Snob Essentials

Go cheap or save for chic?

colehaan.jpgbalenciaga classic.jpgyslmuse1395.jpg

Left: Cole Haan tote $425  Middle: Balenciaga Classic $1,095 Right: YSL Muse $1,395

I receive a fair amount of emails each week from readers who would like me to recommend bags under $500. This is a tough question because there are a lack of good bags at this price point. You’re either relegated to Coach, Cole Haan or Juicy Couture; all popular brands but do you really want to look like every other mall rat out there?  And we won’t even go into the quality of these bags. I say if you can afford a $500 bag or two each season ( 2 to 4 bags for $1,000 -$2,000 a year), you should buy a nice $1200 bag that will last you all year long. This makes so much more sense to me. But then again, my hubby says I have no sense when it comes to bag habits and that I am out of touch with reality.  Hello- this is my reality!

What do you guys think? Settle for cheap or save for chic?



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. i agree with you, tina. it is much wiser to wait for a nice bag. quality is very important, and nice designer bag is worth waiting- and saving for. really enjoy the site, thank you.

  2. I don’t think Juicy and Coach are age appropriate for over 40. I’d save up every dime and wait for the end of the season and buy a high end designer bag. Jimmy Choo frequently has 50% off on their website and in their boutiques.

  3. Anita, you are absolutely right. I forgot to mention that at the end of the season (or in this economy, in the middle of the season) designer bags go on sale!!!

  4. You make perfect sense, Tina. Quality over quantity is always best. And if you really think about it, a cheaper bag won’t last as long as a more expensive, well-made bag, so you’re really not saving any money by going cheaper.

  5. What you say Tina really reminds me of my grandmother’s words.

    She was a professional dressmaker somebody who always made sure she was impeccably dressed when leaving the house even going to the grocery store.

    And although money was not abundant she used to say that cheap leather is false economy.

    If you can’t afford very good quality then leave it wait until you do.

    It’s better to have one piece of excellent quality and style rather than five or six tatty pieces.

  6. I think Cole Haan has some rather interesting bags as does Tory Burch and the Michael by Michael Kors line always has some interesting additions that aren’t available on the website but can be found in Michael Kors stores. If one is willing to spend a bit more than $500 but isn’t willing to splurge on $1,000, Rebecca Minkoff, Botkier and Kooba make gorgeous bags. I agree with Anita that Juicy is not appropriate for someone over 40 (I’d even go as low as 30…) and Coach is so ubiquitous that the bags are downright boring.

    If one is really interested in buying a statement bag that will last an entire season, it’s worth it to hold off, save your money and buy soemthing really fabulous.

  7. I agree with having one fantastic, exceptional bag vs. multiple crummy ones. I don’t think you have to spend upwards past 1000 dollars to get a high-quality bag either, b/c I have seen expensive ones that don’t seem to be *worth* the money. but I am all for buying a bag that you are just absolutely in love with and can’t stop thinking about. A bag like that is worth splurging on and saving for imo.

  8. Quality is of paramount importance over quantity.

    I’m not willing to argue that Coach, Cole Haan, or Juicy actually are of inferior quality — I don’t think they’ll really fall apart on you — if they did, these designers would certainly act to make you happy.

    The issue is defining a unique look that is appropriate for each person — Coach can make that difficult when they have CC’s all over the bag.

    However, a woman with style can take a cheaper bag and make it, and her, look fabulous on a budget. Especially in tougher economic times, women can be smart and chic on a dime.

  9. I always save up for the better quality but it’s hard sometimes when you have that craving for a new bag and there is nothing but Coach and Cole Haan at the $500 mark.

