Thursday, May 20, 2010

What's Your Handbag Strategy?


So, it's clear from reading A Guide to Elegance that I will never be elegant by this book's standards. And hey, I'm cool with that. "Elegant" isn't really the first word I'd want people to use to describe me anyway. (So there!) But I'll be the first to admit that I wouldn't mind polishing up my act a bit. And the area where I could use the most immediate help is handbags.


I've never really been into handbags like some women are. I realize that a good bag is something you need to invest a little bit of cash in, and I always get distracted by shoes and fabric and books and such when it comes to my discretionary money. My current bag of choice is a Barnes & Noble tote bag. On one hand, it's practical. I carry a lot of stuff with me to work everyday: wallet, manuscripts, Kindle, phone, umbrella, my lunch, and possibly an extra set of shoes. On the other hand, I feel like a bit of a shlump. I've also had synthetic bags (of the Target variety) that have literally fallen to pieces, with bits of pleather chipping off everywhere. Not pretty.

According to Ms. Dariaux, the author of A Guide to Elegance, "an unfailing way to downgrade a lovely outfit is to carry a shabby or cheap [handbag]." This makes a certain amount of sense to me. I hate the thought of spending so much time making my clothing by hand only to downgrade the effect with my stupid tote bag.

So every now and again I'll get to looking at buying a good handbag. But I become so obsessed by finding THE bag that I soon get frustrated and give up. After all, I'm not going to spend a lot of money on a bag I merely like. This better be the bag to end all bags, you know? Unfortunately for me, my bag to end all bags costs $1,840. (It's the Marni number at the top of this post.) HA.

Or this beautiful Marc Jacobs, which is a relative steal at $1,295.

Not. Gonna. Happen.

So I'm back to square one. And I seem to recall that I have this machine that makes stitches in fabric; I may have mentioned it here once or twice. I even have a Teflon foot to sew leather! There's a shop here in New York that sells buttery soft leather skins in every color. Should I buy a couple and make my own simple bag? Have any of you ever done this?

Or should I just suck it up and buy a mid-range bag that I don't necessarily want to marry and have babies with but is good quality?

What's your bag strategy?

95 comments:

  1. I make my own. Now, mine are fabric and I go for long straps so I can carry it hands free. Kwik Sew has a great handbag pattern that I've made multiple times.

    ReplyDelete
  2. what a fantastic clasp on that marni bag, i can't think of another large bag like that with a clasp of that style...
    i'm guilty of chucking a messenger over my shoulder but the intention is to make, possibly an old doctors styley, or definitely an inbetween size with a nice chunky clasp!

    ReplyDelete
  3. not exactly in the same range, but i wouldn't attempt to make my own shoes either... for me a bag is a staple i will use every day, so it seems reasonable that it would cost more than a dress. but since it has to work everyday, i don't go for anything trendy. my bag is anonymous. maybe a background color. and then i might get a cheapie for the rare night out. i bet you could get a nice leather satchel for work that would last years and always look classy

    ReplyDelete
  4. I say make your own. You're such a talented sewer that you could easily successfully make one which you'll love and cherish. I really think you should try it :)
    Lottie x

    ReplyDelete
  5. Following on from the previous commenter, The Cambridge Satchel Company make sturdy satchels in a range of cute colours, and appear to ship to the States. The bag I use most often is a small carpet bag that was an ebay bargain. I do consider a good bag a worthwhile investment, though; I treated myself to a (heavily discounted) Miu Miu bag when I graduated, and have never regretted it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I bought the Namaste Monroe bag - it is meant to be for knitting but it is perfect for everything! It holds A4 docuiments, has pockets, style, simplicity, straps of exactly the right length to tuck under the arm... and comes in fab coliurs1 Mine is eggplant. It is the first proper grown-up everyday bag I have owned and I love it!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I've seen good leather bags made from a Hot Patterns pattern by bloggers Melissa of FehrTrade & Dawn of Two On Two Off. And following their success I've been sorely tempted to have a go myself. I reckon you could knock-off the bag at the top of your post quite easily, it looks like a very simple design, if you could just find a big enough clasp.

    Meg.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm really stunned by the price of these bags. All that money, and you'd end up with something that can't handle a little rough use!

    Bags need to look great, even when they're completely stuffed with books, cookies, brushes ect. Also, I hate switching bags, so I'd like one or two for all my needs.

    Vintage shops seem to lump all the bags together, good and bad, and if you're willing to sort through it all you can find some really great bags. I've found a cognac leather 50's purse with beautiful closures that I carry everywhere. The slight wear and tear just gives the leather character, imo.

    Sewing a fabric bag is great for a big tote. I love my Amy Butler weekender. There are some really beautiful sewn versions of that bag on the web. They're awesome for a minibreak, excercise clothes or just really big shopping trips :).

    ReplyDelete
  9. I have to admit that I buy cheap bags. I have two leather bags, and a lot of bags made of the eco-leather. However, I don't think I downgrade my style with this. I love shoes, and have them in all colors and shapes (high heals, flat, pointy, etc...) but I usually match carefully the shoes with my bag. And since I need a bag with a lot of space (I attend Spanish classes, and carry books and notebooks with me all the time), I tend to buy relatively huge bags. But, I believe I still look elegant (and who dares to say I'm wrong?! :D).

