MICHAEL Michael Kors Large Sutton Satchel

We get a lot of reader email asking for advice and recommendations, but the one questions we’ve received most consistently over the years are queries about what a young woman should choose for her first designer bag. Those questions are very near and dear to our hearts – Megs and I can both recount the acquisition of our first bags in vivid detail – and today, we’re here to provide answers both general and specific.

On the whole, most successful first-bag purchases are some combination of classic and recognizable. Discretion may be the better part of valor, but for almost anyone, the rush of that first fancy purchase is knowing that everyone else knows you have something fancy, at least in part. Don’t worry about being inventive or finding the Next Big Thing; just get something you love and that you’ll be proud to carry until you find your next big bag crush. Below, some of our favorites.

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  • kindled

    Excluding a vintage store coach bag, my firsts were a bright turquoise Kate Spade little minka and a wine colored Marc by Marc Jacobs Petal to the Metal Natasha (got them at basically the same time).

  • Sandra

    Oh yes, remembering back. You can only afford the bags that you find in the juniors departments…and then you can afford Juicy Couture, moving on to Coach,…my first Marc Jacobs (because that is one of the only designers that the local Nordstrom had at the time)….Louis Vuitton speedy was next…Chloe..Gucci…Balenciaga…YSL….Givenchy (several of these)…Chanel (several of these as well)…and perhaps next is Hermes.

    • shueaddict

      Oh … the progression. Because I live in Europe, Furla was was the first go-to designer, back in the day. I also started with a Marc Jacobs ( quilted Ines, which I still love, bought with my first ever big bonus). I went through a fair bit of Tod’s , Reed Krakoff and A Wang, before moving on to Mulberry, YSL ( pre-Hedi) , Ferragamo and Valentino – but I stopped there. Givenchy has been on my watch list for some time. Chanel is the next level probably.

  • tbestes

    In high school, Liz Claiborne and Esprit. In college Dooney and Coach. And in my 20 years in the work force since, I’ve gone off the deep end and tried just about all of them.

  • weaslgrl

    HIgh school was Stone Mountain & Coach. In college, I got extremely lucky: my Italian cousin gifted me my first Fendi, an Hermes scarf and some Gucci jewelry. I blame her for being the gateway-drug provider that led to my lifelong addiction. How do you say “enabler” in Italian? :-)

    • Snowy

      While your comment is hysterically funny; boy are you LUCKY to have your Italian cousin! Does she need another cousin? I’d reciprocate! Cheers! Snowy

  • jbf

    The Michael Kors Large Sutton is currently 20% off at Nordstrom… in six different colors!

  • Edia

    how is michael kors even considered a designer? hes the worst. stealing from left right above and beyond. i wish this brand would just vanish tbh

    • Leslie

      Agreed

    • Mya

      Loool, you’re a meanie but I kind of agree. I have amassed a reasonable collection of high end designer bags but I am yet to own a Michael Kors. Honestly, I don’t really see it happening.

    • BJ

      Couldn’t have agreed more! Thank you!

      • Mia

        Good to know thanks!

    • Chantal

      Quality is not there for MK, I owned one bag and resold it. The piping on the handles ripped within a month and the leather got a hole as well. If we are looking for less pricey items I suggest Zac Posen, Phillip Lim 3.1 Pashli or Rebecca Minkoff! Those are my picks for lower end designer bags. PS for Canadian shoppers NEIMAN MARCUS IS DOING DUTY FREE UNTIL APRIL 30TH WOOHOO!!! :D

      • A

        What do you mean duty free?

      • Chantal

        Neiman is paying for the duty charge so you don’t have to. All you pay is tax of course. The code is DUTYFREE. I just ordered a Phillip lim Pashli with calf hair off neimans duty free and express delivery.

    • movo09

      Agreed re: MK – the quality is so bad with his stuff. For the same price point, Tory Burch is outstanding. I feel like Rebecca Minkoff is overdone these days, though. I am more of a fan of Philip Lim’s bags – more my style, but sooo heavy which is why I haven’t purchased any of those.

    • http://agesexloc.blogspot.com/ Rebecca Chan

      Michael Kors is designer, MK and Michael are more mid-tier/contempo.

  • ami

    My first was a Gucci Jackie O bag. I’m glad I chose a classic style as 10 years later it’s still being being used and updated by gucci.

  • ElainePG

    The MBMJ Jina Satchel is an excellent recommendation, especially in that lovely neutral. For a young woman on a budget, this bag has a certain amount of gravitas that is appropriate in the workplace, yet plenty of presence and style to keep it from getting boring. Even though it is a light color, I think it could work year ’round… again, an important consideration for a young woman on a budget. In winter, I could see it with a black, navy, brown, deep green, or burgundy coat, with a tan plaid scarf to bring out the color of the bag… simply smashing!

