Reader J has a great question about designer bags… MUST you wear a designer bag if you’re a woman professional like a lawyer or businesswoman?
I’m going back to full-time lawyer work (public sector) after being home w/my two children for a few years. I know designer bags are big among my stay-at-home mom friends, but I’ve never been that interested. I’m wondering — how essential is that Coach or Dooney & Burke (etc) bag for a lawyer/professional women today? I’ve already picked up a selection of nice pantsuits, high-quality shoes & scarves and just don’t know if I have to spring for this too!
There are a few different components here. In an ideal world, I would say that your bag should be in good shape — no threads, no scuffs, certainly no rips or stains on the outside of the bag. Because of that need for durability and presentability, yes, most women do go for leather bags, and yes, well-made ones at that.
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The other thing here is the need for “street cred” — and this requires you to know a bit about your colleagues. If you’re working with women who have very high-end, recognizable bags, I would advise against carrying a knock-off or a cheaper “interpretation” of the bag (particularly if logos are involved).
If, however, you just choose a simple, basic black or brown bag and carry it without pretense — then you may not get “points” for being a fashionista, but you won’t get dinged for trying too hard, either.
Readers, what are your thoughts on designer bags? Must you have one? If you had to choose ONE designer bag to get (or at least to “start” a collection with), which would it be? Which are the best basic, no-fuss, high-quality bags for work?
Some Of Our Latest Favorite Work Totes (In General)
Above, some of the best work totes for women as of 2023: one* / two* / three / four* / five / six* (not pictured but also Tumi and Dagne Dover!)
* try this highly-rated organizing insert with some of the less structured bags…
Some Of Our Latest Favorite Luxury Work Bags
As of Feb. 2023, some of our favorite luxury work bags for a splurge (large enough for work papers and sometimes even a laptop) are from Chanel, Louboutin, McQueen, Mulberry, MCM, Jimmy Choo, Ferragamo, and Strathberry. Of course, note that a lot of our readers who are in big jobs note that they love their (more affordable) Lo & Sons bags, as well as their Tumi.
Looking for work backpacks to splurge on? Senreve is great, and Valextra has some men’s backpacks that look perfect.
Updated images via Stencil. Originally pictured: Purses, originally uploaded to Flickr by j o s h.)
I recently picked up a black leather bag from Coach for around $400. It doesn’t scream “designer” but rather, looks professional, mature, and serious. This is my first professional looking bag. Other designer bags I’ve owned tend to look like the inside lining of a designer jacket (not exactly the most professional look in my opinion).
Coach outlets (if you have one near you) often have bags for between $100 and $250. I’d go there if you’re on a budget.
I work in an attorney’s office of all guys, and they can usually pick out quality bags/clothes…if nothing else, it’s a conversation starter “..oh, my wife has the same bag…” “They also make great men’s shoes…” etc. I am currently carrying a black Tarrytown Quinn Kate Spade bag; it’s perfect! It’s roomy, basic, one color, no obnoxious logos, very professional, and best of all, only a few hundred bucks. You’ll definitely get your money’s worth…I pack a ton of things in there that take me from day to night and I find myself reaching for it on the weekends, too. I would say, yes, splurge–it’s an investment!
This comment sickens me.
Yikes that was a mean reply. I have to admit, I hate referring to designer bags (or clothes in general) as an “investment” when actual investments that women should care about aren’t sold at Nordstroms (think: 401Ks?) but this is a bit much.
Good quality bag is important, but I think what’s more important is that your bag look simple, refined, and not obviously shabby. If you can do that for under $80, more power to you. I have a few bags around $200 but the one I always come back to was $80 (down to $60 with coupons) at Macys. I get the most compliments on that bag.
For the $200+ bags, I recommend finding a bag you like and then seeing if you can get it new on ebay. I got a Marc by Marc Jacobs bag for $200 instead of the original $450 and a Coach bag for $180 instead of $380.
I agree with you! My sister carries $4000 Vuitton bag, and i have $65 pretty red bag. I get compliments on my bag all the time, but who ever compliments designer bags? It’s trying to tell people they like to spend on looks so much.
anon - chi
Could people like this keep their comments to themselves, please? What on earth do you think that adds to the discussion?
And FWIW, I don’t see anything remotely “sickening” about Linz’s comment!
Heh, your office is very different than mine. The only comment a male partner has ever made on my bag was to look at it and say in a befuddled tone “Oh, everyone has these nice bags!”
I have the same bag in blue, and I love it. It fits 8.5×11 papers perfectly. It’s also roomy enough to stuff in a scarf or spare sweater. You can get really good deals on the bag, too, on clearance at Kate Spade or Nordstroms.
Um, I’ve always thought that Coach and D&B aren’t really designer bags. They seem like brands that teens and college girls carry, before graduating to something more sophisticated. And I once heard someone say that Kate Spade is a poor woman’s Prada. I kind of have to agree! I think you should either go designer all the way and carry Gucci, Prada, or some other bag on that level, or go for a well-made non-branded leather bag of some sort.
Coach, D&B, and Kate Spade just scream cheesy to me (add Tory Burch to that list too).
Oh, and if you do invest in designer, don’t buy the bag with the branding all over it. Buy the well-made designer bag that is discreet. It’s much classier.
Gee thanks for the advice, oh wise handbag guru…
I disagree with this comment. Certainly, Gucci and Prada are a step up. But for their significantly lower price, I think Coach, Kate Spade and Tory Burch can offer some lovely, classic-looking bags that are of relatively high quality. They are certainly not uber-fashionista – but they are fashionable, and much more accessible for working women who make a good income but need several bags (i.e., a black one, a brown one, maybe a color too) and can’t afford a small collection of LVs! I think carrying a Kate Spade bag, for example, signals that you do like fashion and care about what you’re carrying. It may also indicate you can’t drop a few grand on a leather purse, but I would never describe it as “cheesy.” To be fair, I have no idea what you mean by “cheesy” here – seems like an odd word choice – but it seems from the tone of your post that you mean it in a condescending way, which doesn’t really seem warranted.
All things considered, for the vast majority of people buying Kate Spade or Coach is a splurge, and buying a Fendi will simply never happen. But Kate Spade and Coach offer an approximation of that luxury. I for one am glad they’re around! And I don’t know anyone who is ashamed to carry either of those brands, even if they dream of Prada.
Just wanted to clarify that I disagreed with the “cheesy” post. Am 100% in agreement with the comment about buying the non logo encrusted versions of designer bags! They do look much classier IMHO.