    ReplyDelete
  10. When you mentioned sewing with leather, my first thought was bags made by the blogger (don't know her name, sorry) at between the lines which are linen/leather bags stylish and tote-like, she even has a tutorial for making one of them. [http://pm-betweenthelines.blogspot.com/search?q=leather+bag]

    I also did a quick search on etsy and there are some cute handmade cream- colored leather bags there for under $100. Also there's always ebay.

    Personally, I've never been particularly interested in sewing bags, so my past two purse have been off etsy - and I always get something roomy enough for a book and my knitting!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Etsy and eBay are great suggestions, but if your machine is capable of sewing leather, I say go for it. At the very least, you'll learn something new from the experience, right?

    ReplyDelete
  12. I love bags but I don't think you have to spend an absolute fortune. In fact, I quite enjoy having a bag for a season, using it to death and moving on. I have two or three beautiful vintage beaded handbags bought from flea markets or ebay which, sadly, never get used. So I now hang them on my bedroom wall as 'art'. It seems such a shame to have them tucked away in drawers.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I like good leather bags. I don't have the money for the really pricey ones, so I stalk places like Bluefly for sales, but even there or other sale or discount places the price of the really high end bag is beyond my means. I buy the best that I can afford; ones that don't have lots of bling or other very trendy designs so that they carry me through a few seasons. Good leather lasts. My dd scored a Ralph Lauren high end bag at a yard sale when she was in high school, The bag just keeps getting better.

    ReplyDelete
  14. About making your own, Hot Patterns has some very nice bag patterns. Why don't you try one of the simpler ones?

    ReplyDelete
  15. My handbag strategy is not to use one. I own a black Coach handbag, one of their very classic styles, which I use on the rare occasion we go out to the symphony or something. Rarely am I wearing something that doesn't have enough pockets for my keys/phone/wallet/epipen and then I might toss everything into a leopard print minitote that was a makeup giveaway and that I picked up out of the "free" box at a yard sale. I never carried a handbag to work; since I always went to the gym first, I carried everything in a gym bag, garment bag, and a backpack. Very stylish ;)

    However, I don't suggest you use me as a style example: I am the world's worst "girl"!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I have three different types of bags:

    1. Work bags - beautiful leather Oroton (an Australian leather goods company) bags - one in red, a large black one and a smaller black one.

    2. Vintage bags for the weekend or vintage-looking bags for the weekend. For example, I recently bought an amazing brown patent one that has gold clasps. I also have an amazing tapestry one with silver handles that I adore. These are never large - I only like to carry wallet, phone, small beauty bag, sunglasses and keys on the weekend.

    3. Evening/clutch purses. These are both vintage and new. I have a few black ones, two silver ones - including a hard metal silver one that is my favourite, and a gold hard metal one.

    I don't try and cover all my bases in one bag - I know I'll just fail miserably!

    ReplyDelete
  17. What a coincidence, I am in the middle of making my own handbag right now! My dad gave me an old leather jacket of his that had a few holes in it and I originally set out to make a me-sized jacket, but it was turning out badly so I started making a handbag.

    Bags are a lot of fun to make. They're time consuming but at the same time much easier than clothing in a lot of ways. I typically don't use a pattern and instead base the shape off of bags I already own. I'm basing this one off of my beloved Tokidoki handbag I already carry every day, but making it a bit larger. I'm lining it in light blue cotton sateen that was on sale at Joann's. I just finished putting the lining together (with six various sized pockets--you gotta have lots of pockets!) last night.

    The fun part is decorating the outside. I have some pyramid studs to decorate the leather with as well as some awesome blue zebra-print grosgrain ribbon.

    The only trouble I'm running into is finding some freaking D-rings for the strap. The craft stores only have crappy thin ones, and the hardware stores only have gross-looking zinc-plated ones, if they have them at all. I've been to five different stores so far and running out of ideas, but I WILL find them, eventually!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm in both camps. I have a few I've bought (low end but quirky!) and a few I've made. My recent purchase was a leather briefcase to refashion into a bag. I wanted all the pockets and dividers and this will be perfect when it's done. My fave bag I've made can be seen on my blog at http://kellis-smidgens-of-piffle.blogspot.com/2010/03/my-other-top-three-purse.html

    I say go for making your own bag, it's just as rewarding when someone compliments a bag you have made as when they comment on an article of clothing!

    ~Kelli @ Smidgens.

    ReplyDelete
  19. A good bag is better than a good pair of shoes. It will last and last and will look good with just about any outfit. But I understand what you mean about getting the right one if you're spending a small fortune. One thing to be wary of is how you would feel if it were stolen (especially living in a city). I once had a bag pinched from under my seat whilst out to lunch and I was devastated about losing the contents but thankfully the bag wasn't precious.

    I used to have lots and lots of cheap bags but now I have 2 quality bags that I love and use all the time. I wouldn't look back. The one I use most is a Mulberry Anthony which I wear most of the time so it can't be stolen (I live quite near an outlet so it didn't cost anything like the retail price which is outrageous!)

    It's my dream to make my own handbag. I've made lots of totes and bags/cases in the past but nothing from leather. I find it easier than sewing clothes and I say you should try it.

