Update: We still stand by this advice that if you’re an intern with a $9000 handbag, it may be a bit too much — but you may also want to check out our more recent discussion of dressing better than your boss by carrying a “higher” label of a designer bag…and we’ve also rounded up the best luxury work bags!
We got an interesting e-mail from reader N:
I am an intern at the equivalent of a BigLaw firm in Singapore. I have a Birkin bag (a small one, 30cm) and am wondering if it is appropriate for me to take it to the office. I’ve heard two conflicting opinions: (1) you should dress what you would like to be, ie, if you want to be a partner one day, dress as such; and (2) dress appropriate to your level in the firm.
We have MANY different opinions on this issue, actually, so we’re going to try to put them in cohesive format.
First: No matter what reader N decides to do, we beg of you — please do not walk around the hall with your handbag unless you are entering or exiting the building. We have seen women do this carrying multi-thousand dollar bags, and we have seen women do this carrying $50 bags, and it is never a good look. If security is a concern in your office, lock it in your office drawer while you move about the halls.
In general, we don’t have a problem with dressing for the job you want to have — or even with carrying an expensive purse. But here, where the Birkin bag is known for being an exclusive, highly sought after bag (complete with an only recently debunked “waiting list” myth) that costs more than some cars — and where it has been popularized more by socialites than businesswomen — we’re just a bit hesitant. The fact that you have one of the smaller ones, which will not fit work papers inside it, doesn’t help matters.
(We’ve heard the $9,000 figure quoted, but in all honesty we don’t personally know how much they cost, and the Hermes website does not report the fact. You can find them on resale sites like What Goes Around Comes Around, though, and yes, they can be pricy!)
Now, some people will not even recognize a real Birkin bag, in which case it won’t be an issue. For those around you who do know what a Birkin bag is, though, our main hesitation towards carrying a Birkin bag at a young age is that it conveys something about you that isn’t necessarily a good thing: you’re rich.
Or perhaps your parents are rich, or your fiancé. Still: you’re not working for the money. (Certain engagement rings can convey something similar.*)
So what does that mean?
Being rich can be a good thing for some employers, who may reason that your love of the work is what keeps you coming in to work every day. It may also be a positive for employers who see you — and your wealthy connections — as a powerful tool towards getting new business.
On the other hand, other employers may worry that you’re biding your time — until the trust fund kicks in, until you get pregnant, or, you know, until your sex tape leaks and you get your own reality show.
You may find you have to work even harder to get the respect that you deserve.
You might also find that your personality, your wardrobe, your attitude, and everything else about you will be under extra scrutiny as people try to reconcile their first impression of you (rich girl, maybe a materialistic girl) with whatever else your work product says about you.
Even with all that said, though, we are drooling over the pictures of the “blue jean” leather Birkin 30 displayed on the excellent site, PurseBlog (originally pictured above) — it is a gorgeous purse. You might just wait to carry it until you’ve earned enough paychecks there to afford it on your salary.
Readers, what are your thoughts? What would you think about an intern who carried a Birkin?
*For some reason, while both a fancy handbag and a large engagement ring can send vibes of “I’m rich, materialistic, and show-offy,” we’ve never really gotten those vibes from a good watch — particularly one lacking bling.
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.
This post contains affiliate links and Corporette® may earn commissions for purchases made through links in this post. For more details see here. Thank you so much for your support!
Our Latest Favorite Work Totes for Women
Some of these are very affordable!
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…
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Updated images via Deposit Photos / ChinaImages.
Dear OP: The sad truth is that there will be people who will not like you because of your hair, your accent, your skin color, where you go on sundays or saturdays, something you said once, something you didn’t say . . . your purse. You are obviously an intelligent gal [you read this site, right?], have lots of tact [you were concerned enough to ask this question], and don’t want something little to get in the way of your big dreams. Let all of that show through, with the bag on your arm, and prove all the people who may have negative opinions of you because of your wordly possessions wrong.
Best post on this thread.
I loved this.
I wouldn’t recognize a Birkin bag, even if, as a PP said, someone hit me upside the head with it and the logo imprinted on my forehead. And I’m female! It seems like it has a small, discreet logo. I would just stay away from anything with a logo that can be seen from more than 5 feet away. I’m more judgmental of interns who dress really shabby, with flip-flops and a college backpack. You can buy used stuff and don’t have to spend much money, but look professional or people will think you aren’t serious about the job.
Oh my god, yes, on the shabby or skanky interns.
We just got a batch of summer newbies and it’s disaster and it’s only their first week.
One girl thought she could wear black sweat pants with heels and no one would notice they are sweat pants!
Did she have a sweatshirt with the neck cut out, pulled over one shoulder and big hair with a headband? Because the last time I think I saw sweatpants and high heels worn together was in Flashdance.
I grew up in a large city in Asia. Although I moved to the United States in late childhood, many of my friends from my childhood now work in Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, and other cities.
