbag, but worry about them gossiping instead of focusing on the quality of your work.

    Good luck!

    • Cultural differences :

      of course, YMMV. I still wont wear the (very classic looking) Rolex my parents gave me for graduation to work, even though some people on this site would tell me otherwise!

  44. UGH. The energy put into this discussion depresses me, ladies!

    If we put as much thought into the BP oil spill/global warming/networking/ANY OTHER productive endeavor as we do into worrying about how harshly we should judge/will be judged on our possessions at work, we’d all be in a better place.

    I GUARANTEE that the leadership at your firm is likely either or both male and busy with work/managing the firm, and that they don’t care what kind of purse you carry into the office, whether the bag is fake, or think for more than 10 seconds about the size of your engagement ring unless you’re ridiculous about it. MAYBE they’d notice the car (but you should be leaving after them, so…..), but….luxury cars are kind of the norm in the law firm world.

    They WILL notice your hours, the money you’re bringing into the firm, and your work product. Put your energy and stress into your brief/research/work product. Give other people the benefit of the doubt.

    I’d rather have a colleague who carries a 10K bag and drives a beamer than one who can’t be trusted to write a brief or check all of her cites.

  45. Another Mel :

    I work in Sydney, Australia and I wouldn’t really think twice about someone bringing a Birkin or other expensive bag to work. The only real reaction I usually have is to wish that I owned it!!

    To be so crass as to generalise, having worked with people from all over Asia, they do usually have fabulous expensive handbags, shoes and clothes. But it doesn’t affect my perception of their abilities. To be honest, until I saw this post it would never have occured to me as something to think about.

    On a practical level my handbags that I use for work end up looking sad after a year or so because they end up wet when it rains, with pen stains, bent out of shape from shoving too many documents, shoes, sweaters, etc etc so I’d probably save a Birkin for my going out bag.

  46. From what I have heard, Singapore is very different from the US. Even “average” women carry “fancy” designer purses.

    In the US, I would leave the big-ticket items at home, especially as an intern. I think it is essential to look your best, but you want to do so in a way that does not invite judgment. This isn’t a female-only concern either. I would also look twice at a young male intern driving a Porsche or wearing a blinged-out Cartier watch. It is all well and good to come from a wealthy family, or have money of your own saved up. But there is a difference between being well-provided for in a modest way, and being tacky-filthy rich and completely disconnected from reality a la Paris Hilton.

    You should allow yourself the opportunity to let your other qualities shine through before inviting people’s potential prejudices to distort everything you do in advance. It is for your own good. Just my philosophy.

  47. I just asked my husband about this issue, and he made the following comments:

    1. No man would know what the bag was. The only way he would know is if his wife/girlfriend/mom/sister also owned one, in which case he wouldn’t think it was that ridiculous to carry one.

    2. OP works in BigLaw. People in BigLaw are rich.

    I think he’s completely right. I would like to add that making judgments about how people dress is superficial, and it is equally superficial to say, “that girl’s purse is $15, i can’t believe she’s so poor” as it is to say, “god, i can’t believe that girl spent $9k on a bag, she must be spoiled.”

  48. Really? I can only carry my purse when entering or exiting the building? Should I just carry makeup and feminine hygiene products in my hands then, when walking to the bathroom? I think this is a little much….

    • They make smaller totes/purses for that.

    • Whenever I see a woman carrying her purse to the bathroom in the middle of the day, I assume it’s because she’s bringing feminine hygiene products there. (Is there any other reason to do so?) So, personally, i think it draws more attention than not.

      • I once walked in on some male colleagues having this very discussion. They were counseling a junior colleague about how you could tell who to avoid on a particular day by observing whether or not the woman was carrying her purse with her into the bathroom. While the conversation was certainly juvenile and sophomoric, after that, I started putting my tampons in my small makeup bag to carry them with me to the bathroom. The cosmetic bag seems to draw slightly less attention than the full purse.

        • anon - chi :

          Aaaah! It’s sort of horrifying that more senior men would counsel a junior about avoiding women who they presume have PMS.

      • You don’t assume they’re on their way to or from grabbing lunch or coffee? Or wanting to brush their teeth or reapply make-up? I’m so confused by this thread. Who on Earth has the time to scrutinize what one’s colleagues are taking into the bathroom?

        • I’m with v. I carry my larger bag for files, snacks, etc. that I have to take in and out of the building, and a smaller purse for personal items like feminine hygene, makeup, and my wallet. I take that if I’m just going out for coffee or lunch, or if I’m going to the bathroom (any time of month if I need to reapply makeup). I’m not about to invest in another, smaller, bag to put inside my purse. I’m just glad I work in an office where people have better things to do with their time than keep dibs on which women are having their period.

    • I have a small toiletry bag to put hygiene items and it is discrete enough to go around the hall without looking like I am going out

      • AnneCatherine :

        I stuff mine in my bra or up my sleeve (or in a pocket if I have one). I just don’t want people thinking, “Oh, she must have her period today,” even if they aren’t judgy about it or dreaming up PMS or avoiding me on the basis of it.