Some of the wealthiest women I know carry the entry- and mid-level designer bags and choose to splurge on their clothing and/or jewelry, scarves and shoes. On the other hand, I know a number of young women living in apartments and driving their entry-level cars to entry-level cars who saved up for a Gucci or LV. A bag is not as much of a class indicator as other wardrobe items these days.
If I were in the original questioner’s shoes, I’d get an inexpensive, non-descript, brand new black tote for the first week and get a feel for my coworkers’ bags before I spent much on a new one.
…and by “cars” I mean “jobs.” Of course.
I totally see why you’d call Coach bags “cheesy”. The brand reminds me of Juicy Couture. A bunch of big logos and very junior-looking designs. Not sophisticated at all. I think there are other brands in the same price range that look much better (e.g. Cole Haan).
So, I have nothing against “entry-level designer labels”, but the demographic that buys them seems to prefer a style that I really dislike. I think maybe that’s what M was getting at – most high-end designer bags are gorgeous, some lower-end no-name bags are gorgeous, but the entry-level designer bags do tend to look cheesy (although not all of them are).
This is a blog about style, right? Coach, Kate Spade and D&B are not stylish, in my opinion. I think the brands are cheesy, and market to a younger age demographic. High-end designer bags that are NOT covered in logo/brands are much more stylish to me, in my opinion.
It’s not about how much money they cost, it’s about STYLE. I also noted that if you can’t afford a bag at that level, then buy a well-made NON-BRANDED bag.
I bought myself a Gucci bag when I got a new job. I saved up for it. I have had this bag for 4 years. It still looks great and I use it at least 3 times a week. That is a good value in my opinion, and it still remains stylish and will for several more years!! I also own several non-designer bags that are discreet and functional.
It’s not about money – it’s about style, function and longevity. Instead of buying three NYLON Kate Spade bags, save up and buy a leather Prada and use it for years. That’s just my advice.
Now, THIS calls for a “this sickens me” kind of response. Snob alert! I think Coach makes some very nice, classic bags–but only if it doesn’t have Coach written all over it.
For what it’s worth, when I see someone with a Prada bag, I think to myself “wow, that woman has no concept of the value of money.” Not to be preachy but I can think of a lot better things to do with $1000+ than drop it on a purse.
Associate who has never been able to afford a designer bag.
I agree. The notion only “teens and college girls carry” Coach or D&B is laughable. I wish I had enough money to blow on a nice bag when I was a teen. Heck, I still wish I had enough money to be able to afford a Coach bag. I realize this blog tends to cater to the more well off of the corporate world, but the idea that the average teen or college girls is dropping hundreds of dollars on a bag is ridiculous and out of touch with reality.
I don’t think that anyone seriously means to say that all or only teen girls carry Coach/DB.
For me, personally, those brands are just soooooo heavily associated in my mind with tourists on Canal St. in Chinatown carrying garbage bags full of them in various never-been-designed-by-the-brand iterations that I simply have no desire for a bag by Coach or DB, or etc. Does that mean I would judge a person who has one? Absolutely not. But, while I agree that Coach & Kate Spade may make some nice bags, the fact that they make so many tacky ones — and that they have courted this market so much with their super logoed products — makes me turned off from their brand as a whole, and I have no interest in purchasing their stuff.
On a related note, I think judging someone as “having no concept of money” b/c they are carrying a prada bag or the like is just as obnoxious as judging someone for not carrying a nice enough bag in the first place.
Honestly, is this type of mentality any less “sickening” than the woman who turns her nose down at “inferior designer” bags? I think it’s ridiculous to judge someone based on what bag they carry at all, without regard to if the bag in question is on the low or high end of the price spectrum. If a woman has the means to spend $1000+ on a bag and chooses to do so, who are you to judge?
Oh come on. We all make little judgments all day long. It may be judgmental, but I find $1000+ purses (though often lovely) to be borderline immoral (I know that’s a strong word but I can’t think of another word) purchases. Not to be all Pollyanna but with so many people living in poverty, I think it’s a bit grotesque/ostentatious to spend money like that–especially for show. But to each his own.
All that said, I agree that many many Coach bags aren’t my cup of tea (b/c I hate bags with lots of logos) but I don’t see how they’re any different from Louis Vuitton bags covered in logos. I think they’re both kind of tacky. But both brands make some bags that are high quality and not covered in logos.
It’s only immoral if the person bought the $1000 bag and complains about paying their student loan debt.
I love Coach bags, not because they are or are not designer bags, but because I think the leather is high quality and the styles are beautiful. Although, not too fond of some of the newer styles, but you can still find the more classic styles. I’m fairly certain that few people find them cheesy.
Also, I don’t think I’ve ever paid full price for any bag, but look for sales. I would never judge someone on what type of bag they have, get what you like, be it designer or Target. Personally, I can’t justify spending a thousand dollars on a bag, because I’d really like to retire someday, but if you can afford it, great.
The TJ Maxx near me had a black, simple Kate Spade Quinn bag for $100. If you google it, you’ll see that its a very simple box bag that would be suitable for work. However, it’s not a shoulder bag, so if you’re carrying a lot of files from work to the courthouse, it might not be the best idea.
A designer bag is not a must. I especially do not believe that ladies should go out of their way to cary a bag with an excessive logo print (IMHO not a classy look). I personally tote a medium size plain, well structured, Kate Spade handbag. I love it. It is noticeably fashionable, for those who care, but does not scream “hey look at me I have this expensive bag with gigantic Cs or LVs all over it.”
FWIW, I consider Kate Spade to be designer.
Kate Spade is excellent quality too. I received a black nylon Kate Spade tote ( believe it’s actually marketed as a diaper bag, but it’s a perfect tote size) as a gift right before my junior year of high school, and I carred that sucker well into college. My little sister, still in school, now uses it and it has held up incredibly well over the years.
*carried…Oops, been a long day.
anon - chi
I am a lawyer in private practice, and I can’t say I know which bags most attorneys I work with carry. In general, I would say that you should make sure your bag is in good condition and never, ever carry a knock off. (Some people can tell, regardless of how nice a knock off it is, and some will judge you as unethical for carrying one.) It doesn’t need to be designer, and my guess is that goes double for public sector folks.
That said, I like Cole Haan as an “introductory” designer label. I find their stuff to be high quality, durable, and not ridiculously expensive. But if you’re not interested and would rather spend your money elsewhere, it’s totally not necessary.