    ReplyDelete
  20. For everyday, I make my own. Draft a quick pattern and just give 'er. My main one right now is a red & white cotton with anchors all over. Has a gathered bottom that fits into a band, two handles, self-covered buttons where the handles meet and a keyring on one side. Another of mine is lined in red gingham, blue and white seersucker on the outside with a flipped over "cuff" at the top and wooden buttons at the handles.
    They are good sized "totes" but look a bit fancier.
    I also have a collection of vintage bags for actual occasions.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Make one! Why not? And I agree with other commenters that it wouldn't be hard to knock off the Marni bag. I made a leather purse out of an old leather jacket in my sewing course and it was pretty easy.

    Definitely do a muslin, so you're familiar with construction details - you can't rip out a seam in leather!

    I'd also pick something with not too much topstitching. I did a LOT of topstitching on mine, with an industrial walking foot machine no less, and was less than completely pleased with the result.

    Go for it!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I love a great leather bag, preferably in a hobo style. My TJ Maxx is one of the best ones I've ever been in with it's great selection of high-end designer merchandise. I always find great Italian leather bags in there. I've never even considered making my own. There's no way I could replicate the quality that I look for in a bag. Since I make just about all of my clothes, handbags and shoes are my little splurge.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Before even getting to the end of the post I was thinking that you could definitely make something very similar to the Marni bag. So I say go for it. I very good blog/web-store for handbag makers is Uhandbag. I'd start there.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Leather is great to work with. I think the hardest part is finding good, quality hardware for purses.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Make it! I bought a very cheap, convincing knock off handbag in a very ugly color and deconstructed it and used as a pattern to make several cute bags with lots of variations. I say with your abilities, go for it!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Just a couple of tips: use a leather needle for sewing leather and check out using a walking foot. I use paper clips to hold pieces together for sewing (can't use pins). Go to a leather supply place for d-rings and other hardware. And I second the TJ Maxx suggestion: they have some great bags for a fraction of the original price. (also Marshalls and Ross, if they are in your area)

    ReplyDelete
  27. Shoes used to be my default leather-goods purchase too, but over the years I've really come round to the difference a decent handbag makes to any look. But I think Ms Dariaux is leading you astray a bit - there are a lot of bags between cheap-looking and Marni. There's no way I could afford designer handbags, but I generally carry good-quality real-leather handbags that cost between £50 and £150 (although since I always buy them on sale, I never pay that much for them). You get something that looks far from cheap, but which is not so expensive that you're scared to carry it or that you can only afford one (I have about 8, acquired gradually over about as many years). There are lots of lovely brands that do beautiful bags in this price category: try http://www.ri2kshop.com/ or http://www.radley.co.uk/ or http://hidesign.com/ Ted Baker also often have nice bags.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Stalk craigslist. I got a $400 Coach bag on craigslist for $50. You live in New York, something fabulous will turn up if you keep looking.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I love making bags- It's such a welcome change to make something that doesn't have to FIT anyone. Just follow the pattern et voila! You can customize endlessly with fabric choices and trims. There are some great patterns out there, you can coordinate bags to outfits, make a small clutch or a giant tote to suit what you need for different occasions. Check out http://www.u-handbag.com/ for some great clasps, etc. Her blog has tons of great info too.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I love making leather bags. I've made a Hot Patterns bag in hot pink, orange and dark green leathers. I need to work out ways to make it more sturdy but they cane out pretty awesome. So much more affordable. The only tricky part is not being able to rip out stitches.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I love handbags, but I tend to use two: one for work, which should fit A4 and lots of stuff, and one which should fit a book and phone and make-up stuff for the weekend.

    The work one I use right now I actually got after a recommendation from Erin McKean: http://www.dressaday.com/2007/10/yet-another-post-about-green-handbags.html It's a lovely bag, and it's got a great fun lining as well (it's from Latico Dolce).

    ReplyDelete
  32. Bags are surprisingly easy to construct. If you're unsure about leather, make some cloth ones first. There are tons of great patterns, new and old. Use your remnants and match them to your dresses!

    ReplyDelete
  33. Bags have always been my shoes. though shoes have had their moment too. I have made bags and I have thought of making leather bags recently (starting with thrifted jackets) and if anyone was going to do it I would say you would be and go for it if you are into it. You could even jut know off your barnes and noble tote and add a few personal touches, like inside pockets for your phone and small items. then you would still have something you know your use and are comfortable with but it would look nicer. I also have to second Roobeedoo on the Namaste bags. I recently bought myself one after thinking about it for eons and getting tired of carrying my 10 year old messenger. They are meant for knitting but that just makes them roomy! I have the Zuma and I love it. They aren't real leather but they are really nice fake. I was skeptical before I actually touched one because I HATE fake leather. They are reasonably priced and come in many colors and several styles. You could easily find a knit shop in NYC that carries them so you could scope them out before you buy.
    That Marnie bag is super cute, btw.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Keep in mind that a sturdy leather bag is HEAVY. I have an all-leather Coach messenger bag that I rarely use because I swear it weighs a few pounds *empty*!

    I like firmly structured bags - give me a boxy bag with tight corners over a hobo purse any day! I have 2 small Coach leather purses (not the ones with the logo screaming all over them), a Tumi purse that is the size of a small tote but very organized with numerous pockets, and a computer bag by Briggs and Riley. None were cheap (by my standards - though I've never spent more than $250 on a bag), but all look great and don't drag down an outfit.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I have a small purse with a long strap that I can wear across my body if it suits me.

    I bought it at a discount store for about $25, it's all leather, one of my favorite colors, and works beautifully with my life.

