One of my favorite parts of our Closet Confessionals series (aside from the voyeuristic thrill of finding out how people spend their money, of course—I think that’s what we’re all here for) is seeing just how many people, from all kinds of backgrounds and places and walks of life, read our site and share our love of bags and fashion. There is not a lot of fun on the internet lately, and at least to me, that’s fun.
So! With that in mind, we have this week’s edition of Closet Confessionals, which focuses on the bag-buying habits of a military lawyer who’s lived all around the world. It also tackles the very loaded topic of luxury “push presents,” which are gifts that husbands buy wives on the occasion of a new baby. We’re sure you’ll have plenty of feedback.
As always, we can’t continue this series without your (anonymous, we promise!) submissions, so if you’d like to be considered for your own Closet Confessional, all you have to do is click the link below and fill out our survey—the more detail you give us, the better!
Gender Identity: Female
Location: South Korea
Industry: Active Duty Military
Are you a PurseForum member? Yes
How many bags do you own? 13
How much is your collection worth? Approximately $31,000
What is your most expensive bag? My Louis Vuitton City Steamer MM. I recently bought it for myself when we found out I was pregnant with our second child. It’s a beautiful neutral, and I love the lock feature.
What are the most important brands or pieces in your collection? The navy logo Gucci clutch from the late 70s I inherited from my mother. It’s the bag that started my obsession with designer handbags and still looks so current, even 40+ years later. Before she had me, my mother was a buyer of fine leather good for Bonwitt Teller, a now defunct luxury department store in New York City. When I was little, I would sit and stare at the Gucci and the two Judith Leiber originals she had in her closet.
What age did you get your first designer bag, and what was it? I am not sure that Kate Spade qualifies as a designer handbag line, but in the 90s I got a black nylon messenger bag from her line. Kate Spade is famous for that bag. I loved it so much and carried it everywhere—I had to buy a replacement after a few years. It was the first bag I paid for with my own money, which was very satisfying.
Any particular bag that holds a special sentimental value? When we were stationed in England, one of my absolute favorite places on Earth, I would shop the Harrod’s Boxing Day sale each year after Christmas. It was always a mad house! You would wait in line for hours keeping warm with coffee prior to opening. When they opened the doors, I would run to the designer handbag section. People are everywhere and it’s a very stressful, yet fun and frenzied experience. One year, I got an absolutely gorgeous and supple Valentino handbag with a bow on the front in a muted pink that I still love.
Do you feel like your bags change people’s perceptions of you or how you’re treated? I am not sure, but I think so for some people. In Korea there is a huge market for what can be described as “quality fakes.” Some of them are so good, it is hard to tell at a glance if they are real or not. Since I work in a male-dominated career field in a place know for fake handbags, I am always asked where in the local area can my co-workers find fake handbags for their spouses. I try to be nice about it, but I explain that I don’t know because I don’t carry fake. I get a lot of grief for it and little judgement, but I don’t mind.
How often do you buy new bags? 1-3 per year. I try to only buy bags I am very excited about.
Which stores do you frequent the most? I rarely buy handbags from the designers in stores. I find shopping in luxury stores very intimidating and instantly feel like I don’t belong. I usually buy my bags online or in major departments stores. Since we move so frequently, I am unable to build relationships with sales people over long periods of time. Since I wear a uniform to work, in my free time I dress pretty casually, and that may be a turn off to quality customer service.
Do you ever buy second-hand bags? Where do you buy used? Yes! Especially lately, to avoid paying VAT in the foreign countries we live in (but are not leaving soon enough to claim VAT refunds at the airport). I buy new or like-new bags from Yoogi’s Closet and Fashionphile. But I am sure to do some research about the reseller prior to purchasing, which is part of the reason I love TPB and TPF. We recently took a trip to Osaka, Japan, where I was able to acquire a vintage late-2000s black Chanel Classic Flap in quilted caviar leather from Komehyo, a store that resells designer handbags, jewelry, and accessories.