As some people have already commented, a designer handbag in Asia does not seem as “blingy” as it would in the United States. In Hong Kong and Tokyo, designer labels were everywhere, as are designer cars/handbags/shoes/sunglasses/etc. Also, I don’t know anything about your schooling, but if you had gone through schooling in Singapore and made it to an internship in a “equivalent to” biglaw firm, you are pretty brilliant in your own right, no matter what your financial status may be.
Nevertheless, I would not carry the Birkin bag because I would want the senior partners/associates/other interns to recognize me for my work, and not gossip about my clothes or bag. Especially as an intern, where you want to make the best impression you can, I would avoid it unless you see that there are other women who carry similar handbags (sorry, I had to Google “Birkin” when I saw this post so I don’t know much about this handbag). I would not worry about people wondering where you got your handbag, but worry about them gossiping instead of focusing on the quality of your work.
of course, YMMV. I still wont wear the (very classic looking) Rolex my parents gave me for graduation to work, even though some people on this site would tell me otherwise!
UGH. The energy put into this discussion depresses me, ladies!
If we put as much thought into the BP oil spill/global warming/networking/ANY OTHER productive endeavor as we do into worrying about how harshly we should judge/will be judged on our possessions at work, we’d all be in a better place.
I GUARANTEE that the leadership at your firm is likely either or both male and busy with work/managing the firm, and that they don’t care what kind of purse you carry into the office, whether the bag is fake, or think for more than 10 seconds about the size of your engagement ring unless you’re ridiculous about it. MAYBE they’d notice the car (but you should be leaving after them, so…..), but….luxury cars are kind of the norm in the law firm world.
They WILL notice your hours, the money you’re bringing into the firm, and your work product. Put your energy and stress into your brief/research/work product. Give other people the benefit of the doubt.
I’d rather have a colleague who carries a 10K bag and drives a beamer than one who can’t be trusted to write a brief or check all of her cites.
I work in Sydney, Australia and I wouldn’t really think twice about someone bringing a Birkin or other expensive bag to work. The only real reaction I usually have is to wish that I owned it!!
To be so crass as to generalise, having worked with people from all over Asia, they do usually have fabulous expensive handbags, shoes and clothes. But it doesn’t affect my perception of their abilities. To be honest, until I saw this post it would never have occured to me as something to think about.
On a practical level my handbags that I use for work end up looking sad after a year or so because they end up wet when it rains, with pen stains, bent out of shape from shoving too many documents, shoes, sweaters, etc etc so I’d probably save a Birkin for my going out bag.
From what I have heard, Singapore is very different from the US. Even “average” women carry “fancy” designer purses.
In the US, I would leave the big-ticket items at home, especially as an intern. I think it is essential to look your best, but you want to do so in a way that does not invite judgment. This isn’t a female-only concern either. I would also look twice at a young male intern driving a Porsche or wearing a blinged-out Cartier watch. It is all well and good to come from a wealthy family, or have money of your own saved up. But there is a difference between being well-provided for in a modest way, and being tacky-filthy rich and completely disconnected from reality a la Paris Hilton.
You should allow yourself the opportunity to let your other qualities shine through before inviting people’s potential prejudices to distort everything you do in advance. It is for your own good. Just my philosophy.
I just asked my husband about this issue, and he made the following comments:
1. No man would know what the bag was. The only way he would know is if his wife/girlfriend/mom/sister also owned one, in which case he wouldn’t think it was that ridiculous to carry one.
2. OP works in BigLaw. People in BigLaw are rich.
I think he’s completely right. I would like to add that making judgments about how people dress is superficial, and it is equally superficial to say, “that girl’s purse is $15, i can’t believe she’s so poor” as it is to say, “god, i can’t believe that girl spent $9k on a bag, she must be spoiled.”
Really? I can only carry my purse when entering or exiting the building? Should I just carry makeup and feminine hygiene products in my hands then, when walking to the bathroom? I think this is a little much….
They make smaller totes/purses for that.
Whenever I see a woman carrying her purse to the bathroom in the middle of the day, I assume it’s because she’s bringing feminine hygiene products there. (Is there any other reason to do so?) So, personally, i think it draws more attention than not.
I once walked in on some male colleagues having this very discussion. They were counseling a junior colleague about how you could tell who to avoid on a particular day by observing whether or not the woman was carrying her purse with her into the bathroom. While the conversation was certainly juvenile and sophomoric, after that, I started putting my tampons in my small makeup bag to carry them with me to the bathroom. The cosmetic bag seems to draw slightly less attention than the full purse.
anon - chi
Aaaah! It’s sort of horrifying that more senior men would counsel a junior about avoiding women who they presume have PMS.
You don’t assume they’re on their way to or from grabbing lunch or coffee? Or wanting to brush their teeth or reapply make-up? I’m so confused by this thread. Who on Earth has the time to scrutinize what one’s colleagues are taking into the bathroom?
I’m with v. I carry my larger bag for files, snacks, etc. that I have to take in and out of the building, and a smaller purse for personal items like feminine hygene, makeup, and my wallet. I take that if I’m just going out for coffee or lunch, or if I’m going to the bathroom (any time of month if I need to reapply makeup). I’m not about to invest in another, smaller, bag to put inside my purse. I’m just glad I work in an office where people have better things to do with their time than keep dibs on which women are having their period.
