Whether we are beginners in the market, seasoned buyers, or simply people who’ve been watching others carrying handbags, pretty much all of us have our fair share of purse pet peeves. Some might be centered around the very existence of a top-zip, while for others, the lack of said zipper is a big no-no.

And while purse peeves are a real problem for us handbag-lovers who would have otherwise adored the beautiful design of a bag had it not been for its contrasting quilting, they are subjective to a large degree. They are also likely to vary between individuals depending on their own ideals of functionality, trendiness, and style.

But, one can’t really deny that there are certain – if I may say so – widely acknowledged elements to handbags that can make them look significantly less expensive than they actually are. And while not all of them are likely to cause equal exasperation to all users, steering clear of them, whether you’re purchasing a high-end or a contemporary purse, is more likely to leave you feeling satisfied. After all, we’ve heard countless times that the devil is in the details, and these bothersome details, in particular, could prove to be dealbreakers when it comes to choosing the right handbag.

So what are they? I thought you’d never ask!

Texture/Materials

Whenever you’re veering out of the leather territory, be it velvet, denim, PVC, linen, tweed, fur, or faux leather, you run the risk of losing the purse’s luxury appeal. While I’ve questioned countless times whether a particular denim purse is designer or an Etsy DIY, transparent PVC bags rarely look even slightly luxurious. And faux leather is something that’s almost always advisable to avoid – their exaggerated pebbly texture or their oily waxy shine is a dead giveaway. Plus, most start peeling within at best a year’s worth of use – an eyesore on all counts.

However, genuine leather, at times, presents its own set of challenges that make your purse look less dignified – a metallic shade or patent leather, while relatively versatile, can look rather tacky if executed in a sloppy way, while smooth leather that’s covered in scratches isn’t a look one might want to opt for either. On the other hand, distressed leather, unless done in a highly specific, Balenciaga-chic Olsen-like manner, might just end up earning pitiful glances from onlookers. And finally, suede without a good nap and not well cared for frankly looks a lot like burlap rather than something that costs a pretty penny.

Hardware

Overly shiny hardware not only draws undue attention but can look gaudy as well. But dull brass isn’t particularly pleasing to the eye either, and more often than not, might end up looking like the aforementioned shiny hardware tarnished to this point.

At the same time, metal chains need to look and feel like they have a certain weight – dinky, lightweight ones appear low-quality and flimsy. Similarly, fragile hardware is also a functional pet peeve – you never know when the clasp will randomly pop open, and your belongings go tumbling down.

Flimsy hardware also tends to be rickety – a Bottega Chain Pouch dupe from River Island that I once saw on an acquaintance looked pretty cool for a hot second. That is until she actually maneuvered to open the purse – the terrible jammed-up hardware ensued some squeaking and was enough to dismiss any admiration I had towards the particular bag.

But the lack of certain hardware, like metal feet, feels inexpensive too – not only does it make the purse more prone to falling over, but also susceptible to dirt and damage.

Zippers

While zippers should technically fall under hardware, zipper-related troubles are simply too many! Certain zips tend to be so jagged that they scrape the user’s hand and hurt the skin. Similarly, the quality of the zipper itself matters – they should move smoothly and quietly, but not be so slippery that they slide open by themselves. But the biggest nuisance I find when it comes to zippers is metal zipper ends. Zipper ends that hang open aren’t a particularly good look. A better alternative is to have them tucked in like the Céline Luggage Tote, right? But certain purses tend to have little plasticky bits of metal at the zipper ends and that’s probably my biggest pet peeve – nothing cheapens a purse as much as a metal zipper end. Okay, I’m done ranting now.

Craftsmanship

When stitches are visible, it becomes of crucial importance that they are straight, small, and unobtrusive. A lot of brands also tend to deploy contrast-stitching as a design feature, so that makes any flaws or crooked seams all the more apparent. At the same time, as we see on the Coach Willow Tote, the two edges seem to be sewn/glued together, which can devalue an aesthetic. Even besides that, crooked logos, thin, flimsy-looking straps (which the Neverfull is guilty of), and other such technicalities tend to leave us with an impression we don’t quite expect of a four-figure purse.

Recognizability

With one group of designers assiduously supporting monograms and another religiously shunning them, are they, after all, tacky? The jury’s still out on that, but most agree that logos, especially from contemporary brands, rarely exude a luxury aesthetic. But do you know what does feel gimmicky? Brand names or initials on stuff in a HUGE font.

Trendiness

Speaking of on-trend monograms, something that really looks inexpensive is an obvious knockoff of a high-end designer bag that’s hot right now – not just among high-street retailers but also imitations from other brands that mirror the original way too closely – a giveaway that you have chosen something cheaper than what you actually wanted.

