We get a lot of reader email asking for advice and recommendations, but the one questions we’ve received most consistently over the years are queries about what a young woman should choose for her first designer bag. Those questions are very near and dear to our hearts – Megs and I can both recount the acquisition of our first bags in vivid detail – and today, we’re here to provide answers both general and specific.

On the whole, most successful first-bag purchases are some combination of classic and recognizable. Discretion may be the better part of valor, but for almost anyone, the rush of that first fancy purchase is knowing that everyone else knows you have something fancy, at least in part. Don’t worry about being inventive or finding the Next Big Thing; just get something you love and that you’ll be proud to carry until you find your next big bag crush. Below, some of our favorites.


Louis Vuitton Damier Neverfull MM Tote
$1,050 via Louis Vuitton

The Neverfull is a first-bag favorite, and we’d recommend the slightly more subtle Damier print over flashy monogramming.

Louis Vuitton Damier Neverfull MM Tote

Coach Bleecker Mini Preston Satchel
$258 via Coach

Coach bags have been American girls’ entry point to luxury leather goods for several generations, and both Megs and I can call a Coach bag our first.

Coach Bleecker Mini Preston Satchel

Tory Burch Mini Robinson Tote
$475 via Bloomingdale’s

This Tory tote is both recognizable and functional, and its slightly shrunken size is perfect for younger women.

Tory Burch Mini Robinson Tote

Kate Spade Carroll Park Penelope Satchel
$448 via Bloomingdale’s

Kate Spade was among the only acceptable first designer bag options when I was in high school, and its fun, feminine purses ensure that it’ll continue to be a solid choice for years to come.

Kate Spade Carroll Park Penelope Satchel

MICHAEL Michael Kors Large Sutton Satchel
$368 via Bloomingdale’s

MICHAEL Michael Kors ticks all the important boxes – the bags are accessible, classic and easily recognizable to other fashion fans.

MICHAEL Michael Kors Large Sutton Satchel

Longchamp Le Pliage Cuir Bag
$555 via Bloomingdale’s

A lot of handbag neophytes are tempted by Longchamp’s signature nylon bags, but this leather version of the style makes for a more long-lasting choice.

Longchamp Le Pliage Cuir Bag

Alexander Wang Rockie Bag
$795 via ShopBop

Alexander Wang Rockie Bag

Loeffler Randall Rider Bag
$495 via ShopBop

A lot of popular first-bag picks err on the preppy side, but if your personal style is a little less traditional, go with one of Wang’s classics.

Loeffler Randall Rider Bag

3.1 Phillip Lim 31 Hour Bag
$750 via ShopBop

Like Wang, 3.1 Phillip Lim makes great first bags for young women with modern, urban taste.

3.1 Phillip Lim 31 Hour Bag

Marc by Marc Jacobs Know When to Fold ‘Em Jina Satchel
$528 via Nordstrom

This bag, with its minimal branding and neutral color, makes a great choice if you need to take your very first bag conquest to work.

Marc by Marc Jacobs Know When to Fold 'Em Jina Satchel

Rebecca Minkoff MAB Mini Satchel
$395 via Nordstrom

Rebecca Minkoff designs cool, recognizable bags at accessible price points; in short, the perfect entrance to the designer market.

Rebecca Minkoff MAB Mini Satchel
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kindled
kindled
8 years ago

Excluding a vintage store coach bag, my firsts were a bright turquoise Kate Spade little minka and a wine colored Marc by Marc Jacobs Petal to the Metal Natasha (got them at basically the same time).

Sandra
Sandra
8 years ago

Oh yes, remembering back. You can only afford the bags that you find in the juniors departments…and then you can afford Juicy Couture, moving on to Coach,…my first Marc Jacobs (because that is one of the only designers that the local Nordstrom had at the time)….Louis Vuitton speedy was next…Chloe..Gucci…Balenciaga…YSL….Givenchy (several of these)…Chanel (several of these as well)…and perhaps next is Hermes.

shueaddict
shueaddict
8 years ago
Reply to  Sandra

Oh … the progression. Because I live in Europe, Furla was was the first go-to designer, back in the day. I also started with a Marc Jacobs ( quilted Ines, which I still love, bought with my first ever big bonus). I went through a fair bit of Tod’s , Reed Krakoff and A Wang, before moving on to Mulberry, YSL ( pre-Hedi) , Ferragamo and Valentino – but I stopped there. Givenchy has been on my watch list for some time. Chanel is the next level probably.