  49. An expensive purse isn’t exactly “dressing for the job you want” – I put wearing a suit instead of separates, having your hair styled appropriately, etc. in that category – not carrying around an excessively expensive designer purse that costs more than twice what my first car did! A young intern carrying around that bag says that she doesn’t need to work, which means her dedication and focus will be less… My job is not a hobby or something I take lightly and I think poorly of those who treat their jobs as such.

    • I don’t think you can make that assumption in Singapore or many other parts of Asia. You’ll find plenty of lower paid women carrying around high-end designer bags and accessories. Women will save for years in order to buy these items, and because other women have done the same thing, no one is going to think “Oh she must have a rich grandparent/relative who gave it to her.” On the other hand, car ownership in Singapore as compared with the US is quite pricey and not nearly so common.

      • Thanks, MelD. A decent car costs 3x in Singapore compared to the US, due to high taxes.

        And Singaporeans don’t need to spend on a lot of things that people in the US would (e.g. winter/fall clothes can be eliminated from your wardrobe entirely – that cost saved over a few years can pay for a posh bag:)

        Plus Asians are BIG savers and tend to really focus on a few things to splurge. It also helps that Singapore has one of the LOWEST tax rates in the world (when I drew my first 6 figure paycheck, my tax was still <US$5k) with a lower cost of living compared to the US.

        So yes, an intern can easily have a Birkin without many of the snarky assumptions made above (Shayna – that's you).

        • The question was posed to a U.S. website, w/ a U.S. readership… I can only give you my U.S. perspective.

          • Your view is that any young person carrying a hella expensive bag both a) doesn’t need to work, and b) is a bad worker. That’s not a U.S. perspective, that’s heaping a lot of unfounded assumptions on someone.

  50. It may be different in Singapore, but I think that only one or two of the female attorneys or staff at my 300-lawyer, 400-staffer firm would recognize a Birkin and know what it cost. Until this post, I only knew vaguely that a Birkin was an expensive purse, not how expensive or what it looked like. And I don’t know about you all, but I take my purse to the office in the morning and to the bus at night (maybe to lunch if I go out). I could be toting a bag covered in green ultrasuede and most likely no one would know.

    I’m terrified sometimes by the degree of judgement that flies around in comments on this site (even though I love Corporette!), whether it’s pantyhose, synthetic vs. natural suit fabric, heel height or haircuts.

  51. On a related note – why is it “ok” to wear valuable stuff that “one has earned and paid for” vs “gifts inherited from or given by loving parents/spouse/whoever”?

    Is the latter concept so rare?

    • I think the latter has much less of a stigma than the former, IMO.

    • I don’t really see why the distinction is so important to so many people. My concern–and I have seen this adversely affect female colleagues–is that the “she doesn’t need the money because her daddy is rich” attitude/bias is real in some workplaces, and it hurts women at review time and can definitely affect a woman’s compensation.

  52. Synthesis: In your position as an intern, you should be risk-averse. As far as your career goes, carrying this bag to work has no upside and has a potential downside. So, if you are prioritizing your career over other concerns / interests / values, don’t use the bag for work.

    • I agree with anonymous. I don’t see the upside of carrying such a bag. I admit that I wouldn’t recognize/notice it, if one of my interns carried it. But it just takes one person who is envious, dismissive, or otherwise reacts badly to seeing someone who is working for free/little money with something obviously pricey. I would avoid carrying the bag to work.

    • Exactly. In your best case scenario, people will feel neutral, but even without strongly negative feelings, there’s the risk that you’ll be known as “the intern with the $9000 bag.” Many, as evidenced by the comments on this site, will feel negatively about it. Why risk it?

  53. It’s a purse. Why should anyone be so concerned about it? Personally, I probably wouldn’t know a Birkin when I saw one anyway.

  54. I agree, don’t bring the bag to work. However, I think the post is missing some key points about women and money in the workplace. While rich men are often lauded, sometimes even sought out, for their business connections and some vague concept of genetic acumen, women who seem to have connections to money are judged fairly harshly for flaunting that connection. Perhaps this is because people are more likely to believe (as the author of the post did) that unlike a man’s, a woman’s money comes from a fiance or boyfriend, not from a parent: this suggests not a wealthy childhood (which can be seen as a plus: better education, more connections), but gold-digging, which is always viewed negatively. Perhaps, on the other hand, the difference has more to do with perceptions of fiscal responsibility and gender, which often paint women as spending machines and men as responsible savers. Whatever the reason, there are clearly some gender issues at work here.
    You’re right: A flashy engagement ring or a crazy-expensive bag do give off a negative, materialistic (read: shallow, unintelligent) vibe, while a watch tends not to. The more masculine accessory is not derided when it evokes wealth. The feminine ones are.
    I think your advice was correct, but you’re doing a disservice to your readership by not at least pointing out the reasons why the advice is as it is.

    • There aren’t any of these gender issues in Singapore or other parts of Asia where carrying luxury goods is the norm rather than the exception. It’s just an accepted part of the culture that you will save for the months or years needed to buy the item, not that you got the money from a wealthy relative or spouse.