    Yes, your fashionista friends will know if you're using a 1000 dollar bag - but I really don't think anyone else cares. Buy something classic in *leather* and go forward.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I have some beautiful Mulberry handbags (leather) that cost a fortune for when I want something really classy and then I make my own when I want something quirky or more colourful. I found a great designer online whose patterns are a dream to follow: https://www.nicolemdesign.com.au/

    ReplyDelete
  37. Another possibility (third, I suppose) is consignment shops, both b&m and on-line. Everyone has their own feelings about these, I suppose, but it's worth looking. Try this: http://www.coutureusa.com/p-966-coach-beige-grammercy-top-handle-handbag.aspx

    ReplyDelete
  38. I'd also recommend U-handbag. Great blog and store! I made one handbag for me and one for my mum so far, Both made of textile. Haven't had the guts to try leather yet.
    So I buy most bags, esp. leather. I found you can get some great ones with good prices in department stores or at turkish sellers specialised in leather goods.
    I also second that the first one might be pretty simple to make yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Please, please, please make your own bag!!! I love handbags but now that I own three (not at the prices you were highlighting, but definitely in the $100-$200 range) I can't justify buying more. I'd adore learning how to make a gorgeous handbag via you. Go for it!

    ReplyDelete
  40. Ooh I LOVE the Marc Jacobs bag. I'm also in love with most Kate Spade's line...very cute and classic. that being said I've never bought one new...ebay and consignment stores are the best. but I also LOVE handbags. Shoes eh...handbags <3

    ReplyDelete
  41. I never even considered sewing a purse! What a great idea. It is so hard to find good quality, affordable bags that can handle everything you need to put in it. I also carry lunches, books, heels, and various cosmetic and trash items to work everyday. I have a great leather tote style slouchy shoulder bag that I use for everyday. I also have a a cross-body shoulder strap leather wallet that I use for any other location as I don't have to worry about losing it. I'm all for cheap (though good looking) hand bags because it means you can switch it up more often and you don't feel bad when, inevitably, the pleather chunks begin to fall away. Places like H&M have reasonably priced leather bags big enough to be useful and inexpensive enough to not be too attched to.

    ReplyDelete
  42. I LOVE bags, but I don't own many. A good bag usually is a pretty penny... but at least they last much longer than any other piece of clothing you own.

    Vintage and consignment shops are always my first stop as a well worn and loved leather bag is always classic.
    Otherwise the Marc by Marc Jacobs and Rebecca Minkoff lines offer some beautiful designs at mid-range prices.
    Currently I'm loving marc's "Q" and "Ukita" designs.

    ReplyDelete
  43. As a poor college student, I mostly have to rely on Target or trift stores for my purse needs. But- if you're willing to spend more I would highly recommend Coach. Their range of leather bags is priced from around $150-$600 depending on the size. They are made of good quality leather and stand the test of time. My mother carried them when I was a kid and she used to stuff the heck out of her two- and they're still in fabulous (if broken in) condition! And since they hold up so well, sometimes you can find them second hand for a lot cheaper and they'll still have plenty of life in them.

    ReplyDelete
  44. I'm with Erica B, I hit TJ Maxx for nice leather bags. You can often get beautiful, amply sized ones there for less than $200. Talbots also has nice leather bags for a reasonable price--I was surprised at the quality.

    ReplyDelete
  45. I've sewn purses for others in the past but wouldn't do it for myself -- I have too many other projects I want to get to! As for my bag strategy, I may not be the best person to emulate -- I find a bag I love and use it to death, with the feeling that it matches because I said so. I've used everything from a vintage bus tour bag to a vintage crochet bag to my current purse, a green number made out of straps of seatbelt fabric. (I work at home, so I only need a purse for errands and social occasions!)

    ReplyDelete
  46. My favorite bags are the bags I make myself. Then again, bagmaking is my thing. It's the whole reason I started sewing to being with! Sewing your own bag is, in my opinion the BEST solution, because you can make EXACTLY what YOU need/ want. You get to choose the materials, the look- everything. My mother bought me this wonderful Dooney bag- bright green, big, and really awesome- but you know which bag I take EVERYWHERE? The one I made myself for school. I love it. I love love love it. The only thing to keep in mind is you have to think the entire process through before you sew. I have learned that through trial and error, but it is totally worth it. :)

    ReplyDelete
  47. Another perspective: I actually don't buy expensive bags, because I know myself and that I will grow tired of the bag eventually and want something different. So, I buy bags from old navy, target, H&M... and by the time they wear out, I want a new one anyways...

    I bought an expensive bag one time (a Latico) and don't really carry it often because I didn't want anything to happen to it!

    Also, one thing that I do, especially if I'm traveling, is use one of my brightly-printed environsax reusable grocery bags as a bag. I actually get compliments on them, and they are washable and really durable.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Gertie, Could you please let us know which store in New York carries the buttery leather? I'd love to order some to make my own handbag. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Sew your own! Be warned, though, after people see your bag, everyone will want you to sew one for them, too. I know from experience. :)
    Another tip for working with leather: go through the pattern before cutting into the leather and look for steps that don't work well. For example, steps that ask you to turn multiple layers under and top stitch. Something like that is fine for regular fabrics, but will cause a headache with leather.

    ReplyDelete
  50. What's my handbag strategy?

