My future mother-in-law Deb sent me this recent WSJ article written by Rachel Dodes entitled “The Nerve-Racking, Soul-Searching, Exhilarating Process of Shopping for a Handbag.” And what perfect timing, because 1) this was a topic she (Deb, not Dodes) and I had discussed about a month ago, and 2) it’s a topic I discuss with myself, oh, daily. Kidding. No, I’m not. Am I?
Dodes nails it when she says: “I’ve wasted countless hours looking at images of bags online, emailing links to friends, debating the pros and cons of various color schemes and then wallowing in a shame spiral for spending so much time thinking about something as inconsequential as a sack in which to stuff my sorries.” Yup. Check, check, check, and CHECK. Dodes then touches on some key factors for what she calls “Handbag Decision Paralysis (HDP)” such as fear of commitment, it-ness, and economic impact. I’d say she accurately diagnoses the problem, but I’m compelled to elaborate on the issue and get you all sorts of excited about a solution.
Note: If you’re on your third Hermès Birkin, and can’t decide between black croc and purple ostrich, you may not be a true sufferer of HDP. I’m not invalidating your feelings, I just think that’s a different kind of suffering that deserves a different name (like Multiple Purse-onality Disorder). On the other hand, if you’re looking for one of your first “classic” bags, and are stuck in a self-doubting spiral, then read on.
Your bag is not a cell phone (or a horse)
Dodes equates purchasing a bag that suddenly goes out of style to “betting on the wrong horse at the Kentucky Derby.” Her point is to stay away from the trendy, and focus instead on the classics, so you don’t find yourself in a womp-womp situation. Put another way, your bag is not a cell phone. I have big-time TDP (Technology Decision Paralysis), but that’s because I know that Kindles, tablets, phones, laptops and cameras are eventually going to morph into one device called the iEverything, and it’s going to be announced the day after I decide to get the iPhone 5. With handbags, thankfully, true “classics” (often from makers like Chanel, Hermès, and Louis Vuitton) actually get far better with age, and that can’t be said for my 2002 Motorola LG flip phone. Handbag example: When that leather handle on an LV bag gets all caramel-y from your hand’s oils and turns from fresh-out-of-the-factory tan to a rich brown, it’s like your bag had a bat mitzvah. It’s of-age, and ready to spread its wings in society. Personally, I can’t stand most LV bags unless they’re vintage.
In the end, though, your bag is still kind of like a horse. Eventually you may need to retire it and/or “put it down,” and that’s okay! You guys had a good run.
“Label whores” have it way easier
Because label whores are worried about quality, color, price, versatility, and functionality. The rest of us are worried about quality, color, price, versatility, functionality AND how many people already have it. Which brings me to…
Other people are going to have your bag—deal with it
I bought my wedding dress last year from a boutique in the East Village. On the same trip to NYC, I also tried on a dress by Jenny Packham, who is arguably the “it” wedding dress designer as of late. She’s painfully talented and is already a leader in her market, but the dress I tried on (the “Eden”) is also in the “it” category right now (compare to Proenza Schouler’s PS1 bag), which means I’ve seen this dress many, many times on popular wedding blogs, in magazines, and on wedding photographers’ websites. This doesn’t make the dress ANY less beautiful—stunning is stunning—but I wanted to go with a lesser-known designer, so I did. Since buying my dream dress, I’ve noticed it on a few blogs and photographers’ sites, even though I hadn’t noticed it before. Unless you’re Shallow Hal, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something lovely that nobody else takes a second glance at. Be okay with this. In the end, it’s how you wear the item that matters. The same wedding dress looks different on everyone who wears it, and so does a handbag.
Color matters, and black is better
How many times have you spilled something (wine, coffee, pen ink, makeup) on your black [bag/shoes/dress/car seat], and said “thank GOD this is black.” The sooner you accept this, the better. If you’re not worried about the money thing and/or you already have a great black bag, the stain theory still holds true, but it may not pull as much weight in your decision. If you’re spending your entire paycheck and forgoing a couple of meals to buy a Céline crossbody bag, don’t go with the baby yellow leather version (even if it IS the definition of buttery goodness). Now you ask: what about an “after-midnight blue” or a “triple-burnt brown”?! Sure, sure. Those are fine. Because they’re also known as black.
The solution might not be what you want to hear
Being a lifelong sufferer of HDP, I had to figuratively look myself in the mirror the other day and come to a painfully clear realization: There is not ever going to be THE perfect handbag. In Dodes’ article, Jennifer Zucher, co-founder of the matchmaking service Project Soulmate, is quoted as saying: “Everyone thinks that the next person is going to be better than the last, and that’s why people don’t settle down. It’s the same thing with bags.” I have to disagree. Because when it comes to my personal life, I’m all about knowing when you’ve found your one true love, and when it comes to handbags, I’m a full-fledged polygamist. There was a time I was so caught up in finding my one true handbag that I lost site of the fact that handbags are inanimate objects. Different bags are necessary for different occasions. Period. Even if you do get that perfect “everyday bag,” that won’t necessarily be a bag you’re comfortable wearing to a cocktail party or beach vacation.
Find a bag that works for MOST of your needs
Can I wear it almost everyday? Is it spacious enough? Can a stranger spill some coffee on it when we’re shoulder to shoulder on the subway car without me screaming “Do you KNOW what this bag COST?!” and demanding their contact information? If so, this bag is pretty wonderful. It may not be the “pop of color” you’ve been looking for, or get you photographed by street style bloggers, but there are other bags for all that. You’ll feel much better purchasing those kind of bags down the line if you have your mostly-dream bag as a foundation.