One of my favorite pastimes, while sipping on the morning coffee, or procrastinating between college assignments, is binging on PurseBlog’s Closet Confessionals.

Okay, maybe also fantasizing about the day I’d have my own CC-worthy collection, but that’s beside the point.

Swooning over gorgeous purses, envying the deals confessors have snagged and reading about the experiences of handbag-lovers first-hand all provide me with a sense of direction for my (relatively recently acquired) passion towards handbags. It is also a great way to learn a few tips and tricks about building a personal handbag collection.

And that really got me thinking. Most confessors, PurseBloggers, and tPFers, seem to follow a certain pattern when it comes to building a collection. Usually starting off with an affordable luxury piece – whether a Coach received a present from their parents or a Kate Spade work tote purchased with their first paychecks – most their way up the luxury ladder.

From my personal experience, however, what I seem to feel is that once I’ve had the experience of buying a (moderately) high-end purse, the thought of purchasing a contemporary brand doesn’t quite generate the anticipation in my mind that buying a luxury purse does. It would be relevant here to mention that I was fortunate enough to have a Proenza Schouler PS1 as my first grown-up bag, quickly followed by a metallic Burberry Rucksack, albeit both thrifted at way-less-than-retail prices. But having started off my collection (though it’s a stretch to call it that) from the decidedly mid-tier luxury brands means that most newer purchases that I dream of are getting concurrently more expensive. This also means that, unless I stumble upon another remarkably unbelievable deal on the resale market, it would probably take considerably longer to save up enough to acquire them (which probably is for the best).

Now, I understand this is a rather roundabout way to put this, but what I’m getting at is that it’s unlikely I’d be able to buy any of the other purses on my wishlist anytime soon, so the ones I have are likely to receive a lot of use. Honestly, this would be fine if it weren’t for COVID, and I wasn’t stuck at home, not really being able to use my beloved bags. In fact, I’ve barely taken the PS1 out three times to date, while the Rucksack remains unused.

And that brings us to the real question of the day – are we getting enough use out of our handbags? Well, if you have survived thus far into my slightly whiny monologue, you’re probably aware that even though we’re big purse fans, spending exorbitant sums of money on purses is still, by most standards, ridiculous. Is that, however, stopping us from purchasing/thinking about purchasing/actively scrolling through retailers to find what could be our next purse? Not really. So how do we, as devout handbag-aficionados, justify continuing to drop a pretty penny on handbags?

Investment Value

A hot topic for fashion-minded finance people, buying a handbag and using them to your heart’s content, then selling them off for an equivalent (or sometimes greater) amount, is undoubtedly an attractive concept. But most seasoned resellers know that it’s rarely the case in real life. Unless what you have to offer is a Birkin, or a Kelly, or an especially limited-edition Chanel that’s sparingly used and exceedingly babied, you might as well dismiss any notion of profiting on the resale market.

But it’s also true that nothing gives us purse-lovers as much joy as the feeling of purchasing a purse, regardless of whether it is new or pre-loved, luxury or contemporary, or whether the bag in question happens to be our first or our twenty-first purchase. So, as many confessors have stated before, handbags are an investment in our happiness which works both ways – whether we get to use it every day or simply stare at it sitting in our closet and feel content.

Wearable Works of Art

Another popular theory is that the purses we buy from storied fashion houses are so much more than just handbags. They are bearers of the house’s heritage, they signal craftsmanship and quality, maybe bear the brand’s insignia, proclaiming your status as a part of an “elite” club, feature intricate embroidery, or simply are much more beautiful than your everyday handbags, and donning them instills in you a sense of confidence or happiness. Yes, perhaps not all brands display the same attention to detail or maintain the same quality; but with the ones who do, you can truly feel the difference.

Cost-Per-Wear

However, possibly the biggest argument for buying an expensive purse is the implied promise that it will last you for a long time. Now, it’s true that some bags need to be used carefully and sparingly (read: every Chanel lambskin ever), or isn’t appropriate for all occasions (like the sequined Fendi Baguette, which I love but would probably just stare at in awe), but we’ve acknowledged that those would squarely fall under the “investment in happiness” category.

