Closet 101 Style

What I’d Tell Myself: Handbag Edition

This post is part of my series, “What I’d Tell Myself,” where I share some advice I’d give to a younger me. You can view the rest of the series here!

Today, I want to share some thoughts to my younger self about a topic I have some experience in: bags. And I am really curious to hear all of your advice out there too! Ready?


My first message to my younger self:

1. The number of small, clutch like bags possessed by an owner should correspond with the actual number of clutch-warranting events actually attended by owner. Or in more simple terms, don’t buy too many fancy bags when you don’t have a very fancy life. Yes? Especially since I live in the Bay Area, where even a black tie event has high chances of someone showing up in jean pants or shorts if the attendance is over 100 people.

Though I do think that everyone does need at least one clutch or evening bag in their closet. My favorite hands down is my Bottega Knot…feels wonderful in the hand. Just saying!

2. You don’t need to own every neutral. Pick black, or brown, and stick with it. I used to buy all my “classic” items in black and brown each. I had matching Bottega woven hobo bags in Nero and Ebano. Matching Manolo Carolyn slingbacks in black and brown. TSE cashmere crewnecks, too. Seriously. Somewhere somehow I had read some article about getting everything in both black and brown and you’d be happy forever.

Great (the happy forever part), but it simply wasn’t true. I’m just much more of a blacks person than a browns. Most of my clothes (despite my best efforts) were best suited for a wardrobe dominated by blacks, whites, and grays. And so I rarely ended up wearing my brown handbags – or shoes for that matter. It doesn’t work with my coloring as well as black does. So I’d advise myself – pick your big neutral – and move on. Not every neutral, is “your” neutral”.

3. Spend less for light colors, and a straw bag always looks chic in the summer.

Sticking with the Bottega Veneta theme, I once purchased an adorable small Bottega from Net-A-Porter in stark white. It had these little tabs on the sides, which you pulled, and there was a metal inside the leather that basically snapped and bent out to keep the bag open, and then when you were ready to close it, you just applied some pressure, and poof! The bag snapped back. So cool!

Unfortunately, this bag got dingier and dingier each month and soon I was hoping that it might reach some sort of uniform dirty state, so that the bag might appear to be tan. Unfortunately, this never happened. A lot of money to waste on a white bag.

Now, when I look for light colored summer bags, I pick out straw/raffia items – usually a lot cheaper, and super chic!

4. Never buy with resale value in the top of mind.

Of course, we don’t always stay in love with the same items forever, and in those cases, it’s always nice to be able to send an item off to a new home, without losing much of what you originally paid. Resale value is a very legitimate consideration when you make expensive purchases.

However, for clothing/accesssory items, I generally don’t believe it should be the top consideration. People I know who think this way in my experience are super fussy about their items – always worrying about spills, scratches, etc. You should be able to use your items! Thats what bags are hold your stuff, and to be used. Buy items you love and that you’ll feel comfortable using..and if you end up being able to resell it for a nice price when you fall out of love, that’s just a bonus on top.

5. Life is short!

Yes, this may slightly contradict my other four items above. But I said it earlier and I’ll say it again – buy whatever you love. Bags are such an easy accessory to grab out the door, and you can try out different colors and textures with them that may be harder on clothing items. I have a few accessories that I know when I wear, put a smile on my face. Life is short…if you can afford it, enjoy your items! Changing tastes are a fact of life.

What would you tell your younger self about purchasing bags?

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  • a
    September 17, 2014 at 8:22 am

    What I’d tell a younger me:

    1. Remember your own taste. Go for your favorite colors, skins, and designs. Don’t put too much stock in others’ opinions and values.

    2. Have a variety of different bags: big carry-all totes, clutches, mid-size shoulder bags, messenger style bags, under-the-radar bags, etc.

    3. Your lifestyle and taste will change. What you now prefer may not be what you prefer in 5 years. Buy what you absolutely can’t live without.

    4. No one can stop at one Hermes.

    5. BV cabat and Veneta make very practical and luxe totes and hobos.

    6. Sell things you don’t use. Try to get a large percentage of the original price back. Be wary of resellers who pay you a penny and resell what you sold for a dollar.

    • Katherine
      September 21, 2014 at 3:13 pm

      Ahhh completely agree on many of these, especially the BV!

  • diane
    September 17, 2014 at 8:32 am

    My advice is that if you really love a particular bag, save for THAT bag. Don’t settle for a similar (but different) bag just because it’s less expensive. In my experience, you will eventually go ahead and purchase the one you really want at some point, so why not just skip the middle step?

