Bag Queen

About a year ago I said I’d write a post about handbags. Here it is.

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I took this photo when I was considering selling these as a lot on eBay. They’re all outlet store Coach bags, so i wasn’t sure I could get enough for them to sell individually. I’ve never listed them though. I also have never carried the small gold one OR the messenger bag. Make me an offer! 🙂

I go through phases with handbags. I’ll get on a kick and buy a bunch of them, then gradually get rid of the ones I end up not using. Just about the time when I start to get free space in my closet again, something will happen to get me going. I recently fell off the handbag wagon when I web-surfed on over to Fashionphile for some reason and came across an Empriente Artsy for under $1,000 (although not by  much), which is pretty much unheard of, and I had to put it on layaway. Now I’m  back to browsing through their new arrivals every morning and drooling over tons of things (don’t get me started on the Hermes wallet I REALLY REALLY want even though it’s ridiculously priced. Did I mention Fashionphile has layaway?).

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This is not the actual bag I have on layaway, but it’s the right color and style. I’ve wanted a bag in Empriente leather FOREVER, but it costs – this one retails new for upwards of $2500.  

Anyway all that purse-browsing got me thinking that it was probably time to clean my handbags again, so while I was doing that today (as well as continuing my West Wing marathon, to remind myself that at least in a fictional world there will always be a dignified, sane individual in the White House) I took photos of them to share my favorites. And here they are – all spruced up for the cameras and squeaky clean! Up first is my absolute fave – my Louis Vuitton Neverfull MM:

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My first Vuitton, with a little charm I got at Dillard’s for $15. I’m never above a good deal, and it’s cute. I have one with a pink “C” too, which I put on whatever second bag I’m carrying. Yeah, I’m usually carrying two.

I think a lot of purse aficionados consider the Neverfull to be a rather pedestrian bag. But many purse aficionados also think Vuitton’s signature print is too common, and as it turns out I don’t hang out with any of those people. I love the signature print and always have; I think it’s beautiful, and even though the Neverfull is a really basic shopper shape that isn’t particularly unique, it’s a heck of a workhorse bag and I use the hell out of it. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the straps being too skinny to carry the weight of the purse without cutting into your shoulders, but I really don’t have that issue. I think most people who complain about that have the GM – which is the largest size – rather than the MM I have, which is the mid-size bag. I considered the GM when buying this one, but it was a big jump in price, and it honestly is so HUGE it almost looks like a diaper bag or travel bag to me. This one, even thought it’s technically mid-sized, is still pretty large.

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The three Neverfull sizes – Vuitton uses the same terms to describe the sizes of all their bags. I am generally into getting the biggest bag possible, but I am so glad I got the medium sized Neverfull. It’s plenty big, and that GM is just humongous! 

The Vuitton canvas is incredibly durable, and the vachetta leather has held up nicely. One thing about me is that I do NOT baby my bags; if I am paying a lot for a handbag then I expect it to take the abuse I dish out, and to do so with a smile. And this one does, for sure. It still looks lovely, but then again, I think Vuitton’s signature canvas ages beautifully and never goes out of style – the leather is untreated and designed to darken as it ages as well, although a lot of people don’t like it dark and work hard to keep it light as it is when they first buy it (I don’t – no surprise – but I do clean and condition it once a year). I carry it in the rain, I toss it on the floor and fling into my car, and generally treat it like a handbag and not a newborn. I think for a lot of people, if you paid a lot for a bag you should treat it as something delicate, but I am exactly the opposite: if a handbag costs over $1,000 it should be damn near invincible and I shouldn’t have to worry about it in the least (well, except for maybe worrying about it getting stolen). And I don’t have to worry about this one.

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Allow me to introduce you to the Purse-to-Go: a removable insert for your handbag with lots of pockets. The Neverfull doesn’t have any pockets inside (except for one on the side) so this provides a way to keep it organized, and I can just yank the whole thing out and stick into another bag when I want to make a switch. Got mine on eBay, and they come in lots of different sizes! You’re welcome. 

I have not bought any of my luxury bags new, by the way. I found the Neverfull on eBay for $850, and when it arrived I was thrilled to find it looked like new. Another reason I love the Neverfull is it’s the first one I ever bought; I got it for Christmas two years ago, and I hadn’t been so excited about a Christmas gift in ages. I’d always, always wanted a Vuitton, and I labored over which one to get.When I needed a new wedding ring, i swear it took me twenty minutes to pick one out, because I could care less about jewelry (I had to get a ring made out of a different material because over the years I developed an allergy to the nickel in the white gold of my original ring) but I spent days and days deciding which handbag to buy. And I also paid more for the Vuitton than I did for my replacement ring (my first replacement only cost $150, and after several years wearing that one I moved up to one that cost $650. Still less than the Neverfull!).