  • ellavanw

    Oh, a trip down memory lane . . . in order: Coach, Furla, Longchamp, Marc by Marc Jacobs, LV, Balenciaga, Givenchy, Chanel, Hermes. Never going back, I hope.

  • http://GetCurvyNow.com/ Claire Mier

    nice list of purses.. I fell in love with my Stella McCartney falabella hard.

    • free

      She should’ve made the list …

  • Sophie Proust

    I’m new to designer handbags, and I bought a Jerome Dreyfuss Bobi bag last fall at their New York store, which I love. I bought it in the Mordoré Bronze calfskin, which is a subtly metallic bronze-green. It’s lovely leather and lightweight. I actually wish I saw more Jerome Dreyfuss on PB. Anyway, now of course I’m eyeing much bigger hitters, like Celine, Balenciaga, etc…

  • http://www.luxondemand.com Jesica

    My first was a Speedy 25. I still have it and I still use it on occasion, although these days I tend to favor something more discreet. I think there are some great choices on this list (although I have to agree with Edia about MK… they’re so derivative). I especially love the Pliage Cuir in that sunny yellow color!

  • FashionableLena

    It’s a good list. I would say that other than Coach, Dooney, and Michael Kors, my first realy “designer” handbag was a Louis Vuitton pouchette in the monogram fabric. It’s tiny so I really only use it for date nights with the husband or church.
    With all due respect, I have to disagree with Edia. No one is doing anything really new or fresh with the shape and silhouettes of handbags. These designers are all copying/stealing designs from each other. How many designers have copied the shape of the Speedy or the quilting/chain strap of Chanel? How about the messenger style or the Celine gussets? I always thought that a lot of Reed Krakoff bags looked just like Coach. There’s really nothing new under the sun which is why I’ve been going the vintage route lately.

    • Venessa

      I agree. Most are copying each other left and right. And Reed’s bags like Coach because he use to be the creative designer for Coach for many years.

      • FashionableLena

        I am very well aware that Reed Krakoff was Coach’s creative director. My point is that everyone was swooning over his handbags when they could have gotten a Coach for hundreds of dollars cheaper.

    • Ralli

      Seeing as how Reed Krakoff was the creative director of Coach, your observation isn’t surprising.

    • Snowy

      Does anyone know WHAT the name of the bag (or the name of the style, rather) that has side (oh heck, words elude me) folds or extra leather/faux that sticks out on each side? I don’t know what that style is called – trapeze, maybe? – in order to search for it. Anyone who knows what I mean & has Any answer well that would be SO appreciated! Essentially the sides of the bag have extra “material” that sticks out in a folding kind of manner. Hopefully, SOMEONE knows what I mean! :D Cheers! Snowy

      • Carol

        That would be the Celine Bag…yes trapeze.

  • Oscar Nain Carey

    1 Vuitton? No Gucci? No CHANEL? No Fendi?
    im sorry but i expected more guys!

    • Catalina

      I agree. There should be a rule stating that you cannot purchase these bags in a suburban mall.

      • JackieM

        I don’t know about your situation, but living in the suburbs of Detroit, suburban malls are my only option when it comes to purchasing bags. Luckily I have the Somerset Collection in Troy that covers basic designer brands. :)

      • ceejesq

        I agree that I expected more luxurious designers. But it’s a FIRST designer bag. I can’t imagine that everyone started off spending thousands of dollars on purses. I live in the suburbs in NJ and I can purchase Vuiton, Gucci, Chanel, Fendi, Hermes, Ferragamo, Burberry, etc. (their own stores/boutiques) in the malls 15-45 minutes away.

  • hwfan

    My first was a Liz Clairborne, which I bought at Gimbel’s. Really showing my age here. Moved on through D&B, Coach, loads of other contemporary designers, Gucci, LV, and am now at Chanel. Next step Is the big one I guess -orange boxes anyone!

  • Lara (LAIR-A)

    In high school, I was all about Aigner (the oxblood leather). Moved on to Liz Claiborne, Dooney & Bourke, Coach and finally LV and Chanel.

  • MissKhloeO

    I have a MK Selma Bag and I absolutely adore it! I use it when in a professional capacity! I have recently fell in LOVE with Givenchy and Celine and have spent a small fortune, but find it well worth it. I honestly wouldn’t be caught dead in Coach or LV just played out and extra cliche. My First designer bag was Marc Jacobs and found it cheaply made and design illiterate.

  • Mkay

    This list sucks

  • Bjorn

    Louis Vuitton is the only company on this list that has it’s bags made in countries/factories that pay a reasonable wage for their worker’s. The other bag’s on this list including Longchamp are made in China and other Asian countries.

    The thought of paying hundreds of dollars for a Coach Bag, Kate Spade, Kors, etc., when the worker’s are paid a few dollar’s a week and the quality control is atrocious…well just forget it…these companies can kiss my….