When people talk about how much they dislike knock offs are they talking about actual knock offs, which are designs similar to higher end bags, just by a less costly label? Or are they talking about counterfeit bags, which are a blatant attempt to fool someone that they are carrying the real thing?
I think it’s unethical to carry a counterfeit, but it’s perfectly fine to sport a knock off.
I think most people who talk about knockoffs are talking about counterfeits. Like you said, they are an attempt to fool someone into thinking it is the real thing. It is also trademark infringement.
As far as knockoffs that are not technically counterfeits, its not currently legally wrong because there is no copyright protection for fashion designs. At least not yet. I personally choose not to buy non-counterfeit knockoffs that are clearly imitations of the original because I think of it as theft of the original design even though the law doesn’t agree. I know that there is all sorts of borrowing of ideas in the fashion industry, but when I see a great skirt with fantastic details and then see a virtual copy made out of cheaper fabric and on sale for $19.99 at Forever21 I just can’t support that.
anon - chi
For the record, I was referring only to counterfeit bags.
Agreed. Also, there is no reason you have to pay retail for a designer bag. I’m not a designer bag person either, but after suffering many cheap (but attractive) bag breakdowns, I got my Cole Haan for a very reasonable price on a discount website. I like the quality, ultimately saved money, and I get compliments on it everywhere I go, including from those who carry flashier designer bags. I also got a beautiful designer briefcase at a discount store and get stopped by both men and women complimenting the bag. I don’t carry either with the price tags on!
Cole Haan is a great brand and their stuff is everywhere for pretty reasonable prices. I don’t think $200 is an unreasonable price to pay for a good-quality leather bag that will last years if it’s taken care of. Note, I don’t think the OP HAS to do that, but if she’s inclined, Cole Haan is a great option.
Here are some places I’d start:
Less Costly Good-Quality Brands:
Dooney & Bourke
Marc by Marc Jacobs
You can also look for bags from these brands on ebay for a deal (except for Coach – too many Coach fakes, and there’s no reason to pay real-bag prices if its not a real bag).
Feel free to post any prospects here. I’m sure I’m not the only purse-obsessed bag maven on these threads (I literally spend probably 20 hours a week stalking handbags). If you gave us your budget and preferences, I’d be more than happy to track down some suggestions.
Ooh, I accept! I’d love a classic looking leather bag that’s big enough to stuff a (double bagged) lunch in or papers from work but isn’t exclusively a tote bag (meaning, it looks like a purse otherwise). Also, it’d be great if it doesn’t weigh 100 lbs. Shoulder strap, too! For this bag, I’d be in the $200 range, not much more.
(No pressure but if you know of something that’d be so awesome!) Thanks!
I would add Tignanello to that list. I see them frequently at TJMaxx & Marshall’s – lovely soft leather, good quality.
If you want to buy from ebay, you might check the Purse Forum, you can get tips on what sellers are reputable, and can even post a listing for some designer bags, forum regulars can tell you if it’s authentic or not. I got a beautiful NWT white leather Coach bag (bought for a summer vacation) from ebay a couple of years ago for about 1/2 of retail.
To this list I suggest adding B. Makowsky. Nice, soft leather, functional design, wears well, and you can usually buy them at Marshalls at 40-60% off MSRP ($150 or so for a bag large enough to carry a small pile of files or briefs). I have been carrying mine daily for two years and it is in great shape.
No, you do not NEED a designer bag (whatever “designer” means). The only reasons to get one, I think, would be if you really, really like it and can justify the cost to yourself, or if you work in a very rarefied field where you actually would be judged for carrying a common bag — perhaps estate planning or financial planning for the extraordinarily rich? Maybe some others? But not most fields.
I personally think that spending a lot on a “designer” bag (though again, that word seems to be so subjective as to be meaningless) is very silly. But fear not, I do not judge those who spend lots on an It Bag! If only for the simple reason that I rarely notice what anyone else is carrying. It is unimportant enough to me that I either don’t look, don’t recognize what I see, or the flicker of recognition passes quickly and without registering. I expect that this is not all that uncommon.
Other nice, work-appropriate bags:
Johnston & Murphy
I really like Cole Haan bags as well. Very good quality for the money.
I have Coach bags for my diaper bag and my briefcase. Both take a good bit of abuse and I needed something that would last. I have a couple of Coach babgs that I rotate for general work purposes, but I have plenty of TJMaxx bags too, especially in trendier designs. It just depends on what I want them for. IMO, a designer bag is nice to have, but not necessary.
I found that I was spending more on cheaper bags because I ripped through them so fast. I bought a Coach bag and have ended up saving money. I recommend that you buy the plainest one you can (like a plain back leather brieftote) and take off those the hang tags that people leave on all the time. That way, you have a plain bag that is good quality and nice. People who care that it’s designer will be able to tell without the silly little tags, and people who don’t care or don’t like how branded everything has gotten won’t see you waiving everything that says “COACH” in their face. Also, then you won’t have this season’s “it” bag so you won’t have to worry about looking out of date next year.
totally this. coach isn’t really my personal style, but it’s probably the best bang for your buck. their styles are classic and if you can make it to a factory outlet they have ridiculously low prices (and if you get on the e-mail list, they will send you 20% off sale item coupons). it’s possible to walk out of the coach outlet and spend only $80 on a plain black or brown shoulder bag that is work appropriate – and will last much longer (last meaning, look presentable) than a cheaper bag that you would spend the same amount of money on.
Not essential to have a “brand” name. Agree with all comments re: not carrying a knock-off. If you are in a conservative environment, you’re probably not going to want to carry many of the designer bags that are so popular because they are covered in logos. I have a Tumi briefcase that I carry for court, etc. Lodis has some very nice leather totes and laptop bags AND they are currently 20% off with the code NEWLOOK through 11/30.
They also sell a lot of Lodis bags at Nordstrom’s Off the Rack stores. I got a great discount on a laptop bag there.
I was at Costco today, and they had my Lodis “Audrey” laptop tote…for $99, which is about $150 less than retail.
I’ve been carrying my Lodis bag for nine months of the year since 2006. I love my Lodis bag.
SF Bay Associate
Dang it Coach Laura, now I have to go to costco and get that bag! I’ve been admiring it online for months :).
I hope it’s at your local Costco: I know that they don’t always have the same things at different stores.
Oh good lord. I have a Wilson’s leather bag I got for $50 that has worked just fine for me, and it’s nice-looking, but non-descript enough that I don’t think people even notice it. It does the job. I’m not a designer bag person, though.