    BUY THEM ALL.

    ; )

    Every bag that I've dropped a couple of hundred on is still in great shape 6 or 7 years later. Not so the $30 cheapies.

    Just never buy a bag that's cream - handbags are made to be slung over chairs, dropped under tables and generally scuffed about.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Hey Gertie,

    So this is my first time commenting, but a long time lurking :) First off this blog & your sewing skills are amazing. I am 100% certain that you would have no problem at all whipping up a fabulous bag, that rivals any designer ones.

    If you'd rather purchase a designer bag check out Gilt group http://www.gilt.com/invite/courtneymccann They have amazing sample sale prices & the sales change daily.

    Also, as a fellow NYC lady, please don't forget about Canal Street! It may be a knock off, but most of them are copied so closely it's very hard to tell unless you get very very close up to examine it. At $10/$20 a bag it's worth it. Just make sure that you check the spelling on any logos haha

    Court

    ReplyDelete
  52. I think that a lot of people have forgotten that there are MIDDLE priced bags. I personally own two black leather bags that were 80Euro and 250Euro (that one was even made in Germany!). They are both classy, timeless bags. Just check a department store!

    ReplyDelete
  53. Do it yourself!!!! I'm sure that your bag to end all bags isn't that difficult to copy!!! (I've seen some tute about a bag like that but I don't remember where...)
    Good work!!!!
    My strategy is quite the same as yours except that I let me offer some nice bags (one for work and another one), in order to postpone the moment I'll have to do it myself... (I cheat...)

    ReplyDelete
  54. I make my own - don't ever skimp on reinforcing - there's nothing worse than a floppy bag. Use fusible interfacing on the back of leather to keep it from stretching and skewing if you're attaching it to fabric. Shameless, shameless plug, here is my etsy handbag shop: http://firiona.etsy.com

    ReplyDelete
  55. Discount shopping, baby! Lots of good suggestions above. Find a nice leather bag at a good price to tide you over while you play around with making your own.

    My "good" bag is a (non-logo) Dooney&Burke I got for 80% off from an outlet store in New England years ago. It's a strange tomato-bisque color that works for me because I live in the tropics.

    My "casual" bags are fabric ones I've made myself, of the Amy Butler type. Her "Sophia" pattern is very chic, and I'd LOVE to see what you might make from it.

    ReplyDelete
  56. It's not the goal to be her, but to draw on her experience. She had a job in times when white married women did not work... So she had her moments of in-elegance. But she offers helpful insight when we come up on a dilema. Take the best part.

    Peace

    ReplyDelete
  57. Personally, I am always on the hunt for a mid-range bag (for me, this falls in the 60-110$ range). For my day-to-day bags I am only leather, all the way, with quality hardware. This sounds like an impossible endeavor, but with a bit of searching you can do it. At my local Ross I often find nice leather bags for 80-90$, and if you look in thrift shops you can find good deals as well. If you want to buy from a nice store, definitely go to Nordstroms, because if anything happens to the bag they will repair it or replace it free of charge (keep the receipt though, otherwise there is a chance they might have a small charge if they can't tell it was from Nordy's originally). For me, I would never sew my own nice purse, because after buying all the material, hardware, sewing accessories, etc, it just wouldn't be cost-efficient, and that isn't even including all the time spent as well. If you want to go for it though, I would be extremely interested in following your progress!

    ReplyDelete
  58. It's a difficult question.
    I have two bags for my nicest outfits. The first is a vintage leather one (vintage is probably the best solution for a beautiful leather bag - for me, at least, who won't sew leather). But it's not big enough to carry my school stuff (books, lunch and such), that's why these days i stick with a fabric bag that I consider being both practical enough and nice enough : it is rounded, black and white ("fat" zigzag stripes) with black handles and a cool little bow and has a cute 60's vibe to it.
    It's good enough for me...
    Still I understand your dilemma... And like your expensive bag picks
    Bye, thanks for writing this blog.
    Xoxo from France

    ReplyDelete
  59. Count me in the "make-your-own" camp. Hotpatterns.com has several very cute hand bag patterns--their Nairobi bag is my go-to purse pattern.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Make 'em! It's kinda fun, and a completely different sewing experience.

    I have made up several L2 bags (Linda Lee Pattern) as well as a more structured Yamaguchi Tote (Pixeladies) and they're great!

    Good gifts too.

    ReplyDelete
  61. I'm really not a bag person. I usually just carry a clutch-wallet with some gloss in it and carry my key like a ring. If I do carry a bag during the day, it's my trusty Timbuk2 bag. But I'm also usually wearing casual clothing. For going out, where I might want to carry a few extra things like a camera and face powder I have a couple of nice leather handbags I got at nordstrom rack for a steal. hobo international is my favorite brand for cuteness and leather at a reasonable price (especially once it's hit the discount stores!)

    you might like http://bagntell.wordpress.com/
    he also did the blog:
    http://wkdesigner.wordpress.com/

    ReplyDelete
  62. Like one of the other posters, I am a 'bag' lady rather than a shoe lady - I love shoes but cannot walk in heels to save my life! In the past year I've invested in a couple of Lulu Guinness bags - a large black patent 'Wanda", and a smaller grey/black striped 'Wanda'. Both are VERY capacious, and have amazing linings (plain bright red in one, black with red lips print in another). Lulu's bags have a wonderful quirky, vintage feel, which I love.