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Here’s another thing you never knew you needed but you totally do: a purse shaper! I have one of these plexiglass plates in the bottom of my Neverfull, because it doesn’t have a very solid base on its own, and this keeps the shape from getting droopy. One downside: it will make your bag a bit more heavy. There are also Purse-to-Go organizers that include a more solid base, so that’s another alternative. 

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Don’t these celebs have stylists to tell them about purse shapers?!  I bet they don’t have a purse organizer inside of them either, and all of their cosmetics and pens and prescription drugs are just rattling around loose inside like a bunch of savages. Oh, and Paris got the GM Neverfull, I see. Or rather, had it given to her by Vuitton so she would carry it in public and influence the rest of us to go buy one. Whatever. It’s still a great bag. 

By the way, if it’s tacky to talk about how much this stuff costs, I don’t care. Moving on.

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My Fendi shopper – sorry for the crappy photos. I’d been slathering leather cleaner and brass polish on purses all day after wiping down coated canvas with organic facial wipes, so I wasn’t really in the mood to set up for pictures. Like how I threw those purse-cleaning tips in there tho?

This is another workhorse of a bag that I use the hell out of – it’s a Fendi shopper I also got at Fashionphile for about $400.  It was in brand new condition when I got it, and it’s actually one I went back and forth about buying until it arrived on my doorstep. With Fashionphile, you have 90 days to pay off a layaway, and you can cancel it at any time for a 10% fee. So the whole time I was paying it off I was also constantly considering cancelling it, but in the end I am really glad I bit the bullet and made the purchase. It’s a real shopping tote, so it doesn’t get carried as a handbag ever, but MAN is it useful for whatever crap I also need to carry around (and yeah, I do carry so much crap with me that I am often dragging both this bag AND the Neverfull along, which is a LOT of handbag for one woman). When I was still working, it was the bag that carted my lunch and makeup up to the school (I got to school early, around 7 AM, and did my makeup once I got there), and now that I’m tutoring, it carries my laptop, my iPad, and a few notebooks. When I go to Ruah, it carries my contraband snacks that I sneak into my room; it’s also carted wigs and hats around for photoshoots and is just overall awesome. And it looks really cool, too, with the pop of red on the sides (it looks a little pink-ish here, but it’s more red in person). And Fendi doesn’t do much in their signature print anymore, but I have always liked it, so I’m glad to own something in it.

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My puffy purse, not to be confused with Seinfeld’s puffy shirt. Although the two would look good together. You can never be too puffy, I always say. Or sparkly. You can never be too puffy, or too sparkly. Moving on.

Speaking of Fendi, another bag I love is my Fendi Moncler Spy. I think I’ve talked about this one before, but while I eventually sold off all my other Spy bags, I will never get rid of this one. The Moncler Spy was a limited edition bag Fendi created in the winter of  2006 at the height of the Spy bag craze; only 500 of them were  made and at the time of their release, they cost around $2100. The bags were a partnership with the upscale skiwear company Moncler, which is why it is literally made out of whatever it is puffy jackets are made out of. Most people thought they were hideously ugly, but many celebs snatched them up, and when I saw one at Fashionphile for $550 I couldn’t resist.

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A random person in a puffy Moncler jacket that probably cost around 10 grand, and Holly Robinson with A RED MONCLER SPY THAT TOTALLY SHOULD BELONG TO ME GIVE IT TO ME I WANT IT. 

I really, really wish I could get my hands on one of the other colors these were made in – there was a red and a green one at the time – but I’ve never seen another used one on sale for under $1000, and that’s just more than I am willing to spend on any handbag (the closest I’ve ever come is the Artsy I currently have on layaway, and it was/is $985). This bag was the first Spy I ever bought, and got me started on that kick, but just like my first Vuitton I have a total soft spot for this one. Plus, when you carry it, it doubles as a comfy pillow – not kidding, I’ve actually slept on it before (once on a plane and once when I was in the emergency room due to an allergic reaction. I’m fine now, thank you). It’s just so unusual looking and fun and I love it. One downside to it is, though, that because it’s so fluffy and the interior is so soft and dark, it’s really difficult to find things once they go down into the black hole that is the purse’s interior. Kind of annoying, but when it’s a limited edition purse I got at a steal, I’m not gonna complain too much.

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Louis Vuitton Manosque PM in Damier Ebene. I hate having to say the name of almost every Vuitton bag in existence out loud, because I cannot pronounce any of them properly. Except the Neverfull – that one isn’t too hard. 

