The Hunt: Black Bags

The Hunt: Basic Black Shoulder Bags & Satchels | CorporetteSure, 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 love a tote bag as much as the next person — but for some reason, I associate smaller bags with spring and summer.  Here in NYC it means longer days, dining and drinking with friends outside, and long walks to and from work.  It also means lighter commuting shoes (ahem, flip flops usually), and less need for shoving STUFF in your bag (scarves, hats, etc).  I think a black satchel or shoulder bag is something every woman should have — some of the classics that we’ve rounded up in previous Hunts are still available, such as the Kate Spade Cobble Hill, or the Rebecca Minkoff Cupid, or the LV Pont-Neuf (rounded up in 2013)… or the Marc by Marc Jacobs Classic Q Lil Ukita (rounded up in 2012; there are a TON of the “Classic Q” bags that one should consider here).  Readers, what is your must-have basic color for a bag?  Have you bought any great shoulder bags or satchels lately (or, do you wear any classics that are still available)? 

Elliott Lucca Messina SatchelI poked around for a long time looking for a decent bag to recommend under $100 — my theory is that these are best found in brick and mortar discount stores like TJ Maxx. That said, there were a few, including this leather bag from Elliott Lucca — I like the magnetic flat top open, the tassel details throughout, and the general shape; the sale is also great. It was $208, marked today to $98 at Last Call. (Also in this price range: the Vera Bradley Eloise handbag, with a fun dome shape and made of a fairly lux-looking cotton, for $89 at Zappos.) Pictured: Elliott Lucca Messina Satchel
Banana Republic Annabele SatchelI like the look of this Annabele satchel (pictured here in red, but available in black, cognac, and ivory/snake). Amazingly there is no sale at BR today, but the bag is marked from $198 down to $168. (IMHO, I’d still wait for another 30% off sale, but that’s me.) Banana Republic Annabele Satchel
Cole Haan Nora Weave Hobo 2If I were looking for a deal, this would be my pick of the group.  In my experience, Cole Haan bags last/wear extraordinarily well, are intelligently designed, and usually comfortable to carry — I have at least 5 CH bags in my collection.  This one is available in black (pictured at top of post), gunmetal smoke (pictured here), and red, and is 50% off, marked from $348 down to $175. (Also in this price range: the Kensington satchel at Madewell ($198).)) Pictured: Cole Haan Nora Weave Hobo
Botkier Valentina Pebble Leather Hobo BagBotkier is another brand that’s one of my favorites — they last and wear well, are intelligently designed, and generally look great.  This bag (which has a fun pink lining) is on a nice sale at Last Call – was $495, marked to $294 today. (Last Call also has it in a brandy and a cobalt blue.)  Botkier Valentina Pebble Leather Hobo Bag
Kate Spade Lainey ToteThere are a TON of nice bags in the $350+ price range — Coach, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Dooney & Bourke, etc.  I like this Kate Spade New York tote — the 8″ strap drop seems long enough to sling over your shoulder, and the pebbled leather and multiple openings seem like it would be a good bag to carry.  It’s $428 at Nordstrom. Kate Spade Lainey Tote
Bottega Veneta Maxi VenetaC’mon, I had to include at least one splurge-worthy/drool bag.  This Bottega Veneta is a classic, and I love the lack of identifying marks.  It’s available in black, TWO dark browns, pale pink,  orange, and a medium blue for $2,350 at Net-a-Porter. Bottega Veneta Maxi Veneta

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  1. I love bags. Good bags and jeans are my splurges.

    • Anyone else having trouble finding a reasonably-priced leather bag they really want to purchase this Spring? My standbys are Coach, D&B, Kate Spade and I shop online on numerous sites but I am just not feeling it.

      • Senior Attorney :

        I think Kat is right that bags are one of those things you have to see in person. I have had good luck at off-price places like Marshall’s, and OMG my local Nordstrom Rack has some amazing bags at the moment!

        • Yeah, I always need to hoist it over my shoulder and carry it around the store for a little while, and dig all the crumpled paper out so I can see the pockets, and etc.

          I just kind of failed and kind of succeeded at TJ Maxx. I went in looking for a cobalt blue or kelly green bag. I found a bag I liked. Real leather and everything but more navy than cobalt. Then I saw the exact same bag in cobalt. I held them up next to each other. Same brand, same shape, same size, same price, better color. So I bought the cobalt one. Got it home, dug out all the paper and — man made material. Oh well. I guess it’s fine, I didn’t pay a lot for it, it’s a trendy color anyway, and I thought it was leather when I was looking at it, so the casual observer may too..