    They were both around £200, and I know I will keep them for LIFE. Now I've spent so much on a bag, I definitely see the benefit of paying more - the quality of the materials is really high and they are sturdily made. I wouldn't spend thousands, though.

    I'd love to see you make a bag - all my past attempts have failed miserably!

    Louise

    ReplyDelete
  63. I'm usually a one handbag girl - I use the same one, every day until something forces me to change it ie. it doesn't match, or I need a larger bag, etc. My current one is a cream quilted-leather vintage purse I bought on etsy. I recently re-lined and re-zippered a leather coat, which was a learning experience sewing with leather that's for sure! My best spot to find good-quality new leather handbags is Winners (a designer-discount chain store). I wouldn't want to make my own, I'd rather spend my sewing time on clothes and shop for shoes and bags. But that's just me!

    ReplyDelete
  64. A good leather bag is a great investment...and for $250-500 you should be able to find something that suits you and that will last an eternity.

    On the "making your own bag" front — at least for fabric bags – I've discovered it's super fun and addictive...and at least for small projects a nice change of pace from sewing clothing. They come together quickly and don't have to fit:-)

    There are lots of great bag patterns out there, but I have say, Lisa Lam at U-Handbag has some of the clearest instructions for beginning bag makers (not to mention great looking hardware and supplies in her shop) and has a number of free and for purchase PDF bag patterns to download.

    http://u-handbag.typepad.com/uhandblog/

    ReplyDelete
  65. oh, you should definitely make your own bag! for the price of one of the designer bags mentioned, you could make a small fleet of perfectly individual amazing bags.
    personally, i couldn't imagine paying that much money for anything, i have a hard time paying more than $10 for anything these days. and if you get a cheaper bag that you don't love, well, what's the point?
    i have two bags that i absolutely love - a creamy yellow thing which cost me $6 at a super-discount store (originally probably $50), it magically expands and could hold a large watermelon if needed, and i adore it. my other bag is the blue pansy print liberty of london for target bag, which also has magical expansion properties. i love them more than any $1000 bag that has ever existed, mostly because i can fit anything imaginable in them and they still look cute.
    Shinzi Katoh is a japanese zakka illustrator, and i have one of his huge totes for carrying larger amounts of things, school supplies and art stuff - also an andy warhol bag for the same purpose. both are fun, a bit different, definitely not elegant but completely 'me'.
    find something that's you, no matter what elegance level - but pretty please make a nice leather bag and walk us through the steps and odd little quirks of sewing with leather?

    ReplyDelete
  66. I know what you mean... I only seem to like expensive handbags, and I cannot bring myself to pay that much. I'm going to try making my own, but then I don't really carry leather bags, so I think that's easier. My biggest complaint is that I don't like the styles that are out right now - huge and covered in hardware. I love that last bag you posted... now why are all the structured bags so pricey?

    ReplyDelete
  67. Have you checked out the Bag'n-telle blog? It's by the person who did who did the weekend design blog.

    Anyways, he gives patterns and instructions on how to make bags, including leather ones. Here's a list of the tutorials so far.

    ReplyDelete
  68. You got the skills girl- I'd love to see you make one. That said, I never have, and I'm a big fan of Queen Bee wallets and bags: http://www.queenbee-creations.com/
    They are *really* sturdy, classy etc etc etc... Daily, I carry something big enough for wallet, phone, legal pad, water bottle and misc small lipstick etc. No bigger, no smaller. I have several vintage purses I have scored at garage sales and thrift stores over the years for special occasions.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Funny- we have something in common! (besides love for sewing :) )
    I carry a B&N black canvas bag as my "handbag". it's mostly for when i know for a fact that i'll be needing to carry something home.

    other than that?
    i honestly won't really wear an outfit that doesn't have pockets that can flatter my body and hide my cellphone and wallet.
    just doesn't happen.

    i've been to several cities and places and a few countries. i have learned that for some reason i have a "COME MUG ME! STEAL MY WALLET!" neon sign above my head. no one knows why, but i seem to be a target, no matter where i go.
    therefore, i leave my hands free as much as possible.
    free hands mean i get to cause as much pain as someone wants to give me, and i've had to use them before. sucked.

    however- i have learned that a shoulder bag without holes, and with a solid clasp, no zipper, and one that doesn't have 16 billion compartments are the best ones for me.
    That, and a CLASSIC black velvet envelope clutch my grandmother left me. It's not even my style, but even the husband says it looks great, and i love handling it.

    ReplyDelete
  70. I think you should make your own bag. You could make many different versions as well if you wanted more bags.

    I take a lot of items to work as well, and I'm currently carrying all my stuff in a large tote plastic bag that my dad gave me. I keep telling myself it's temporary but it's been over a week now and I haven't been going bag shopping -- mainly because I feel pressured to buy the perfect bag. When I have the time, I plan to use that tote bag as a guide and will make something out of upholstery fabric or something equally sturdy.

    Which stores in NYC carry leather?

    ReplyDelete
  71. check out these two blogs:

    http://bagntell.wordpress.com/ for
    and
    http://wkdesigner.wordpress.com/

    They're by the same person. There are quite a few bag patterns on the weekend designer blog as well. I made his messenger bag and it came together really well.

    ReplyDelete
  72. I would love for you to experiment with making a bag (and sharing your results with us of course!)