      I know when I lived in Japan, there was an increasing trend for thirtysomething women to stay with their parents and not get married so they could spend all their money on luxury goods and vacations. Many women felt like marriage decreased freedom and spending power and were not interested in finding some sugar daddy.

  55. (2) is correct. Don’t bring the Birkin to the office.

    I agree that you should dress for the position you want, but I don’t think this means that you dress for the *ultimate* position you want to reach. Maybe the next rung – or two rungs up – but don’t overdo it.

  56. I have the perfect solution. I think the OP should give her Birkin bag to me, as I work at home and therefore I will appreciate its beauty and craftsmanship, but I don’t have to worry that the dog will think I’m a status climber.

    I think a Birkin bag is quite understated luxury, myself. It’s known only by people who are in-the-know themselves. In that regard, I think it’s far less showy than a brown-and-gold Louis Vuitton logo bag, even though the LV cost far less.

    A decent engagement ring could cost far more than $9,000, as could a really nice investment watch. So could a nice vacation. I don’t see anyone suggesting that someone who goes on a nice vacation should hide where they went or just pretend to have gone fishing instead.

    And unless the OP says, “Let me ask my Birkin bag what it thinks of this, and I’ll get back to you,” carrying a handbag in the intended use is not “flaunting” a bag any more than driving a BMW to the grocery store is “flaunting” the BMW. I think that says more about the onlooker than about the owner.

    • I think a Birkin bag is quite understated luxury, myself. It’s known only by people who are in-the-know themselves.

      Nah, this might have been true once, but now its been on Gilmore Girls and a guy wrote a whole best-selling book about buying them. I think they’ve gone pretty mainstream (even if the price keeps them totally out of most people’s realm while the LV’s doesn’t).

  57. Don’t know if this has been said yet, but cultural context could change things up here. In Korean culture, carrying around an expensive, stylish handbag (but not flaunting it in people’s faces, i.e. not carrying it around the halls as C suggested) that suits your personal style, particularly if it is in an environment where that is the norm (which in this case would be set by full-time people there) is actually a good thing. The “rich [vapid] girl” stigma just doesn’t exist in the same way as it does in America. In fact, not carrying around such a handbag (that is, not doing one’s best to fit in to that world) could mean that you get looked down upon, or seen as incompetent when it comes to actual work. I’ve always accepted this just to be a cultural thing.

    I don’t know how applicable this is to Singaporean work culture, but I think it is something to consider, particularly if this intern plans to stay within that culture and society.

  58. This is irrelevant for biglaw, but in smaller offices where raises may be hard to come by, raises are often doled out based (even if unfairly) on perceptions of who has children, how much spouses make, etc. I know a guy who worked at one such office who refused to invite coworkers over to his house because he had nice furnishings and a flat screen. If you’re competing with someone else for a job, a lot of people may be much more sympathetic to an intern working their way through school than to someone wearing a $9k bag. That would certainly enter into my calculus if I had one job to bestow on someone. Whether this applies in Singapore? Who knows.

    Also, if you’re a biglaw secretary rocking a $9,000 bag, as an associate who would use $9,000 to pay off some student loans, I would be more likely to give a smaller Christmas gift to this secretary.

  59. Birkin’s are so 2008. It’s a good thing the OP works in a “BigLaw firm” because if she worked in fashion she would be considered somewhat dated looking. (Let’s put it this way, if Stanley Tucci were her boss he’d take her to the supply closet and find her another bag.)

    • Huh? A Birkin is pretty timeless.

    • TresorLuxe :

      Olivia are you High? A Birkin may come in additional colors every season but it is no way “dated looking”. Its been a top selling bag for 20+ years, its shape is iconic and TIMELESS.

  60. Our Western perception of luxury goods is completely different from that of Asia. How much do you spend a month on rent and utilities? Maybe $1000? How much do you spend a month on a car payment + insurance? Maybe another $500? Imagine you didn’t have those expenses, a $9000 handbag isn’t so out of reach anymore. In Asia, people either live with their parents until they get married or they live in company housing, and they don’t have cars. So they can spend more on clothes.

    I’m pretty surprised that someone from Singapore would even ask this question. Maybe the OP isn’t from there.

  61. and also, I carry my handbag to the bathroom at least twice a day. I never in a million years considered that someone would even notice that.

    • carrying your bag to the bathroom all the time, at my firm, would definitely result in people talking about you, as in – maybe she has a drug problem, or a drinking problem, or is she obsessed with makeup and won’t keep a mirror in her drawer, etc etc. The germaphobes would be grossed out by a bag that spends so much time in bathrooms. If people don’t know the truth and they see something odd like that then they will make up something that is almost always far worse than the truth (ie, perhaps you have caught your secretary going through your bag while you were in the bathroom and don’t want everyon to know she does things like that). If possible, take the other poster’s advice and lock it in a drawer (or even hide it under your desk) when you go the bathroom.

  62. FrugalShopper :

    On the Quality argument –

    I’ve heard many people say on this site that a single high quality item is better than having to buy poor quality items and then keep replacing them. While a practical-sounding argument, it requires certain assumptions about relative quality and replacement frequency to really hold up.