          Still, meh. I am usually more careful at the discounty places.

      • Rebecca Minkoff. Her bags are gorgeous. I got a Morning After Bag Mini version recently and it is beautiful. You can carry it on your shoulder, on your elbow, or cross body. I also have 2 Swing purses, one in red and one in beige ostrich. Both are gorgeous, but are medium sized bags.

        What style are you looking for?

        • Maddie Ross :

          I feel as though there has been a significant decline in the quality of Rebecca Minkoff bags of late. I have an older one which wore like iron, but my most recent MAB has been shoddy.

  2. Quick TJ: what gift would you recommend getting for a girl friend’s law school graduation? I’d like to keep the gift under $400. Thanks!

    • Anonymous :

      GF as in romantic relationship? or just friendship? 400 dollars would be an extreme gift for a friendship. I think something like a business card holder, fancy pen, etc would be nice.

      • financial circle :

        I was thinking the same thing as above. My first thought was, “that is so far outside of my financial circle, and social/cultural norm, I wouldn’t even begin to know how to answer”

        The things I could come up with are like previous poster: nice pen (the Lamy fountain pens are nice, refillable, and come in a variety of colors/finishes); silver monogrammed business card holder; or similar combination thereof.

        If you could take a chance and buy her a fancy bag, that would be a lovely gift, but I personally am sensitive about those kinds of bags–I don’t like other folks to try to pick out a bag (especially an everyday/daily bag) for me, but a special occasion bag seems to be easier to shop for, in terms of not necessarily needing very particular features that the user may want everyday…KWIM?

    • A relative got me a large leather bag that I could use to tote files to and from work. That or a briefcase could be a really nice gift (if you know her style well enough). Coach makes some nice ones under $400.

    • Anonymous :

      Personally, I would never use the fancy work stuff like a business card holder or pen that is often recommended. I’m a recent grad and while I would never look down on any gift, I would probably appreciate more a gift along the lines of something I could use to help set up my new post-law school apartment, buy some new clothes or accessories for my new job, or relax during bar prep. What about a spa day for the two of you sometime this summer?

    • Thanks y’all! I appreciate the suggestions – particularly the spa idea! I don’t think I know her style well enough to purchase a bag.

  3. kjoirishlastname :

    I’m a bag newbie. Our office is so casual, there’s no reason for me to have a fancy-pants bag, really. I alternate between a royal blue (yes!!) REI bag, or my brown/red Timbuk2 bag. I have a few “nice” bags, but I never really carry them.

    I did inquire about socks for ballet flats last week, and got a great response. A lot of you recommended HUE. Our TJMaxx gets them a lot, but I couldn’t find any at the time, so I took my chances on the No Nonsense brand at Walmart. The super-low cut ones. So far, so good. Most of the WM house brand had funny padding under the ball of the foot, but these don’t. I thought I wouldn’t like them, because they barely cover the bottom of my foot (they don’t come up the sides at all), but after wearing them a bit, it doesn’t bother me. They do have the little heel grippy thing, and so far, they have stayed in place. So, I do recommend them, and they’re about $3/pair.

    I’m getting my hair chopped & colored today. I’m a little nervous, but I really need this haircut for the health of my hair. About the bottom 3″ is just totally jacked up. I was growing out a long shag, and in the hopes of just getting the length, I just didn’t get it trimmed much. I think I went through most of 2012 without getting any trims. So, I’m going for a non-stacked (hubs doesn’t like the stack) chin-length bob with some layers. And going lighter. I’m a sandy brown now, but it’s an odd color. Bring back my blonde. Though I haven’t been really blonde in about 5 years. But I was a platinum blonde as a kid. It’s just darkened over time. My natural color is a light brown, but it’s just not pretty. I’m also hopeful that this haircut will decrease my getting-ready time. Now, it takes a long time to dry it, but at least FINALLY, after 20 years of blow-drying my hair, I have found a way to dry it without it getting all frizzy. Go figure. 20 years of blow-drying.

    I’m just feeling blah today. Our weather is supposed to turn to crap tonight/tomorrow, and I’m done with the cold. It was 80 here yesterday. I don’t really have a whole lot of things at work that I need to accomplish Right Now, so I am just kind of wasting time trying to organize my thoughts and my action plan for the week. That’s productive, right?

    • I love black bag’s! I love black everything and the manageing partner think’s I should start weareing more black thing’s b/c red is out this year he say’s! Great as long as he reimburses it!!!! YAY!!!