I have a small toiletry bag to put hygiene items and it is discrete enough to go around the hall without looking like I am going out
I stuff mine in my bra or up my sleeve (or in a pocket if I have one). I just don’t want people thinking, “Oh, she must have her period today,” even if they aren’t judgy about it or dreaming up PMS or avoiding me on the basis of it.
An expensive purse isn’t exactly “dressing for the job you want” – I put wearing a suit instead of separates, having your hair styled appropriately, etc. in that category – not carrying around an excessively expensive designer purse that costs more than twice what my first car did! A young intern carrying around that bag says that she doesn’t need to work, which means her dedication and focus will be less… My job is not a hobby or something I take lightly and I think poorly of those who treat their jobs as such.
I don’t think you can make that assumption in Singapore or many other parts of Asia. You’ll find plenty of lower paid women carrying around high-end designer bags and accessories. Women will save for years in order to buy these items, and because other women have done the same thing, no one is going to think “Oh she must have a rich grandparent/relative who gave it to her.” On the other hand, car ownership in Singapore as compared with the US is quite pricey and not nearly so common.
Thanks, MelD. A decent car costs 3x in Singapore compared to the US, due to high taxes.
And Singaporeans don’t need to spend on a lot of things that people in the US would (e.g. winter/fall clothes can be eliminated from your wardrobe entirely – that cost saved over a few years can pay for a posh bag:)
Plus Asians are BIG savers and tend to really focus on a few things to splurge. It also helps that Singapore has one of the LOWEST tax rates in the world (when I drew my first 6 figure paycheck, my tax was still <US$5k) with a lower cost of living compared to the US.
So yes, an intern can easily have a Birkin without many of the snarky assumptions made above (Shayna – that's you).
The question was posed to a U.S. website, w/ a U.S. readership… I can only give you my U.S. perspective.
Your view is that any young person carrying a hella expensive bag both a) doesn’t need to work, and b) is a bad worker. That’s not a U.S. perspective, that’s heaping a lot of unfounded assumptions on someone.
It may be different in Singapore, but I think that only one or two of the female attorneys or staff at my 300-lawyer, 400-staffer firm would recognize a Birkin and know what it cost. Until this post, I only knew vaguely that a Birkin was an expensive purse, not how expensive or what it looked like. And I don’t know about you all, but I take my purse to the office in the morning and to the bus at night (maybe to lunch if I go out). I could be toting a bag covered in green ultrasuede and most likely no one would know.
I’m terrified sometimes by the degree of judgement that flies around in comments on this site (even though I love Corporette!), whether it’s pantyhose, synthetic vs. natural suit fabric, heel height or haircuts.
On a related note – why is it “ok” to wear valuable stuff that “one has earned and paid for” vs “gifts inherited from or given by loving parents/spouse/whoever”?
Is the latter concept so rare?
I think the latter has much less of a stigma than the former, IMO.
I don’t really see why the distinction is so important to so many people. My concern–and I have seen this adversely affect female colleagues–is that the “she doesn’t need the money because her daddy is rich” attitude/bias is real in some workplaces, and it hurts women at review time and can definitely affect a woman’s compensation.
Synthesis: In your position as an intern, you should be risk-averse. As far as your career goes, carrying this bag to work has no upside and has a potential downside. So, if you are prioritizing your career over other concerns / interests / values, don’t use the bag for work.
I agree with anonymous. I don’t see the upside of carrying such a bag. I admit that I wouldn’t recognize/notice it, if one of my interns carried it. But it just takes one person who is envious, dismissive, or otherwise reacts badly to seeing someone who is working for free/little money with something obviously pricey. I would avoid carrying the bag to work.
Exactly. In your best case scenario, people will feel neutral, but even without strongly negative feelings, there’s the risk that you’ll be known as “the intern with the $9000 bag.” Many, as evidenced by the comments on this site, will feel negatively about it. Why risk it?
It’s a purse. Why should anyone be so concerned about it? Personally, I probably wouldn’t know a Birkin when I saw one anyway.
Liz, I could not agree more!
I agree, don’t bring the bag to work. However, I think the post is missing some key points about women and money in the workplace. While rich men are often lauded, sometimes even sought out, for their business connections and some vague concept of genetic acumen, women who seem to have connections to money are judged fairly harshly for flaunting that connection. Perhaps this is because people are more likely to believe (as the author of the post did) that unlike a man’s, a woman’s money comes from a fiance or boyfriend, not from a parent: this suggests not a wealthy childhood (which can be seen as a plus: better education, more connections), but gold-digging, which is always viewed negatively. Perhaps, on the other hand, the difference has more to do with perceptions of fiscal responsibility and gender, which often paint women as spending machines and men as responsible savers. Whatever the reason, there are clearly some gender issues at work here.