  • Ladybag

    As a whole, I find this collection of bags to be very disappointing. I think the point of having a designer bag is owning something l
    uxurious and coveted. It’s important that a person who decides to begin a high end bag collection have pieces that have good resale value. In my opinion, you should start with acquiring a balenciaga, a Vuitton,a chanel, and eventually an Hermes. My logic is it’s better to save up and buy a $1700 dollar bag that you can get $900+ in used condition if you’re in a pinch than a $800 bag that you will only be able to get $300-$400 if you’re lucky! People will pay top dollar for a desirable used Chanel or balenciaga

    • Scottsdale Kim

      I agree with you and started my collection with the designers that you mentioned. I would love reader input on how to sell these types of bags. Mine are in mint condition and I have struggled finding a consignment arrangement that offers better than a 50/50 split. I do not have an established retail reputation with Ebay either.

      • liv

        Try Poshmark. The app takes 20% of the sale and you get 80% and you also choose your price point.

    • cherryorchard

      I think the collection should start and continue with bags that the collector actually likes and uses. I will probably never go the way of LV, Chanel and other boring brands you listed. Everyone starting their collection should think about why they are collecting and what they need – what works for ME and MY life – and what they like – as in, what pleases MY eye.
      To say the only right way is to purchase bags that cost twice their real value (as in, you pay more and more for the brand name rather than fresh designs and increasingly good quality) is a bit silly. Actually, I think it’s very silly.

  • immersion

    Quality of Michael kors is horrible! Tried their shoes, boots, cannot even last for a season!

  • Julie Hollywood

    I love Michael Kors, his designs are fun, bright (the ones I buy are!) and well made. I’ve spent more than double the money on Mulberry bags which have lasted less time than my MKs have, I would be happy to buy one of his bags every season. I prefer my latest MKs to my staple Gucci & Alexa, and I think they will stand the test of time, even my oldest MK is still in fab condition and looks great with many outfits, a classic style in a beautiful colour can spice up any work outfit or even a pair of jeans!

  • Strangehours

    starting your collection with a Coach bag or a Michael Kors one is bad luck ha ! ha !

  • http://mmck.us Jery McKinney

    Best way to start your designer handbag collection = Barney’s outlet. I won’t be a jerk and say what I think about these bags…

  • Peg

    Everyone just sounds so spoiled and elitist. I think the key to any purchase is that it makes you happy. I know many people who believe MK is designer and save up to buy it; I guess they are not reading purseblog. So much condescension and overall meanness makes me feel sad to apart of the designer purse community.

  • LuxeDesigners

    I agree this is not a luxury or designer handbag…^^

  • Jude

    Well girls, I have looked hell and high water for a simple understated cross body. I chose a Time’s Arrow … Great collection, something new, beautiful handcrafting and a steal at $550.00

  • cherryorchard

    A started bag should be a bag that’ll last you a lifetime. I’d rather go for preloved luxury than a MK or RM or any of the other designers that have huge quality issues. Many of them listed here.

    For me, it’s either Longchamp, Mulberry and other brits or Scandinavian designer brands like Samuji, Minna Parikka, Adax, Lumi, Malene Birger etc. I don’t see myself ever owning an LV piece, much less Phillip Lim or MK. My collection basically started with a Mulberry Antony and was followed by a Jasper Conran.

  • jburgh

    When I started so many years ago, young and low on money, I bought D&B, Liz Claiborne and Coach. I have some beautiful vintage Coach and D&B that were made in the US and are very nice. My list of 5 for starting a lifelong collection would be these classic bags that you can wear even when you become old like me: 1. Bottega Veneta – Veneta style, 2. Jimmy Choo – Vintage Ramona, Riki, Mahala, or Maddie 3. Tods – Coated canvas G Bag, 4. Bottega Veneta – Vintage Montaigne, 5. Ferragamo – Sophia bag

  • Caro

    ironically I am only 20 but the neverfull was my first designer handbag and the rockie was my 2nd. although a lot of people hate the neverfull, its my favorite.

  • Michelle

    I looooooove this alexander wang rockie bag its gorgeous!!!!!!!!!!!! But $800 I couldn’t do that price!!!!!!!

  • iheartyourkiwi

    As a new buy of designer bags as of last year, I enjoy my less expensive bags immensely. I’ve only dabbled in the kate spade and Rebecca Minkoff and I usually get them at a good price after a lot of hunting and pricing out. The reason I prefer the contemporary designers over the a premier is because I am incredibly indecisive and by sticking to the less expensive options I can buy a small plethora of different bags instead of one expensive bag, subduing that itch of wanting to be able to have a few to choose from!

    That said I would like to own a Chanel and a Balenciaga one day… Except I have no idea which ones! ;)

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