Closet Confessionals

CC 144: The Collector Who Follows Her Heart

"I used to worry about resale value so I could recoup costs if I ever really needed money, but now I buy what I like without thinking twice?

In today’s installment of CC, we meet a collector in her late twenties, currently living in Boston after a stint in Europe. This collector has had quite the journey, which began with her first Coach bag back in her teen years. Oddly enough, that same bag is now trending again, and thankfully this sentimental collector has hung on to it all these years later. At 24, CC 144 dipped her toes into the designer pond, snagging a pre-2008 second-hand Chanel Flap, complete with the coveted 24-Karat hardware (swoon!).

A sustainably-minded shopper, this handbag lover is a big fan of thrifting and also believes in purchasing high-quality items less often rather than shopping fast-fashion like many of her peers. Through therapy, this collector has worked hard to acknowledge her privileged upbringing and not feel guilt toward the opportunities given to her and all the things that she has. Like so many of us, the pandemic has also helped this collector’s journey towards gratitude. Read the full CC now and check out pictures from CC 144’s closet!


The Basics

Age: 28
Gender Identity: Female
Location: Boston, MA
Occupation: Communications
Industry: Nonprofit
Salary: $60,000
Household Income: $60,000

The Bags

Are you a PurseForum member? Yes

How many bags do you own? 11

What bags are in your collection?

How much is your collection worth? I paid about $8K for the bags I currently have. The only bag that is worth more than I paid is the Chanel Double Flap, which is a 1996 vintage that I bought for $1,500 in January of 2018. I saw the same bag on a resale site recently listed at $4,500.

What is your most expensive bag? The one I paid the most for was the Alma BB, which I bought in Vienna for about $1,700 (I’m sure the purse aficionados here know that it’s less expensive to buy in Europe.) I had been living in Austria for 3 years and bought the bag on my way home to the U.S. for good hoping to get the tax refund. Unfortunately, the Austrian authorities hadn’t processed my exit paperwork yet by the time I got on my flight, so I couldn’t get the refund. I got the e-mail notification that they processed it about 12 hours later, so I left $300 on the table. Although this happened almost a year ago I am still salty about it, if you couldn’t tell.

What are the most important brands or pieces in your collection? I truly love them all and use them in regular rotation, but the most special to me is the Chanel Double Flap. It goes with absolutely everything and still feels so special to me because it was my first premium designer bag. Before I decided to move abroad, I was going through a tough time with my anxiety and mental health and would sit on my bed stroking the soft buttery leather on the inside of the bag when I needed to relax. To the credit of my amazing therapist, she did not visibly react when I told her that, but I am quite serious about the calming effect that bag had (and still does) on me.

What age did you get your first designer bag, and what was it? I received the Coach Hampton baguette for my 13th birthday and I was over the moon. My mom took a hilarious photo of me strutting around with it that I still have and would include, but I’ll keep this CC anonymous! I held onto this bag for sentimental reasons and am thrilled that it is on-trend again. I wore the bag often this summer and am happy to see that many others have pulled their vintage Coach bags from the depths of their closets, especially in New York.

I bought my first premium designer bag, which was the Chanel Double Flap, when I was 24.

Is there a specific bag you are looking to purchase next? I’m all over the place! I expect that purse peace will forever allude me. I have my eye on the Celine Ava in white Triomphe canvas as my current collection is lacking lighter color bags. I’m happy with my cold-weather wardrobe and have decided that I don’t want to buy any more clothes until the summer. I think I will buy the Ava as a birthday present for myself in June (assuming I can keep to my no-buy commitment).

Any particular bag that holds a special sentimental value? The vintage Coach pocket bag, which my dad gifted to my mom during their engagement. My mom tried to give it to me in middle school when Coach bags were very popular, but because it wasn’t jacquard print I wasn’t interested. I found it again in my parent’s attic when I was looking for wrapping paper last Christmas. Once a purse of my mom’s is filled with a certain amount of trash and accumulated items that she doesn’t want to deal with, she simply buys a new purse, moves her phone and wallet to the new purse, and banishes the trash-filled purse to the back of her closet. I try to be sustainable, so this irks me to no end, but in this case, I was glad for it because the bag was filled with relics from my parents’ 1991 honeymoon in Italy: airplane tickets, museum passes, receipts, maps, etc, which is why it’s now sentimental to me. I also love it because it’s an easy, not fussy bag.

Do you feel like your bags change people’s perceptions of you or how you’re treated? Yes, people often assume I’m high maintenance, which is not true. If you ever see a girl at a Boston dive bar with a designer bag drinking a $3 can of PBR, it’s probably me. For me, it’s about how confident I feel when I like my outfit. I know when I’m feeling and acting confident, that changes people’s perceptions of me.

