Bag Lady! Part Two – Sprucing Up a Vuitton Alma

OK, here comes another boring purse post again, readers beware! And by the way, you can all blame Beth Byrnes for all these purse posts. I emailed her and gave her the opportunity to talk me out of buying my first ever Louis Vuitton, but instead she told me to go for it. So it’s all her fault! 🙂

art bag cat

I’ve been skulking around eBay and a few online consignment stores, looking for deals on designer bags. I’ve found a few that were a real steal (much less than, say, a new Dooney and Burke or Coach bag), but they have needed a little work. With one exception I’ve been good about picking up bags that are in decent shape already, so all they need is a little spiffing up – and I’m still working on the exception, which I may end up taking somewhere to get the professional treatment. I guess the upside of actually enjoying getting up every morning and sitting in front of the computer scrolling through eBay listings with a cup of tea is being the first to snatch up a good deal; the downside being carpal tunnel syndrome. And a lack of storage space. Moving on.

art handle
I also took some arty-farty shots of the bag.

Anyway, one of my favorite shapes Louis Vuitton makes is the Alma bag, and in the Monogram canvas they are abundant on eBay – this one looked to be in nice shape except for the large water stain across the bottom, something I noticed a lot of Alma bags have anyway, since the bottom of the bag is vachetta leather, and the older models don’t have feet of any kind. So I figured, for the great price, I could deal with the water stain, and after I got it in I gave it a good cleaning. I got slightly more noticeable results than I did with the Papillon 26 I posted about awhile back, so here we go with the details! (By the way, as with my last bag repair post, I did not edit these photos except to add a little clarity and contrast. They are basically SOOC).

alma_bothsidesbefore_collage
Click on the photos to get a larger view

As you can see, the canvas on the bag was fine  – it’s durable as hell so that’s no surprise. In fact, I think LV’s coated canvas is one of those things that will survive a nuclear detonation, like cockroaches and styrofoam. Not sure how the company would feel about me saying that; I doubt they’d use it in an advertising campaign. Almas, apparently, are known for caving in and losing their shape a little bit, but I tend not to get too concerned about stuff like that. I buy bags to really use them, so if they look used, I’m cool with it, including if they lose shape a little. The leather at the base of the bag was the worst part, really; other than that I couldn’t find much wrong with it. It even still had the lock, although the key was long gone.

art bag cat 2

Speaking of the lock, that’s how I got started – by working on the bag’s brass. I used Brasso applied with a q-tip to clean up the zipper and pulls, as well as the lock and all other hardware. It’s time consuming, but fun, because you get to see the most immediate results when the brass is really tarnished, as it was here. And by the way, I stumbled across a great tip for how to clean Brasso off the cloth part of the zipper if some of it gets on there and turns it white; another q-tip with Dawn dish soap on it will remove it.

alma brasso
Wear gloves; the Brasso is messy. Also pictured is the Apple leather cleaner and conditioner I used.

alma_beforeafterzippers_collage
The zipper before and after.

alma_brass_collage
The lock and zipper pull before and after

After that was done, I used the Apple leather cleaner to clean all the leather areas. I used a soft towel that came with the kit to apply the cleaner and let it dry, then used another soft towel to apply conditioner. After the conditioner dried, I did my best to buff it out to get a little shine, but my  buffing skills are sub-par, so I didn’t get too much shine out of it. Could be the age of the leather and not my buffing skills, who knows.

alma before after handles
Shot of the handles, before and after. Not bad!

alma_beforeafterbottom_collage
Nothing too dramatic here – but the slight darkening of the leather caused by the cleaner and conditioner helped to conceal the water stains a bit.

alma_corners_collage
But check out those corners! Great improvement.

After all that was done, I used an organic baby wipe to clean the canvas, then a damp towel to wipe off the residue. And voila! My new and improved old bag:

alma_beforeafterfull_collage
There were two little spots on the bag that looked like nail polish or paint, but the baby wipe and a little scrubbing got rid of it. Click on the photo if you want to see a larger view. 

I can honestly say that so far, this is my favorite bag, and it’s in part because I fixed it up myself so successfully. My Papillon really didn’t need any work, and the end results of my more recent acquisition remain to be seen, because it’s a real fixer-upper indeed. But this one was so simple from beginning to end – buying it was a snap, it was an excellent price, it was described and photographed properly in the auction so there were no surprises when I got it in the mail, and it cleaned up nicely. It’s also a great size, has just enough structure to give it shape but not so much that it’s overly stiff or formal (I do not like structured bags much at all), and even though it’s covered in Monogram it’s not as ostentatious as my big Neverfull MM appears to be (I’ve gotten some rather interesting reactions to that big old Monogram bag from members of my family, but we’ll address that some other time. Except to say – I think the Monogram canvas can be seen by others as too showy or obnoxious, especially when the bag is large, like the Neverfull is).

And for those of you that have known me awhile, look out – I think these vintage bags are becoming my new wigs, meaning, I’m getting obsessed with buying them, fixing them up, taking pictures of them, then sharing on my blog what I did with them. And no, even though these are designer bags, because they are all used I am not spending more on them than I did on all the wigs. If I start making videos about them, though, we know I’m done for!

15 thoughts on “Bag Lady! Part Two – Sprucing Up a Vuitton Alma

  1. I am looking for some of the other – what do they call them? Lines? Patterns? Prints? – because I have 3 Monograms now and don’t need another. I especially like the Damier but it re-sells for so much more than Monogram, I guess because the Mono is more abundant? Not sure. but I can snag a used Monogram for as little as $100 with some luck, and try as I might I can’t find a Damier for under $400, and that’s just the starting point. I particularly like the Epi leather as well as the Damier, and I am currently eyeing this Multicolor Alma because it’s a crazy good deal, even though the print itself is a little youthful.I am definitely addicted; it’s kind of embarrassing. But, I’ve connected with some other bag-lovers who have all agreed that at times the Monogram bags can get strange reactions from others because of the showiness.

    I really find polishing and cleaning them up to be therapeutic. Not sure why as I’ve never been particularly into refurbishing or cleaning things like this. But it is another little hobby to keep me busy, just could turn into an expensive one (as well as stuffy since I don’t have much in the way of storage) so I have to be careful. Oh, and I already sold one back to a consignment shop for a much as I paid for it; didn’t make more than that but it was a very old bag from the 80’s that I’d fixed up. So addicting…

  2. I rather enjoy reading these new purse posts. And to see the hard work you put into them and restoring them but ya if you start making videos about them well A. you would help out people I’m sure tho you could then start a trend how to restore brand label bags. And B. there she goes haha. The fact that your able to snatch a bag up for $100 bucks is a real deal. Then fix it up and make more off is is pretty cool.

    • It did work for this one – of course there’s lots of differing opinions about how to care for the vachetta! Some people don’t like using anything on it or others say Apple isn’t the best, etc. But for me it did the job. Thanks for visiting!

  3. I have a lot of old bags you can come photograph. I was actually thinking about trying it myself until I saw how great you do . . . . Sigh. Love Mr. Simon’s curiosity.

    • Whaaaaat?! Where did you get it? Can you return it? I have no idea how to remove paint from a handbag…have you tried checking out the PurseForum? Maybe if you can’t find an answer there – ’cause that’s a strange one for sure – you can ask and someone can give you ideas. If you can return it, honestly, that might be your best bet.

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