Closet Confessionals

CC 169: The Novelist

"I encourage you to buy what you love and can afford, put them on display, carry them often"

In today’s new Confessional, we meet a Novelist hailing from Philly who has been collecting handbags since the ’80s! Back then, just like today, Gucci was in its prime, and her collection started with a Gucci bag at age 16. Since then, this collector has grown her collection to include over 3 dozen bags, though she prefers to keep her collection at around 40 bags and believes in selling off bags that are no longer serving her.

A stunning collection of Chanel, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Saint Laurent, and more, CC 169’s attitude towards handbags and collecting is truly wonderful. She believes in really loving and using your bags but understands the value of purchasing what you can afford. She believes in the power of community and connecting with like-minded handbag lovers who understand the unique passion for handbags.

Read the full CC, and take a look at bags from CC 169’s collection below. Don’t forget to submit your own!


The Basics

Age: 53
Gender Identity: Female
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Occupation: Novelist
Industry: Publishing
Salary: $256,000
Household Income: $500,000

The Bags

Are you a PurseForum member? Yes

How many bags do you own? 38

What bags are in your collection?

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How much is your collection worth? At least $200K.

What is your most expensive bag? Hermès Birkin 30 (because I bought from a reseller).

What are the most important brands or pieces in your collection? I have bags from several design houses, including Hermès, Chanel, Saint Laurent, Gucci, Valentino, Loewe, Telfar, and some contemporary brands as well, but I’m in a season of my life that I reach for bags that effortlessly elevate my “casual” outfits — so I tend to gravitate towards my Chanel and Hermès bags.

What age did you get your first designer bag, and what was it? I was sixteen years old, 1986, and I received it for my birthday. It was a Blue and Beige crossbody Gucci bag. In Philadelphia, Gucci was a very popular brand in the ’80s!

Is there a specific bag you are looking to purchase next? Yes, I have asked my Hermès SA for a Constance 22 in Etain with palladium hardware, and I will gladly wait for it:)

Any particular bag that holds a special sentimental value? Several of my first designer bags were stolen from my college dorm, and I’ve given a few to my daughters and sold a few others over the years, so I have to say that the one that currently holds a special value to me is my Louis Vuitton Speedy 30. It’s from 1999 and one of the first designer bags that I bought in the NYC store with my own money. I will never sell it.

Do you feel like your bags change people’s perceptions of you or how you’re treated? Yes, I do. There is definitely a difference in how sales assistants (in some stores) treat me when I walk in with a Birkin or Classic Flap versus something of less $ value in my collection. It’s terrible to say, but it’s the truth, at least in my experience.

In my friend group, I am known as someone who has always loved handbags. Even as a teenager, when I obviously couldn’t afford my own designer goods, I’d still save up my allowance and go buy a nice leather bag from Lord & Taylor or Bloomingdales. I don’t think I’m treated differently by my friends because of my collection, but I do sometimes feel like I have to assure them that I’ve got all of my bills covered and have quite a bit of cash squirreled away for retirement.

Have your bag-carrying habits changed since Covid? Neither my bag-buying or carrying habits changed because of Covid, and that’s because I have always worked from home. But the one thing I did do more of during Covid was to watch more handbag videos, which in turn inspired me to purchase a lovely closet installation that allows me to display my handbags. I believe my handbags are works of art, and I LOVE looking at them and carrying them. In fact, because I can see what I own now, I rotate their use more than I was before.

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The Shopping

How often do you buy new bags? It depends, but I’d say on average, I purchase 4-5 bags a year, rotating old ones out along the way. I don’t want my collection to get bigger than 40 bags.

Has the Coronavirus pandemic changed your shopping habits or overall attitude towards luxury? Covid only increased my luxury shopping habits, and that’s partly due to stress but also because people staying at home had a positive effect on my business. I was making more money during that time.

Which stores do you frequent the most?

Neiman Marcus
Saint Laurent

Do you ever buy second-hand bags? Where do you buy used? Yes, I am a big supporter of buying second-hand goods but only from reputable sources. Right now, the only 2 places I am completely comfortable buying luxury from are Fashionphile and Agora Vintage.

Do you sell old bags to pay for new purchases? Yes, I sell them with Fashionphile or Agora Vintage. I’ve also sold items on eBay in the past.

Do you ever feel societal pressure to purchase more bags? I’ve always owned more handbags than any of my friends or colleagues, so I never felt that type of “pressure” to keep up with anyone. Marketing campaigns will make me go “look” at a design house’s collection but never to buy. I buy what I like, and I keep what I love.