tbestes
tbestes
8 years ago

In high school, Liz Claiborne and Esprit. In college Dooney and Coach. And in my 20 years in the work force since, I’ve gone off the deep end and tried just about all of them.

weaslgrl
weaslgrl
8 years ago

HIgh school was Stone Mountain & Coach. In college, I got extremely lucky: my Italian cousin gifted me my first Fendi, an Hermes scarf and some Gucci jewelry. I blame her for being the gateway-drug provider that led to my lifelong addiction. How do you say “enabler” in Italian? 🙂

Snowy
Snowy
8 years ago
Reply to  weaslgrl

While your comment is hysterically funny; boy are you LUCKY to have your Italian cousin! Does she need another cousin? I’d reciprocate! Cheers! Snowy

jbf
jbf
8 years ago

The Michael Kors Large Sutton is currently 20% off at Nordstrom… in six different colors!

Edia
Edia
8 years ago

how is michael kors even considered a designer? hes the worst. stealing from left right above and beyond. i wish this brand would just vanish tbh

lily
lily
6 years ago
Reply to  Edia

Strongly agree, so do Tory Burch and Kate Spade… three brands I hate the most

Rebecca Chan
8 years ago
Reply to  Edia

Michael Kors is designer, MK and Michael are more mid-tier/contempo.

movo09
movo09
8 years ago
Reply to  Edia

Agreed re: MK – the quality is so bad with his stuff. For the same price point, Tory Burch is outstanding. I feel like Rebecca Minkoff is overdone these days, though. I am more of a fan of Philip Lim’s bags – more my style, but sooo heavy which is why I haven’t purchased any of those.

Chantal
Chantal
8 years ago
Reply to  Edia

Quality is not there for MK, I owned one bag and resold it. The piping on the handles ripped within a month and the leather got a hole as well. If we are looking for less pricey items I suggest Zac Posen, Phillip Lim 3.1 Pashli or Rebecca Minkoff! Those are my picks for lower end designer bags. PS for Canadian shoppers NEIMAN MARCUS IS DOING DUTY FREE UNTIL APRIL 30TH WOOHOO!!! 😀

A
A
8 years ago
Reply to  Chantal

What do you mean duty free?

Chantal
Chantal
8 years ago
Reply to  A

Neiman is paying for the duty charge so you don’t have to. All you pay is tax of course. The code is DUTYFREE. I just ordered a Phillip lim Pashli with calf hair off neimans duty free and express delivery.

BJ
BJ
8 years ago
Reply to  Edia

Couldn’t have agreed more! Thank you!

Mia
Mia
8 years ago
Reply to  BJ

Good to know thanks!

Mya
Mya
8 years ago
Reply to  Edia

Loool, you’re a meanie but I kind of agree. I have amassed a reasonable collection of high end designer bags but I am yet to own a Michael Kors. Honestly, I don’t really see it happening.

Leslie
Leslie
8 years ago
Reply to  Edia

Agreed

ami
ami
8 years ago

My first was a Gucci Jackie O bag. I’m glad I chose a classic style as 10 years later it’s still being being used and updated by gucci.

ElainePG
ElainePG
8 years ago

The MBMJ Jina Satchel is an excellent recommendation, especially in that lovely neutral. For a young woman on a budget, this bag has a certain amount of gravitas that is appropriate in the workplace, yet plenty of presence and style to keep it from getting boring. Even though it is a light color, I think it could work year ’round… again, an important consideration for a young woman on a budget. In winter, I could see it with a black, navy, brown, deep green, or burgundy coat, with a tan plaid scarf to bring out the color of the bag… simply smashing!

ellavanw
ellavanw
8 years ago

Oh, a trip down memory lane . . . in order: Coach, Furla, Longchamp, Marc by Marc Jacobs, LV, Balenciaga, Givenchy, Chanel, Hermes. Never going back, I hope.

Claire Mier
8 years ago

nice list of purses.. I fell in love with my Stella McCartney falabella hard.

free
free
8 years ago
Reply to  Claire Mier

She should’ve made the list …

GG Pastel