    Lets look at this argument re the Birkin bag, where the argument does not hold up:
    One $9000 bag.
    The handbag I currently own is a $25 bag I bought in a touristy shop in Chinatown San Francisco (not a knockoff, just a plain simple black leather handbag). I’m currently 30 years old, I have owned this bag already for 3 years.
    Buying a Birkin bag is equivalent to buying $9000/$25 = 360 of my handbags. Which is more economical?
    Assuming my like-new bag falls apart this very moment, it has lasted 3 years and for the rest of my bag-owning (lets say) 80 years (or remaining 50 years) I will end up buying 17 new purses (one every 3 years, my approximate current bag-purchase frequency). Even assuming that the cost of these bags is $50 a piece, I will spend about $850 more on purses in my lifetime.
    So the difference is $900 – $875 = $8125, which properly invested can yield you a lot of yummy dark chocolate bars!

    By the way my analysis is conservative for oh-so-many reasons. One reason is that my lovely MIL gifted me a red bag that I haven’t started using yet. I also have a previous bag that I bought at a Liz Claiborne factory outlet for $30 back in 2003 which is still going strong, it’s larger and I use it on days when I need more carrying capacity. What I’m saying is that I don’t really need any replacement bags for a long time.
    Buying a $9000 bag is not economical. Don’t kid yourself.

    • I agree that buying a $9k bag is not economical, and I would never even come close to it. Your mother in law may have been dropped you a hint with that gift, though. A black bag, even an expensive one, does not look good with every outfit, unless you wear mostly black every day.

      • FrugalShopper :

        Thanks A. But if there were one handbag that went with most outfits, it would be black, wouldn’t it?
        I do wear black pants, a black pencil skirt, and pinstriped black trousers a lot, so I’m hoping that this goes with at least 50% of my outfits (other options are grey or brown skirt/trousers).

        I’m asking because I can’t imagine regular women (and my colleagues don’t) changing bags every day to have something that goes with each outfit. I’ll have to transfer my wallet, sunglasses, phone, blackberry, lip balm, all sorts of little things that I hate to dig out and move from place to place.
        Or is there some other color you’d suggest?

        • Carrying around an obviously cheap bag really can’t be doing anything for you in the professional world. There’s a huge difference between buying a silly $9,000 Birkin and a $30 piece of junk. Of course the bag isn’t going to literally fall apart (unless you’re carrying around bricks) but it’s not going to look nice either. Go to a nice department store and shell out $150-300 for a classic, quality bag that will last you decades. Try brands like Cole Haan, Kate Spade, Coach, Marc Jacobs, Longchamp, etc.

          I would have a nice bag in black, brown/camel, and some sort of neutral-ish color like blue, dark orange or red.

          P.S. Not to mention, that $30 Chinatown bag was probably made in a sweatshop by a child…

          • FrugalShopper :

            Can anybody even tell how much my bag costs? I don’t think so.
            I’ve received compliments on it from female colleagues. One colleague/friend after complimenting me, asked me where it’s from and what brand it is. When I told her it cost $30, she was shocked.
            If you see a logo-ed bag can you tell if its real or a fake?
            If you see a nice-looking bag without a logo, can you tell if it cost $30 in Chinatown or $75 in Nordstrom?
            SheFinds runs the ‘Taste test’ every now and then. Most people cant tell the difference between the two identically priced (one of which is much cheaper) items.

            It’s possible that somebody with a keen eye and an encyclopedic knowledge of bags is silently judging me.
            So far (because my bag looks stylish and is convenient and I love it) I’m willing to take the risk.

    • “Even assuming that the cost of these bags is $50 a piece, I will spend about $850 more on purses in my lifetime.
      So the difference is $900 – $875 = $8125, which properly invested can yield you a lot of yummy dark chocolate bars!”

      Life’s not just about making the most-economical choice. I daresay I could carry my keys, lipstick and drivers’ license in a ziploc bag and be even more economical, but life is also about beauty. And obviously you believe that to some extent, else you wouldn’t be here at Corporette … you’d buy the cheapest suits possible at Walmart and wear those to death.

      • FrugalShopper :

        Oh, I completely agree that life is not just about making economical choices.
        I just disagree with the people who said that buying a Birkin bag is an economical choice.
        There may be many reasons to buy it, economy isn’t one of them.

        • BettyDuJour :

          Seriously? In my circles both social and professional carrying a $30 bag is just inappropriate. For me its not about status or having a $9,000 bag but for proof that I’m a hard worker. Personally I think if you can afford a decent bag then you should buy one (doesn’t have to be a Birkin) but some filth from China town is out of the question. Based on where you work it can send the wrong message. In my office (fashion related) that would get you fired.

  63. I don’t think I’d know one if I saw it.

    I would not carry it because I would be concerned it would make me a target for crime. I work in a supposedly “secure” government building that I have to go through a metal detector to enter and recently discovered that the coffee money I kept in my desk drawer is gone. Petty theft is everywhere!

    Save your fancy purse for places where it won’t make you a target for crime!

