Coffee Break: Haight Satchel

YUMC Haight SatchelI was poking through the under $100 handbag selection on Nordstrom, looking for well-reviewed items for something else (see below), when I spied this gorgeous satchel — it looks like a great casual, fun briefcase for $65.  I’d probably remove the crossbody strap (I almost always do!), but that’s me.  The bag is 16″W x 11″H x 5″D, and comes in four colors of tough 1050-denier nylon; it fits up to a 13″ laptop.  YUMC Haight Satchel

But here’s the Q that prompted my search (before I got distracted by the pretty red affordable briefcase): I was thinking this morning about how we’ve found numerous budget heels that are kind of classics — the $20 Karmen pump at Payless, the $25ish Merona wedge at Target — but I don’t think we’ve ever found a low cost handbag that I would call a classic. By “classic” I mean: a bag that’s been around for several years from the same retailer, probably in several colors, and continuously gets great reviews from Corporette readers. While I can think of a NUMBER of bags like that in the $300-$600 range, it’s hard to think of any in the $100 range or under. So let’s hear it, ladies — which are your favorite classic budget handbags for work? Do such things exist, or are they all lucky finds?  



  1. Rant: Why does opposing counsel ask unreasonable things of me and then get all whiny/disappointed when I say no? No, I’m not going to let you negotiate directly with my client when you know they’re represented just because I’m busy during the one time slot you proposed on four hours’ notice. REALLY?

    • Shoplifter :

      Probably because opposing counsel is a lawyer. That’s kind of what we do.

  2. Clementine :

    Just need to share with somebody- so I have a random Monday off (which is delightful) and have so far: run errands, finished 2 baby quilts to give as gifts, finished painting my bedroom and am about to hang some curtain rods.

    …can we get the 4-day workweek to catch on please? I could get used to this.

    • That is great both to have today off and to get so much done. I’m jealous. Are you sure you’re “off” today tho? I’m exhausted just reading this.

  3. Hi everyone,

    I’m hoping you can give me some job search advice. I’m a recent law school graduate and am clerking until the end of August. I just came across a job posting at an organization where I interned while in law school. The job involves working in two separate areas of the organization, one of which is the group I interned in a few years ago. Would it be appropriate for me to contact the person who supervised me while I was an intern? I’m not sure if she’s involved in the hiring process since her group is one of the groups where the new lawyer will work, and I wouldn’t want to put her in an uncomfortable position, but I want to do anything I can to express my interest in the position. I haven’t kept in contact with her in the last year or so, but she did write me some letters of recommendation while I was in law school and was applying to other positions. And if I do contact her, I’m not sure exactly what I would say. Would I just say that I wanted to let her know I was applying or should I be more aggressive?

    Thanks so much for any advice you can offer!

    • YES! Of course!

      Just send her an email and say, “Hi, hope you’ve been well, I saw a posting for X and it’s absolutely my dream job. I’m planning to submit my resume. Do you know anything about the position?” This way she can volunteer to pass along your resume or not, or maybe she can just give you some pointers.

      Obviously, put all that in your own words and tone down the “dream position” angle as appropriate (but I think enthusiasm for a job always helps). Maybe also add that you’ve been clerking and this is the sort of next step you’re looking for somewhere in there. Good luck!

    • Yes, OF COURSE you should contact the person, even if they are NOT on the specific hireing committee for your job. It cannot hurt at all. These days, we women need all the angle’s we can get, so there is NOTHING WRONG with calling her and telling her that you are interveiewing for a position and you would like to know if she could put a good word in for you. Men do it all the time! The worse that can hapen is that she say’s she is not involved and would not feel comforteable doieng that for you. In that case, just say FOOEY and move on. However, if you do know that she like’s you, just call her and tell her what you are doieng. THIS COULD VERY well be the diference between getting the job or NOT. It never pay’s to be bashful in life, or in love my Grandma Leyeh say’s and she is right! YAY!!!!!! Butch is comeing over soon so I have to flush Frank out of the toilet so that I can look good when he come’s here. DOUBEL YAY!

