The Handbag Experiment

The Struggle is Real

Like any red-blooded American woman who has to carry stuff, I’ve been on the search for the mythical unicorn of a perfect handbag for as long as I can remember.  It’s a near-impossible endeavor as no bag can ever be expected to meet all the criteria…

…or can it?

Here are some of my common bag complaints:

  • Structure fail. A bag that starts out well structured often becomes floppy and flaccid (that’s right, flaccid) after just a couple months of use.
  • Stuff always gets lost in the bag! The bag is either a cavernous Mary Poppins bag so large that I frequently find myself elbow deep searching for lip gloss, or is small and fiddly with too many pockets causing me to search through every one of them wondering where my damn lip gloss got to.
  • Creeping color. Many of my brightly colored bags would rub color onto my lighter clothing. I stained many a white shirt on the shoulder and near my hip while toting my funkier colored handbags.
  • Did that bag get hit by a train? Often, my bags look horribly abused after two months of use. I swear, I never put them on the train track…I just USE my bags. You know…I put stuff in them and carry them around…

So I began to wonder if the problem was the price range. Most bags I carried were between $100 and $250, usually sticking to brands like Fossil, Lucky Brand, and Patricia Nash.

Hmm…seems like an opportunity for an experiment! Doubtless, y’all have noticed that I like to conduct consumerist experiments, using myself as a guinea pig. Apparently I still harbor a not-so-secret desire to be a cultural anthropologist. (If you’re catching up, check out my Shopping Small and Shopping Abstinence.)

The Experiment

The Question

If I spend more money on a bag, will it last longer and serve its purpose better than the lower-priced bags I’ve been carrying?

The Parameters

I wanted a bag I could wear every day that held all my necessities (which really isn’t that much). It had to be the right size and well-structured. I also prefer cross-body bags with a comfortable strap because I walk all over the streets of Seattle. Simple, right?

The pricing parameter kind of selected itself. Initially, I gave myself a $2k limit (after tax), but as I was shopping for bags of various brands, the bags I stylistically gravitated towards were either significantly more expensive or significantly less expensive, so obviously, I went for the bags in the $400-$600 range instead of bags in the $4,000 range.  😛

The Selection

Absolutely, the most thrilling part of this whole scheme was bag selection. Having never shopped around for fancy bags, I enlisted the help of my friend, Pam, who always carries incredibly beautiful bags.  (You can read about some of our previous shopping adventures: Retail Project.) We spent several weeks casually researching bags on-line and sending links to each other before we finally narrowed it down to a few contenders in three brands: Coach, Kate Spade, and Prada (they were having a rare sale at Nordstrom).

On the day we went out to look at all these bags in person, the appealing Prada bag ruled itself out because it was not waterproof, (Seriously, why was it even allowed to cross Washington state lines?) which meant that we spent about an hour debating between Coach and Kate.

After much deliberation and a fantastic day of shopping with Pam, I finally settled on the Kate Spade Cameron Street Teegan bag.

Check out this beauty!

I carried this beautiful bag every single day for three months, and the results were…mixed. I have much to share with you, but that’s a story for next time.

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