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Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Purses * But Were Afraid to Ask

December 10, 2010

OK. Not “every thing.” That would be a monster post. Consider this one Chapter 1: How to buy a purse.

If there’s anything I know about, it’s shopping for purses, so I thought it was time to share my expertise with the world. Yes, it’s only a purse, but a good purse is like a good friend — it’s always there for you to dump on (or into) and lend a helping hand. It’s always got what you need and maybe a fun surprise. So read on for my handy dandy guide to buying the right one.

Purse, that is. I’m still working on the how-to-buy-the-right-friend guide.

What you’ll need:

  • – The purses you already own.
  • – A ruler, tape measure or other measuring device

Step one: The handbag inventory
The best way to figure out what kind of bag you want is to see what kinds of bags you have. Go through your collection and separate them into three piles: Bags you love, bags you hate, and bags you used to love but now look kind of sad.

Step two: The assessment
Take the ones you love and see if you figure out a pattern. How do they fasten? How do you carry them? What are they made of? Structured or slouchy? You should start to get an idea of what works for you. But look over to that “bags you hate” pile and figure out what doesn’t work. Maybe you don’t like zippers or double-handled bags. That’s just as important.

Step three: The numbers game
Now, get out your measuring device, because there’s going to be a very important number you’ll want: The shoulder drop. Simply put the bottom of your ruler on the top of the bag and see how “tall” the strap is. That’ll give you a decent idea of what shoulder drop you like, although the way companies measure that number varies. If you like a longer strap, get a good feel for what your minimum is, and if you like an elbow hold, it’ll give you an idea for your max. That’s what she said.

Step four: The shopping list
So, hopefully by now, you’ve donated the bags you don’t like, repaired or discarded the sad-looking ones and inventoried the ones you’re keeping. So what do you need? To me, a solid handbag wardrobe looks a little like this:

  • – An everyday bag to carry with brown clothes
  • – An everyday bag to carry with black clothes
  • – A larger work tote for carrying files and/or a laptop
  • – A summer bag
  • – A clutch or smaller bag for going out
  • – A zip-top bag to carry on an airplane
  • – Something fun

Your own ideal handbag will vary from this list, but it’s a starting point. This is also a good time to determine how much you want to spend. Figure out what you have and what you most immediately need and then…

This is the fun part. And it’s exactly what it sounds like. Start shopping for a bag. By now, you should have a pretty clear idea of what you like, what you want to avoid and what you need. Armed with a budget, and a shopping list, it’s time to hit the stores. Stick to your guns. If you want pockets, don’t settle for a bag without them. Love zippers? Eschew the turnlock! Once you’ve found a bag or two that meets your stringent requirements, play with them. Don’t be afraid to unstuff them and put your own things in them. Sometimes a bag looks amazing with paper in it and droopy when there’s an actual wallet in there. Or vice versa.

And there you go. Hopefully you’ve got a great bag now. Still have questions? Hit me up in the comments. And stay tuned for how to take care of that new friend handbag after you’ve spent some time with it.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. S.K. Samuel permalink
    December 11, 2010 1:14 am

    great info…but what about the lining? 🙂

  2. December 11, 2010 5:39 pm

    You bring up a good point. At the bare minimum, the lining should be light-colored so you can see what’s inside your bag and an easy-to-clean fabric, like a tightly woven synthetic or silk jacquard. Steer clear of woven or cotton linings, because they tend to get really grimy.

    But if having a pretty lining is important to you, by all means, try to find a bag you like with a gorgeous lining, but I would advise against letting an underwhelming lining keep you from getting the ideal bag. You can living with a boring lining, but a pretty lining won’t make up for a bag that you don’t really like.

  3. December 14, 2010 9:19 pm

    Interior pockets are also a huge make-or-break for me. I need at least one interior pocket for tampons, bandaids, my Swiss Army knife (yes), etc.

    • December 15, 2010 7:41 pm

      You don’t need interior pockets. You need the center zippered divider (or CZD in industry terms (that I just made up)). It’s a great place to stash a ton of stuff and it makes it easier to organize the rest of your bag, too.

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