You’re right: A flashy engagement ring or a crazy-expensive bag do give off a negative, materialistic (read: shallow, unintelligent) vibe, while a watch tends not to. The more masculine accessory is not derided when it evokes wealth. The feminine ones are.
I think your advice was correct, but you’re doing a disservice to your readership by not at least pointing out the reasons why the advice is as it is.
There aren’t any of these gender issues in Singapore or other parts of Asia where carrying luxury goods is the norm rather than the exception. It’s just an accepted part of the culture that you will save for the months or years needed to buy the item, not that you got the money from a wealthy relative or spouse.
I know when I lived in Japan, there was an increasing trend for thirtysomething women to stay with their parents and not get married so they could spend all their money on luxury goods and vacations. Many women felt like marriage decreased freedom and spending power and were not interested in finding some sugar daddy.
(2) is correct. Don’t bring the Birkin to the office.
I agree that you should dress for the position you want, but I don’t think this means that you dress for the *ultimate* position you want to reach. Maybe the next rung – or two rungs up – but don’t overdo it.
I have the perfect solution. I think the OP should give her Birkin bag to me, as I work at home and therefore I will appreciate its beauty and craftsmanship, but I don’t have to worry that the dog will think I’m a status climber.
I think a Birkin bag is quite understated luxury, myself. It’s known only by people who are in-the-know themselves. In that regard, I think it’s far less showy than a brown-and-gold Louis Vuitton logo bag, even though the LV cost far less.
A decent engagement ring could cost far more than $9,000, as could a really nice investment watch. So could a nice vacation. I don’t see anyone suggesting that someone who goes on a nice vacation should hide where they went or just pretend to have gone fishing instead.
And unless the OP says, “Let me ask my Birkin bag what it thinks of this, and I’ll get back to you,” carrying a handbag in the intended use is not “flaunting” a bag any more than driving a BMW to the grocery store is “flaunting” the BMW. I think that says more about the onlooker than about the owner.
I think a Birkin bag is quite understated luxury, myself. It’s known only by people who are in-the-know themselves.
Nah, this might have been true once, but now its been on Gilmore Girls and a guy wrote a whole best-selling book about buying them. I think they’ve gone pretty mainstream (even if the price keeps them totally out of most people’s realm while the LV’s doesn’t).
Sadly, I learned what a Birkin bag was from that Gilmore Girls epi. : )
Me too. I miss the Gilmores. That was a great show.
Chicago K: Don’t feel bad; so did Rory.
Lincoln: Except for the last season, that was a great show.
Well, that show doesn’t air in Singapore:)
Don’t know if this has been said yet, but cultural context could change things up here. In Korean culture, carrying around an expensive, stylish handbag (but not flaunting it in people’s faces, i.e. not carrying it around the halls as C suggested) that suits your personal style, particularly if it is in an environment where that is the norm (which in this case would be set by full-time people there) is actually a good thing. The “rich [vapid] girl” stigma just doesn’t exist in the same way as it does in America. In fact, not carrying around such a handbag (that is, not doing one’s best to fit in to that world) could mean that you get looked down upon, or seen as incompetent when it comes to actual work. I’ve always accepted this just to be a cultural thing.
I don’t know how applicable this is to Singaporean work culture, but I think it is something to consider, particularly if this intern plans to stay within that culture and society.
This is exactly the correct answer!
Yes, same applies in Singapore.
This is irrelevant for biglaw, but in smaller offices where raises may be hard to come by, raises are often doled out based (even if unfairly) on perceptions of who has children, how much spouses make, etc. I know a guy who worked at one such office who refused to invite coworkers over to his house because he had nice furnishings and a flat screen. If you’re competing with someone else for a job, a lot of people may be much more sympathetic to an intern working their way through school than to someone wearing a $9k bag. That would certainly enter into my calculus if I had one job to bestow on someone. Whether this applies in Singapore? Who knows.
Also, if you’re a biglaw secretary rocking a $9,000 bag, as an associate who would use $9,000 to pay off some student loans, I would be more likely to give a smaller Christmas gift to this secretary.
Birkin’s are so 2008. It’s a good thing the OP works in a “BigLaw firm” because if she worked in fashion she would be considered somewhat dated looking. (Let’s put it this way, if Stanley Tucci were her boss he’d take her to the supply closet and find her another bag.)
Huh? A Birkin is pretty timeless.
Olivia are you High? A Birkin may come in additional colors every season but it is no way “dated looking”. Its been a top selling bag for 20+ years, its shape is iconic and TIMELESS.
Our Western perception of luxury goods is completely different from that of Asia. How much do you spend a month on rent and utilities? Maybe $1000? How much do you spend a month on a car payment + insurance? Maybe another $500? Imagine you didn’t have those expenses, a $9000 handbag isn’t so out of reach anymore. In Asia, people either live with their parents until they get married or they live in company housing, and they don’t have cars. So they can spend more on clothes.
