The world can be divided into roughly two types of women: Women who are into designer bags (whether that’s Michael Kors or Brahmin or Gucci) and women who aren’t.
The problem with being in the second category is that sometimes the options for high-quality, elegant bags are pretty limited, with mostly canvas, nylon, or cheap faux leather options. It can be a challenge to find a chic, timeless, and affordable bag in real leather that’s designed to last.
That’s why I’m so excited to be working with Portland Leather Goods. I am proud to support a company that is based in the U.S. and supports leather artisans who make these gorgeous bags by hand! Since they are direct to consumer, almost nothing is over $200.
Now that I’ve shared one of my favorite sources, let’s discuss some pointers for choosing a bag that will truly become a favorite and last in your wardrobe.
You can shop all of these bags right here at Portland Leather Goods. (The individual pics are linked as well).
If you currently spend $25 or $50 on a new bag (thrifting and consignment is different, as you can sometimes get great quality for that price), consider putting that money away until you have enough for 3-4 bags, and then buy one amazing one.
Unless it’s a fun or trend bag for occasional use, you will never get your money’s worth out of a poorly made bag.
The Cost Per Use on an everyday bag, even a higher priced one, more than pays for itself in time.
I have a client who always bought her bags at Target and was forced to buy new bags every 6 months or so because they fell apart with regular use. Then she stopped buying the $25 bags and bought one for $150, and hasn’t looked back. She has been using that bag, daily, for 5 years and it still looks amazing.
Color & Finish
Your most neutral bag is close to your hair color. This bag color will blend with your coloring and therefore go with everything you wear. If you have red hair, consider cognac or medium brown. If you have silver hair, go with gray or taupe. If you have blonde hair, cream, taupe, or sand would be beautiful. And brunettes of course can choose brown or black.
This neutral will be your best choice for an investment bag. You don’t have to stop there, though. I just got a black tote and a black purse from Portland leather, and I’m eying the medium brown shades for my next purchases since I love it as a neutral for summer.
You will also want to ask yourself what metal you want for hardware, and the finish you want on the bag. If you have classic, edgy, preppy, or otherwise polished style, you might consider a smooth surface. If your style is boho, natural, or relaxed, you might consider a bag with a more rustic surface.
Some finishes like pebbled leather work for both and are durable because they don’t show scratches.
Details date. So if you’re looking for a bag that will last, make it as simple as possible. Minimal hardware and embellishment. Keep the shape and the finish sleek and you will have a bag that you can dress up or down and use for years to come. A structured purse is going to be your most versatile style.
A bag with heavy topstitching is going to be more casual and therefore less versatile.
Inspect the bag, the construction, and the stitching to make sure that it is well made. Is it sewn together or glued together? What is the quality of the hardware? Are the straps adjustable? Removable? What is the lining? The best bags are made of high-quality leather with inside and out, without a fabric lining, which can tear and discolor over time.
The same qualities that make a bag versatile also make it timeless: simplicity, a structured shape, and minimal design details.
You want a bag that roughly matches the scale of your body. Medium-sized bags work for every woman, but huge bags work best on taller ladies while small bags tend to work best on petite women. I’ve done a whole video about that here.
Are You A Minimalist Or A Collector
How many bags do you really need? The answer? It depends. How much do you like bags?
If you love bags then you may find that you enjoy collecting them and having a variety. If you’re a minimalist or just not that into bags, then you may be looking for a couple that will check all of the boxes for you. Here are the ones I recommend:
For The Minimalist
If you’re not a collector, you can get away with only having 2 bags: A tote and a classic purse. An evening bag or clutch would be the 3rd (and I’ll be covering that in an upcoming video). Here are the ones I recommend:
A leather tote is one of the most versatile bags you can buy. It can work as a carryon, a weekender, a work tote, a shopper, and just a stylish place to haul all of your daily belongings. Here are a few of my faves.
A simple, structured handbag with a shoulder strap and minimal details or hardware in the dark neutral that is closest to your hair color is the best choice for an investment bag. Here are some picks from Portland Leather Goods.
For The Collector
If you like more options and more variety, you’ll find plenty of other styles to consider. Here are a few that I think are the most useful to have.
A crossbody is like the new shoulder bag. It offers a chic, secure and hands-free way to carry your bag.
The Belt Bag
Shocked that I mentioned this option? The sporty style of this bag has been trending for a few years and has won we over with its practicality. I’ve even come around to liking the look. The most modern way to wear these is across the chest, but wearing it at the waist also looks good. The Zip Tight Belt Bag is my favorite.
The Work or Computer Bag
Of course, you could use your leather tote and a laptop sleeve as your work bag, like I do, but if you want a dedicated bag for work that will hold and protect your laptop, this backpack is a great option. It is casual, so for a more formal workplace, try my tote plus laptop sleeve combo.
What do you look for in a bag? And how can I help you find your lifetime purse? Let me know in the comments!