Have your bag-carrying habits changed since Covid? My bag habits have changed, but I can’t chalk it up to COVID. I used to very strongly favor top handle bags that have the bonus shoulder strap (e.g. Givenchy Antigona, YSL SDJ, Alma BB, Lady Dior, etc.). I would remove the strap and simply carry it as a top handle. I may be on an island with this opinion, but I couldn’t stand having a crossbody strap breaking up my outfit, and as a well-endowed woman I don’t like drawing any additional attention to my chest. But now that it’s cold in Boston and I’m covered by large coats anyway, I find myself reaching more for my small crossbodies like the Dionysus or Coach Pocket bag as well as the shoulder bags like the Coach Baguette and Chanel Double Flap. It’s nice to be completely hands-free.

The Shopping

How often do you buy new bags? I would like to keep it to once per year. I have the same rule for tattoos. But I am self-aware enough to admit that I am not great at sticking to this rule, for neither purses nor tattoos.

Has the Coronavirus pandemic changed your shopping habits or overall attitude towards luxury? I have had a very privileged upbringing and used to have a lot of existential guilt about the opportunities I have received that I didn’t feel worthy of. I am still not 100% there but I have made a lot of progress in therapy. If anything, the pandemic made me more grateful for what I already have and the time I get to spend with family and friends.

Which stores do you frequent the most? I love browsing Fashionphile and Yoogi’s closet, it’s helpful to compare options between brands. In terms of clothes, my favorite store is Reformation. Pretty much everything they sell is my style and I feel good that it’s sustainable.

Do you ever buy second-hand bags? Where do you buy used? Yes, I have had three great experiences with Fashionphile, one great experience with Yoogi’s Closet, and one okay experience with Vestiaire Collective. I got the LV Lexington from Vestiaire Collective and there is a significant stain on the bag that was not described. I wound up not making a fuss because I really wanted the bag, but I doubt I would have paid as much as I did (500 EUR) if I knew about the stain. But live and learn, as they say.

I love thrifting secondhand clothes and the same holds true for bags, it’s great to get something that’s still in good condition for less as well as the ability to get bags that are unique or aren’t in production anymore. One of my most recent purchases, the mini Dionysus, isn’t being sold in green in stores anymore (as far as I know), so I had to buy secondhand. I also bought my Chanel Double Flap second-hand because I wanted a pre-2008 bag for the 24K gold-plated hardware. Other bags I purchased secondhand were the LV Lexington, Balenciaga City, and LV Speedy.

Do you sell old bags to pay for new purchases? I sold some Kate Spade bags I received as presents from my parents and grandmother as an undergrad, but not to fund anything specific, more so because I felt they did not suit my style anymore. I also sell clothes that I don’t wear on Poshmark. After moving abroad and back, unless I’m wearing something in heavy rotation, I am happy to sell it or give it away. I hate having things I don’t even like weighing me down.

But I will say as I’ve gotten older, I understand much more what I like and what suits me and rarely ever need to sell pieces I don’t wear anymore. I consider that a good thing, especially when it comes to bags. I used to worry about resale value so I could recoup costs if I ever really needed money, but now I buy what I like without thinking twice about resale value. This is incredibly controversial, but it’s also why I throw out authenticity cards and boxes.

Do you ever feel societal pressure to purchase more bags? No, Boston is where fashion goes to die, so I already feel like I’m doing too much by dressing the way I do. That being said, I travel to NYC about 4x a year and it always motivates me to step up my fashion game, but not by pressuring me to buy more designer duds. It pressures me to be more creative in how I style what I already have. It’s a hard truth, but the person who is in the “trendiest” outfit often has the least personal style.

Do you consider your bag purchases investments? Investments in my happiness and my wardrobe 🙂

Who influences your buying decisions? Ultimately me, but I research in advance, especially by watching Youtube videos. I’ve recently joined tPF and find the conversations there to be insightful as well.

Are sales associate relationships instrumental to your shopping? Since I usually buy secondhand bags online, not really. But I do appreciate how a good SA can validate your decision. When I bought my Alma BB at the Vienna LV store, I really thought I wanted Damier Ebene, but when I was holding it for the first time, I was quite disappointed. I shouldn’t be surprised because I know it’s coated canvas and PVC-coated Vachetta, but it felt so flimsy and insubstantial that I was turned off. It wasn’t the SA’s first rodeo, so she had also brought out the Alma in amarante and Epi leather. Like a bird, I am a sucker for shiny things, and the Alma BB became my third patent bag that day. The SA was raving about how amarante is her favorite color, so she validated my last-minute change of heart.