This little cutie is also Vuitton; it’s the Damier Ebene Manosque PM (if you look at the graphic above, you’ll see that PM is their smallest size – I’m not a small-bag gal, but this one was affordable so I bought it anyway). I love the Damier print, but it’s more expensive than the signature canvas (signature canvas is generally the cheapest when buying pre-owned) and I looked for a long time before coming across something I felt comfortable spending for it. This is an odd bag, shape-wise; notice how small it is along the bottom, which makes it rather impractical if you’re carrying a lot of stuff in your bag. One or two items can rest on the bottom of it, but anything else ends up kind of balancing on top of those things, and it gets awkward quickly. When you need to fish something out of it, you pretty much have to start taking things out completely to find what you’re looking for, so yeah, not practical. And that little pocket in the front is cute, but it’s hard to get the strap unhooked so I never use it. I’ve actually come close to selling this one several times (I paid $650 for it and could probably get all of that back easily), even going so far as to photograph it for listing, but in the end when I saw how awesome it looked in the photos I couldn’t do it.azure
A Neverfull in the Damier Azure print 

I’m glad now that I never sold it; it’s a unique look and a style Vuitton no longer makes, and even though it’s too small for me to carry daily, it is great for when I go shopping or socializing, because I can throw most things into the Fendi or the Neverfull and lock that one in the trunk after tossing the essentials into this one and taking it inside. It’s a lot easier to carry this one around the Galleria than it is the Neverfull, and it gets a ton of compliments. Even for a big-purse girl, a few smaller ones are always nice to have. Now I just need to get my hands on something in the Damier Azure and I’ll be set. It’s also more pricey, so I haven’t found anything I’m willing to spring for yet. But I will eventually, I’ve no doubt.

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My one bucket bag – a shape I never particularly liked, but once I bought this I ended up liking it quite a bit. It’s cute, and it’s something different from my usual.

Lest you think I am total purse snob, I love all handbags, and am never opposed to purses made by non-luxury designers. I have always liked Dooney and Bourke bags, even though they don’t seem to be as popular as they used to be. Sometime last year I got curious about what old D&B was up to, and when cruising around their website I came across the signature print in this mint green and lavender color combination that really appealed to me. The first bag I bought was a satchel style, and true to form for me, when I got that one in and fell in love with it I just had to go out and buy another one in the same colorway. It’s a habit of mine. That’s when I got the bucket bag pictured above.

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My first mint and lavender bag – the D&B satchel. I don’t like the signature print of every designer – Coach’s signature print doesn’t appeal to me, for example, and Michael Kors signature is just ugly – but I always liked Dooney and Bourke’s for some reason. It’s simple and they use a pleasant font, and it’s not overwhelming.

Then, at some point during one of my purse-purging phases I decided I didn’t carry either one of these enough to justify keeping both of them – the colors are cute, but I didn’t really need two mint green and lavender handbags, did I? Even then, I had a hard time deciding which one to let go. In the end, I kept the bucket bag because it was a shape I didn’t have in any other brands, and the satchel was really similar in shape to some of my others. But this was another one that was hard to sell because I’d look at the photos and think about how cute it was and hold off on getting rid of it.

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My Vuitton Alma – probably my best “steal”

For example, take my Alma. It’s a satchel shape like the Dooney, but this is one I carry way more than I ever did the D&B. This is another favorite, for several reasons: it’s a beautiful shape, first of all, and I’m a sucker for a good satchel-style bag. I have really  narrow shoulders, and the truth is that shoulder bags can be pretty annoying for me as they often won’t stay up; they slip off my shoulder easily unless, like the Neverfull, they have a really long strap drop length (the Spy, for example, even though it’s got enough strap drop length technically to be carried on the shoulder, continually slides off  of mine). So I’ve always had a fondness for bags with short handles – I actually know people for whom a shoulder strap is a must, but I’ve never been one of those. So, this one is a favorite shape for me, number one, and it’s a pretty popular Vuitton style – although this is definitely a vintage model that’s been through several upgrades since mine was made.

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Some more modern versions of the Alma – don’t get me started on that red one. It is TO DIE FOR, but good Lord is it pricey. 

But another reason I love my Alma is because it was such a steal: I snagged this one on eBay for just $280. Now, I’ve seen a lot of used Almas for sale in my day, and many that were WAY more beat up than this one was when I got it – and I have never EVER seen one for under $400, and a $400 one is pretty rare. It’s a popular shape that can resell for a lot of scratch, even in the signature print, but this one popped up on eBay shortly after I bought the Neverfull there and was obsessed with looking for other deals. At the time I was concerned about the water staining it had on the bottom, but in the end it was such a great deal I couldn’t pass it up.I am so glad I got it, because as I said, I’ve never seen another one that cheap anywhere – and the truth is I would have water-stained the shit out of the bottom myself eventually (remember, I’m abusive to my bags) so it never has bothered me in the least, and once I cleaned it up it looked great. It’s a much nicer size than the Damier Manosque, and it’s such a classic shape that it will always be lovely, even if it is an older model.

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My magic unicorn bag – the Tory Burch Ella tote in cobalt leather. This thing is HUGE. 

