Every girl needs one really nice purse for her collection. I’m talking a classic leather bag, simple but timeless, sturdy and reliable, something to wear to death, and then be buried with. A bag like this doesn’t come cheap; it’s an investment and therefore requires some serious comparison shopping.
I think I was a late bloomer when it came to purses; even though my friends were already playing around with the trends when we were 10 or 11, I only pretended to be interested when it came to shopping and bought whatever my friends decreed was “cool”. I wasn’t ever confused about fashion, like I knew that eventually I’d like to shop, too, but it just wasn’t an activity on my radar yet. Then, around 8th grade, I finally felt the butterflies in my stomach for the first time. It was a black nylon backpack style, and since middle school is the ultimate time to be superficial, of course it was a Prada. Purses were all about social status. What you were wearing became a direct correlation to your “coolness factor” and I wanted desperately to be cool. I knew that the Prada backpack was cool, even if it meant I had to ultimately purchase it on Canal Street. I liked it a hell of a lot and it suited me and I finally started to get it.
Throughout high school there were always girls around me who were starting to invest in nicer bags, with gifts from their families or hand-me-downs, but that wasn’t for me. I was perfectly happy with my cheap, trendy bags, never spent more than $30 or so, never lasted more than a season, never really making any commitment. But that worked for me, and so many other girls around me. We had fun with our crappy purses, switched up our styles and experimented with trends, maybe rocking a hippie side-slung bag one month, or a preppy madras-style another month, a few months with sequins and glitter, and that semester I worked a Hot Topic purchase, with pleather and studs. I didn’t always use my best judgement when it came to purses, but what did it matter? I was young and having fun experimenting with my style, I didn’t feel the need to stick to one.
But it was around senior year of high school that fashion got serious. I mean, we were the oldest kids in school, about to leave for college, and there was a definite pressure to get grown up when it came to buying purses. It was still a status symbol but some girls started feeling the need to be mature about their purchases and made an investment in a really nice bag. A bag that would last more than a semester or two, and for some, that they’d keep forever. I just didn’t feel ready for that kind of maturity or commitment, so I stuck to my guns about not just giving in and spending a ton of money on a bag, just to get it over with.
I abstained for a pretty long time, waiting for a purse that really meant something to me, but in the end, wound up buying one that was probably more trendy than a good investment. I don’t regret my purchase at all, and it suited me well for a while, but it wasn’t a long term thing. All of my friends were able to walk into a store, see something they loved, knew it was the right bag for them, and walked out with that bag. I shopped and shopped and shopped, saw things I liked, but never felt like it was worth it.
After my 23rd birthday last summer, I realized it was time to get serious. I had no problem walking around with cheap, meaningless bags for high school and college, but now that my name was on a lease without a guarantor, there was a 401k out there with my name on it and bouncers didn’t study my ID with more than an arbitrary glance, I couldn’t help but think of my mortality. And how dramatic I tend to be. But the change was glaring; everywhere I went, I’d see girls sporting fantastic bags, bags that fit them physically and their personalities, bags that went from day to night, weekday to weekend, in all sizes, shapes and colors. I’d go to a party or bar and feel like I was the only one who didn’t have a great purse, and for the first time, it was really starting to bother me.
I started thinking about my best friends. From high school, a few of my best friends had bought bags during college that they still wore. My best friend from home bought her bag her freshmen year of college and absolutely fell in love with it. It’s funny, because she always wore these glitzy, label-conscious purses in high school, and the bag she bought in college is definitely less trendy and more down to earth than I would have pegged her for, but everyone who sees her with it admits that it fits her perfectly. There was the comfort knowing that my college girlfriends were equally erratic with their purses during college, which is probably one of the reasons I never felt the need to invest in one myself. One of my best friends from college committed to this super WASP-y looking bag for most college, and while I think we all knew it wasn’t really a bag she’d wear once she graduated, all of us were pretty shocked when she moved to the other side of the world and started playing around with tribal prints and exotic brands. I miss her a lot and can’t wait to go shopping with her when she finally gets home.