Why do you enjoy shopping, beyond just acquiring something new? I enjoy shopping with my friends as a pastime, but I rarely buy things on those occasions. I’m mostly there to chat with friends, get some steps in, and see what’s new. I need to be thinking about something for a long time before I buy it, that way I make sure that I’ll wear it. However, if we’re thrifting, it’s a different story entirely. I have left some amazing vintage items behind that keep me up at night to this day.

Have you ever felt like you received inferior service at a store or boutique due to your appearance, ethnicity or gender? No, I have always received great service in luxury stores, especially at Gucci and LV, although I have not been brave enough to enter a Chanel store. I did have a rather confusing experience at the Givenchy store in Paris. Although I knew I wanted the goatskin Antigona and would have bought it regardless of service, the SA spent a lot of her time showing me other bags and serving me refreshments, which I obliged because it was my first in-person luxury buying experience and I was on vacation. But then she seemed quite shocked when I expressed my intent to buy the Antigona, which struck me as strange because she had invested so much of her time in helping me.

The Money

Who pays for your bags? Me! It feels so good to buy things for yourself. I also treat myself to vintage jewelry every once in a while 🙂 But I want to add that thanks to significant merit scholarships and the generosity of my parents, I do not have any student debt. Actually, my parents think that I am crazy for spending the amount I have on bags, but my mom has an expensive American girl doll collection so I really am a product of her.

Do you set aside a budget for your bag purchases? No, I don’t have a budget anymore because after 3 years of being a “starving student” in grad school I am still living below my means. When I was living off savings and studying in Austria with only a small intern stipend, money was incredibly tight. I had budgeted for 200 EUR per month to spend on going out, clothes, travel, etc. Actually, I was able to buy the LV Lexington and Alma because of the COVID pandemic – for almost a year I didn’t pay for anything that wasn’t groceries, rent, or booze (hey – it was a dark time), so I was able to save the majority of my stipend. That never would have happened if I was going out and traveling, which of course I would have rather done than sit alone in my apartment in Vienna for a year. But yeah, these habits have stayed with me. I recently ordered delivery for the first time in three years!

The Taboo Topics

Have you ever purchased a counterfeit because you couldn’t afford a designer item? No, I would much rather wear/carry something that is high-quality but not designer than a fake that was likely made with child labor and will fall apart in a matter of weeks.

Do you ever hide purchases from your significant other? No, because I am chronically single. I have a huge soft spot for a guy I dated very briefly before I moved to Austria, in part because he would always ask about my bags and listen to me talk about the fashion history and the creative directors who designed them. We broke up because I moved abroad and although I returned, he has since also moved abroad, but I saw him when he was in town recently and he noticed my Dionysus and asked me about it. I then launched into an incredibly detailed presentation about what a genius Alessandro Michele is. But that has shown me that I wouldn’t want to be with someone who wasn’t supportive of this rather niche passion of mine.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to afford a bag? Is paying $2K for a bag not crazy enough?

Do you think your shopping is ever a problem? Have you ever felt like you were struggling with a shopping addiction? I do not worry that I have a shopping addiction, but I worry that I spend more money on clothes than my peers, which is interesting because I own less clothing than most of them. I don’t mean to be shady – but I’d rather buy one nice vintage cashmere sweater and wear it often than have a bunch of low-quality knitwear from SHEIN that everyone else has and will disintegrate in the wash. I make it a point to buy high-quality items and take excellent care of them, which is a quality I learned from my dad, who pretty much exclusively wears Patagonia and L.L. Bean. And who knows, I might spend just as much on clothes as my peers who are buying lower-quality items more often.

The Rest Of It

Any other expensive hobbies or passions? Like so many other PurseBlog readers, I love to travel, but I try to be sensible when I do it. My mom has shown me how to get the best flight deals and because I like to “live like a local” when I travel, I usually stay at Air BnBs. I also stayed in many hostels when I was living in Europe (did you guys know I lived in Europe???) which was always a great time, but the designer handbags stayed at home. I am also an avid skier, which is tragically expensive, but I don’t know how I would survive New England winters otherwise. It’s a great way to get outside, be active, and spend time with friends.

Anything else you would like to include? Wow, I hope I didn’t sound like one of those annoying kids who went to Spain for 3 months as an undergrad then spends the rest of their life saying “When I was in BarTHelona…” Anyway, any Parks & Rec fans? You know how Tom Haverford says “Love… love fades away. But things? Things are forever.” Vintage Chanel is forever!!!


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