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!

Advertisement

Purse Post: The Free People Slouchy Vegan Tote

I have to rave about this Slouchy Vegan Tote I bought recently from (no surprise) Free People. I loved it so much, I bought three of them.

purse8
Simon likes the brown bag best

I am actually not a big purse person (a “purse-on”?); I tend to find one I really like, then keep it for several years, or buy the same style for several years in a row. My last favorite was a large tote by Tory Burch that was very big (I love a huge purse) and square and open (love a big-mouthed purse too; one I can just toss things into from across the room) and most importantly, it had pockets on both sides that made it incredibly convenient to place keys and cell phones in them and know exactly where they were. But in the past year or two TB quit putting side pockets in the totes, which made them decidedly less fabulous in my book, so when I realized the huge blue one I’d carried for two years needed replacing (I am VERY hard on handbags), I needed to find something new.

purse3
My pics are unedited and kinda sloppy, sorry – had a lot to do tonight so I had to prioritize.

I wanted something big, of course, and floppy, because I much prefer soft purses to sturdy, structured ones (again, I like to throw tons of stuff in there and sort it all out later, so floppy helps with that). I also wanted something a bit bohemian, perhaps with fringe or some interesting print – but it was not to be found. Apparently, my current style obsessions are not IN style, at least not in the purse world. I’ll skip over the part where I bought a Coach bag on sale in a snake print, just because it was the closest thing I could find to an interesting print and it was good deal, and skip right to two weeks later, when my friend Candace and I spied this bag on the way out of the Free People store in the Galleria. It was floppy (check) and big and square (check-check), but then we discovered so much more when we looked inside. It also had a very large zippered clutch-type removable insert (people in their reviews refer to this as a laptop case, then complain that laptops don’t fit in it, which leads me to believe it was not intended to be a laptop case in the first place, but I could be wrong about that) and a third, small zippered bag roughly the size of a large square wallet. It also had an extra-long strap, and – here’s the real clincher – the purse is also reversible. It’s also NOT leather, although it looks like it (in fact, most people who’ve asked about the bag since I started carrying it were under the impression it was quite expensive) and it feels buttery soft, so it is both cruelty-free and inexpensive – the bag retails for $68.

purse1
A peek inside the smallest pouch.

I bought one, then a few days later decided I needed a few more. One reason for that is the one I’ve been carrying around since I bought it is starting to “peel” a little around the edges (see pic below), so I thought having a few others to switch around might help slow that down a little. I don’t really care about the peeling so much though, and mostly wanted a few more just because I love this bag to death and was feeling spendy. When it comes to bags, I am not opposed to handing over some decent cash (although I’d never pay the cost for a Louis Vuitton or anything like that, at least I haven’t up to this point) for whatever it is that I like, and since this one was not expensive, I figured getting two more still kept it in a good price range for me.

purse2
A close-up of the peeling – you can also see the magnet that holds the purse closed no matter which way you’ve reversed it

The cool thing is how many ways I can mix and match all these pieces. Because the bag itself has nothing going on inside (no pockets of any kind), I have everything I regularly carry arranged to be either in my wallet, my makeup case, or one of the two pouches that come with the bag. My ID holder/debit card and cell phone fit perfectly into the smallest bag, I think it’s obvious what my wallet and my makeup bag hold, and the big zippered pouch holds everything else. This way, it’s super-easy to switch purses by grabbing those four pieces and stuffing them into another big purse; no pockets to go through and organize or anything. If I have time I can do some color-coordinating, of course, by taking all my stuff out of one colored pouch and putting them into another one, but if I don’t want to mess with that, the switch can be made in about four seconds.

purse7
A peek inside the larger pouch – Simon was interested, too

I’ve also found that the small zippered pouch works well when I don’t want to carry the big bag somewhere, as I can just pull it out and go, and the larger zippered one is easy to pull completely out of the purse and dig through for whatever it is I’m trying to find. The only downside I’ve discovered so far is that the inside of the big zippered pouch is black, which can make it hard to find what I’m digging for. And, I found the dark brown one to be stiffer faux-leather than the black or the natural one, so the softness of the vegan material isn’t consistent I suppose. But other than these two things, I am in love with these bags. I got six purses, really, for the price of three (although the reversed color of the black is almost identical to the natural colored one, it’s just a touch lighter) plus 6 multicolored pouches to play around with, and in total I spent about $210 for all of it.

purse4
The black purse – the reversible side is the same cream color as the small pouch

I’m not one to go around switching bags to match my outfits, but for that price and for how easy it is to do with these, I am going to start. It’ll also help each bag last longer to switch them out, because as I said, I am hard on bags. I’ve carried all my usual stuff, plus my lunch, an iPad, and an extra pair of shoes in this thing a few times (when going to work) and it can handle all that and still look great, but I know from past experience that won’t last forever. Fortunately this appears to be an incredibly popular bag at the Free People site, with a lot of color options they keep updating, so I think it’ll stick around for a season or two if I ever need more. It certainly feels sturdy to me, even when loaded down and requiring the bigger strap to carry, so I hope they last awhile.

purse5
The brown bag reverses to cobalt blue

Now I just have to figure out what to do with that Coach bag that I only carried for three weeks and no longer want…if anyone wants to buy it off me, make an offer!

purse6
The bags reversed!