      • I agree with Ellen. She truly has street-smarts. If only she learned how to spell she’d really be wonderfully brilliant (in addition to drop-dead gorgeous!)

  4. S in Chicago :

    I’ve never owned one, but I suspect the LL Bean tote might fall into this category? I hear folks often sing its praise.

    I’m now realizing what a bag snob I am, since most of what I think of are all well beyond the $100 range.

    • anon-oh-no :

      yes. this. but i dont think its a snob thing. for me, when i think of a “classic” its actually something that will last YOU many years and still look good, be in style etc. a bag or a pair of shoes for less than $100 rarely fits that bill. certainly there are more expensive items that also dont fit that bill, but the actual item you own has to have staying power in order to be considered “classic” in my book.

      • Small Town Attorney :

        I don’t think that’s snobbery exactly, but it is. . . privilege, maybe? I *know* that it makes more sense, in the long run, to buy a quality pair of shoes that will last me for years and years, instead of the $20 pumps above that might last me a year if I’m lucky. But when I’m broke (like now), and my current shoes have completely fallen apart, the $20 may be all I can manage. When that happens, it’s nice to be able to go and buy the exact same pair of $20 pumps that I had before, without having to go through the whole rigamarole of actual shoe shopping.

        Terry Pratchett articulates this as the Captain Samuel Vimes “Boots” theory of socioeconomic unfairness.

        • Great comment. The ability to spend m0re (sometimes lots more) depends on ability/privilege more than it does on the quality of the item. I can recognize that something will last me ten years and be a better deal over time, but I may not have the money to “invest” in that item right now. I also hate the term “invest” (my own use, no one else’s) because it’s so hard for many of us to predict what items will really work out well for us, last years, or work in our lifestyles. It’s no 401K!

        • I agree with that. I’d also add that I’ve not found *that* much difference in last-ability between more and less expensive items like shoes and bags – that is, not enough to justify, in itself, the difference in price (i.e., I haven’t found that $200 shoes generally last 4 times as long as $50 pairs). Not that the more expensive ones don’t often have some other benefits that make them worth more if you can afford them (comfort, appearance, thoughtful design, etc.), but I don’t think that they’re generally a better buy.

          (Today I’m wearing a pair of $25 black peeptoes from Target that I purchased in late 2010 or early 2011, and have been in regular rotation since. They could use a replacement, but I think that they’re still OK.)

          • Baconpancakes :

            I’m super hard on my shoes and bags, and I definitely see a difference, even more so than the cost exponential. Pair of flats from Sole Society for $45 – lasted 2 months. (I was so sad – they were adorable coral peeptoes I haven’t been able to replace.) Pair of Clarks flats for $85 have lasted 1 year with regular commuting, and probably have another 6-8 months in them, another year if I didn’t commute in them regularly. Pair of Cole Haan Tali wedges for $200 that I regularly commuted in all summer (3x week – love them) still look basically new after a year. There’s wear on the bottom of the heel, and the logo’s worn off inside, but they look great, and I probably have at least another 2 years of commuting .75 miles each way in them all summer.

            Same with bags. I carry the same bag for 5 days a week and load it up probably more than I should. Aldo $60 fake leather bag lasted for 6 months with increasing wear and scratches before the handle gave out and the struts poked through the bottom. Dooney & Bourke real leather bag is 5 months old and looks perfect. And I’m definitely not gentler on my “nice” things – I load up that D&B sucker like it’s my job.

          • SummerGal :

            Completely agree with baconpancakes. Provided you’re paying for more than just the name, a good quality, well-made piece not only lasts longer but looks better longer. I believe you end up saving money in the long run as well. One great leather tote for $300 starts to look a lot cheaper after your sixth faux leather bag for $60. Also, a far better use of resources and energy. Well-made is the new ‘green’!

  5. Famouscait :

    After two tries writing a letter co-signed by me and my boss, he’s now taken it from me and is writing it himself. Through this, I am realizing in have PBBS: post-bad boss syndrome. My old boss was a former writer for the NYTimes as well as a horribly rude person. She used to wield that red pen in a way that has clearly left some ink-stains on my psyche.

