To kick off our handbag holiday festivities, Amanda shares the most useful shopping tip she’s ever encountered

Both in professional and personal capacities, I’m often asked for shopping advice, particularly when a longtime reader or real-life friend is looking to make a particularly fraught decision about a handbag purchase. I’m always happy to oblige, because giving advice involves two of my main joys in life: passing judgment and the tacit admission that someone thinks I’m often right. Also, I have a very specific pool of knowledge after ten years spent covering the accessories industry, and what is there to do but share it? Recently, though, I’ve realized that there’s only one real piece of good advice when it comes to shopping, and sharing it seemed like a great way to kick off the run-up to our 5th Annual National Handbag Day, which is one week from today, October 10. So here it is:

Go with your gut. Deep down, you already know what’s right.

This isn’t exactly a revolutionary sentiment, I know, but it’s one that seems to get lost among the competing urges to evaluate bag trends, prices, functionality, features, leather quality, workmanship, style and availability. It’s understandable for anyone spending top dollar on a piece of fashion to want to feel like they’re getting the best bag and making the best choice, but style and value are both enormously subjective qualities. Sometimes, no matter how many reviews you read or opinions you seek, “best” turns out to be a false concept.

Rarely have I ever heard from an advice-seeker who didn’t seem to know which way they wanted to go. Usually, people seek input when their heart tells them one thing and they’re trying to talk themselves out of it for reasons that feel logical to them: maybe there’s a similar alternative at a lower price, or maybe the other bag under consideration would make a marginally more functional office option. All of these concerns make sense, but they aren’t necessarily what will lead to a satisfying fashion experience. If there’s anything I know about bag people, it’s the bags they love that get the most use. There may be a better bag somewhere out there on paper, but that doesn’t matter if you’re in love with something else.

I’m not necessarily of the belief that fashion is art, but I do think that style is intuitive and instinctual for consumers in the same way that reactions to art can be for museum-goers. When it comes to life’s fun extras, including fancy bags, the fact that you’re having an emotional response to something is the most important part of a new wardrobe acquisition, and you’ll never override that experience by telling yourself a different strap design might be a little comfier or you usually prefer having an outside pocket. The heart wants what it wants, especially in an arena as emotional as fashion. That’s all the advice you’ll ever need.

P.S. Please consider supporting our small, bag-loving team by clicking our links before shopping or checking out at your favorite online retailers like Amazon, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, or any of the listed partners on our shop page. We truly appreciate your support!

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