    I buy very good (but not crazy expensive) high end designer leather bags on sale. I do believe that bags and shoes either elevate an outfit or lower the tone of the entire ensemble.

    It saddens me to think of you in your fabulous outfits with a B&N tote bag on your shoulder or in your hand. The public should not be denied the full Gertie fabulousness. This situation must be rectified!

    Also, could you please let me know the name of the store that sells that high quality leather? Thank you so much!

    ReplyDelete
  73. Hi Gertie,
    I think as you are lucky enough to have acess to great quality leather why not make your own? Personally, while i love designer bags, cannot justify their price tags. However a bag really does complete the look and add a touch of polish to your ensemble and as you spend all that time making your gorgeous clothes you dont want anything to detract from them.
    Also can you please share the name of this store that sells the leather? I'm hoping they may sell online...

    ReplyDelete
  74. I'm back to say that I managed to find some nice D-rings at Ace Hardware! Hooray! I seriously went to a ton of craft and hardware stores before finding some there, so I stocked up. If you're looking for hardware for a bag, try there!

    ReplyDelete
  75. You could try this in quilted leather to go with your 1950's wardrobe:

    http://littlegreybungalow.blogspot.com/2008/05/sewing-tweed-handbag-from-1955.html

    ReplyDelete
  76. I agree that nothing ruins an outfit faster than carrying a cheap handbag. It amazes me the number of women that have fabulous outfits only to be carrying a poorly made bag. Spend a little money and buy a mid range priced bag that will last. Cole Haan bags are great and extremely well made!

    A cheap bag with a nice outfit is like ordering your favorite dinner and then eating with a plastic fork.

    ReplyDelete
  77. Ugh, I hate bags. I hate the whole process of having one. I actually just get really utilitarian bags from Brooklyn Industries and call it a day. I bike around with a huge red bag that I think goes well with girly and retro styling, because it has just the right amount of edge. Perhaps I'll do a post on it sometime soon.
    In the meantime, see if you don't have friends who have bags they want to give away. I have a pretty blue 9 west and brown fossil bag, all swapped by friends who got sick of 'em. I wear them to professional contexts. (Nope, I really never wear them

    ReplyDelete
  78. Ugh, I hate bags. I hate the whole process of having one. I actually just get really utilitarian bags from Brooklyn Industries and call it a day. I bike around with a huge red bag that I think goes well with girly and retro styling, because it has just the right amount of edge. Perhaps I'll do a post on it sometime soon.
    In the meantime, see if you don't have friends who have bags they want to give away. I have a pretty blue 9 west and brown fossil bag, all swapped by friends who got sick of 'em. I wear them to professional contexts. (Nope, I really never wear them

    ReplyDelete
  79. I know what you mean... I'm constantly on the lookout for a good bag but it has to be able to carry so much stuff that unfortunately I can never just use a cute little handbag. I've ended up accumulating so many bags over the years (tip for anyone going to Japan - the handbags that are made to go with kimono are GORGEOUS and you can find them for as cheap as $1, if you need an evening bag they're great! Hmm something else that I'll have to post about when I get around to photographing them) but am yet to meet the right 'everyday' one so was considering making one from a leather jacket or something as Alex has suggested... let us know how you go sewing leather if you decide to do that. I wonder if my machine could handle it if I just got a different foot and needle? Something to add to my list of things to do...

    ReplyDelete
  80. Like some other commenters, I am way more into bags than into shoes: although I own way too many shoes, I only purchase shoes to match outfits or for a specific purpose, hardly ever because I just want new shoes. Bags are another story: there can never be enough, and a zillion bags later, I am still drooling over bags on Marni's website that I went to immediately after reading your post. After having spent a small fortune on all the middle-of-the-road bags (all under $450), I am now thinking that I should have saved that money and applied it towards one "end-all" Marni or Longchamp or Chanel bag. That being said, when faced with an opportunity to buy an $1800 bag, I probably wouldn't. First of all, I would freak(!) if it got scratched/ripped/stained/gum-stuck-on-it (let alone stolen). Second, when my friends would ask me "where I got that cute bag" I would be ashamed to admit that I spent that much money on a bag (yeah, I need to work on my guilt issues, I guess). So, here is my solution. If you want a perfect bag that is well-made AND to your specs AND is professional, why not see if one of the bag sellers on Etsy will make one custom for you. I recently bought a "ready-made" bag from Valhalla Brooklyn (http://www.etsy.com/shop/valhallabrooklyn) seller on Etsy, and it's really nice: the leather and construction are very good, and she makes all the bags herself in her studio. This seller also accepts custom orders. So, unless you really want to sew a leather bag yourself, why not make a muslin mock-up to get the size/pockets/shoulder strap length, etc exactly the way you want it, and then give it to a professional bag maker to make one to your specs in your choice of leather? (If you are more laid-back about the "perfect bag", perhaps a picture and dimensions will suffice.) If you know of good leather sources and want to pick out the exact piece of leather to be used, I bet you could buy and send it to the bag-maker along with your mockup/pattern/specs. I am not in any way affiliated with Valhalla Brooklyn (other than being a happy customer), I am only recommending her because I like the bag that I bought, and getting a custom bag from her is going to be my bag strategy next time I want a really nice bag.