At the same time though, if you’re going for something that’s exactly the polar opposite of what’s on-trend right now, you run the risk of looking dated, or at the very least “unfashionable”. As PurseForum member glendaPLEASE describes, “RN, it seems like small, structured, top handle and multi-wearable bags are hot hot hot, so something the complete opposite of that, like a big slouchy hobo bag, looks outdated in comparison.”

So that was my round-up of design features that can cheapen the overall outlook of a purse, regardless of whether it’s designer, an affordable luxury, or from the high street. But ever so often, it isn’t a particular physical property, but rather the psychological response it triggers, that makes us perceive certain features as inexpensive-looking. In fact, some might argue that any well-taken care of and put together purse can look expensive.

So, what do you think makes handbags look inexpensive?

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
58 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
psny15
psny15
3 months ago

While contrary to others I find lv monogram bags to be very tacky and cheap!

Last edited 3 months ago by psny15
Vanessa
Vanessa
3 months ago
Reply to  psny15

LV monograms are the tackiest thing ever. Full stop. I literally roll my eyes every time I see one. I am sorry, it is just a fact.

LACarly
LACarly
3 months ago
Reply to  psny15

That’s not contrary to others at all. It’s the most common opinion people have about lv monogram there is. Somehow everyone who dislikes it thinks they’re the only one, to the point where they just haaaave to say it, and also include that they’re contrarian for good measure. Obviously this is the most upvoted comment, very predictable and boring.

Valliere
Valliere
3 months ago
Reply to  LACarly

Relax this is a discussion about fashion not politics.

Avril
Avril
3 months ago
Reply to  psny15

You come across a little on the jealous side unfortunately!

sherrie
sherrie
3 months ago
Reply to  Avril

I’m not reading jealousy, but a strongly opinionated individual. I don’t like everything “she?” writes, but I respect that she can hold her own under the barrage of negative comments aimed at her.

Avril
Avril
3 months ago
Reply to  sherrie

The ‘barrage of negative comments’ says it all really.

J B
J B
3 months ago
Reply to  psny15

I just laugh when I read such strong judgmental comments about a tote bag. I have invested in other designer bags but I will always love ❤️ the coated canvas bags and logo…classic and clearly enduring. Why can’t you let people like what bags they like without passing judgement. It has zero impact on you. It really seems like it’s more about you projecting your need to achieve “status” via a handbag.

Louie
Louie
3 months ago
Reply to  psny15

I agree, but we can’t deny it does an exceptional job when it comes to being a status symbol, and lots of people want that even though they might not openly admit it.

CShell
CShell
3 months ago
Reply to  psny15

Agree! Carrying a Louis Vuitton Neverfull is like living in a McMansion.

Eryn Lasgalen
Eryn Lasgalen
3 months ago
Reply to  psny15

I agree. To each their own, but I personally just don’t find the aesthetic appealing, especially in canvas. The only bag I’d buy from LV is maybe the capucines. The leather looks nice and I don’t mind the logo in front.

Thefashionableteacher
Thefashionableteacher
3 months ago

Personally, I don’t care if others think that I look dated. I’m just not a trendy person. I like what I like, and I’m not looking for anyone’s approval.

I’ve seen some pretty cheap looking bags from luxury designers. Some have even felt cheap. Quality doesn’t have to be expensive.

Caroline
Caroline
3 months ago

I don’t give 2 hoots what anyone thinks about my bag. If they want to critique and/or criticize me then please buy me a bag; otherwise, they can troll someone else.

On the other hand, because of the expensive, low quality of Chanel bags I’m looking at vintage. I purchased and received today a 20 year old vintage bag, even hubby was impressed with the quality and sustainability.

Caroline Caroline
Caroline Caroline
3 months ago
Reply to  Caroline

Hello Namesake! You have just given me food for thought. I cannot agree more. Everytime I’ve held a brand new Chanel bag in hand and about to pay for it, cannot justify paying all that money for something that looks so low quality and always end up leaving and walking away. So maybe I shall go the vintage route too.

Gela
Gela
3 months ago

^^^This! 100 percent!!!

Natalie
Natalie
3 months ago

I defer to the Supreme Court, but in a different context. “In 1964, Justice Potter Stewart tried to explain “hard-core” pornography, or what is obscene, by saying, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced… [b]ut I know it when I see it …”

Sometimes, words can’t adequately describe what I want to express and this quote is usually my fallback.

CShell
CShell
3 months ago

It’s unfortunate when people have beautiful, expensive handbags and they don’t keep them clean. There is a popular YouTuber I watch that has good handbag videos. She is always pulling trash out of them like candy wrappers. You can visibly see the lint and abuse when she shows the inside of her handbags. She has a good size collection, too. I’m more about keeping your collection small enough to maintain. It looks so much more elegant to have a cared for bag and well used handbag than a dirty, trendy one. I try to be like Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy. She used to have one daily handbag for at least a year. If you look at her pictures she did not sway with the trends.