I had no idea what Wilson’s was when I talked into the store at Tanger outlets but I got a great oversized red leather tote for $80. That thing can carry everything and then some. I love that it has no logos and is very simple looking.
Well, I am a bag and shoe girl, but you don’t have to carry a designer bag. Just don’t carry a scuffed and beat up bag that looks like you dragged it on the ground!
If you like designer bags, carry them. If you don’t, don’t carry them. Try not to judge in either direction.
If you want a nice bag, but aren’t willing, able or inclined to spend designer dollars, Talbot’s and Banana Republic often have some very nice bags.
I would get a nice leather bag in a basic color – black is good – and not with the logos all over. I have a red Michael Michael Kors bag that I got on ruelala for $200 and it is gorgeous and carries all my files back and forth to work (I work from home a lot), and then a coach tote (ebay, maybe $100) for my purse, that is plain jane and very classic. As long as your bag looks nice and is well made, that is all that matters. Note – the cheaper brands (eg no name dept store) often have lesser-quality leather and will fade/crack sooner than the more well-made (and often more expensive) bags.
I second Kit’s suggestion of a basic Coach bag. I’ve used the same large brown Coach tote as my weekday bag for more than five years, and it is still in great shape. I add a seasonal scarf if I’m in the mood for an extra pop of color, but even without embellishments I find that it works for almost all work-related funtions (day-to-day, court, client meetings, etc.)
If you are near a Coach Outlet, pick it up there – the price difference is dramatic, and the outlets have a better selection of the basic designs than the regular retail Coach stores, which are geared toward pushing the current season’s styles. The outlets mail discount coupons for most holiday weekends, so you may be able to knock another 20% off if you can find one.
FYI — go to Coach’s website and sign up for their emails. They email 20% off coupons to their outlets all the time.
wow i love that i replied with all of this exact same advice before i had the chance to scroll further down. great minds think alike :)
First, designer bags are much less of an issue in the public sector where generally, salaries tend to be lower. I went from BigLaw to gov’t and don’t really see too many designer bags around.
Second, what do you actually need the bag for? If it’s your purse, no one’s going to see it. In the morning, I stash my purse in my desk drawer and generally don’t take it out until it’s time to go home. I don’t carry it around the office or take it to meetings, unless they’re outside the office (generally, rare). I carry a plain black bag for my *stuff* — occasional case to take home to read, lunch, papers, etc. I also don’t need a bag to haul documents to court, and don’t have to haul around a laptop. I have a nice black “conference” bag for when I’m travelling or going to all-day meetings, but this isn’t the same as my daily bag.
You see people in the elevator, though, or going down for lunch, etc. I don’t think a designer bag is a must at all but I do think that it’s seen.
“First, designer bags are much less of an issue in the public sector where generally, salaries tend to be lower.”
I’d say this depends what country you’re in.
Are we not talking about the US?
i don’t assume so; Corporette has readers and commenters outside the US.
Also, check out some of the high profile public-sector attorneys in other countries. They’re usually independently wealthy.
I generally prefer leather shoes and bags and don’t like to spend more than $200 per item, BUT, I must admit, there are some really nice faux leather bags out there nowadays… I find it so hilarious that my bedazzled friends in Jimmy Choo’s and diamonds & jewels compliment me the *most* on a pleather bag with a big, trendy bow on the front. LOL.
You sure they’re being sincere?
It might not be sincere.
Or it might resemble the Furla / Valentino bags that inspired it….
Bag addicts generally know which designer bag your pleather bag was inspired by. They might compliment the design, but they likely would never buy it.
Sorry. I hope that’s not too harsh – just insight.
That happens to me sometimes, often my cheapie $10 pieces of jewelry get more compliments than my real jewelry.
I would ignore the commetns that immediately assume your friends aren’t being sincere. If your friends acted that way, I doubt you’d be friends with them.
IMO, the region of the country where you live should also be a consideration. I’m from the south, and unless you live in one of the big cities, I see basically no point in carrying a designer bag unless you are buying it for the quality. Around here, I would completely second divalicious11, who recommended Talbots or Banana… LL Bean actually has some nicer looking leather totes too, and I believe that they are probably just as sturdy as many designer bags.
… It’s nice to live in a part of the country where keeping up with the Joneses (if that is what you want to do) is not as much of a struggle.
“If, however, you just choose a simple, basic black or brown bag and carry it without pretense — then you may not get “points” for being a fashionista, but you won’t get dinged for trying too hard, either.”
THIS IS SUCH GOOD ADVICE.
I would do this. First, you will always find use for a simple, black or brown leather tote. Second, what constitutes a good label to carry may vary from workplace to workplace & region to region. For instance, as stupid as this sounds, I know women who think Coach is a terrible brand reserved for teenage girls & “support staff” (not my characterization!!). I would hate to think of someone spending hard-earned money to get a “prestige” coach bag, only to find out that it’s not even looked on in a positive light in their workplace (not that it should matter but if you’re trying to impress . . . .) .
I don’t think anyone *needs* a designer bag, and one may even be an issue in a public interest office, depending on your line of work (e.g., working with the poor). I say get a simple, all purpose bag that’s big enough for work papers, etc., and then see what your environment is like. If you feel like getting a “fancy” bag will make you more comfortable, you can get one later. I would recommend Cole Haan over Coach or D&B, but to each their own. I also agree that Talbots sometimes has very nice bags — I have one that has lasted me years (and I stole it from my mom, who also had it for quite some time).
I’m a designer bag carrier, but I never think less of anyone who isn’t (and lawyer too).
A plain nice bag is fine, whether it’s a nice bag or a fake leather Ninewest bag. No one cares, and you should not care what others think of it. If someone judges you on the price of your handbag, then they’re not people you would care what they thought about you anyways.
I agree with the idea that your bag should look nice and be well maintained. I also agree that it should not have a ton of logos that scream “look how much I paid for this bag.”
Before you shell out a ton of money on a bag, you should do a price-per-use estimation. If you will only use the bag for client meetings or for events, then you can probably get away with spending a bit less and extend its longevity by rotating it with an inexpensive tote bag for normal day-to-day use.
I completely agree with this. I don’t think co-workers really take note of someone’s bag as long as it is clean and professional. I think that a beautiful bag is always a nice thing to have if that’s something you like, and an exceptional one can be a real fashion statement that does get noticed by your co-workers – but that will only be true of very, very few bags!