  • Emily
    September 17, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Go for a classic style – don’t go for trendy yet expensive handbags that will look dated in a few years!

  • Pret a Porter P
    September 17, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    All good tips. I’m not much for browns either, cream is a much better neutral for me.
    I also agree about the resale value thing. If someone wants to “save” the money, best not to buy the damn thing in the first place. What’s the point of having it, if it’s not planned on being used or with the intention of reselling it?

    • Sarah
      September 19, 2014 at 8:46 am

      I could not agree with you more about the reselling thing. I often see women carrying bags completely out of context with their outfit -presumably about to sell them shortly. 🙂

  • ella
    September 18, 2014 at 6:48 am

    Buy less, buy better. I am with Diane. My Chanel and Hermes bags are less expensive in terms of cost-per-use than the bags I bought when I was younger. And a good bag does a LOT to polish up a less expensive outfit, especially in the work context (although you have to be careful about not appearing flashy at work, especially when you’re younger).

    • Katherine
      September 21, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      Great points and I’ve thought about the “flashy at work” bit too – I like more undercover bags for those occasions as well.

  • Anna Shelton
    September 19, 2014 at 11:08 pm

    You’re spot on! Oh man, I’ve done the white handbag too – it never turns out well. I love the last bit… my rule is always “sleep on it.” If you still can’t get it out of your head after you’ve slept on it (a few times!), well, like you said, life is short. Buy the bag, you’ll get so much happiness out of it it’s worth the price.

  • Trey
    September 20, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    For me, #5… Life is short; life is about learning. Do buy what you think is best at the time. That’s how you learn & grow. The road to wisdom is paved with the stepstones of mistakes… Few of us learn from the advice and mistakes of others, so plan on lot’s of reselling…

  • Olivia
    September 20, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    Hi Katherine! Just passing on this article in case you hadn’t seen it yet – thought you might find it interesting!

    • Katherine
      September 21, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      Hi Olivia, thanks so much! Super interesting!

  • Tabitha
    September 21, 2014 at 8:08 am

    That’s such great advice, I’ve gotten rid of most of my clutch bags – not my life.

    • Katherine
      September 21, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      I always thought if there was anybody with such a life it’d be you 🙂

  • Keodi
    September 21, 2014 at 10:31 am

    1. Buy less choose well
    2. Stay away from the IT bags no matter how lovely!
    3. Stick with the classics lessons learned
    4. Choose styles that goes with my real NOT imaginary lifestyle
    5. Choose colours that goes well with my wardrobe.

    • Katherine
      September 21, 2014 at 2:56 pm

      Great points, thank you!

      • Anonymous
        September 24, 2014 at 3:46 pm

        Thank you for doing the series! I enjoyed reading them!

  • Ava Lon
    September 25, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    Dear Katherine,

    This was such an interesting interactive post, Katherine, and I think a very wise post for budding purse-investors.

    What I would tell a younger me knowing what I know now which is I don’t need multiple bags nor multiple colors: get it in black and get it before the price hikes. 😉 I would also advise my younger self to do a lot of research, get on The Purse Forum, go to the store, handle the bag you want, take a photo with it, or borrow it from your friend to test run it with your lifestyle. E.g. let’s say you think you want a purse in lambskin but let’s say your lifestyle is not one where lambskin would really last very long in it’s buttery soft-scratch-free-condition, it might be better for you to get a more durable finish on your purse. Also, let’s say you want a small purse, but on a daily basis you carry the equivalent of a small carry on suitcase to and from work, a larger bag might be more suitable for you.

    If you really love it and can afford to get it in a more “fun” color, don’t. Really, you are not going to wear it. Instead, spend that money on investing in better accessories sooner than later (specifically shoes and jewelry – lol) so as to again avoid the price hikes.

    As for clutches – just one clutch, again, in black bc you can get more mileage with it. And then, if you really have THAT many clutch-worthy events to attend, that’s what friends are for; borrow. I’d suggest returning the borrowed clutch in excellent condition and with a small present of thanks – who doesn’t love an unexpected little gift? 🙂

    Thank you for such a thought provoking post, Katherine – this was great fun. Now, if only I could turn back time and know all this way back when – lol.


  • sanita
    October 5, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    I think about it all of the time! if only we could return everything to the same stores we purchased at the full price back! I would be rich lol

    Great post, Thanks Katherine 🙂