I’m pretty surprised that someone from Singapore would even ask this question. Maybe the OP isn’t from there.
and also, I carry my handbag to the bathroom at least twice a day. I never in a million years considered that someone would even notice that.
carrying your bag to the bathroom all the time, at my firm, would definitely result in people talking about you, as in – maybe she has a drug problem, or a drinking problem, or is she obsessed with makeup and won’t keep a mirror in her drawer, etc etc. The germaphobes would be grossed out by a bag that spends so much time in bathrooms. If people don’t know the truth and they see something odd like that then they will make up something that is almost always far worse than the truth (ie, perhaps you have caught your secretary going through your bag while you were in the bathroom and don’t want everyon to know she does things like that). If possible, take the other poster’s advice and lock it in a drawer (or even hide it under your desk) when you go the bathroom.
On the Quality argument –
I’ve heard many people say on this site that a single high quality item is better than having to buy poor quality items and then keep replacing them. While a practical-sounding argument, it requires certain assumptions about relative quality and replacement frequency to really hold up.
Lets look at this argument re the Birkin bag, where the argument does not hold up:
One $9000 bag.
The handbag I currently own is a $25 bag I bought in a touristy shop in Chinatown San Francisco (not a knockoff, just a plain simple black leather handbag). I’m currently 30 years old, I have owned this bag already for 3 years.
Buying a Birkin bag is equivalent to buying $9000/$25 = 360 of my handbags. Which is more economical?
Assuming my like-new bag falls apart this very moment, it has lasted 3 years and for the rest of my bag-owning (lets say) 80 years (or remaining 50 years) I will end up buying 17 new purses (one every 3 years, my approximate current bag-purchase frequency). Even assuming that the cost of these bags is $50 a piece, I will spend about $850 more on purses in my lifetime.
So the difference is $900 – $875 = $8125, which properly invested can yield you a lot of yummy dark chocolate bars!
By the way my analysis is conservative for oh-so-many reasons. One reason is that my lovely MIL gifted me a red bag that I haven’t started using yet. I also have a previous bag that I bought at a Liz Claiborne factory outlet for $30 back in 2003 which is still going strong, it’s larger and I use it on days when I need more carrying capacity. What I’m saying is that I don’t really need any replacement bags for a long time.
Buying a $9000 bag is not economical. Don’t kid yourself.
I agree that buying a $9k bag is not economical, and I would never even come close to it. Your mother in law may have been dropped you a hint with that gift, though. A black bag, even an expensive one, does not look good with every outfit, unless you wear mostly black every day.
Thanks A. But if there were one handbag that went with most outfits, it would be black, wouldn’t it?
I do wear black pants, a black pencil skirt, and pinstriped black trousers a lot, so I’m hoping that this goes with at least 50% of my outfits (other options are grey or brown skirt/trousers).
I’m asking because I can’t imagine regular women (and my colleagues don’t) changing bags every day to have something that goes with each outfit. I’ll have to transfer my wallet, sunglasses, phone, blackberry, lip balm, all sorts of little things that I hate to dig out and move from place to place.
Or is there some other color you’d suggest?
Carrying around an obviously cheap bag really can’t be doing anything for you in the professional world. There’s a huge difference between buying a silly $9,000 Birkin and a $30 piece of junk. Of course the bag isn’t going to literally fall apart (unless you’re carrying around bricks) but it’s not going to look nice either. Go to a nice department store and shell out $150-300 for a classic, quality bag that will last you decades. Try brands like Cole Haan, Kate Spade, Coach, Marc Jacobs, Longchamp, etc.
I would have a nice bag in black, brown/camel, and some sort of neutral-ish color like blue, dark orange or red.
P.S. Not to mention, that $30 Chinatown bag was probably made in a sweatshop by a child…
Can anybody even tell how much my bag costs? I don’t think so.
I’ve received compliments on it from female colleagues. One colleague/friend after complimenting me, asked me where it’s from and what brand it is. When I told her it cost $30, she was shocked.
If you see a logo-ed bag can you tell if its real or a fake?
If you see a nice-looking bag without a logo, can you tell if it cost $30 in Chinatown or $75 in Nordstrom?
SheFinds runs the ‘Taste test’ every now and then. Most people cant tell the difference between the two identically priced (one of which is much cheaper) items.
It’s possible that somebody with a keen eye and an encyclopedic knowledge of bags is silently judging me.
So far (because my bag looks stylish and is convenient and I love it) I’m willing to take the risk.
“Even assuming that the cost of these bags is $50 a piece, I will spend about $850 more on purses in my lifetime.
So the difference is $900 – $875 = $8125, which properly invested can yield you a lot of yummy dark chocolate bars!”
Life’s not just about making the most-economical choice. I daresay I could carry my keys, lipstick and drivers’ license in a ziploc bag and be even more economical, but life is also about beauty. And obviously you believe that to some extent, else you wouldn’t be here at Corporette … you’d buy the cheapest suits possible at Walmart and wear those to death.
Oh, I completely agree that life is not just about making economical choices.
I just disagree with the people who said that buying a Birkin bag is an economical choice.
There may be many reasons to buy it, economy isn’t one of them.