      Rosa is driveing down now with the babie’s and she is entering the babie’s into a DIAPER Derby on April 26 at the Weschester Mall. She said her freind’s are also goieng to enter their babie’s so it will be FUN! She showed me this link so that other peeople can bring their babie’s to compete in contest’s!

      Yay! Now I just need my own baby to enter in the Diaper Derby. Mabye next year, b/c I have no baby and not even any boyfreind worthy of impregeanating me. FOOEY! Where am I goieng to find a rich man to make me a baby? David has CERTAINLY pointed out to me that he is willeing and abel, but I am NOT sure I want him to even be huffeing and puffeing on top of me to make one. FOOEY! Also, I do NOT think he can suport me and the baby if we were MARRIED. I do NOT want some 65 year old with money, either. DOUBEL FOOEY! Aren’t there guy’s out there MY age (or even up to 45) with money who want a baby with me and to MARRY me? Where are they? Savanah Guthrie has a guy and a baby comeing soon and I have NEEITHER. PRINCE WILLEM has another baby comeing also I think. TRIPEL FOOEY!

  4. Does anyone have recs for blotting papers they like? It’s HOT here today, and I realized that I am making the transition from dry winter skin to sweaty summer skin, badly….

    • Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets. I also like the Target-brand ones.

      • +10000000
        I cannot live without them.

        I’ve seen Mac makes their version of blotting sheets as well but Clean & Clear is the best. Been using them for years and I use atleast 3-4 a day. Highly recommend them as it keeps the makeup in place.

    • TO Lawyer :

      I like the lavender blotting papers from the body shop. I took a quick browse on their website and couldn’t find them but maybe they have them in store?

    • kjoirishlastname :

      No advice for blotting papers per se, but I do like the makeup-removal wipes for a quick swipe. I will keep some in my desk for a quick wipe of forehead & under eyes.

      As an aside, you may want to look at changing up your facial washing routine. Washing your face with soap of any sort (even something super creamy & sensitive like Cetaphil) will strip your face of natural oils, thereby telling your body to produce oil. The oil on our skin protects us from a lot of things. Rather than washing with soap, you may want to look into Oil Cleansing Method. I’ve now done this for more than a year, and 9/10 times, I can get away with just washing with water & a washcloth. I will use coconut oil & a cotton pad on my eyes when I wear eye makeup, but the vast majority of my cleansing is just with water. I use OCM a few mornings a week in the shower, and sometimes (rarely) in the evening. I’ve read from others who use OCM with a Clairsonic, and that is next on my list to try, but I just don’t have the $$ to drop on a Clairsonic at this time. So, hot water, my oil mix (right now it is 1/3 castor oil, 2/3 grapeseed oil) and a baby washcloth. I like the baby washcloths because they’re lightweight & dry quickly, but they’re also less textured than fullsize cloths so not as harsh on the skin.

      Just my $0.02. It’s also way cheap. Buy 2 dozen washcloths (you could use 1 per day, and then not transfer dirty oil to a clean-oil face), a few bottles of oil & that’s all you need for months, maybe a year or more.

      • I second the oil cleansing method! I’ve been doing it since October and when I’m consistent, I don’t even need to blot my face during the day. (Before, I used Skin ID until it was discontinued and then Proactiv for a bit – worst month of my life – and my face would get so oily that by lunchtime it was stinging my eyes. I kid you not.) I use 1/3 castor oil to 2/3 olive oil at night, followed by ACV & witch hazel toner mix, and then 3 drops of this anti-acne oil mixture I bought on Etsy from Betty Crunch. In the morning I wash with honey followed by the toner mix and that’s it. This clears up acne too if anyone else (still) has this problem. And I’ve also tried both (honey and oil) with the Clarisonic. Still too soon to tell if it’s significantly better than just using your hands.

    • AnonLawMom :

      Most useful thing I learned in college – use pieces of toilet seat liners as blotting papers. Hopefully you live in a state that requires these (for so many reasons!!!) and you can just steal them from work. It’s amazing how well they work.

    • WestCoast Lawyer :

      The best tip I ever got from a magazine was to use the toilet seat covers they have in bathrooms. They are totally useless for preventing germs, but they are so thin that they are great for blotting excess oil from your face. And they are readily available so you don’t have to carry them with you.