    • I don’t understand how your previous boss’s feedback caused you to botch a letter you were drafting for your current boss?

    • I had a professor in college who used to cross out entire chunks of my papers and just write “wasted words” in the margins. Now, when someone gives me edits it still stings sometimes (especially when I think they’ve made my writing worse), but it’s rarely as harsh as my old professor’s critique. Ultimately, if it’s something signed by you, you get the last say. But if you’re writing something signed by your boss or where you get second billing, it’s their call what goes in. Try not to take it personally and just think of the day when you’re the one making the ultimate decision.

      • Famouscait :

        When I proofread my hubby’s academic papers, I always pick some section that is a data table or such that I completely don’t understand (I proof read for grammar and basics, mostly) and cross it out and write “WRONG” in all caps. But only because it makes him laugh when he gets to that page – it’s all correct, it’s just Greek to me! I may have to add that “Wasted Words” bit in the future. =)

    • My sympathies. I know this feeling all too well. Let yourself feel all the feelings, do something special for yourself tonight, and start fresh again tomorrow.

    • Yes, I’ve been there, too. PBBS is very real. I really liked reading Ask A Manager’s material about micromanaging bosses. It helped me realize that it wasn’t me, because after spending a chunk of time working for a micromanager, it’s easy to forget how capable you actually are.

      • Anon Lawyer :

        I expect I will have this problem at my next job… it’s not uncommon to go through 3-5 rounds of edits for a 2 paragraph letter. (And I swear I’m not an idiot)

        • Famouscait :

          Yes! My current boss isn’t a micro-manager, I guess we just weren’t on the same page (no pun intended) with this letter. I didn’t realize how much previous boss’s edits stung until he asked to write it himself… a completely reasonable request, but yet it does make me cringe with feelings of inadequacy. Boo on PBBS!

  6. Ladies, any recommendations for Croatia? My husband and I would like to go this summer and based on what I’ve read/seen so far, I think we want to basically go up the coast, checking out cities & beaches between Dubrovnik & split. So it seems like a little cruise boat type thing for 7 nights or so might be easier than renting a car and driving… Any thoughts or recs? Any recs for cruise companies that do this type of thing? Many thanks in advance!!!

    • Don’t know of any cruises, but we did this last September and it was awesome. We started in Dubrovnik, did the GoT tour (worth it!) then drove up the coast to the ferry to Hvar, stayed there for a few days, then ferry to Split, from where we went to Istria. We loved the hotel Lone in Rovinj and going to the wineries and olive oil produces (you can’t buy Croatian olive oil in the US, so it’s totally worth filling up an entire suitcase). It was a lot to do in one trip and I’m sure you can fill up your time just doing the beaches between the two locales. It was easy to drive (but we’re also used to the manual cars) and get around.

    • I’ve never been, but the blog EmilyStyle recently did a series of travel posts about Croatia.

    • Clementine :

      Croatia is awesome!! Husband and I went for about 8 days or so… flew into and out of Dubrovnik and we spent the first 4 days in Dubrovnik, staying at a fantastic guest house right in Old Town. It was incredible and gorgeous and romantic and fantastic. We took the Croatian equivalent of a Greyhound bus up to Split and then a ferry to Hvar. We spent 3 or 4 days in Hvar and enjoyed every second of it.

      A highlight was renting a scooter and touring the island. It’s all wineries, olive groves, lavender fields and honey. It also has some of the most GORGEOUS beaches I’ve ever seen in my life. Page me tomorrow if you’re interested and I’m very happy to post more recommendations.

      If I did it again, I would do a ferry from Dubrovnik to Hvar and take that as kind of a cruise. There’s just so much to see inland- I think I would have missed so much taking a cruise.