When it comes to high-end designer bags that are very noticeable, I think one should actually be cautious about carrying them to professional events, particularly if the bag is covered in logos. Those bags draw immediate attention to the fact that you have money, and you like to spend it on clothes/accessories. That’s completely fine – especially if it is the culture of your office. However, those bags aren’t quite serious or professional enough to “go anywhere” because you run the risk of being seen as a superficial/status-obsessed at times when that perception could work against you professionally. So I would say those type of bags are fine to carry to work and great to carry around socially- but not necessarily something you want a judge, jury, or even a new client to base their first impression of you on! The way I think about it is: if the person cares and values great brands, they will recognize the quality of the bag regardless of whether it is flashy or covered and logos, and appreciate your taste. If they don’t care or value brands, then you risk being stereotypically labeled by them if BRAND! is what your bag screams. If you really are just interested in the beauty of the bag itself and its quality and endurance, then buying the version with few or no logos plastered on the outside should not make you enjoy the bag less.
There are also good looking and high quality alternatives to expensive bags for everyday use. For the last few weeks, I’ve actually been carrying around a Nine West black bag for when I have lots of files to carry – it’s very roomy, cloth, and so far quite sturdy. I’ve gotten a number of compliments on it – it is discreet and there is no logo showing, but it’s pretty and always matches whatever I’m wearing. It’s no Hermes (maybe some day!) but I can carry it into any room, meeting or courtroom knowing it is first and foremost professional, and also stylish enough to make me happy with it.
I never understood the point of designer bags, or even the $100 range ones. I like a nice looking one, particularly, that “pop of color” that Clinton and Stacy are always talking about, but I don’t see the point in spending that much.
I know that a lot of you complain about inexpensive ones wearing out quickly, but I’ve never had that problem. I have cheap (and I mean *cheap*) bags that I’ve had for years and are fine- my go to little black bag was purchased during the Clinton administration, from the Gap, and I can’t see any real wear on it. I’ve never understood what people are doing with their bags that they fall apart so quickly.
I can look at a bag and tell (a) that its pleather, and (b) that its a cheap knockoff of a bag by Hermes or Dior or Tod’s from 10 feet away. I realize not everyone shares my bag obsession, but because I’m able to spot those qualities (as are most of my friends who share my purse obsessions), I avoid buying bags that have them.
Judging people for carrying them is another story. Some people just don’t care about bags and that’s fine. I don’t care about shoes and I’m sure shoe obsessives could tell you my shoes were lower-designer versions of a Manolo from fall season 08 … but I don’t care.
So carry what you like and what you want. No one has the right to pass judgment on that. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that people who actually notice and care about bags (which may or may not be someone in power at your job) are mistaking it for a “higher-level” bag.
“you may not get “points” for being a fashionista, but you won’t get dinged for trying too hard, either.”
While I have nothing against designer bags, I think the people who carry around logo bags are the ones trying too hard and would not get “fashionista points” in my book.
One extreme example is the office manager in my office with her Fendi logo bag. She made me put her bag on the empty seat next to me at a conference because she didnt want it on the floor, and she also uses a table napkin under her bag to lay it down on the table when we go out to lunch.
A napkin to put under her bag? This cracks me up. Just tell her to get one of those handbag hooks and be done with it, already.
Your “extreme” example sounds laudable to me. Why spend thousands on a bag you’ll be putting on restaurant floors? Take care of your nice things and all…
I don’t think there’s any circumstance where a bag should occupy a seat at a conference room that’s filling up with people (and I hate those people on the train who do that too!). Why should someone even have to ask for Mr. Fendi to removed from his seat?
As for the napkin thing, it all just seems terribly high maintenance and prissy to me. I wonder how does a woman who lays down a napkin to seat her bag on the table at lunch come off to the partners?
i’m not saying use a napkin or take an extra seat; one is strange, and the second is just bad behavior. but don’t buy a Chanel bag and put it on the floor: that’s kind of stupid.
What does she wipe her hands on, I wonder?
Admittedly I do this on the train, but only when my bag is enormous and I would be really cramped with it on my lap/under my feet and the train isn’t fullfullfull yet.
Where I am in Asia, using an extra chair for your purse (or sharing your seat with it) is the norm so I probably wouldn’t even think twice about seeing that kind of bag behaviour. The napkin thing seems kind of extreme but seeing how the women here take care of their things has taught me to think twice about where I place my bag. I feel like a bit of a bum here if I put my purse on the floor when I’m out!
Also, I don’t know how many other people think this, but when I see someone who I know is young and not well established carrying a very expensive bag (or driving a very expensive car, or whatever), I certainly don’t hold it against them, but it at least crosses my mind that they’re “daddy’s little rich girl” or something like that, or that they are the sort who puts fashion over necessities and financial planning. Like I said, I’m not going to knock a person because I don’t know for sure the story behind the bag, but the thought crosses my mind, and I’m sure that it does for others.
BTW, for young, I’m mainly thinking of people in or just out of school (in particular, about former classmates in law school). I wouldn’t bat an eye if the person had been in a field for a few years and didn’t go around complaining about her finances all of the time.
Oh, and if it were a young person in the public sector, it might raise the inference that that person can “afford” to work in the public sector, because someone else has a real job. Again, might not be the case, but do you really want to even raise the idea?
Re: “it might raise the inference that that person can ‘afford’ to work in the public sector because someone else has a REAL JOB”
I think most people working in the public sector would consider their job a “real job” too. Hopefully, that was tongue-in-cheek.
I guess you could say tongue in cheek- what I meant was it would look like they weren’t serious. Also, a lot of people would like to work in the public sector, but can’t afford it- it would raise some envy issues from those folks, that this person can work where they want because someone else is paying the bills.
Wow, those of us who work in the public sector have “fake” jobs now?
The reality is that you can be a good shopper and buy designer goods for dirt cheap. I’ve had many experiences where I’ll buy a designer good at 80%+ off and then see that same item’s knockoff for a higher price the next season. Other people just aren’t willing to put the effort into finding when those sales are and don’t realize that you can get items for fairly cheap at the higher end stores if you shop the big sales!
Oh, please. I obviously didn’t mean that public= fake. I meant that it doesn’t pay a salary that covers designer bags (usually). Are you just looking for offense?
I don’t think that she is looking for offense, just as I don’t think that you meant to offend. However, the way the statement was initially phrased, it does seem condescending towards public sector jobs which make me think (hope) it is due to lack of personal experience.
