We’ve been writing a lot about sales recently (they only come around twice a year, after all), but buying something that’s been marked down isn’t the only way to get a good value. If you shop carefully and know what to look for, you can find lots of bags at full price that look like they cost far more than they do. As we do from time to time, we took to the Internet to find over a dozen of the best bets out there right now, and along with them, we’ve included some tips on getting the most bag for your buck.
Annabel Ingall Georgia Bucket Bag
$390 via Shopbop
For reasons I can’t quite articulate, tan leather always looks richer than other colors. (I don’t even particularly like tan leather, and even I can’t deny it.) If you’re looking for a way to maximize your value, neutrals in general and tan in particular are your best bets.
ASOS Everly Premium Bag
$154 via ASOS
Inexpensive bags tend to have a lot of extra stuff piled on top of them–zippers, pockets, fringe, extra hardware, hang tags–in order to appeal to specific audiences. For a bag that looks more expensive, look for the opposite: clean lines and spare detailing.
Auxiliary Vaderlyn Tote Bag
$135 via Aritzia
A simple leather bag with limited hardware and branding will always have a good payoff, if you can find one at the right price.
Botkier Sterling Mini Tote
$298 via Anthropologie
Inexpensive metallics often look really cheap, so if you can find one that’s well-executed, it often feels more expensive than the actual price tag.
Building Block Backpack
$550 via Shopbop
Sometimes, designs have a certain feeling of confidence to them; you can tell that they were created by people who were paying attention to details and cared about making something beautiful. Those bags always feel expensive.
Cambridge Satchel Small Traveller Bag
$280 via Shopbop
Classic details give a bag a feeling of timelessness in a category where trendiness is often associated with low price tags and throwaway fast fashion.
Chloé Marcie Small Crossbody Bag
$618 via MATCHESFASHION.COM
Finding the value-priced member of a highly recognizable line is a great way to get a look more expensive than what you actually paid; if you asked me, even I’d guess this Marcie cost around a grand, and you don’t even have to wait for a sale.
Coach Classic Ramblers Legacy Flap Bag
$181 (down from $258) via Coach
When you can get a true classic that’s on sale? Best of both value-seeking worlds.
Diane von Furstenberg Voyage On The Go Tote
$370 via Net-a-Porter
The best advice I can give anyone hoping to get the most aesthetic value out of her bag: remove logo hang-tags, put them in the purse’s dustbag, store in closet. Anonymizing a bag is often the best way to make something from a popular contemporary designer look more expensive.
Gap Leather Drawstring Bucket bag
$100 via Gap
Don’t limit your shopping to department stores; sometimes specialty shops and brands have great finds at even better price tags.
Ivanka Trump Waikiki Canvas Shopper Tote
$195 via Bloomingdale’s
Preppy pieces tend to look expensive because the aesthetic is inspired by people who have a lot of money. (Again, this is a piece that would look much more expensive without the hang tag.)
Jasper & Jeera Cyndel Tote
$198 via Anthropologie
Inexpensive bags tend to be made out of pebbled leather because it’s more forgiving than other textures. If you can find a soft, smooth leather bag at a good price, you’ll come out ahead.
MICHAEL Michael Kors Haley Medium Satchel
$398 via Saks
This is, once again, a classic style that would look more sophisticated with the extras removed; get rid of the clochette and shoulder strap and you’ve got yourself a good deal.
Milly Logan Snake-Embossed Bag
$425 via Bloomingdale’s
Like metallics, embossed exotics often feel cheap; most designers don’t make it out of the Uncanny Valley. When one does, the results feel very luxurious.
Tory Burch runway East-West Tote
$695 via Shopbop
Aesthetic ambition doesn’t always work out for contemporary designers, but when it does, as with this tote, you get a finished product that feels too sophisticated for the contemporary price point.
Vince Messenger Bag
$445 via Shopbop
This bag follows the rules about clean lines and smooth leather very well.
Zara Office City Bag
$70 via Zara
When in doubt, look to Zara. The company has built an empire out of fooling people into thinking their customers spent way more on their clothes than they did.