Do you consider your bag purchases investments? First and foremost, I buy handbags because I love carrying them. I don’t buy anything for “resell” value, but I definitely will consider buying or not buying NEW from a certain design house if I know I can get the bag much cheaper on the resale market. Ex. Lady Dior.

Who influences your buying decisions? At this point in my collection, there are simply bags that I want to purchase that I’ve wanted to own for years. Once in a blue moon, I may make an impulse purchase, and that’s usually when I’m out shopping with my husband or a friend and don’t want to go home empty-handed.

Are sales associate relationships instrumental to your shopping? Yes, I have an SA at Hermès, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton. I like the personal experience. I feel more valued when an SA knows my name, remembers what I’ve purchased, and makes recommendations for me based on my personal taste. I typically email or text them for an appointment or for them to help me obtain a certain bag, and I’ll pay for it with a link. I only physically go in when it’s Hermès because you have to.

Why do you enjoy shopping, beyond just acquiring something new? There is an old picture of me on Easter Day in a new dress, my hair curled, and I had a small black patent leather handbag on my arm. When I tell you that I felt like a million bucks that day, and I remember it like it was yesterday ( I could have only been 5 or 6 years old). That was the start of my love affair with handbags. They make me feel like I did on that Easter Day over and over again, no matter what I’m wearing or where I am.

Have you ever felt like you received inferior service at a store or boutique due to your appearance, ethnicity or gender? Yes, and this kind of goes back to the earlier question about how I’m treated when I carry a certain designer. Based on my ethnicity, I feel as if I’m being judged the moment I walk through the door. Is she actually here to spend money? Does she even have money? So when I wear a “very” expensive handbag, I notice as their eyes zero in on the bag and their face changes. All of a sudden, they are so helpful and so nice. I also think age has something to do with this as well. This happened more when I was younger. Now that I have a few gray strands, I think people assume I also have a few more dollars:)

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The Money

Who pays for your bags? My husband will buy me a bag for Christmas, but I purchase and pay for most of my bags.

Do you set aside a budget for your bag purchases? No

The Taboo Topics

Have you ever purchased a counterfeit because you couldn’t afford a designer item? No, but my mom bought me a counterfeit Coach bag one Christmas when I was a teenager. I knew it was immediately because by then, I was already a handbag “snob” and never felt comfortable carrying it. I knew that no one would have been the wiser because, by then, friends assumed everything I owned was authentic, but I knew. It felt like lying.

Do you ever hide purchases from your significant other? Absolutely. The joke in my family is that I always say: “What new bag? I’ve owned that for some time.” I don’t think I’m fooling anyone anymore at this point.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to afford a bag? Take out a line of Paypal credit. It was like 0% APR for 12 months, and I really wanted the bag, but I won’t do that anymore. It’s not that deep. If it’s a pricey Hermès purchase, I’ll put $ aside in my “play money” account until I have what I need. If it’s anything else, I can usually cover it whenever I want it.

Do you think your shopping is ever a problem? Have you ever felt like you were struggling with a shopping addiction? I don’t think it’s a problem because my handbags were purchased in waves. When I first graduated college and was working, I didn’t buy any bags for years because I couldn’t afford them. When my 3 kids were school-aged, I didn’t buy any bags because we had other priorities as a family. Now that my kids are out of school and I have fewer financial responsibilities, I’m in a position where I can expand my collection again. So, no, I have self-restraint and buy only the things I love.

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The Rest Of It

Any other expensive hobbies or passions? I do have a passion for jewelry and own a collection worth over $200K as well. I have been gifted a majority of these pieces by my husband starting in 1998, so I’ve been collecting for a while, but the next piece I would like to add to my collection is something from Cartier, probably a bracelet. I’m a bracelet fan, and own pieces from: Philippe Charriol, David Yurman, Hermes, Jacob & Co., Tiffany as well as some custom-made pieces from a jeweler we love in NYC.

Anything else you would like to include? There is a reason why so many of us are on this forum sharing our love of handbags, and that’s because a lot of our friends and family just don’t get it. And that’s okay. There are far worse passions to have. So I encourage you to buy what you love and can afford, put them on display, carry them often (even to the grocery store:) and be sure to re-home them when they are no longer working for you. Also, take pictures with your bags. I bought a Gucci bag from Paris on a high school trip which was stolen from me in college. I don’t have any pictures, and I wish I did because the bag was connected to a beautiful memory for me.

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