  64. FormerIntern :

    Simple answer: I would assume it was a knock off. It would never even OCCUR to me that someone her age had a real Berkin. And I would think she was carrying a knock off (which I find tacky). Maybe it’s small of me, but I’ve traveled and knock-off Berkins of all shapes, colors and qualities aren’t quite as cheap as a dime a dozen, but they are all over Asia. Unless you are sophisticated, wearing a stunning suit, getting in and out of a 6 figure car, etc., I will assume your bag is not real, or that you have more disposable income then sense.

  65. I think a good rule of thumb for these types of questions is that if you have to ask whether something is inappropriate, it very likely is. end of story.

  66. I work in Big Law (formerly employed in fashion industry) and Olivia, I would be shocked if you actually worked in fashion. A Birkin is the purse equivalent of a trench coat–always in style.

    That said, I agree with the advice that you can take your Birkin to the office only carrying it in and out.

  67. Anonymous :

    you may have a real one, but many people will likely assume it to be a fake, which is not good from an intellectual property perspective. I’d leave it at home. being known for owning a real or fake bag is not the reputation you want as an attorney.

  68. Here are my thoughts:

    The person who sent in this e-mail is going to get advice mostly from middle class strivers, since it is mostly middle class strivers who populate the ‘hallowed halls’ of law firms.

    So she needs to take what everyone is saying–experienced and inexperienced lawyers alike–with a huge grain of salt. Personally, it pisses me off to no end that people think that one should have to cover up one’s affluence in order to secure employment. What should we do, apologize because we–or our family–worked hard and are successful?

    • RollingEyes :

      Yeah, to heck with those middle-class peons anyway! Who cares what they think??? If they’re not rich they’re not that smart anyway, right?

      Please. Give me a “middle-class striver” over some rich kid with a gigantic sense of entitlement any day. I know which one is going to work harder – the one that doesn’t have Mommy and Daddy’s money to fall back on if their career “doesn’t work out” (AKA they have to work too hard).

    • Most of the rich people I know didn’t work hard. Buying the right stocks isn’t working hard. Using mommy’s money isn’t working hard. I don’t believe that a 10,000 dollar handbag is a better quality handbag than one that is $1000. At some point it is showing off, and you will be seen as frivolous and shallow. Also, I wouldn’t put someone that buys a bag just because it is the most expensive one. How do you run a business that way?

      Really, you don’t have to hide your affluence and hard work, but don’t be too surprised when people get sick of your better-than-everyone else attitude. Not everyone is as impressed as you are by your possessions.

    • Of all the things to people give you sympathy for, the travails of being rich aren’t one of them. I suggest you embrace a less self-absorbed perspective.

      As for whose advice to follow: for the most part, she is not going to be surrounded by people who take wealth for granted. Obviously, it’s their perspective that matter.

      • I find it amusing that my comment triggered a number of responses to things that I never actually said. It reveals more about the responders’ own biases.

        1) Never suggested that lower socioeconomic people (“middle class”) are more or less intelligent than others;

        2) Never suggested that I think I–or, more generally, people from afflulent backgrounds–think I am better than others or take wealth for granted.

        I find it amusing that the replies engendered the usual tired resentiments (e.g., “rich people don’t work hard / didn’t work hard”). Most people I know who come from affluent backgrounds have worked their asses off, either to accumulate their wealth or because of intergenerational pressure to ‘do better’ than the successes of the previous generation. (This reminds me of the crap that very intelligent kids get too–‘oh, you’re smart, so you don’t work hard’–when, in fact, BECAUSE they are rewarded for their intelligence, smart kids tend to work HARDER than average kids; same thing applies with the affluent)

        The only point of my comment was that the perspective of most of these posters is going to be informed by their blue-collar / upper-middle class background. Please realize, regardless of your obvious class bias that is on fully display in these posts, that social, cultural, and economic values do tend to lead to different world views.

        Given that, my warning stands: the advice you’re going to hear on these boards will be advice from people far below the likely social and economic class of the original poster. Which makes it less likely to be validly applied to her own social situation. She’d be far better off talking with her peers and/or family.

        • Anonymous :

          “the advice you’re going to hear on these boards will be advice from people far below the likely social and economic class of the original poster”

          Yes, but she’s working at a law firm, so she’ll get judged by the same “middle class strivers” who are posting here. She’s obviously concerned about their views, so this is the right group of people to be asking and listening to, in terms of what she should do at her internship (leaving aside cultural considerations).

  69. From the Guy Side. :

    I’ll throw in a male opinion (ATL directed me here) after reading the comments. I think “status seeker” is an appropriate moniker (including all negative conotations that come with it).

    1. I shake my head at all of you that have referred to your 3 series BMW as an “entry level luxury car.” I worked in the automobile industry for 7 years (including my first 2 in law school). I looked at about 4 vehicles a day in my prior profession. There is simply nothing “luxury” about a 3 series. The engineering is not superior, the technology is not superior, the materials are not superior. If you want to talk about a 5 series or an M class BMW then I’m willing to listen. BMW does actually expend resources turning their M class and 5+ series vehicles into superior driving machines. The 3 series is only meant to capitalize on status driven suckers who know just enough to know that BMW does make good cars but can’t possibly explain to you what makes it a good car. Hint: If you can’t explain the difference between the 3 and 5 series chasis materials and why it matters to the performance of the car, you don’t know crap about your car and you just bought a logo. While I’m here, this also applies to an Infiniti G series, Lexus ES/IS, Mercedes C class etc… I’m guessing that this same conversation can be applied to purses where some brand does make superior stuff at the top of their line but the entry level items aren’t really all that different anything else on the market. In other words, most of you that wouldn’t be caught dead with an “entry level purse” from X manufacturer fall for the same exact con game with a 3 series BMW.