  7. A Longchamp Le Pliage is definitely a classic. The large is close to $150, but it lasts forever.

  8. Vent: I just learned that my manager is being promoted and is going to start working in a completely different department. I found out through an email that was sent out to the entire company. No heads up. I did not see this coming. For context; I’m a 3rd year associate. The partner we work for is retiring later this year, and we’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how we can make the transition to another partner go as smoothly as possible. We work very well together, and get along great. We’ve been known to be one of the best functioning teams in our company, and I’m so disappointed he didn’t tell me himself as we are close and this will have a huge impact on my work situation. To some of you, this may seem completely normal, but it’s not in our firm. Now I have no idea who I’m going to be working with, and I’ll be the only one on the team who knows the clients. I know I just have to accept it and make the best of it, but just for today, I’m gonna allow myself to be a little bit sad about not working with this extremely competent and supernice person anymore.

    • You have my sympathy, truly. I feel like a lot of people don’t understand how hard this can be. I had an amazing boss and mentor for the last several years in my first “real” job. Very abruptly (as in, we got an email and he was already gone), my boss was ousted (political bs). It has been so hard on me. I loved working with this person and I’m having a hard time getting over it. Other people seem to find this silly because “it happens all the time.” Well for some of us it doesn’t happen all the time, and if it’s the first time you’ve experienced something like this, it can be hard!

      • This is exactly how I feel. I know it happens all the time, but it still sucks.

    • I’ve been on both sides of this situation. I lost an amazing manager to an appointment and then year later left an awesome team to take my current appointment but was prohibited from discussing it with them in advance. I will say that if your manager’s been promoted he probably feels like he owes that partly to you and I’d be surprised if you don’t hear that in some form. Also, this is a good opportunity for you to step up and demonstrate your abilities and its likely that will be noticed. I can also guarantee you from experience that he will miss you at least as much, if not more, than you miss him.

      Change is inevitable in any organization but hard to deal with no matter whether you’re the chang-or or the chang-ee. Indulge your sadness – it’s totally legitimate – but realize there are great things awaiting you and this is just a step on the path to finding them.

  9. For Kat/Kate/tech folks :

    Kat – When an original comment (or follow-up) is deleted (presumably by enough reports?), then all the subsequent comments end up in a big pile at the bottom of the thread. It’s confusing. Can we have a “removed by moderator” placeholder or something instead?

    • Honestly, Im shocked that the comment got deleted today. It just said they thought the jacket was boring. If we are going to delete that we are going to end up deleting half the posts.

      • Yeah, I’m surprised at the deleting. There have been many, many more offensive comments. I really value/valued this blog because of the open (honest, and sometimes too harsh) dialogue. Hope that doesn’t change.

        • Hi guys — sorry for the confusion. That comment was actually reported by users 5+ times so it was pulled via the “Report it” button — not by us. There is no technical way to stop the orphaned comments beyond that (although a “removed by community moderation” placeholder would be really cool; I agree). I’ve reapproved it so the rest of the thread makes sense.

          • Would it be possible to up the number of “report it” clicks for a comment to get pulled? Maybe to ten? I am generally anti-“report it” on principle but if the site is going to have some kind of censor button, shouldn’t it take a bit more consensus to get something flagged?

            And to the commenters: can we just agree not to report everything that just happens to be disagreeable? Is censorship really the answer?

          • Honestly Kat, that is a crazy system. 5 report its get it pulled? one person can do that if they have safari, firefox, a work computer and iphone. I am all for somebody moderating comments, but letting the commentators have the ability to censor people like that is crazy to me.

          • marketingchic :

            I think a lot of people accidentally click “report” when they intended to “reply.” I know I have. High-achieving chicks with bad mouse skills, I guess . . . .

          • Also I just reported your post by accident. The threshold number should be something like 30

          • Also, maybe the report button could be changed so it doesn’t look so similar (and isn’t located in such close proximity) to the reply button. Make the report button red with one of those circles and a line? Or make it much smaller than the reply link? Or something like that to help stop the accidental reports?

          • It goes by IP address so one person can’t pull a comment by themselves. Since we started the Report button I think only 5 or 6 comments (if that) have found their way to the mod queue.