Do you sell old bags to pay for new purchases? Occasionally, yes. If I buy a bag and don’t use it, I will sell it to a friend or sell it to a reputable consignment shop to fund the next purchase.
Do you ever feel societal pressure to purchase more bags? Occasionally, yes. If I buy a bag and don’t use it, I will sell it to a friend or sell it to a reputable consignment shop to fund the next purchase.
Do you consider your bag purchases investments? YES, absolutely! My daughter is 4, but the bags will be passed down to her. I cherish the bags my mom passed to me. I can only hope she gets as much joy out of carrying the ones I give her as I did, and that whenever she looks at them, she thinks of me.
Who influences your buying decisions? Mostly marking a milestone or celebrating something momentous. Or a REALLY good deal. I can never pass them up! In 2017, Balenciaga’s stud-free Blackout AJ City Bag in turquoise was more than 50% off. I am sure it was on sale because it wasn’t a hit with most people and its a bright color, but I don’t care. It matches so much in my closet and was the perfect bag for our recent beach vacation.
Are sales associate relationships instrumental to your shopping? Not really.
Why do you enjoy shopping, beyond just acquiring something new? I enjoy shopping alone. I wouldn’t say I am shopaholic, but I do appreciate a good deal and enjoy spending some time trying to find one by myself. I like going out on my own to shop at my own pace. It’s hard to shop much in Asia (since I am not shaped like a typical Asian woman) because the sizing is crazy small.
Have you ever felt like you received inferior service at a store or boutique due to your appearance, ethnicity or gender? I can’t be sure, but my perception is that I get inferior service at designers stores because of my appearance. I am not rail thin, I don’t wear designer clothes for the most part, and am not a regular at any store. Because I prefer to shop alone, and don’t really like to make small talk with sales people, that also may contribute to the perception that I receive inferior service.
Who pays for your bags? I do, expect for gifts. I appreciate that I am able to afford designer handbags.
Do you set aside a budget for your bag purchases? No, but I probably should!
The Taboo Topics
Have you ever purchased a counterfeit because you couldn’t afford a designer item? Never.
Do you ever hide purchases from your significant other? My significant other has no idea how much any of the handbags cost, but also he doesn’t really care. I handle our finances and he is happy to delegate that responsibility to me. He takes on other responsibilities in our lives. He doesn’t ask, I also don’t offer. If he asked me directly, I would tell him. He is aware of the cost of a Birkin, because he promised me one when I agreed to have a second child. After he promised, I asked him if he kneww just how much that would cost him. He knows it’s an approximately $15-$20K offer. We will see if I can actually pull the trigger and buy one though. Even I am not sure I can spend that much on a handbag, although I desperately want one.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to afford a bag? I think the Harrod’s sale is a bit crazy (described above), but if I could, I would go back every year. I also randomly bought an MCM bag in the Doha airport in 2012 during an exceptionally long layover while I was deployed that will always remind me of my time in the Middle East.
Do you think your shopping is ever a problem? I don’t think so, but an addict rarely does, right? (JK!)
The Rest Of It
Any other expensive hobbies or passions? We love to travel and do so frequently for work or vacation. For major life milestones we try to book a table at a Michelin star restaurant. So far we have dined in three restaurants on three different continents.
Has living around the world affected your taste in bags or shopping preferences? Certainly, I am influenced by different types of fashion I see in different regions around the world. That is one of the best parts about moving so frequently. For example, my work bag (which has to be very plain and black because of the rules in the military regarding what we can wear in uniform) comes from Smythson, a brand I discovered in London and still love for their small leather accessories and quality workmanship. I have purchased a couple of MCM bags while in Korea, since the formerly German brand in now owned by a Korean company and is very trendy locally. I like for most of my major purchases to be related to a trip, a place we lived, or a moment in life that I can cherish in the future, and we are lucky to get to do so in so many different locations. This also probably makes my style less consistent and not well-defined, but I am OK with that!