    2. Diamonds suffer from a similar problem. Even ignoring the conflict issue, diamonds are not a rare stone. De Beers has done an awesome job keeping supply artificially low worldwide, driving up the price of diamonds significantly higher than what they would be in a non-monopolized market. As women will never be logical when it comes to diamonds, suckers like me will keep buying diamonds for our wives b/c a brilliant marketing strategy has convinced women that diamonds are a rare stone worth lots of money. In reality, a flawless Emerld is incredibly rare and of extremely higher value than any diamond…

    3. I feel the same way about expensive vacations. If somebody tells me they just went to some top shelf resort on the Yucatan penisula, I cringe inside. I don’t get the point of flying to another country just to get into a van at the airport that will shuttle you to an “Americanized” compound err… resort where you will not experience the local culture. I just don’t understand the idea of spending that much money when you probably could have had the same experience somewhere in Florida for half the price.

    4. Which brings us to the purse and what I’m getting at. I wouldn’t recognize a $9K purse. I wouldn’t judge the girl over the purse, but if it was something I did understand (a BMW, a diamond or a vacation) I would judge the girl. Not b/c she likes nice things but b/c I would see her as just another poor sucker that buys into hype and slick advertising instead of going for real value. Maybe the $9K purse is the equivelant of true luxury (a Bentley, a perfect Emerld, some truly top of the line vacation). If the thing is truly top of the line I would respect her for it and her tastes. But if it just stupid social striver crap that really isn’t all that special/valuable/rare (a BMW 3 series, a big diamond, an expensive vacation to an international resort/compound) I would be rather dismissive of her as someone who just gets sucked in by slick marketing.

    • “Hint: If you can’t explain the difference between the 3 and 5 series chasis materials and why it matters to the performance of the car, you don’t know crap about your car and you just bought a logo. While I’m here, this also applies to an Infiniti G series, Lexus ES/IS, Mercedes C class etc… ”

      So what? If I had been interested in becoming an automotive engineer, I’d have bought one. I need no other justification to buy a luxury car other than I want to and can afford it. I happen to own one of the cars you listed above. I like it. I can afford it. It’s of no consequence whether I “understand” why it’s technically better or worse than some other car. With all due respect, get over yourself.

      • … I’d have BECOME one. Not bought one.

      • Although the delivery was questionable, I’m inclined to agree with the general message of “Guy Side” re: cars (and other expensive purchases). If someone can tell me that they dropped a lot of money on X item but that the high price is totally worth it for x, y and z reasons, and that these reasons are important to him/her, then I’m good. But if all they tell me is that they “like it and can afford it” or that it is pretty, that doesn’t seem like great decision making to me – it seems like buying a symbol. Then again, I research EVERYTHING before I buy :)

      • He’s right. A BMW 3 series is nothing more than a glorified Civic with a different emblem on the back. Nothing wrong with it (and Civics are well-made, easy maintenance cars) but don’t act like a 325 is the height of luxury. It’s not.

    • No Dadddy :

      You’re right and you’re wrong.

      1) You’re right that BMW views the 3-series as a means of soaking up a lot of lower-professionals’ (think lower 6-figure household income) disposable income. [Note, that definition applies to many lawyers–who are we kidding, many lawyers would kill to be so defined]

      So, no, it isn’t the car that’s going to be driven by partners & ibankers. So what. It still costs a good chunk of change from the standpoint of many young professionals, which I’m guessing is the primary audience / responding group here.

      2) You’re absolutely wrong in suggesting that BMW doesn’t pour money into the 3-series. Both from an engineering and a company pride perspective, the 3-series platform reiceves their MOST R&D dollars and tuning and testing. Why? For the very reason that you poopoo the car: because it is their primary generator of revenue. Moreoever, BMW is filled with engineers: they don’t sacrifice their standards just because a car is selling for $40k rather than $80k. Pound for pound, the 3-series is the finest engineered sub-$50k sports sedan in the world. If you have a car background as you allege, you should know that.

  70. Anonymous :

    gfger

  71. subsilentio :

    Many of the people on this thread seem to be judging this person based solely on their possession of the object, rather than what their possession of that object actually means.

    Someone who has that particular object clearly has taste, and may have chosen to spend the same amount of money on a vacation; but not many BigLaw associates, frankly, have TIME for a slumming-it kind of VACATION. If they chose to indulge themselves with an object they really like rather than some supposedly spiritual fulfillment, because by spending their money that way, they get more satisfaction, then they should not be judged for that.

    And from a utility perspective, the concept that if you wish to be a partner, you should dress like one, is undeniably sensible. Only the unsuccessful competitors who lost will resent such a person.

    So I have to come down to it on this: female dandyism is absolutely never a negative. Male dandyism is only rarely a negative.