      • Anonymous :

        I am not at all trying to snark on the toilet seat cover suggestion, but is anyone else grossed out by the idea of patting their face with paper that has been subjected to hundreds of toilet flush sprays? I thought there were studies that showed how every bathroom surface (including your toothbrush sitting in that open cup on the counter) has spray residue from what’s being flushed unless you close the lid first, and obviously public restrooms don’t have lids. Add in that I didn’t think many people used these covers (based on rarely hearing the telltale crinkle), so the one you’re grabbing has been sitting there a long time, getting sprayed.

        For the OP, I second the Johnson & Johnson Clean & Clear sheets. They can get expensive but I usually stock up when I have a 20% off CVS extracare coupon.

  5. HPV/Colposcopy question :

    Hi all, I just tested positive for HPV for the second time in two years. All of my paps have been normal, but now I am in the “persistently HPV positive” category and my doc wants to do a colposcopy. I have re-read some old threads on this site about others’ experiences and they were immensely helpful but I did not see an experience with persistent HPV. Anyone out there in this category? Words of wisdom much appreciated.

    • I’m in this category. It really is just like a slightly worse pap. Deep breaths, and don’t stress.

      I take folic acid, which helps, but since my SO keeps giving it back to me there’s not a heck of a lot I can do :)

    • I had that, but with abnormal paps. It turned out to not be a big deal. When they do a colposcopy, basically they look for abnormal cells and may do a biopsy if they find anything. It sounds like they may look but not actually biopsy anything on you since your results were always normal. It sort of feels like a regular pap, but they put a vinegary solution on your cervix to see if any cells stand out. It doesn’t hurt. If they biopsy, they will remove some tissue and you can feel this, but it’s not very painful, kind of like a prick or a swab. They’ll paint some kind of liquid bandage over it that will come out over the next week as gravelly discharge.

      Whatever you do, do not google colposcopy – I was scared of it because there were these gut wrenching accounts of it all over the internet, but even with a bunch of samples collected it was no big deal at all. HPV usually will go away in 2-3 years, so just keep getting your paps on schedule and I bet it will go away soon. I’m kind of surprised you even need a colposcopy, my gyn told me that there’s not much of a point in even testing for HPV if your pap results are normal unless it’s to motivate you to come back next year.

    • Also anon :

      I had a + test about 15 years ago and then got married and at some point went + again. Colps both times, the most recent time was like a stronger pap — take advil before!

      Around the time of the first, I read that B vitamins can help the body rally against HPV and have made sure to eat a lot of beans and oatmeal in my diet. I cannot say that that did the trick, but I’m back to having normal paps after these hiccups.

      I have also read that HPVs can have a long dormancy period.

      • HPV/Colposcopy question :

        I requested a full STI screening two years ago after ending a relationship (with someone who had a very…um…extensive sexual history). He had been tested for STI’s but I did not realize there was no reliable HPV test for men until after we broke up. All of my paps have been normal, it’s just freaking me out a bit that my body cannot seem to clear this up. I do have a B-12 deficiency so I will take this advice, too. Thanks!

    • I had one about 7 years ago, after an abnormal PAP. The culpo results were also concerning to my Dr., so I then had a LEEP (which is much worse than a culposcopy). Finally it all cleared up and I haven’t had an abnormal PAP since. I am, however, in the “every year I need a PAP category,” rather than moving to 2 years like some ladies. You’ll be fine. A pain reliever is usually OK to take before something like that, but call your Dr.’s office to check which one.

      All that said, there are something like 75 strains of HPV. You could simply have cleared the first and gotten another strain from someone else.

  6. There’s a 40% off sale at Banana today with BRBREAK40. It’s just not quite as obviously splashed across their homepage as usual.

  7. Oldest Bag :

    What is the oldest “nice” bag that anyone has and uses? I’ve never had a splurgy bag (I have an OG, but that’s exclusively for work travel and not something I use every day). If someone is using an older bag (5-10-15 years old), can you let us know what it is and how old it is? I want to know what has really earned its keep and look into them.

    • S in Chicago :

      I have a Longchamp “Roseau” tote that is going on seven years after oodles of plane rides and almost daily office wear without a scratch. This thing is seriously like a tank. I suspect the smaller styles would serve equally well.

    • Killer Kitten Heels :

      I have a handful of Coach bags that are all in the 5+ years old category (1 or 2 are coming up on 10 years old) – they’re mostly occasional use bags for me now, but all of them were in heavy-use rotation for at least a year or two, and still get busted out regularly. I think they tend to hold their quality really well, especially for someone like me who is pretty rough on bags.

    • I found an early 1980’s Italian ostrich leather handbag at my local goodwill. I doubt I will ever use it, but it is so beautiful! (Willing to sell, if anyone is willing to buy!)

