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Fashion Advice: How to Buy A Purse

Dear Budget Fashionista,
I’m searching for a black handbag for daily use that will last for years. I am a stay at home mom, who does not have many handbags. I want to invest in a good black purse and make sure it is one that I will use and love for years. My question is this: What do I look for? Is there some sort list of questions I should ask myself before purchasing so that I do not have a remorse purchase?
Here’s seven quick things you should do when looking for a quality handbag:
1. Smell It. Leather has a certain, slightly gamey smell to it. If it has no smell or smells like plastic, then most likely it’s fake.
2. Do the oil test. Rub your finger on your skin or hair and then rub it on the leather of the purse. If it leaves a stain or a streak then it’s not quality leather and/or it hasn’t been treated properly. Good Leather repeals oil.
3. Check the stitching. Gently pull the bag the seams- does the stitching pull? If so, the imagine what will happen when you put all your stuff in there.
4. Do the scratch test. Gently scratch the surface of the bag. If the color of the scratch is different than the rest of the bag, than means the leather was painted on, rather than dyed through, and at some point the paint will chip. Also scratch the surface of the hardware to see if it’s true metal or painted metallic . Again, if it’s painted on, at some point it will chip.
5. Put it on your shoulder. It is comfortable or does it feel like it’s slipping off your shoulder. It doesn’t matter how cute the bag is, if it’s not comfortable
6. Do the fit test. Take everything out of your current bag and place it inside the bag under consideration. Does it fit? If not, you easier have to get rid of some of the stuff in your bag (which is probably a good idea) or move on to the next candidate.
7. Check to see if it’s lined. Lining, both in handbags and in clothing, is a sign of a higher quality garment because it costs the manufacturer extra to add it it. In the case of handbags, lining protects the leather of the bag from the wear and tear of the contents of your bag.
8. Keep the embellishments to a minimum. The one thing that can really date a bag is the use of embellishments like feathers or dated fabrics (think stonewashed denim). Make sure the bag has basic black stitching and hardware that errs on the simple side.

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Wednesday 26th of August 2009

Just wondering your opinions—I’ve been searching for good LEATHER bags.  I find great ones in ‘faux leather’ but the real thing, in my price range (preferably under $50.00, but I’d go up to $100.)is harder than I imagined. Even at TJMaxx most are synthetic. Are these bags worth it or should I save up for something better? (BTW—I’m a working Mom.  I own several bags, but I tend to carry the same bag all season, unless its a special occasion).


Saturday 24th of November 2007

I’m not sure that what handbags the stars are carrying is always the best guide, either, unless you model yourself on stars who don’t just follow every little fashion trend.  Why buy a bag that’s going to be in now and out in six months?


Wednesday 21st of November 2007

I used to buy cheap purses, but I found myself having to get new ones every few months. Now that I’m older, I’ve honed my style and I know exactly what I like. I know that a great purse can be the centerpiece of your outfit and I get more compliments on my purses than anything! My personal faves… I’m in LOVE with the Cynthia Rowley ‘Colleen Too’ Satchel. I use it every day and put work files in it too! My other bag is an older version of this Besey Johnson ‘Lock it Up’ Bowling Bag. I also love Anthropologie’s unique bags and got my husband to treat me to the ‘Candy Apple Hobo’ for Christmas;=&navCount=200&navAction=poppushpush&fromCategoryPage=true&selectedProductSize;=&selectedProductSize1;=&color=win great deep fall color and in the new patent trend.

The Budget Fashionista

Wednesday 21st of November 2007

1. I said gently scratch the surface- not take a huge chunk out of the bag.

2. Also don’t put a ton of oil on the bag.


Wednesday 21st of November 2007

If I were a merchant, I would not be very happly about folks following the advice in #2 or #4. If I bought a bag and discovered it had been damaged by these “tests”, I would not be too happy either.

There’s one area that wasn’t covered, which is that the purse should be in proportion to your figure.  You can also use larger bags to appear slimmer.  I saw lots of tips and tricks on this on the Missus Smarty Pants website.

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