Eryn Lasgalen
Eryn Lasgalen
3 months ago

I don’t like saffiano. My first premium designer bag was a Prada Galleria (purchased online) and I found that the waxy finish looked/felt cheap to me. I associate luxury with rich, soft leathers that make you want to touch and smell them.

Katherine16
Katherine16
3 months ago
Reply to  Eryn Lasgalen

I agree. the saffiano looks cheap because all the low level brands use a material that looks just like it and that’s where my mind goes automatically

Kimberly
Kimberly
3 months ago
Reply to  Eryn Lasgalen

One of the first bags I bought myself was a Michael Kors made of saffiano. When I was in high school I always wanted the Prada Galleria, but after I tried one on in person I just thought “I could get something from Michael Kors for a fraction of the price.”

I thought the leather was great for a throw around bag, especially for school and college age where I didn’t have a choice and had to place my bag on the ground during class. I wouldn’t get any Saffiano bag today though.

miChiaroscuro
miChiaroscuro
3 months ago
Reply to  Eryn Lasgalen

+1 about Saffiano. It just feels like cheap faux leather to me, regardless of the price.

scribbli
scribbli
3 months ago
Reply to  Eryn Lasgalen

I love Epsom and Saffiano! I think while I do love the soft leathers, the problem for me personally is that they are not practical for everyday use, because they get dinged up so quickly! The advantage of having the leathers stamped is durability! But yes if you are in a position to baby your handbags it is nice to have the luxe feel of unstamped leathers!

psny15
psny15
3 months ago
Reply to  Eryn Lasgalen

Yes Prada saffiano doesn’t seem Lux and Hermes quality is questionable in my opinion

Last edited 3 months ago by psny15
Chloe
Chloe
3 months ago
Reply to  Eryn Lasgalen

I agree! I don’t even really like the Hermes equivalent, epsom. It feels plasticky, not luxe.

Aspen
Aspen
3 months ago

No. It gets worse with age and they’re not able to be repaired because it’s not a natural grain. It’s stamped.

Celesta
Celesta
3 months ago

I think cloth straps make any bag look cheap!

Caroline
Caroline
3 months ago
Reply to  Celesta

I totally agree! A leather Prada bag I’m interested in purchasing is perfect except for the damn cloth shoulder strap. The other problem is they “pill” which quickly diminishes the look of the leather, too.

Lynndilou
Lynndilou
3 months ago

I’m hoping – for the sake of the earth and for the animals – that there will be advances in luxury handbags that do not involve using animal products. Then we won’t need statements like “faux leather is something that’s almost always advisable to avoid”. I recently bought a nicely designed and versatile cork handbag from “Laflore Paris” and I seriously love the look of it. Despite basically carrying only this one handbag since November (!!), it still looks like new (except for a problem with a strap but I think I can get a replacement). Plus I feel better about carrying something that wasn’t an animal at one point. It’s customer demand that will drive the luxury brands to make these things though. I’m open to other suggestions of such handbags if people know of them! Maybe a topic for another article here?

Joy
Joy
3 months ago
Reply to  Lynndilou

Agree! If you’re looking for high-quality vegan leather, consider Von Holzhausen. Their leather is super oft and durable. What’s more, the manufacturing process is carbon neutral whan definitely can’t be said about leather handbags.

I wish vegan leather wasn’t associated with plastic. It’s way more sustainable to produce. Did you know that leaving animal hides to rot instead of making them into leather would result in emitting less CO2?

JPMonte
JPMonte
3 months ago
Reply to  Lynndilou

I have several Stella McCartney bags. Vegan and beautiful!

Sarah
Sarah
3 months ago

What a weird article/post, in particular the final question.

I want my bags show good quality (in materials and craftmanship) and good taste. I want my bags to have a functional, interesting and stylish design that I find beautiful.

I do not give a hoot as to whether they LOOK expensive.
(Personally, I hate carrying a bag that showcases I have spent enough money on it to feed a family.)

cjj
cjj
3 months ago

Poor structure; ripped seams; uneven lines; cheap fabric used on the inside; a LOT of bling (unless it’s an evening bag) and/or the combo of multiple fabrics and colors and zippers and clasps and competing logos and…..just make up your mind what you want the bag to look like instead of throwing EVERYING into and onto the bag. I don’t like the mixing of metals either (not my thing) and I don’t care for plastic anything on a bag that costs thousands (cheap cheap cheap).

Susu
Susu
3 months ago

Any bag that is carried by an influencer is a cheap bag and it costs nothing to the company selling it.

Most Discussed This Week

More Marmonts