Public/government jobs are much like private sector jobs: There is a wide range of incomes. I have friends from law school in private practice who probably make $250,000 year and others who probably make $50,000. I am aware that there as some public sector jobs that pay peanuts, but where I work, most of the attorneys pull in a six figure income. Not that we are out dropping a grand on a new purse every weekend, but most of the women in my office carry very nice bags. When a friend of mine recently showed up at work with an absolutely delicious Prada, I didn’t envy her. Rather, I thought, “Good for her! She has been working some crazy hours on some really big cases and deserved to treat herself.”
Just like ANY place you work (public or private), it is a matter of “know your own office.”
I think we all need to be careful about making snap judgments.
I am still paying off my law school loans, but I have several friends who graduated debt-free (either because their parents were in a position to pay for school or because they had full grants). If they want to pay for a nice car or a nice bag on a lawyer’s salary, have at it! And they never went around advertising their no-debt status, so unless you knew them well, you’d probably assume that they were saddled with the same six figure debt as the rest of us…
And fwiw, I have NOTHING against parents who have the means to pay for their children’s education and choose to do so, and I don’t think it makes the children “little rich girls/boys.” If I’m in the position to do so for my children some day, I won’t think twice about it.
I think everything you said here is absolutely true. But when that person is going to professional events, she should be aware of those relatively common snap judgments. Those snap judgments may not be fair, and may very well disappear once you get to know that person better. But those snap judgments may be made by judges, partners with whom she has little interaction, or other important persons, and so they can in fact matter very much.
So there certainly isn’t anything wrong in spending your money on fashionable things if you enjoy doing so. But whenever you are representing yourself professionally, you should consider how what you are doing might be perceived negatively. Otherwise, you may end up being perceived differently than you’d like. This is by no means an endorsement for people to wear or carry cheap things! But you can carry a gorgeous LV bag without buying the logo-plastered version, thereby getting all of the elegance of the bag without some of the potential repercussions.
And what’s so wrong with daddy buying me a nice bag? I carry a designer handbag I couldn’t afford to buy myself. My parents bought it for me for interviews. I am an immigrant, the first lawyer in my family, and my parents didn’t have indoor plumbing when they were little. They have worked hard all their lives, and like to sometimes give me a gift because they love me. I hope I can someday afford to do the same.
Maybe next time, this thought can cross your mind when you see a young woman with a nice bag.
How sweet. But next time, ask them to put the $1000 aside for you to use on a down payment on a house. It’ll last longer and actually be worth something when you decide to trade up to something better.
Seriously. My dad bought my nice designer bag for me too. I could afford it, but he raised me to be frugal and I tend not to spend money on myself. Meanwhile he was frugal all his life and is comfortably retired. He doesn’t want me to spend my money; he’d rather buy me a gift if he knows I want something. Most of my expensive possessions were gifts and I don’t see anything wrong with that.
Please don’t refer to him as “daddy”. Ick.
Let me say anonymously, that I make the same snap judgments if someone is right out of school (undergrad) and driving a fancy car and carrying an expensive designer bag. There may be plausible explanations, and this may be a stereotype, but I do judge that person as spoilt/rich parents/doesn’t know the value of money.
I’m in my forties and work with a number of younger women, many of whom carry heavily logo-ed designer bags – primarily Fendi, Louis Vuitton and Gucci – and they drive expensive cars (leased? mom and dad? I don’t know.) I don’t care too much, all other things being equal, but I do find myself less sympathetic when they complain our salaries are too low because they can’t afford their rent in this expensive city. Just a thought.
I am not a designer bag person – I tend to get midpriced leather bags on ebags that fit my laptop, files, etc. IMO, a lawyer needs a good litigation bag more than anything else – that’s the thing I was all persnickety about – had to be the right size, weight, and have all the right compartments. If you plan to travel for work, google “litigation bag” or “lit bag” to find something you like.
One other factor to consider – is the OP going to a be a car or transit based commuter? While I own a nice leather tote, because I take transit to work I gravitate to my leather trimmed nylon tote with just my wallet or a smaller clutch tucked inside. Good leather bags can add extra weight and I typically have lunch, paperwork, book/magazine, water bottle, …
Didn’t we have this conversation once before (re an intern carrying a small Birkin)? Glad to see this one hasn’t turned quite as venomous and judgmental yet.
If you want to spend money on a designer bag, do it. If you don’t, don’t.
btw Coach is not “designer.”
Neither is the hideous Dooney & Burke. Reader J must live in the burbs or a flyover state.
And you must live someplace where it’s acceptable to look down your nose at what people have or don’t have. Glad I don’t know you personally.
Harsh. And unnecessary.
I am proud to live in 1. the suburbs and 2. the state where Dooney & Bourke is located, providing much needed jobs in a low-income city.
For anyone living in the NYC / CT / NJ area, Dooney & Bourke has a tent sale once each year at their factory, and you can buy a huge variety of bags at 40% – 60% off retail. Some are past seasons, some are more current, but I almost always find something. The sale is late November, early December so is also timely for Christmas shopping.
should’ve knocked on wood, because it appears that you made it venomous and judgmental all by yourself!
(and honestly, like this group of commenters can refrain from being judgy!)
Aren’t we, by discussing what to wear/carry/accessorize, asking about judgements? I mean, if we weren’t going to interact with anyone who could judge us, none of us would be worried about fashion. I can never understand why people get so up in arms about “judgements” when the question is specifically based around the idea of what people will think about your stuff.
I don’t know, I think there’s a difference between discussion and the kind of vitriol that happens here.
I don’t mind opinions, personally. It’s the absolutisms that I can’t stand. “I would NEVER wear that! Anyone who owns that purse/would wear that dress/would buy that color is a slut/ not classy/ poor/delusional!” Though there are always exceptions, I’ve seen a lot of comments like this.
I’m a partner in a big firm in NYC, and I carry an inexpensive, lightweight briefcase from Lands’ End. I also carry a small purse for my wallet, etc. As long as you look presentable there’s no need to shell out money for Coach or any other brand.