Seriously? In my circles both social and professional carrying a $30 bag is just inappropriate. For me its not about status or having a $9,000 bag but for proof that I’m a hard worker. Personally I think if you can afford a decent bag then you should buy one (doesn’t have to be a Birkin) but some filth from China town is out of the question. Based on where you work it can send the wrong message. In my office (fashion related) that would get you fired.
I don’t think I’d know one if I saw it.
I would not carry it because I would be concerned it would make me a target for crime. I work in a supposedly “secure” government building that I have to go through a metal detector to enter and recently discovered that the coffee money I kept in my desk drawer is gone. Petty theft is everywhere!
Save your fancy purse for places where it won’t make you a target for crime!
Simple answer: I would assume it was a knock off. It would never even OCCUR to me that someone her age had a real Berkin. And I would think she was carrying a knock off (which I find tacky). Maybe it’s small of me, but I’ve traveled and knock-off Berkins of all shapes, colors and qualities aren’t quite as cheap as a dime a dozen, but they are all over Asia. Unless you are sophisticated, wearing a stunning suit, getting in and out of a 6 figure car, etc., I will assume your bag is not real, or that you have more disposable income then sense.
I think a good rule of thumb for these types of questions is that if you have to ask whether something is inappropriate, it very likely is. end of story.
I work in Big Law (formerly employed in fashion industry) and Olivia, I would be shocked if you actually worked in fashion. A Birkin is the purse equivalent of a trench coat–always in style.
That said, I agree with the advice that you can take your Birkin to the office only carrying it in and out.
you may have a real one, but many people will likely assume it to be a fake, which is not good from an intellectual property perspective. I’d leave it at home. being known for owning a real or fake bag is not the reputation you want as an attorney.
Here are my thoughts:
The person who sent in this e-mail is going to get advice mostly from middle class strivers, since it is mostly middle class strivers who populate the ‘hallowed halls’ of law firms.
So she needs to take what everyone is saying–experienced and inexperienced lawyers alike–with a huge grain of salt. Personally, it pisses me off to no end that people think that one should have to cover up one’s affluence in order to secure employment. What should we do, apologize because we–or our family–worked hard and are successful?
Yeah, to heck with those middle-class peons anyway! Who cares what they think??? If they’re not rich they’re not that smart anyway, right?
Please. Give me a “middle-class striver” over some rich kid with a gigantic sense of entitlement any day. I know which one is going to work harder – the one that doesn’t have Mommy and Daddy’s money to fall back on if their career “doesn’t work out” (AKA they have to work too hard).
Most of the rich people I know didn’t work hard. Buying the right stocks isn’t working hard. Using mommy’s money isn’t working hard. I don’t believe that a 10,000 dollar handbag is a better quality handbag than one that is $1000. At some point it is showing off, and you will be seen as frivolous and shallow. Also, I wouldn’t put someone that buys a bag just because it is the most expensive one. How do you run a business that way?
Really, you don’t have to hide your affluence and hard work, but don’t be too surprised when people get sick of your better-than-everyone else attitude. Not everyone is as impressed as you are by your possessions.
Of all the things to people give you sympathy for, the travails of being rich aren’t one of them. I suggest you embrace a less self-absorbed perspective.
As for whose advice to follow: for the most part, she is not going to be surrounded by people who take wealth for granted. Obviously, it’s their perspective that matter.
I find it amusing that my comment triggered a number of responses to things that I never actually said. It reveals more about the responders’ own biases.
1) Never suggested that lower socioeconomic people (“middle class”) are more or less intelligent than others;
2) Never suggested that I think I–or, more generally, people from afflulent backgrounds–think I am better than others or take wealth for granted.
I find it amusing that the replies engendered the usual tired resentiments (e.g., “rich people don’t work hard / didn’t work hard”). Most people I know who come from affluent backgrounds have worked their asses off, either to accumulate their wealth or because of intergenerational pressure to ‘do better’ than the successes of the previous generation. (This reminds me of the crap that very intelligent kids get too–‘oh, you’re smart, so you don’t work hard’–when, in fact, BECAUSE they are rewarded for their intelligence, smart kids tend to work HARDER than average kids; same thing applies with the affluent)
The only point of my comment was that the perspective of most of these posters is going to be informed by their blue-collar / upper-middle class background. Please realize, regardless of your obvious class bias that is on fully display in these posts, that social, cultural, and economic values do tend to lead to different world views.
Given that, my warning stands: the advice you’re going to hear on these boards will be advice from people far below the likely social and economic class of the original poster. Which makes it less likely to be validly applied to her own social situation. She’d be far better off talking with her peers and/or family.
“the advice you’re going to hear on these boards will be advice from people far below the likely social and economic class of the original poster”
Yes, but she’s working at a law firm, so she’ll get judged by the same “middle class strivers” who are posting here. She’s obviously concerned about their views, so this is the right group of people to be asking and listening to, in terms of what she should do at her internship (leaving aside cultural considerations).
From the Guy Side.