    If it makes you look good, have it. The only good advice I’ve seen on this thread is that if you’re just walking around and the object isn’t useful, don’t carry it around just to show it off.

    • How does having a Birkin bag show you have taste? It shows you keep up with fashion and trends… the Birkin was mentioned on Sex and the City for crying out loud! It’s not some obscure label that REALLY implies you know what you’re doing. Something like TOD’S or Chloe or Mulberry.

      Please. A Birkin implies you have a LOT of money and you want people to know it. Nothing more.

  72. It’s funny that many people related the Birkin to buying a luxury car – in Singapore, car ownership (atleast at intern level) would put you as “rich” in everyone’s perception as they are so hideously expensive here!

    And most people live with their folks till they marry/hit 35, and can afford to save for such splurges:)

    Ah well, maybe such questions will help us understand how the other half of the world lives….

  73. The person who sent in this e-mail is going to get advice mostly from middle class strivers, since it is mostly middle class strivers who populate the ‘hallowed halls’ of law firms.

    So she needs to take what everyone is saying–experienced and inexperienced lawyers alike–with a huge grain of salt.

    This makes no logical sense whatsoever. “You’re going to get advice from exactly the same type of people you will be working with, and therefore evaluated by, so you should be careful about taking their advice seriously.”

  74. Sorry if this is a TMI comment.

    But taking your bag to the restroom that “time of the month” to deal with feminine is sometimes unavoidable. Does it look odd?

    • See convo upstream. In short, yes, everyone assumes it’s “that time of the month” if you’re carrying your purse to the bathroom during the day.

  75. The plethora of handbag rental services would lead me to believe that the intern was probably renting the bag – a la http://www.bagborroworsteal.com/handbags/hermes-vintage-red-leather-birkin-handbag/15778/18/642&posCol=0&posRow=0&page=1

  76. Hahahaaa, when I see a Birkin bag on someone less than 35 years old, I assume it’s fake. Which also isn’t the impression you want to make at biglaw…

  77. crunchycon :

    I’m with other posters – leave the bag at home until the job becomes permanent. Even then, when you bring the bag to work, carry it in and lock it up (or whatever you do to ensure security in the office (everyone in our office less than a VP works in a cube without a door, so handbags are not left lyiing about) and act like it’s just any other bag – not “here’s my Birkin!!!!”

    Or, you could just send it to me :).

  78. So if I think a male intern who wears a Rolex or drives a Porsche is a douche-bag (regardless of where the money came from), I can’t think of a woman in $9K purse or a $1K shoes is a douche-baguette who has extremely bad judgment and taste?

    I have friends who are WEALTHY (walls full of museum level art, multiple vacation homes, etc.) who know the best way to offend a client paying hundreds of dollars per hour for your services is a flash too much bling.

  79. I have also done a internship in the best law firm in Singapore, and my advise will be : be less poshy then your mentor! Even more if it’s a woman!

    The lawyers and associates can wear branded stuff and show that they have money, you not. You are just an intern. You should show off by your personality and how good is your job. And be sure, people talk! They other interns will talk about it, you can be sure!

    In this law firm, they told us to wear business casual everyday and black suits to court. Friday is casual except for the litigation lawyers whom always go to court:-) Having a very pricy small bag will be inappropriate if you are going to court because you will have no use of it.

    So be discrete in your wearing but bright with you mind. Get a great work certificate, get a good job then you can show your bag:-)

  80. I’m surprised nobody has commented on how other summer interns would respond to the bag. Many law students, even those aspiring to an offer at Big Law Firm, are in a TON of debt and are counting on an offer to even survive past graduation, especially given the current job market. As a summer intern myself, I would resent seeing a fellow intern parade around with a $9,000 purse. As those are the people you’re interacting with most often and probably the core of your social support system at work, I’d think twice about rubbing it in that you’re not in the same position. It just gives off the wrong vibe.

    • Oh, I don’t know… I work at the college with a young woman who happens to have very well-to-do parents. She drives a BMW and wears extremely nice clothes AND has NO student loan debt!!!! She is getting an LV briefcase for a graduation present.

      I should hate her, but she is smart, funny and nice, and actually does work (albeit part-time) all through school. She will have a nice life without all the struggles I’ve had for sure, but hey, that’s life. She’s very lucky to have been born to rich parents.

  81. I’m a lawyer practising in one of the largests law firms in Singapore’s neighbouring country. Whilst we don’t earn as much as our Singaporean peers, we do have our share of bringing luxury goods to work. Generally, interns, pupils-in-chamber and junior associates should not carry a $9k bag simply because they have yet to earn that much to actually purchase one.

    Should the intern wish to bring an expensive bag to work, it gives out the wrong vibe: (1) I’m from an affluent family, and being an intern is merely to comply with my university’s requirement; (2) I’m from an influential family, so you’d better treat me good; and (3) I have connections. That’s just how it is in SE Asia.

    A vast majority of Singaporean girls are materialistic, no doubt about it. You do see girls parading their LV, Chanel, Balenciaga and Miu Miu on Orchard Road in Singapore. But that’s off-work. At work, just stick to a well-made structured bag. Only after admittance to the bar as a qualified lawyer and about 3 years of practising that reader N should carry some kinda expensive bag to work – to show that she has EARNED it.