    • Lady Tetra :

      I have my mother’s Coach bag and matching briefcase from the early 80s, and they are both still in great condition. I think Coach quality has come down a bit, but the classic models are still pretty solid.

      • So this isn’t super nice, but I dropped over a $100 on a Lug bag in 2007. I thought this was crazy money for a GYM bag!!! But I’ve used that thing almost everyday for seven years, it doubles as a weekend bag, it’s gone across country multiple times…and it still looks like new.

    • Anonymous :

      I am still carrying a Chloe bag I bought in 2007. It’s held up amazingly well and I still get compliments on it.

    • BV veneta….5 years and going strong.

  8. hypothyroid TJ:

    went in for annual labs for hypothyroid last week. I’ve been on synthroid now for 3 years, and have increased dosage from 25mcg up to 75mcg now.

    Labs were normal (2.7) for TSH, but I still feel awful. Deepening depression, bruising, fatigue, dry skin & hair, cold…Nurse practitioner (who is with an ENT, not an endocrinologist–there aren’t any in my immediate vicinity) ordered T3, T4 and thyroid antibody labs, along with a CBC from my PCP to see if there are other issues contributing.

    She (ENT NP) said that if the labs were normal, she would switch me from brand name synthroid to Armour thyroid. This freaks me out a little, but it shouldn’t considering I’m a carnivore…However, she said that there are folks who get better results from Armour than from Synthroid. She said that if the labs were off, she’d increase my dose of Synthroid.

    She said that she was hesitant to include Cytomel (T3 supplement, whereas Synthroid is T4) in addition to Synthroid, just because of the variability of Cytomel. Apparently the half-life of cytomel is a few hours (8-12) whereas therapeutic dose of synthroid takes about 6 weeks–which is why you have to get labs drawn 6 weeks after every dosage change.

    I’m not running out of hope yet, but I am feeling like I’m reaching the end of a road with little room for improvement. Has anyone experienced this/had luck with alternative methods of treating? FWIW, it is more likely that my hypothyroid is a result of thyroiditis (which is why my thyroid antibodies are usually abnormal), as opposed to some other condition. Thoughts? Options?

    • You may just need to increase your Synthroid dosage further. Just because you are in the “normal” range does not mean that that is the optimal range for your body. My endo tells me that most of her young, female patients feel best with a TSH at around 1.0. I was still complaining about fatigue with a TSH of 2.3 a few months ago, and sure enough, raising my dosage by another 25 mcg has made me feel like a totally different person.

    • I would suggest looking at They have great information and a book that describes a lot of the issues with using synthetic thyroid medications (Synthroid) vs. naturally desiccated (Armour) and just going by TSH. You should also check to see if you are having Reverse T3 issues. Hope this helps.

    • Philanthropy Girl :

      My first recommendation would have been to ask for the full panel – not the basic one they run, but it sounds like your NP already made that order. Often the basic will show normal readings but the full panel will show deficiencies.

      I did a ton of research when my basic came back “high normal” (as in, tend toward low functioning). I read many people had better results with the Armour than the synthetic. I wouldn’t let it freak me out.
      I read most about possible dietary changes, and it seems like there are many people who have good luck there. I know I feel better when I avoid caffeine gluten and sugar, eat healthy proteins and healthy fats, etc… but I never had a blood panel run to see if it makes a difference in my hormone levels. Have they checked for food sensitivities, like a gluten intolerance?

      They often advise taking it easy on exercise. Rebounding and gentle walking are supposed to be really good for your thyroid, but pushing lots of extreme exercise can just wear your thyroid out even more.

      There is a lot of information on the web about alternative treatments, particularly with diet and supplements. I hope you find some more helpful answers!

  9. I recently bought the Michael Kors Hamilton Tote in black pebbled leather with silver hardware. It is rather large though. I think the pebbled leather may be discontinued as I’ve only seen saffiano leather lately. I prefer the slouchier look of pebbled leather.

    I also have by eye on (1) the Michael Kors Sophie satchel (the large is on sale for $298), (2) the Rebecca Minkoff Morning After Bag Mini, and (3) the Rebecca Minoff Perry Satchel. All come in black.

    Lately though I’ve been gravitating more towards color. I am embarassed to admit this, but I’ve bought 6 handbags in the past 2 months – mainly Kate Spade and Rebecca Minkoff.

  10. I own the BV hobo veneta in large. It is now in its fifth year and going strong. Costs a bomb but I only own two work bags, both BV and work horses. Mine are deep blue and berry….several seasons old.

    And no, I am not an intern :)

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