  10. I have this bag ( from H&M and I get tons of compliments whenever I carry it. It holds so. much. stuff. while still managing to look more like a handbag than a tote (if that makes sense), and it has held up well.

    • A friend of mine has this tote in brown from a few years ago, I think. Agree – it’s great. I remember asking her where she got it at the time and being surprised that it was H&M. All these years later, it still looks pretty good and she uses it a lot for court.

  11. hoola hoopa :

    A classic handbag for <$100 is a difficult challenge. I think <$200 is more realistic. I spend very little on clothing and accessories relative to my coworkers, but I do buy a $200-300 handbag every 5-10 years. It'd make for an interesting Hunt to round up well-rated, professional handbags for <$100 or <$200.

    You can get ones that look classic, like a Relic shoulder bag or Nine West shopper, but they are going to wear out so quickly that you'd easily pay for a nicer, leather bag in just a few years. Good idea for a summer associate, but not for a full-time professional.

  12. Archer MSA :

    Ladies, please help. I signed up for an HSA program through my employer, but turns out it is called an Archer MSA in my state (California). I have read that California does not recognize the tax-free nature of the HSA, so was my HSA automatically converted into an MSA? How does the MSA work, and can anyone help me figure out the tax consequences of moving from California to a state that does not tax HSAs? Thank you!

    • Wildkitten :

      Do you have a plan administrator? That’s who you ask about HSA questions.

      • Yup – definitely your benefits person at work (or whoever they contract to). So much of the benefit stuff has things that may be allowed in a plan, but may not be in your specific plan. If you want general information, check out the website about the differences. If CA is going to be a special snowflake about HSAs, I gotta believe their state revenue agency page will have something too.

  13. I think once you include bags that should be way over $100 but which can be procured in a sale or with a a special deal the pool increases to include some real gems

    • Totally agree. I got a great classic black leather Cole Haan handbag for under $100 with a combination of timing and deals. I picked up my other favorite classic bag for 40 euro on a study abroad in Florence. Vintage shops and goodwill are other good bets.

      Fossil used to be a go to for $100 range, but I think they’ve raised their price point. LL Bean Town and Field Mini Tote isn’t bad ($99), but I’m not familiar with the sizing.

      • Fossil absolutely did–it’s now more like $200-300, but I found a discontinued colour of a bag i’ve been stalking for $100 at Winners (Canada’s TJ Maxx) so they’re out there!

  14. What happened to trying to keep comments on topic? Was nice while it lasted…

    • Only the midday posts addressing a specific question or issue (today’s summer associate wear, for example) are strictly on-topic for comments. These kinds of “coffee break” posts are meant to be off-topic. There’s only so much you can say about a bag, and there a number of comments upthread about them.

  15. My new find :

  16. I carry a nice leather tote to/from the office, but I consistently rely on the enormous, black faux-leather totes from Target (usually $35-40) for court, because I can easily slip our legal-sized Redwelds into them. I keep one at the office with a little pouch with pens, business cards, and a small umbrella. When I have court, I pop in the file(s) I need and my cell phone and I’m off. When the bag starts to look tattered, I replace it. I’m on my second in 7 years*, and while the style changes slightly over time, the basic shape and function have not.
    *My last legal job used letter-sized folders, so the massive bag wasn’t as critical.

    For other budget options:
    *For vacations and evenings/weekends, I carry nylon Eddie Bauer cross-body I bought when I studied abroad in 2003. It’s light, small enough to be unobtrusive, and large enough to hold my DSLR camera body and a spare lens.
    *Look at pocampo[dot]com – cute bike-friendly bags at reasonably prices. Out of Chicago.
    *If you’re ever in Florence (as one sometimes is, right??), check out the San Lorenzo street market yes, really). I got a gorgeous, large leather bag for €60 ($82) in 2008 that I still use; the brightly colored vegetable-dye (then grass green) has turned into a really lovely olive that I also enjoy as the color has been absorbed by the leather. Also: it still smells fantastic.