This is another bag I’ve considered selling several times but in the end, I can’t ever do it. This is also another one that is REALLY rare, and at the time I bought it I didn’t know just how rare it was. See, Tory Burch used to make these little “Ella” shopper totes that looked just like this one, but were about half the size and made of coated canvas instead of leather. TB still makes an Ella tote, but there’s one big difference between the ones she makes now and the ones I used to love – SIDE POCKETS. At some point, the label quit putting side pockets in the totes, and I was heartbroken when this occured (they also stopped using coated canvas and now make them in nylon instead). Up to that point, the Tory Burch tote was my JAM. I would buy one, use the hell out of it, sell it at a little bit of a loss but no biggie, then turn around and buy another one in a new print (they were always in fun prints). I used them for so long that I had a very real SYSTEM for carrying them around – cell phone in one side pocket, keys in the other – and when they quit making the side pockets I was just beside myself over it. I am the worst about having to dig around in my handbag for my cell phone and/or my keys, and the sidepocket system just completely solved my problem. I would actually just keep my keys and my cellphone in the pockets even when I got home, so I 100% completely knew at all times where those things were – something that has not been the case since, I swear to you. Plus, the totes were the perfect size and shape and the coated canvas was durable, and they weren’t very expensive (if I remember correctly they were right around $200).

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The Ella tote now – note how it is DISGUSTINGLY POCKET-FREE 

TB did, for a time, continue to make one style with side pockets – a pretty boring solid black one in nylon. Even though it bored me (not a huge fan of black handbags, hence my desire to find an affordable Moncler Spy in red or green) I bought it and carried it for a good long while (still have it, in fact, because TB eventually even quit making that one with side pockets so I don’t want to let it go even though I haven’t carried it in years) but every now and again I would get nostalgic for one of the old-school Ellas and go hunting for them online. It was rather like going hunting for a unicorn – I believed the damn bags had existed at one point, but I simply could not find evidence of their existence ANYWHERE. No photos, no used ones for sale on eBay, nothing. I started to believe it had all been a dream and the side pocket Ella had never truly been. However, it was during one of those searches for the elusive Ella Unicorn Bag that I stumbled across this cobalt blue leather one at the Bloomingdale’s store online. I can’t remember what I searched for that located it – it just appeared on my screen like I called forth my Patronus or something. I’d searched online for Ella totes with side pockets for months to no avail, and then out of nowhere – BAM. There she was!

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I could only find one tiny, sad picture of a black nylon Ella with side pockets like mine. SERIOIUSLY, WHAT DOES TORY BURCH HAVE AGAINST SIDE POCKETS? WHAT DID THEY TO DO HER AND WHY DID SHE ABANDON THEM? 

BUT. Whereas the Ellas of old only cost around $200, this leather one was considerably more expensive at around $450. I hemmed and hawed for a few days before making the purchase, but finally bit the bullet and called it a Christmas present since it was early December. And I kid you not, as soon as I hit the “complete your order” button, the purse listing disappeared. Disappeared! As in, I went back to look at it again and got the “page can not be found” message. What the hell? I sweated it out until I got the order confirmation via email, then sweated some more until I got a shipping number. Was it even real? Was I really getting a cobalt blue leather Ella tote with side pockets, or was the promise of side pockets going to be cruelly snatched away from me at the last minute, when a customer service representative called to tell me they’d  made a mistake and sold me a handbag that did not, in fact, exist, that they in fact didn’t even know how that mysterious listing appeared on their site in the first place? A few days later, though, my prayers were answered – the side pockets lived! And they belonged to me!

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If this had side pockets, I might try it

One thing I didn’t expect though, was that this Ella was freaking MASSIVE. Gargantuan. I could have fit two of my old Ellas in it easily, along with a small puppy. In fact, it was so much bigger than I expected that I briefly considered sending it back, until I hopped back online and remembered that not anywhere at all on the internet did a listing or photo exist for this purse AT ALL and that I therefore needed to keep it forever and cherish it always. I swear to you, to this day I’ve not seen one single thing about this purse anywhere on the internet after the day I bought it – I’ve never seen another photo of a purse like this, never seen anyone carrying  a purse like this, and at this point, if you own a purse like this or have seen pictures of a purse like this on the internet please don’t tell me. It’s my own special unicorn purse now, and I don’t want anyone to spoil the fantasy for me.

15 thoughts on “Bag Queen

  1. I’ve been waiting a long time for this post. I grew up in a family with a luggage and leather goods store and then I opened my own store selling (wait for it) handbags!!! That’s what we always called them. Not bags or purses. They were to be called handbags. And that was the acceptable term at the Apparel Center in Chicago where I bought them for my store. Today I am not a person to change my purse very often, but I do probably change out more than the average person–and don’t like a grubby or “used” looking bag. These are lovely.

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