I spent years looking for the perfect handbag. I don’t literally mean years wandering the Earth in pursuit of the perfect bag, but I might have had a wee obsession. Pretty much anywhere I went that had anything vaguely resembling a handbag, I would look. This led to some amusing, and some incredibly practical purchases, and quite a bit (Oh, let’s just say a lot!) of wasted money. It wasn’t until much later that I thought to spend time thinking about what I thought made a handbag “perfect.” Let me make something clear; I despise (No, that is not too strong a word.) the tyranny of “perfect.” There is only one perfect, and it’s not found on this Earth. I prefer: Ideal for you now. This is where I struggle with the what-every-woman-MUST-own lists discussed in a previous post. At some point I discovered that there is no perfect handbag, or even ideal, but there is the handbag that best works for at this point in my life, and for particular occasions.
Here are a variety of questions to ask yourself before exchanging your cold hard cash (or credit card) for a new bag…
Know Thyself Questions
- What is my life like? Do I need a bag that is easy to clean? (Maybe that cute suede hobo isn’t such a good idea…) Where will it live at home or work? On the floor? In a drawer? In a coat closet? On the dining room table where spills happen?
- What do I want this bag for? Everyday? A special event like a wedding? Travel?
- How much do I like to carry around with me daily? Am I the kitchen sink woman, or a phone, credit card, and lipstick woman? Or am I somewhere in between? (If you are the kitchen sink woman, know that you will spend more time and money at the doctor’s office later!)
- Do I want a bag du jour (the latest trend), or one that will stand the test of time?
- Do I want to change bags often, or have one that goes with “everything”? (Note: There is no bag that goes with everything. There are bags that go with your everyday everything!)
- How much do I have to spend? How much do I want to spend? (These are two very different questions!) Am I willing to spend more than I want to get what I really like? (Note: I would NEVER suggest you spend more than you have to get what you really like!)
- What size and shape bags are best for my personality, body shape, and scale?
- Is brand important to me? Do I like carrying a recognizable bag? Do I like logos? Or do I prefer to go stealth? (Be honest here… It is a pity to spend a fortune on a bag just to find out you don’t want to be advertising for a particular company. And it is OK to want a bag with someone else’s initials if that makes you happy!)
Know Your Bags Questions
- Do I prefer a shoulder strap? How long? A cross body? Maybe a handheld satchel is more my speed. Or does it need to be convertible to handle all these options? Some women prefer a wristlet or clutch.
- How much structure do I want? Soft and squishy, or more structured? What shapes do I like best? Soft and rounded? More angular? Taller than wide (North/South) or wider than tall (East/West)? Frequently there is a connection between angularity and structure, but lately there are structured round bags everywhere, and square squishy totes, so be sure to keep your structure and shape preferences defined.
- What materials do I prefer? Fabric and PVC (even when called Vegan Leather) are, for the most part, less long wearing than leather. If you have issues with leather bags, expect to replace yours more frequently.
- Do I have a hardware preference? I have seen a woman reject her (otherwise) ideal bag because the hardware was silver colored and she only wears gold.
- What colors do I like best? What goes with the majority of my outfits? Do I want a bag that blends with, or stands out from my outfit? (Hint: A black or camel handbag stands out like a sore thumb on many women; a handbag in the same color as your hair goes with all your outfits, because you wear your hair wherever you go.)
If this seems like an awful lot of questions to ask before heading to the shops or to your computer, take a moment to think about what else you could do with the $25-$2,500 (or more!) one can spend on a handbag. (Movie, or family vacation…) Spending time thinking through what your ideal bag looks/feels/smells/carries like is well worth the time it will save you shopping. Think of it as the shopping equivalent of Measure Twice, Cut Once.
Do you have a favorite bag? Or did you, but it is no longer right for your life? Please share in the comments below!