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Designer Bags, Purse Budgets, and Investments

designer bags and purse budgetsLadies, how often do you buy purses and bags? Do you prefer to make one big purchase and buy a quality, name bag — or do you prefer to make more frequent, smaller purchases? Does having a trendy bag matter to you, or do you want a classic style? 

I’ve been thinking about this recently because I’ve been helping a friend look for her first big bag purchase in a while — she’s finally out of the diaper bag phase of her life, has almost 2 of her 3 kids in school, is settled into her “forever” house, etc. Accordingly, she and I have been trolling resale sites like Tradesy and The Real Real, as well as discount sites like Last Call and Rue La La. She’s inclined to make one big bag purchase, and carry the bag everywhere — and she’d like to find a designer bag for around $500.  (We’ve yet to find the perfect bag at that price point — I’ve suggested she look at discounted but new Furla bags for quality, stylish bags, as well as lightly used bags like Mulberry, Ferragamo, and Saint Laurent.

In the past I’ve gone the other way, buying bags frequently but at lower price points. In my lawyering days before kids, there was a steady stream of discounted bags that I paid between $150-$350 for, all with original MSRPs of $500-$700. (You can see a lot of them pictured/discussed in this older post on purse budgets.)  They were all quality, leather bags — lots of Cole Haan, Furla, Botkier, Dooney & Bourke, with the occasional Coach or Kate Spade thrown in — but none of them really qualified as “designer” bags on the same level as my friends with Chloe, YSL, Prada, Chanel, Bottega, etc.  So I’ve wondered over the years — should I have just saved the money up and spent my “purse budget” on a single designer purse each year, instead of four or five little ones? Would that be a better “investment”?

Here’s the interesting thing I’m finding while looking for a purse for my friend: a lot of the designer bags I’m seeing seem incredibly dated to me.  Much, much more so than the fun, sometimes offbeat bags my closet is filled with.  Some of the bags I see are particularly tied to very old memories, such as:

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The Hunt: Stylish, Professional Satchels

stylish satchelsSure, 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.

Satchel or shoulder bag, ladies?  Every year we do a hunt for a basic black professional purse that is not a tote, which gets a special roundup of its own. (Here’s our roundup for purses from 2014, 2013 and 2012).  I’ve always had a preference for shoulder bags myself — I like to keep my hands free, and I don’t like a strap crossing my bust — so I was really shocked to see how few shoulder bags are out there right now, particularly in the non-designer realms.  Satchels, crossbodies, and bucket bags really dominate the market right now.  We talked about the crossbody bag a few weeks ago — I’m curious about your thoughts on bucket bags for work, as they seem a bit boho-casual to me. (But: I do love this bag for the weekend.)  Anyway, lots of beautiful satchel bags that look ladylike and professional… ladies, what is your favorite kind of purse for work? Have you found any great stylish, professional satchels recently?   (Angie at YouLookFab had a fun debate on bag shapes this a while ago — to pick up where she left off, are YOU Team Satchel, Team Shoulder Bag…. or are you Team Tote for work?)

Here are a few subcategories of professional purses that seemed deserving of their own mini-roundup…

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The Next Step: Shoes

How to Upgrade Your Shoe Collection | CorporetteWe’ve talked about upgrading your work clothes, buying better bags and grown-up furniture — but we haven’t yet talked about different tiers for shoes.  (Of course, we’ve talked in the past about comfortable heels, classic flats, which brands of shoes we love, which brands just don’t work for us, and even about how to find shoes for fussy feet.) I’m mostly grouping these by price, and only including brands that either I or the readers have noted as comfortable shoes — there are obviously a ton of brands that look pretty.  As with the other posts in this Next Step series, this is more of a continuum than a definitive ranking — do you agree with the shoe continuum? Are we missing any major brands?  Without further ado…

Bucket 1: Budget Shoes

(generally under $75, either with their MSRP or a frequently-on-sale price)

Bucket 2: Midlevel Shoes (Trendy)

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The Next Step: Bags

How to Upgrade Your Handbag Collection | CorporetteHow to Upgrade Your Handbag Collection | CorporetteWhat are the different “levels” for handbags — and how do you upgrade your handbag collection?  I’m curious to hear what readers say.  We’ve already talked about how to upgrade your professional wardrobe, as well as where to buy grown-up furniture… up next in our Next Step series: handbags. I’m pretty solidly in Bucket 3 at the moment.  I had a lot of fun wearing purses a few years ago, striving to wear a new one from my collection every week — but now I tend to reach for the same one whenever I head out, so I can see the sense in having a Bucket 5 bag if that’s the only one you wear. (Here’s what I usually carry in my bag.)  To me, the must-have details in any bag are a good leather or durable canvas (unless it’s a really fun color that I’ve never owned before — and a good sale), interior pockets, feet, a zipper on top — and I always appreciate an attached key fob and fun lining.  Ladies, what are your must-haves?  Which buckets of bags do you currently own — and have you been upgrading them as you move up the career ladder? Which brands am I forgetting in the different buckets? 

Bucket 1: Budget Bags

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The Next Step: Professional Clothes

workwear next stepHow to Upgrade Your Work Wardrobe | CorporetteA lot of people know where to go for inexpensive professional clothes — and then they know the brands that celebrities wear.  But the middle ground can get confusing for people — particularly, how to step up your game when it comes to fashionable workwear.  We talked a few weeks about what the next step is for furniture (based on a commenting thread a while back), and this week I thought we’d talk about the spectrum for professional clothes. (Obviously, some of these brands could fit in multiple buckets — any big disagreements, though?)  Readers, where did you shop when you started your careers — or when you need budget pieces?  What was your next step, and the step after that, and the step after that? When did you notice a big change in quality?  Am I forgetting any brands?  What are your top 3 in each bucket? 

Bucket 1: Budget Fashion

  • Dorothy Perkins
  • Express
  • H&M
  • Loft
  • Modcloth
  • New York & Co.
  • Old Navy
  • Target
  • Zara

Bucket 2: Midlevel Fashion

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Tales from the Wallet: What’s Worth the Splurge (And What Isn’t)

When to Splurge, When to Save | CorporetteSomething that I’ve wanted to do for a while is talk about what’s worth the “splurge” (on a big or small level) versus what’s NOT worth the splurge. For example: I always joke that life is too short for cheap liquor and cheap toilet paper. On the flip side, I rarely notice the difference with a “fine” wine (ahem), and “good” coffee is wasted on me also — Folgers is just fine for my one cup a day. At the grocery store, I often buy store brands (or whatever’s cheapest).

On a day to day level, my cleaning lady (who now comes once a fortnight) is non-negotiable and an absolute essential (we love you Olga!), and I will give up other splurges (such as frequent dinners out) to keep room for her in the budget. (Pictured:  Fossil ‘Key-Per’ Wristlet, was $40, now $29.98.)

On a grander level, I think education is worth the splurge if other factors align; in other words, the more expensive program may be worth it if it offers enhanced networking capabilities / alumni base / career services / etc. In terms of housing, I’ve always prioritized living space over location or amenities (e.g., I’ve never lived in a glitzy apartment building in a super chic area but rather the largest apartment I could get in the safest area near where I wanted to live).

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