On the other hand, with an Hermès Birkin, Chanel Caviar, Louis Vuitton Speedy, or a Sac de Jour, you’re likely to get your money’s worth by their sheer workhorse-like characteristic – they are versatile enough to rise up to every occasion! And whenever people Google “is so-and-so purse worth it,” more often than not, this is what they are looking for – something that would last them for a long time, thereby minimizing their cost-per-wear while still looking chic. In fact, if they are well taken care of, they might even be passed on to the next generation!

I know this errs on the rather controversial side – everybody has their own reasons for buying purses, and humans aren’t the absolutely rational individuals that logic presumes them to be. And that’s fine – some of our purses might receive more than their fair share of use, while others may just sit idle and yet induce butterflies in our stomachs. But, more as a reminder to myself than anything else, purses are, after all, meant to be used (in fact, even Vegas Dave, the proud owner of the $500,000 Himalaya Birkin, totes his laptop in his precious purse!)

And while I’d love a Carrie Bradshaw/Andy Sachs-esque job where I get to sling a new purse every day and maybe even multiple times a day (if you’re in that category or believe that you would be able to achieve optimum use from each of your purses, by all means, go for it!), I believe that I have not yet had the chance to use either of my two dear bags to my satisfaction. So, I think, for now, I’ll just try getting my babies out more often, maybe not because I need them function-wise, but simply because, as a handbag-lover, using them is what gives me the most joy, and God knows we need more of that right now.

So, happy handbagging!

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CShell
CShell
7 months ago

Well written and fun. Not the usual vapid musings found on purse blog. More of this please.

seattleminimalist
seattleminimalist
7 months ago

I enjoy reading your articles. They are always well thought out and showcases the utilitarian use of bags as well as their beauty.

Anna
Anna
7 months ago

My last two premium handbag purchases are YSL medium Niki – croc-embossed black and canvas with tan trim, both bought at fullprice. A year and a half and 6-8 months old respectively. The cost per wear is already well under $10 on the first and under $20 on the second (I live in Russia, so the second bag is much more ‘seasonal’), and I wouldnt buy a bag any other way. I was the same way with my previous bag purchases, so I never feel bag about them (I never buy for resale, and ‘collecting’ isnt for my income bracket). Now shoes are another story…

Eryn Lasgalen
Eryn Lasgalen
7 months ago

Thanks for another thoughtful and fun article, Sajid. I appreciate the research that goes into your work, as well as your personal anecdotes. Keep writing!

scbarragan
scbarragan
7 months ago

Thanks for selecting a very key points in this discussion. I have a large collection but I did not build up in a few years rather in decades. I select the pieces for my collection based on an integrated criteria. Therefore most of the elements or pieces have been in my mind or my list for long time and soon or later I have the chance to get one of them. I do not buy seasonal items unless they also follow one of the key values, to be the first or the best model that solved some specific problem. I do not buy two models of the same. I try to buy my bags in different colors to cover my outfits and in different sizes. If I am going to buy a model from my list, I will only buy if it would cover the size and colors that is missing. It could look ridiculous but by following this strategy I can rotate all if them regurlarly as I can take middle size in red or a big working bag in brown as I need this or that option for the day. I use a different one everyday and even two per day if I use working bag and later something smaller for buying something close to home in the evenig. I have made several calculations and they became cheaper and cheaper year by year. Obvious the older ones have been longer in service and are cheaper per use now but at their end of life, I predict a good use value for most of them. I have now not many model of interest left but I am open to get surprised with if a contemporary ir indie handbag brand could offer something unique from time to time.

Yazi
Yazi
7 months ago

I buy bags because they make me happy. Perhaps not very logical or financially savvy. But that’s what it boils down to and I suspect many people would agree.

Ps: not just luxury bags but anybag that is interesting.

Janaki Subramanyam
Janaki Subramanyam
7 months ago

Great, fun article which appeals to all of us handbag lovers.

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