So I made a concerted effort to start looking for a big girl purse that I could really invest in. I started low key, casually scanning the big department stores, but found everything so predictable and copycat. I knew 15 girls who had different variations of the same bag and that just wasn’t for me. The bags were expensive and high maintenance-looking, so not my style. I may be tough to shop for but I know that I deserve an awesome bag and it’s not going to be found at a Nordstrom’s or Bloomingdales. Sometimes I’d stop girls with great bags on the street or in Starbucks and ask them where they found their bags. The most frustrating response was always that they’d found them in a little boutique, someplace they’d stumbled into randomly while walking down the street. Well, let me tell you, I’ve tried that approach, stumbling down many streets, in various neighborhoods and locales and I’ve never found anything but a way to dispose of my dignity, much less a good bag.
As much as I wanted to keep things old school and buy something in person, I realized there was so much more inventory on the Internet. So I took my search online, signing up for the daily email services like Gilt and Rue La La. My thoughts: it’s been an interesting experience. While they have some great sales and merchandise, the incessant emails are suffocating and the majority of the bags they’ve offered me, though in abundance, are mostly either ugly or just not me. Just because I specified brown and leather doesn’t mean I’ll like a black leather messenger bag with gold plated decals all over. I thought it would be a perfect way to shop around on a busy schedule and browse at my own leisure, but every time I think I find something I could really like, there’s something off, like the color, a weird detailing or the cost. Listen, I’m willing to invest, but if shipping adds another $100, I just can’t justify the price tag. It was overwhelming and I decided I was better off deleting the emails right as they came in.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve dabbled with other purses in the meantime. I gave a few different bags a chance but none of them really stuck. I’d wear it for the night and then feel crappy about myself in the morning, sick with buyer’s remorse. I’d let other people choose the purse for me, thinking maybe they knew me better than I knew myself but that would either result in mortification or simply that I never really felt comfortable enough to make a big purchase.
And then one day, about a week ago, I got my daily email from Gilt. I was always partial to Gilt because I felt like the merchandise was a little more up my alley than Rue La La’s and for some reason, I clicked the email open, as opposed to immediately deleting it. They had Furla bags on sale that day, a brand I knew, always admired, and had kept in my mind as a potential longterm investment forever. My interest piqued, I opened the link and started perusing the bags.
It was an espresso brown, buttery soft leather (or at least that’s how the detailed view made it seem), hobo-style with a removable cross body strap. A simple style and the ostrich leather deemed it trendy, though would probably elevate my Most Wanted status with PETA to Level Red. Reliable brand with a trendy style in a quirky material. I reread its description and examined its photos with my virtual magnifying glass. Plus, it was half the retail price. That bag was speaking to me in a way I’ve only really experienced while reading Fifty Shades of Grey. It could very well be the purse for me. But was I ready to commit?
I sent the link to a dozen of my friends and coworkers, imploring them to give me their opinions, secretly hoping that they’d approve but knowing that if they didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to sleep soundly with my decision. Naturally, I emailed my mother, exchanging a dozen or so emails, where she expressed how happy she was for me for finding something I really liked, but voicing her concern over certain aspects, as only a mother could do.
After draft three of my pro and con list, my inner Coach Taylor took over. I’m almost 24 and have been prowling for the right bag for months. I’ve managed to find something wrong with every bag I’ve come across and my reasons are often nonsensical or nitpicky. There are sure to be dozens of other purse investments in my lifetime, but if I can’t just dive in and buy a goddamn bag now, I’ll never learn what I like or don’t like in a bag. Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose. Coach was right, I couldn’t lose, because what did I have to lose? Roughly $300, but that was neither here nor there. I was ready to make the first step towards commitment. And how did it turn out? I’ll let you know; it arrives on Thursday.