I’ll throw in a male opinion (ATL directed me here) after reading the comments. I think “status seeker” is an appropriate moniker (including all negative conotations that come with it).
1. I shake my head at all of you that have referred to your 3 series BMW as an “entry level luxury car.” I worked in the automobile industry for 7 years (including my first 2 in law school). I looked at about 4 vehicles a day in my prior profession. There is simply nothing “luxury” about a 3 series. The engineering is not superior, the technology is not superior, the materials are not superior. If you want to talk about a 5 series or an M class BMW then I’m willing to listen. BMW does actually expend resources turning their M class and 5+ series vehicles into superior driving machines. The 3 series is only meant to capitalize on status driven suckers who know just enough to know that BMW does make good cars but can’t possibly explain to you what makes it a good car. Hint: If you can’t explain the difference between the 3 and 5 series chasis materials and why it matters to the performance of the car, you don’t know crap about your car and you just bought a logo. While I’m here, this also applies to an Infiniti G series, Lexus ES/IS, Mercedes C class etc… I’m guessing that this same conversation can be applied to purses where some brand does make superior stuff at the top of their line but the entry level items aren’t really all that different anything else on the market. In other words, most of you that wouldn’t be caught dead with an “entry level purse” from X manufacturer fall for the same exact con game with a 3 series BMW.
2. Diamonds suffer from a similar problem. Even ignoring the conflict issue, diamonds are not a rare stone. De Beers has done an awesome job keeping supply artificially low worldwide, driving up the price of diamonds significantly higher than what they would be in a non-monopolized market. As women will never be logical when it comes to diamonds, suckers like me will keep buying diamonds for our wives b/c a brilliant marketing strategy has convinced women that diamonds are a rare stone worth lots of money. In reality, a flawless Emerld is incredibly rare and of extremely higher value than any diamond…
3. I feel the same way about expensive vacations. If somebody tells me they just went to some top shelf resort on the Yucatan penisula, I cringe inside. I don’t get the point of flying to another country just to get into a van at the airport that will shuttle you to an “Americanized” compound err… resort where you will not experience the local culture. I just don’t understand the idea of spending that much money when you probably could have had the same experience somewhere in Florida for half the price.
4. Which brings us to the purse and what I’m getting at. I wouldn’t recognize a $9K purse. I wouldn’t judge the girl over the purse, but if it was something I did understand (a BMW, a diamond or a vacation) I would judge the girl. Not b/c she likes nice things but b/c I would see her as just another poor sucker that buys into hype and slick advertising instead of going for real value. Maybe the $9K purse is the equivelant of true luxury (a Bentley, a perfect Emerld, some truly top of the line vacation). If the thing is truly top of the line I would respect her for it and her tastes. But if it just stupid social striver crap that really isn’t all that special/valuable/rare (a BMW 3 series, a big diamond, an expensive vacation to an international resort/compound) I would be rather dismissive of her as someone who just gets sucked in by slick marketing.
“Hint: If you can’t explain the difference between the 3 and 5 series chasis materials and why it matters to the performance of the car, you don’t know crap about your car and you just bought a logo. While I’m here, this also applies to an Infiniti G series, Lexus ES/IS, Mercedes C class etc… ”
So what? If I had been interested in becoming an automotive engineer, I’d have bought one. I need no other justification to buy a luxury car other than I want to and can afford it. I happen to own one of the cars you listed above. I like it. I can afford it. It’s of no consequence whether I “understand” why it’s technically better or worse than some other car. With all due respect, get over yourself.
… I’d have BECOME one. Not bought one.
Although the delivery was questionable, I’m inclined to agree with the general message of “Guy Side” re: cars (and other expensive purchases). If someone can tell me that they dropped a lot of money on X item but that the high price is totally worth it for x, y and z reasons, and that these reasons are important to him/her, then I’m good. But if all they tell me is that they “like it and can afford it” or that it is pretty, that doesn’t seem like great decision making to me – it seems like buying a symbol. Then again, I research EVERYTHING before I buy :)
He’s right. A BMW 3 series is nothing more than a glorified Civic with a different emblem on the back. Nothing wrong with it (and Civics are well-made, easy maintenance cars) but don’t act like a 325 is the height of luxury. It’s not.
You’re right and you’re wrong.
1) You’re right that BMW views the 3-series as a means of soaking up a lot of lower-professionals’ (think lower 6-figure household income) disposable income. [Note, that definition applies to many lawyers–who are we kidding, many lawyers would kill to be so defined]
So, no, it isn’t the car that’s going to be driven by partners & ibankers. So what. It still costs a good chunk of change from the standpoint of many young professionals, which I’m guessing is the primary audience / responding group here.
2) You’re absolutely wrong in suggesting that BMW doesn’t pour money into the 3-series. Both from an engineering and a company pride perspective, the 3-series platform reiceves their MOST R&D dollars and tuning and testing. Why? For the very reason that you poopoo the car: because it is their primary generator of revenue. Moreoever, BMW is filled with engineers: they don’t sacrifice their standards just because a car is selling for $40k rather than $80k. Pound for pound, the 3-series is the finest engineered sub-$50k sports sedan in the world. If you have a car background as you allege, you should know that.