Can you link to the briefcase please? I’m in the market :)
I think what I use is an earlier version of this: http://www.landsend.com/pp/LighthouseBriefcase~214787_-1.html?bcc=y&action=order_more&sku_0=::DLK&CM_MERCH=IDX_00018__0000002456&origin=index (which is now $99.50, so not as inexpensive as when I bought it). There’s also this somewhat larger and pricier version ($149.50): http://www.landsend.com/pp/StylePage-396490_A7.html?amp;CM_MERCH=REC-_-FPPP-_-GGT-_-2-_-396490-_-396489
I think every hard working woman deserves a statement piece. Coach has nice bags, but there are other notable lines out there, too. I am carrying a Cole Haan Genevieve bag. I work in finance and also have a small business. All my junk fits in the bag just fine (file folders,mini laptop, B-Berry, you name it). Also, there are tons of designer outlets out there. Either way, I do believe a good handbag is an investment. Besides, you are worth it!
I like designer bags and usually have a Coach, Dooney or other lower-end designer bag with me. But I don’t think carrying a designer one is essential. I see people with very expensive bags and ones from Target and not only do they often look pretty similar to me, but I see them get complimented about equally. My boss has a Chanel bag she carries sometimes and a Mulberry from Target bag she just got and she likes them both equally, and people ooh and aah over them both.
I think the only “rules” about bags are:
– Don’t carry something old and beat-up – just like you wouldn’t wear threadbare, stained clothes or scuffed, beat-up shoes.
– I would stay away from obvious pleather and cutesy or too-junior designs.
– No repurposing diaper bags as a handbag because people can tell, and also having carried a diaper bag around for two years, I know what gets leaked, smeared around, and spilled in those things – gross.
– Don’t carry a bag that is big enough to carry a picnic lunch for 12 along with everything else you need for your day. Alternatively, don’t carry a tiny little bag and then put the rest of your possessions in plastic shopping bags to lug them around. Pick the right size bag for your needs; there have been lots of threads here on Corporette about Target totes and briefcases that work well.
– I think if there’s any anxiety about this at all, a simple black or brown good-quality pleather or leather tote will cover bases, be inconspicuous, and serve purposes well.
So interesting to read the different points of view on this topic.
I work in the private sector for a large D.C. firm. For my two cents, I would like to echo the women who have said that a bag must look well-made and be subdued enough to look professional. I am still carrying my Longchamp Rival very frequently, which I have had for about three years now and has held up wonderfully. Additionally, although I personally appreciate designer bags, I would never make judgments about someone who didn’t carry one.
I’m including a link to the bag style so no one confuses this with a recommendation for a Longchamp Les Pliages shopper. I think they are great as totes, but in my opinion a leather purse comes off as a lot more professional: http://www.bagshop.com/store/mcart.php?ID=7537
Wow – that is a GORGEOUS bag! Longchamp is a brand my grandmother always carried around, and that I have always found to be unbelievably classy. Right now it’s still out of my price range – but maybe something special to save up for one day! I’m more of a mid-range priced bag girl for everyday… but I would love to have a classic, beautiful bag as a signature look that I pull out for special events and that will last forever. This one may fit that bill. Thanks for linking!
I agree, that bag is super-classy looking!
I HATE the longchamp shopper that I see everyone carrying. I think they are ugly/cheap looking and i see them get stained, etc. Yuck.
Love your Rival though! Want it!
I think Pliages are great for the purpose they were actually intended for: as shoppers. Folded up, they fit at the bottom of (my rather large) work purse and when I buy groceries on my way home from work or even on my lunch break I can carry those home/back to the office in style. I also use
As for stains, they can be cleaned with soap and warm water.
I would agree though, they are not an office-appropriate or even anytime handbag replacement.
I am of the opinion that so long as your bag looks nice and is well made and undamaged, you shouldn’t be concerned about whether it is designer unless that is important to YOU. Shelling out hundreds of dollars for something just for a label isn’t for everyone, but if it’s important to you, then do it. If not, just get a bag that works and looks work-appropriate.
Again — what is a “bag” for these purposes? Since you’ve been out for a little while, I should tell you that not a single woman lawyer I know under the age of 50 carries a purse (I’m in a big city, FWIW). Just a briefcase with a wallet in it. I’ve seen one being carried by women lawyers I do not know, and it always looks a little funny to me. I’d just get a briefcase — one that is pretty neutral, black or brown, and of good quality, and don’t pay any attention to the brand otherwise. Briefcases are not generally the place to show off your high fashion sense.
Wow, really? In NYC I don’t know a single person who carries a briefcase — just a purse and possibly a totebag.
agreed. this is weird. Everyone I know/see carries a very large purse (maybe one that can hold a few files) or a purse and a work bag/messenger bag for files. Briefcase??
I don’t know one person who carries a briefcase (in Chicago)! Pretty much everyone carries a large purse for everyday, big enough to fit a couple of files if need be.
I just bought a large YSL Muse bag for this purpose in a classic dark brown. It is beautiful, classic, doesn’t have logos all over it, and yes, I consider it an investment. I’ll be carrying this bag happily for the next 20+ years. Heck, maybe my granddaughter will carry it too, one day. (I just carried my great grandmother’s crocodile clutch to a nice party this weekend – another great investment piece).
Don’t you guys have to carry your laptop around, like, everywhere? We all do: hence, the briefcase. Not like a hard sided man’s one, but the women’s version.
No, I don’t usually carry a lap top. Just paper files. I have a computer at home and use the VPN network access.
I often just put my laptap in my tote. I have a laptop case that I use when I’m traveling, but on the daily commute it just goes in my purse.
Nope. Ipad or nothing.
I have that bag and its one of my favorites!
I bought myself a navy YSL Muse as a law school graduation present. I graduated debt free and had a healthy tax refund, so I decided to treat myself. I love it so much and, like you, see myself carrying it forever. I’m actually carrying it today.
I’m with you ladies; no one I know in D.C. really carries a briefcase. Most women carry a large purse or a small purse and a tote. And most people access their networks remotely through their home computers and/or have netbooks they throw in their totes.
Aside from the older men in my office, I have yet to see someone carry a briefcase in my two years at my law firm. Even in my frequent visits to court, I can’t say I have seen one.
ditto for women lawyers in london – over 50s are carrying briefcase if anything.
What about buying a well-made leather bag with no labels? I’m going to India and am planning on designing a bag and having it handmade there along with some dresses (bringing one that fits me to a T as the prototype). I don’t have an exact design in mind but will rely on the leather craftsman for advice.
Has anyone done this? Tips and tricks?
Should add not having the dresses made out of leather!
I wish I could do this — it sounds fabulous!