    I’d love to see designers do a bridge line for bags. They do it for clothes often, why not bags? marc does it and so does Michael but how about YSL? Maybe Hermes? Just a thought

  10. I always save for quality, however I agree with someone else who pointed out that brands like Rebecca Minkoff, Botkier, and I’m adding in Jalda, among several other, newer, perhaps more ‘indie’ brands make beautifuland unique bags of very high quality. I USE my Rebecca Minkoff all the time, it’s been everywhere with me and it has only gotten softer, smooshier, and more beautiful. I paid about 630 (I forget exactly) for it. I’d also like to add that my Jalda black hobo (670?) is PERFECT for school and I get compliments on it frequently. Just because you want to spend less than 1000 doesn’t mean you are relegated to Coach.

    Also, clutches. Because they are smaller they are often cheaper. I own a few poppie couture clutches (about 400) and I adore them, furthermore the compliments I get on them are NONSTOP.

    Under 500 can be difficult, under 1000 though, DEFINITELY possible. You just have to look a bit, and the result is you find more unique bags as many are made by lesser known, equally fabulous designers.

  11. In MY reality, a $500 bag is not possible. So I just buy the best quality, most expensive handbag I can afford and take excellent care for it. I also try to purchase “timeless” bags that will not be quickly dated (I love Longchamp) so I can carry them for years.

    Coach and Juicy is not my style. I like beautiful bags that do not shout “designer” with their logo emblazoned all over it.

  12. Chic over Cheap (of course) When people ask me about bag advise, I always say, if your not able to buy lots of diff bags, then you should buy one good classic bag that you will be able to always carry…


  13. I don’t think carrying a Coach makes me look like every other mall rat out there! at the mall i go to they are all carrying the LV Speedy! I purchased my Coach Ergo Patent Leather Pleated Frame Satchel this past spring in blue. its a beautiful bag that i regularly get compliments on. it just wouldn’t be appropriate for me to show up on my job with a bag that is worth more than some of my co-workers monthly salary.

  14. Another less expensive bag option (in the $300-$600 range) is Marc by Marc Jacobs. Some of the bags are really nice and don’t look tacky like some Juicy Couture and Coach bags often do. I really like the Totally Turnlock “Faridah” Metallic Leather Hobo ($448.00). It’s trendy, practical, and not expensive!

  15. i say really look at the quality. i have bags that i have paid 500 or 600 for and have taken more of a beating than some that go for over 1k. This factor is major to me. Also lots of designer bags do go on sale a few months after their debut, so you can probably score some 1k, bags at a cheap saving.

  16. You know, I am going to take a closer look at Rebecca Minkoff, I’ve never been into her bags but I will check out the quality for our readers who want that price range.

    We love Monica Botkier and Jalda of course!

  17. I am a grad student so I cannot afford to even think about buying a designer bag but I do not buy cheap products either. I have to agree that quality is best especially when you are investing your money, but why spend a lot of money on a fad?

  18. Quality is good, sure, but even $500 once a year is pushing it for me. Your “reality” is pretty much as “real” as the possibility of living on the moon for 95% of Americans–and 99.99% of humanity.

  19. just because a person saves their money doesn’t always mean they will be able to spend $1000 on a bag, even if it’s just once a year. it’s also silly to assume there’s only coach and juicy in a less expensive price range. you just have to be willing to research a bit and be open to independent designers (who are not upping their prices 200% to get celebs in their ads)

    some of my recent favorites i’ve found, the most expensive is $680: $595 $682, though the ivory and black patent were recently on sale for $280 and i’m so sad i missed it. 125€ especially the ostrich lady in slate, top left

    it’s not that hard, you just have to look outside of barneys 🙂

  20. Anyone looking for a bag for under $1000 should check out another website. Leave this one for premier designers. There’s many nice bags for under $1000 that has been established. I don’t claim to be a bag snob but I wouldn’t really consider a bag under $1000 unless it was one that was marked down.

  21. I’m sorry but these Treesje and Bird handbags are awful.

    The reason I read bag snob is because they don’t feature run of the mill bags like other blogs.

  22. I love my RM. At first I didn’t think much of her, because at first glance it looked like a basic satchel bag, but the leather is SO soft, the details are perfect, its wonderfully functional, and it goes with EVERYTHING.