    Reader N, it’s just not the time yet to flaunt the Birkin.

  82. If a person can positively identify a Birkin bag (which I didn’t even know existed before this blog posting), then they are probably materialistic and will only judge you because they are jealous or extremely judgmental. Regardless of what you do, those people WILL judge you, and will judge you the same if you bring a cheapo purse to work (because it’s apparently not good enough).

    Who the heck cares?

  83. I say use the bag, they sure are nice and look very clean and classic. Keep your other attire average to your level though since you are an intern.

    If anyone is nosy asks how you can afford such a thing, you can always play it down as a graduation gift from grandma or some such.

  84. planecrazyjosie :

    I was going to mention the counterfeit market in Asia, so you can’t even tell a real from a fake many times; have been to Korea and the fake Coach bags rivalled the real thing. There are some really bad reproductions though and I would not want to explain my bag being real.

    As for the OP, I hate to be judgmental but I would also think “daddy’s girl” with regard to a handbag on an intern that costs as much as six months’ rent for my luxury apartment. She could have a fabulous work ethic in reality but someone who looks like they are chasing money/waiting to marry money/obsessed with status symbols will have many negative hurdles to climb. I mean every Kardashian woman has one….and none of them have real jobs. That says it all.

    I say put the Birkin away for now, and carry a classic (leather, not the ones covered with Cs) Coach. My preference is my leather Kate Spade with the (small) logo stamped in the leather as I prefer subtle but well made. You can enjoy your Birkin, but for work go for subtle and tasteful.

    Now shoes are another story…I have my Louboutin Fund (not necessarily for Loubies) because the better made shoes = less foot pain in the long run. However, I have been working for 23 years, have a pension on top of salary, and maybe there is a difference in perception.

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  86. The BBC is arrogant and has wasted money, it is unable to afford F1 because having overspent on grandiose schemes there’s no money in the bank. Can we reverse this fact of life? No. If the Contract has been signed we can’t reverse that either – no doubt there are massive penalty clauses.

  87. AreYouKidding :

    First, who is paying attention to (and judging) purses when they should be focusing on someone’s talents and abilities? Especially an intern. They are there to learn and network. If someone is judging them based on their PURSE that person has a lot of growing up to do…both personally & professionally.
    Second, It’s about time women stop being so mean to each other. What’s wrong with looking at someone and saying, “Nice bag”? Why must there be assumptions suggested? What kind of message are we really sending? What’s so wrong if someone saved and saved for something? Or their parents bought it? Who cares?!

    To the one that asked the question… If you are uncomfortable enough to ask about it, that’s your answer. But know, unfortunately you will be judged… Always. People are just envious. It’s your job to develop thick skin and keep on going.

  88. Interesting Debate :

    I think that the asker tapped into something that is a lot deeper than it appears. It isn’t the 9k handbag, but the attitude that tends to correlate with its owner.

    When I was an (over-achieving) undergraduate I landed the top internship at Texas governor’s office. There the dress code was very formal, but I was an unpaid intern whose rent for three years was equal to one Birkin. I did the best that I could with outlet shopping and sales to fit the dress code, but it was certainly lacking. I was brought in on numerous occasions for “a little talk” about my dressing. Meanwhile one of the other interns (sorority girl) came in dressed better than any senior woman on staff (um.. I think there was just one). She had multiple luxury handbags that she rotated, with also rotation of designer silk scarves tied to the handle.

    What do you think happened?

    Well, in the end I don’t think it really mattered for either of us. We both got assigned to somebody. I was assigned to a completely sexist jerk (who made me spend three days copying the phone book by hand). I was fortunately re-assigned to the one woman staffer (who was kinder but not much more capable). After some time people figured out that I was bright and I got to do some pretty important things (draft legislative proposal for education policy, write talking points for Perry (insert joke here ;)). Luxury Chick? Well, she flirted with everyone and wasn’t taken seriously.

    It bothered me to some extent that people like Luxury Girl and Monica Lewinksy (and stupid, powerful men) were the reason the senior staff had to waste so much damn time in Sexual Harassment Clinics. Looking back, I realize that I was considerably more attractive than Luxury Girl who was considerably more attractive than ML. I tried so darn hard to be taken seriously. I looked like a lingerie model physically, and didn’t want anyone to notice since it only made things hard for me. But there were two or three people who did take me seriously eventually. There was no one who took Luxury Girl seriously. I would say it wasn’t the bag, but that the cliches that went along with the bag seemed sadly true in her case.

    So what is the bottom line? Clothing isn’t everything, you will be judged no matter what. It might not be right, but it just is. So why make things harder for yourself? I wasn’t looking for a rich husband. If I could afford it, I would have dressed better. But I wouldn’t have been flashy with my purse etc or worn very revealing clothing. I just accept the fact that people are generally shallow (particularly at that office) and carry myself as the person I want to come across as. It is sad, you could dress like Paris Hilton and be a serious, hard working, genius. But why make things harder for yourself than they already are (as woman)?