Many of the people on this thread seem to be judging this person based solely on their possession of the object, rather than what their possession of that object actually means.
Someone who has that particular object clearly has taste, and may have chosen to spend the same amount of money on a vacation; but not many BigLaw associates, frankly, have TIME for a slumming-it kind of VACATION. If they chose to indulge themselves with an object they really like rather than some supposedly spiritual fulfillment, because by spending their money that way, they get more satisfaction, then they should not be judged for that.
And from a utility perspective, the concept that if you wish to be a partner, you should dress like one, is undeniably sensible. Only the unsuccessful competitors who lost will resent such a person.
So I have to come down to it on this: female dandyism is absolutely never a negative. Male dandyism is only rarely a negative.
If it makes you look good, have it. The only good advice I’ve seen on this thread is that if you’re just walking around and the object isn’t useful, don’t carry it around just to show it off.
How does having a Birkin bag show you have taste? It shows you keep up with fashion and trends… the Birkin was mentioned on Sex and the City for crying out loud! It’s not some obscure label that REALLY implies you know what you’re doing. Something like TOD’S or Chloe or Mulberry.
Please. A Birkin implies you have a LOT of money and you want people to know it. Nothing more.
It’s funny that many people related the Birkin to buying a luxury car – in Singapore, car ownership (atleast at intern level) would put you as “rich” in everyone’s perception as they are so hideously expensive here!
And most people live with their folks till they marry/hit 35, and can afford to save for such splurges:)
Ah well, maybe such questions will help us understand how the other half of the world lives….
The person who sent in this e-mail is going to get advice mostly from middle class strivers, since it is mostly middle class strivers who populate the ‘hallowed halls’ of law firms.
So she needs to take what everyone is saying–experienced and inexperienced lawyers alike–with a huge grain of salt.
This makes no logical sense whatsoever. “You’re going to get advice from exactly the same type of people you will be working with, and therefore evaluated by, so you should be careful about taking their advice seriously.”
Sorry if this is a TMI comment.
But taking your bag to the restroom that “time of the month” to deal with feminine is sometimes unavoidable. Does it look odd?
See convo upstream. In short, yes, everyone assumes it’s “that time of the month” if you’re carrying your purse to the bathroom during the day.
The plethora of handbag rental services would lead me to believe that the intern was probably renting the bag – a la http://www.bagborroworsteal.com/handbags/hermes-vintage-red-leather-birkin-handbag/15778/18/642&posCol=0&posRow=0&page=1
Hahahaaa, when I see a Birkin bag on someone less than 35 years old, I assume it’s fake. Which also isn’t the impression you want to make at biglaw…
I’m with other posters – leave the bag at home until the job becomes permanent. Even then, when you bring the bag to work, carry it in and lock it up (or whatever you do to ensure security in the office (everyone in our office less than a VP works in a cube without a door, so handbags are not left lyiing about) and act like it’s just any other bag – not “here’s my Birkin!!!!”
Or, you could just send it to me :).
So if I think a male intern who wears a Rolex or drives a Porsche is a douche-bag (regardless of where the money came from), I can’t think of a woman in $9K purse or a $1K shoes is a douche-baguette who has extremely bad judgment and taste?
I have friends who are WEALTHY (walls full of museum level art, multiple vacation homes, etc.) who know the best way to offend a client paying hundreds of dollars per hour for your services is a flash too much bling.
I have also done a internship in the best law firm in Singapore, and my advise will be : be less poshy then your mentor! Even more if it’s a woman!
The lawyers and associates can wear branded stuff and show that they have money, you not. You are just an intern. You should show off by your personality and how good is your job. And be sure, people talk! They other interns will talk about it, you can be sure!
In this law firm, they told us to wear business casual everyday and black suits to court. Friday is casual except for the litigation lawyers whom always go to court:-) Having a very pricy small bag will be inappropriate if you are going to court because you will have no use of it.
So be discrete in your wearing but bright with you mind. Get a great work certificate, get a good job then you can show your bag:-)
I’m surprised nobody has commented on how other summer interns would respond to the bag. Many law students, even those aspiring to an offer at Big Law Firm, are in a TON of debt and are counting on an offer to even survive past graduation, especially given the current job market. As a summer intern myself, I would resent seeing a fellow intern parade around with a $9,000 purse. As those are the people you’re interacting with most often and probably the core of your social support system at work, I’d think twice about rubbing it in that you’re not in the same position. It just gives off the wrong vibe.
Oh, I don’t know… I work at the college with a young woman who happens to have very well-to-do parents. She drives a BMW and wears extremely nice clothes AND has NO student loan debt!!!! She is getting an LV briefcase for a graduation present.
I should hate her, but she is smart, funny and nice, and actually does work (albeit part-time) all through school. She will have a nice life without all the struggles I’ve had for sure, but hey, that’s life. She’s very lucky to have been born to rich parents.