    ReplyDelete
  81. if you've got the money, I think Coach bag's are worth it (and if you're going to the beach in Atlantic City, I know that there's an outlet store there too). I just looked through this years collection online, and I think the Madison bags look like something you might carry (but I don't know you at all so I won't take it personally if you don't like them) otherwise, poke around in the discount stores (Ross, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, etc.). My criteria for a purse is that it must be able to carry my giant wallet, a water bottle, and a paper bag book (at a minimum) which is why I <3 my [bought in Asia, made with real fabric and fake leather] Coach logo bag from a few years ago, it's medium sized and structured, fits over my arm so that I can carry it on my shoulder (with a medium weight jacket or lighter), and has a zipper on top (I'm always paranoid about getting my giant wallet stolen).

    Happy hunting, let us know what you pick out!

    ReplyDelete
  82. I gave myself a treat a couple of years a go and bought a coach bag. It's a persimmon-ish leather, is logo free, and has worn like a dream. It's similar in style to the current 'Julia' bag.

    It's pretty trend free, so I know I'll carry it for years, which is why I bought it (I had a previous bad habit of buying inexpensive handbags every six months or so, and getting bored with them.)

    On the rare occasion that I need to carry more than will fit in my bag (and it holds a lot!), I have cloth totes and a HUGE collection of paper shopping bags. But honestly, I can cram a lot in there :)

    I did buy it when it was on sale, and I had a friends and family discount, so it was less expensive than normal, though still pretty pricey. It was, however, totally worth it.

    ReplyDelete
  83. now this is my area of expertise! ;)

    definitely buy the best you can afford, and buy something that makes your heart sing.

    OR - if the best you can afford is not something that makes your heart sing, if you are able and talented enough to make your own bag to produce something that is exactly what you're looking for (for which i'm sure you are definitely capable of), do that then.

    as you said, nothing will drab down an outfit faster than a crap bag.

    ReplyDelete
  84. If you like the Marni handbag, you may like this one:

    http://www.spencerandrutherford.com/store/salome-mermaid-p100041.html

    ReplyDelete
  85. Buy a vintage classic and pay a few hundred (300.00?) and you'll love it forever.

    You could make a cutie, but I'm a sucker for a well made classic, with experience myself.

    ReplyDelete
  86. high-end doesnt necessarily mean high quality - i say make your own! not only can you root out all the unnecessary (for you) features, but you can make sure it's constructed to your standards as well.
    of course, i say this as someone who wouldn't have the slightest idea where to begin making a bag.. but i'm eager to see how you fare! i tend to wait til i find vintage/secondhand offerings that suit. right now my bag of choice is a soft, huge 70's doctor bag. it fits everything, and i'm going to use it til it falls apart

    ReplyDelete
  87. I think you should go for something mid-ranged. No need to put yourself in the poorhouse for a bag you don't want to enter a SERIOUS monogamous relationship with. In the mean time, I'm sure you could sew up something to replace your B&N bag. I've made up about a dozen Amy Butler "Birdie Slings." It's a good tote for summer, and since it only takes a couple hours from cutting to finished product you can make a few in fun colorful fabrics. So at least your schlumpy tote will be cheerful!

    ReplyDelete
  88. you could very easily make a clasp purse like in the first picture. Buy the perfect clasp online (there are some really beautiful vintage ones to be found) and then go to uhandblog to find out how to make your pattern and construct the purse. It really is much easier than it seems! I hope you try this, it would be interesting to see some non clothing projects.

    (ps I think the tutorial on uhandblog is called laundry day purse or something, but there are several for different shaped frames)

    ReplyDelete
  89. I've made my own bags in the past, but I also own quite a few bags I bought in the mid 2000's. I've been using the same bucket bag from Crumpler for a while now. It's a personalised design that I paid about 40% more for, and designed the front flap myself. I love it to bits and have been using it since I got it in 2007. Every now and then I go back to one of my lovely leather shoulder bags, or a cute little bright pink over-the-shoulder bag, but it's always back to the Quarfie.

    ReplyDelete
  90. I fifth (sixth?) the recommendation for HotPatterns bags. They are stylish and not at all like the "Granny went to a threadcraft class" that so many pattern companies have out.

    And I LOVE the ideas some of you had about patterning your very useful B&N bag, starting with fabric, and buying thrifted leather for practice.

    I started reading this blog a few weeks ago -- I was so impressed that I went back and began at the beginning. Thank you, Gertie for all your work on this blog, and thank you all you other commenters for your useful ideas and inspiring links and very thought-provoking insights into so many topics.

    Now, I've a few more days to read before I'm fully caught up . . .

    ReplyDelete
  91. Since I'm a crafty person, I enjoy making my own bags. There's just a unique sense of style and fun that comes with making your own custom purse. But not everybody can sew, in that case I would just go with buying your favorite middle-cost bag to live happily with. http://www.onquestyle.com

    ReplyDelete
  92. Fake Handbags
    The best quality handbags can be bought from the most renowned of brands vying for space. They come along with the right style statement that ensures that you are recognized wherever you go.

    Fake Handbags

    ReplyDelete
  93. these bags are lovely i really like its color...


    Reflective Motorcycle Vests

    ReplyDelete
  94. I have 4 bags and it all depends on the where I’ll be going or what I’ll be doing. I like lots of compartments in my bags so, it’s easy to locate what I need.

    ReplyDelete
© Gertie's Blog For Better Sewing. Powered by Cake