The Hunt: Basic Black Bags

black-bagsSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

I’m a huge fan of colorful, bright bags — but that said, if I didn’t have a few simple black bags in my closet I’d be majorly on the hunt right now. They can be a bit boring, for sure, but they’re classics for a reason — they’re major workhorses. We haven’t rounded up some simple black bags since last April, so I thought I’d do a round up today… Readers, which are your favorite simple black everyday bags? Have you bought any great ones recently? [Read more...]

When Can You Buy an Expensive Handbag?

when-can-you-buy-an-expensive-handbagWe’ve talked about how a $9,000 handbag might be a bit much for an intern — but Reader E wonders when in your career women can buy expensive briefcases and work totes.  How soon is too soon?

I was wondering if you could do a post about expensive handbags for work. Kind of like the Hermes post, but a little bit of a different situation. I’m graduating law school this spring and will be working in a large law firm in the Fall. I want to purchase the Celine mini luggage bag with money I made as a summer associate, but I’m wondering if it’s inappropriate, since the bag costs around $2700. I’d get it in the plain black color. I don’t think it’s nearly as recognizable as the Birkin you discussed (I doubt most people know what it is), but it IS an expensive purchase for someone just starting their career. What do you think for a new associate? The only logo is a small imprint of Celine Paris on the front of the bag.

Great question.  To review: back in 2010, a reader wrote in to ask whether she could carry her Hermes Birkin bag around her law internship.  Considering she was still in school (and didn’t have the job yet), a Birkin bag — which generally costs about the price of a small car — seemed a bit much.  Specifically, back then I worried that the message the intern was sending was that she was rich, and not working for the money.  Since that email, I’ve come up with a rule of thumb:  if you haven’t made enough in paychecks to both pay your rent and buy the bag, you probably shouldn’t bring the bag to work.  So Reader E — who’s already made the money — would be well within my little rule of thumb.  (Pictured:  Celine – Luggage.  N.B.: Overstock has a few Celine Luggage bags on sale for as low as $1960.)

But I think there are other important differences between Reader E and the Birkin-toting intern: [Read more...]

How Much Do You Spend On Bags?

Purses & Pumps :), originally uploaded to Flickr by nikkicookiebaker.How much do you spend on bags? After our discussion on Tuesday regarding whether a reader should spend $2100 on a bag that she was different from what she normally carried, reader E wrote in with this comment:

After reading your post yesterday regarding expensive, professional bags, I wonder who out there can afford such a bag? I am a lawyer at a big firm and live in DC. My firm pays the standard scale — I currently make $185,000 and will soon get a raise to $210,000. While I realize I may be somewhat conservative when it comes to clothes (I tend to buy designer clothes on sale or through Gilt or Ideeli), I am definitely not cheap. I would buy a $350 purse, but that is a far cry from $2100! Like most lawyers I know, I have student loans and a mortgage. However, I don’t save that much money (though I do pay extra on my loans). So my question is, who pays $2100 for a purse? Are these people who have no loans? Who have married money? Or am I just not investing enough in my wardrobe? I am interested in getting your (and other readers) opinion(s).

This is a great question, and we haven’t discussed this since the big discussion on how much people generally spend on clothes a few years ago.*  (Pictured.) I’m curious to hear what readers say here, but for my own $.02, this is how I look at it:

- The vast majority of my bags are in the $300-$600 price range.  Many were purchased for below $200, though, either at sample sales, online sales, or through flash sales (some of where I had “referral points” from recommending different flash sale sites on the blog).  [Read more...]

The Bag Lady Reconsiders…

Prada Saffiano Lux Large Top Handle BagWhich are the great, professional, useful totes? If you always carry around a ton of stuff, should you downsize to look more professional? Reader A is about to make her first “really expensive purse purchase” and needs advice…

I would love to get your advice on my first really expensive purse purchase. I currently use a big leather tote day-to-day that can fit my whole world, and as an attorney and a New Yorker, I carry around a lot of stuff. Binders, umbrellas, water, heels, hair and makeup, food, pens, nail file, gloss, fan, gloves — EVERYTHING fits into my trusty Mary Poppins bag. That said…I’m ready to upgrade to something more sophisticated. I hate walking into a meeting or conference and having my purse either brimming with crap or slumping over in a sad black puddle (it used to stand). I have my eye on a Prada Saffiano tote, which fits can fit a slim computer or a small number of papers but is definitely not a carry-all. Will I regret downgrading to a smaller bag for my day to day use? I’m so accustomed to being a bag lady that I am scared to make an expensive commitment to something so much smaller. But it is much prettier, much smarter, and far more put together.

First: congrats on making your first really expensive purse purchase — it looks like there are a number of Saffiano totes available, but just for fun, let’s say you’re talking about the Prada Saffiano Lux Large Top Handle Bag, available at Saks for $2150. My own first expensive purse purchase did not go so well, and I hate to say it but I see similarities between your pending purchase and my purchase. [Read more...]

The Hunt: The Perfect Interview Bag

Mosey - Working Girl (Jet Black)Sure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

This is how I see the perfect interview bag: it’s big enough to fit your folder, a notepad, and everything you would normally carry in your purse, as well as maybe a bottle of water. It’s large, but not so large that the interviewer fears you’re hoping to crash on the couch in the lounge. I always like a black bag (sure, even with a navy suit), and for me, nylon is perfect because it doesn’t get as heavy as a leather bag, and nylon is very easy to clean. (Another bonus: if you accidentally swing around too fast in the elevator, the bag won’t turn lethal.) Oh, and it has to hold its shape by itself (so to me, not a Pliage bag, although those are great for other things). If this sounds familiar, forgive me — I think I go on the hunt every August for the perfect tote bag, and it always amazes me how hard it is to find these suckers online. I think I’ve rounded up some good ones for today’s Hunt, though — check ‘em out below. Readers, what is your ideal bag for interviewing? Have you found any good ones lately?

[Read more...]

The Best Bags for Walking to Work

the best bags for walking to workWhat is the best bag to carry if you walk to work? Reader A wonders…

I’ve had a bag dilemma for years and though this venue might provide a solution. I thought perhaps someone out there might have found the holy grail of bags to address the following issues, and I’m sure others are looking for the same. I would certainly love a post on this. I’m a lawyer and I walk almost two miles to work everyday. Here’s what I’m looking for:
- Big enough to carry folders, papers, occasional laptop and occasional change of clothes
-Color-neutral enough to be worn with anything for everyday use
-Professional looking
- Comfortable to carry long distances, such as a cross-body style with comfortable strap. Maybe a backpack style?

Does such a bag exist? I sure hope so.

I’ve always loved walking to work, and I’ve regularly schlepped about that distance. While there are so many benefits to walking to work (fresh air! clear head! some exercise!), I do feel like I’ve done some serious damage to my body from walking so much. [Read more...]