No advice specific to the leather bag but: on a recent trip to Shanghai I had a bunch of clothing tailor made at one of the fabric markets there. For the dresses I brought to have copied, they did an excellent job. However, if you are having something made from a picture in a magazine, drawing, etc., my only advice is to be extremely specific about every detail because the details you assume the item will have may be different from what the tailor is thinking. As an example, I had a paperbag-waist skirt made from a picture in a magazine, and I thought the tailor would automatically know to do the gathering around the waist the whole way round – when I got the skirt back, the gathering was only in the front! Have a great time, I had such fun getting stuff made!
I’ve had some stuff made in the Middle East and I have been fortunate in that my tailor has not only copied things perfectly but has also made things from scratch impeccably. I had a skirt suit (wool-cashmere, a little stretch to the fabric) made for about $170 for tailoring and fabric. I love it and eel fabulous in it! Plus, it’s so much fun getting cute blouses made for about $20-30 all in.
If you are going to Mumbai, ask someone you know to point you to Dharavi – it’s one of the country’s biggest leather goods manufacturing unit and market. They have tons of great leather shops where you can buy a huge variety of coats, bags and stuff… and these are small but nice and clean shops so you won’t feel hassled there. I wouldn’t advise trying to get clothes stitched in India, unless it’s someone who comes highly recommended for western style outfits (dresses, skirts etc.) Most Indian tailors focus only on traditional Indian outfits. I grew up in Mumbai and all our clothes were tailored but I’d never get dresses, pants or skirts tailored there – just don’t think they put the right finishing touches.
Dharavi is alsoo a massive sprawling slum! Be warned.
I agree with this comment. I have all of my “traditional” Indian outfits tailored in India, but would hesitate on having western style clothing made there, particularly by a tailor with whom I’ve had no experience with before. You can have many things custom made in India, including furniture, jewelry and clothing, but accomplishing the goals you want in the piece requires some savvy and knowing how to get things done in India. If you’re an experienced, frequent traveler there, then you’ll likely have better success than someone who is on their first trip. If this is your first or second trip, I’d say, go there to see India (and buy jewelry! but howza, the price of gold is incredibly high right now) and forget about having the clothes made.
I’ve never thought of having leather goods made – good idea! WRT to tailored clothes – almost all of my father’s suits are tailored back home. He usually buys the fabric here and then gets it made over there – comes out beautifully. If you’re unsure as to whether they can make Western clothes the way you’d like, I’d suggest going to a men’s tailor and see if they can help you/recommend who you should go to.
Suggestions that won’t get you fashionista points, but will get you “subtly stylish” points:
I have that Hobo International Agatha bag you linked to and love it. It is slightly ridiculously large, but it holds my laptop and all the paper I lug around every day (bouncing between two offices of my firm). Lots of pockets on the inside, very solid construction. It doesn’t make me feel like a fashionista, but it’s a solid, well-constructed bag that gets me through the day and will for years. I have a large wallet/clutch thing (also Hobo) that I use for trips out for lunch, etc.
I’ve bought several bags from this brand. For the price, can’t be beat in style or quality. I get tons of compliments at my mid-law firm. Bonus points that it is vegan material (i.e., no leather, no animal byproducts).
Can anyone imagine men ever giving this much thought to whether they should go with a Land’s End or a Tumi briefcase? Or — OMG — should they spring for the calfskin Brooks Brothers?
To the OP — if nothing else is obvious from above one person’s perfect bag is another’s judgment call. Get a bag that makes you happy.
yea, i always thought men wouldn’t care, until my bf decided he needed a nice bag for work. oh the discussions between him and another male friend…
my husband spent over a month deciding on a laptop / briefcase for travel. he takes forever to pick shoes and spends hours choosing the best sweater. I think lots of men, especially professionals who work with clients, care a lot about how they look and which products they use / buy.
I’ve never owned a designer bag and don’t feel any pressure to. But it may be different in your profession (I work for a nonprofit–even if I did have designer bags it wouldn’t be appropriate for my office). I don’t think people will notice if you have a nice quality bag that’s unmarked. Definitely no knock-offs. My everyday bag is a leather H&M mini-duffel that I bought three years ago and have used nearly every day since. If I were to splurge, I’ve been eyeing the LV Speedy in brown damier.
Yuk. Men never look at me if I dress too formal for them, and a designer bag is way too formal for the men I want to date. Right now, it seems that the men I want to date just want to see me as a tomboy, not as the lady I am. I think they are intimidated with me as a high powered lawyer, so I down play this and dress in jeans and boots rather than with my suit.
I swear, there’s some 35-year-old virgin living in his mom’s basement who discovered Corporette and now spends his free time posting these wacky dating-and-sex-themed replies. I am torn between rolling my eyes and gleefully waiting for the next completely nonsensical post.
Is it wrong that I hope the “girl” who wanted the i-banker website info comes back and wants to know about meeting more bankers? :)
I’m assuming they are all the same person.
eep, as a 3L, I have absolutely no idea what sort of bag to buy now. yeesh, I had no idea people judged recent grads so harshly. FWIW, I always buy a new bag after my last final. And I remember every bag and the exact feelings I was having when I bought them. Yes, it’s a splurge, but it’s how I celebrate. Why would someone care how I spent my money?
don’t freak out; most people in the workplace don’t care (or judge) nearly as much as comments here suggest.
Um, you are working in the public sector- absolutedly not a must-have- in fact in my government years, peope who had them raised eyebrows and we all wondered who their sugar daddy was or whatever.
Well, I haven’t carried a purse in years, but when I did carry purses, they were never designer. Just on principle I never could see spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a bag when it’s possible to get one for much, much less that will serve the same purpose. If it is in good condition, then I don’t see that there’s a difference.
I have carried only a wristlet (plus a computer tote) for years. My wristlet is Coach but that’s only because almost no one else seems to make wristlets. For $50, I didn’t consider it an extravagance.
LOVE wristlets. I have a couple from Tory Burch that have held up really well and look professional.
I hope more companies start making them in quality leather. I don’t know why, but so many wristlet styles seem geared toward teens.
I have several Coach bags. Don’t consider them to be designer. Do like the quality compared to othe prior bags.
In my observation, it also really depends on the “public sector” job that you have what is appropriate.
I purchased a simple, classic black leather tote from L.L. Bean on the recommendation of Corporette commentators about a year ago, and couldn’t be happier with it. http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/38451?page=town-and-field-tote-leather
It carries everything, can take a beating and still look polished and is made with quality leather. All for $129! And I can’t tell you the number of times it’s been mistaken for something “higher end.”
And now it comes in woven leather… maybe time to “splurge” for a brown one? http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/63272?feat=38451-ppxs&dds=y