    Plus the variety of colors are fantastic, and they’re cheap enough that you can buy a few in different colors.

    Definitely check them out.

  23. There was a line in a blog post a while back saying “Fashion belongs to everyone at every price point.” I was really touched by the phrase, but the grateful message I left and the sentence itself have disappeared. How telling.

    Of course, it’s possible I just can’t find it, but still…

  24. sorry you don’t like them, just showing that there are other lines out there that don’t always get as much discussion as other more well known designers. i haven’t seen these bags in person, but i’ve had success in the past you can find great, artisan quality from up and coming designers. it just takes being open to whatever catches your eye or heart without worrying if people will judge you because it’s not ysl or chanel.

  25. tina i would love your opinion, i’m torn between ysl black patent muse vs. black patent majorelle. there’s just something about the gold hardware against that black patent. i want both, but i promised myself to just get one bag this fall. thanks in advance!

  26. Tod’s is a excellent, quality brand that tends to have high end of season discounts..often for under $1,000 for a bag that is timeless…I would just recommend steering clear of the nylon pieces with them as they do have a few of those lately. I agree though that its worth saving for a classic chanel or something of the like.

  27. Another option if you want a designer bag is going to the outlet malls. I know that it can be a pain, but you definitely can get a good deal. Some of the bags may be from the past season, but who cares when you can save a great deal of money by going there.

  28. I think it’s a matter of opinion when it comes to finding a bag under $500 that is of good quality and not your run of the mill style. I definitely agree with the comment above that Juicy is not appropriate for women over the age of 40, even 30 but I beg to differ on the Coach comment. The signature c style yes, I do agree but there are some plainer leather styles like the ergo collection, mentioned above, that are quality made and not so tacky once you take that little coach tag off. Being a full time student I make it my priority to buy myself one nice handbag a year which sometimes is even a little bit difficult but I make it work. Also consignment shops, end of season sales (mentioned above) and vintage are great sources to find one of a kind handbags.

  29. I definitely save for the best brands and have created a small and lovely collection of Hermes, Chanel, Balenciaga, etc. I only have 10 handbags with some random travel totes, but I have something for every occasion and I treasure what I have. I don’t even bother looking at other handbags and I know these will last me a lifetime.

  30. I too prefer quality, but a high price and a nice brand does not always directly correlate with equally high quality. My investment this fall was a YSL tribute tote in quilted patent leather – one I had laid my eyes on a long time ago. It cost me 1400 euros, nearly the same what is left of my months salary. Thought I would be investing in quality. Well, the bag looks OK from a distance but it bothers me that I know that the quality is not good and the bag is definitely not worth the price.

  31. Hi Katey

    I remember that post, I wrote that fashion belongs to everyone at every price point. I will have to dig through and find it but your comment should still be there as well.

    I am just trying to show that if you have the ability to buy three $500 bags, you should try for one $1,500 bag.

    But if you can only afford a $100 bag, so be it, buy the best $100 bag you can find!

    My point isn’t to knock the other brands but that quality over quantity is always the best way to go. Of course if you can only buy one $500 bag a year, then find the best $500 bag out there!

  32. kamo, point well taken

    I have seen the Bird bags but not in person. Will check them out when I’m in NYC on Monday.

  33. Okay, that’s my mistake then. I apologise for the hasty accusation. I do get very sensitive about my net worth, especially when people make comments like “Go read another blog then!”

    It reminds me of that song: “If you ain’t got no money take your broke ass home!”

  34. Hi there,

    go for the Muse… It’s easier to use– the handles are not as bulky as the Marjorelle. But– a lot of people have the Muse. If you don’t mind that– go for it! xo

  35. Bookmarks are my best friend. I take Tina/Kelly’s suggested web finds, and bookmark the online e-tailer. Snapping up bags one sale is much easier. My latest wait n’ watch is the Bosley by Anya Hindmarch on Net a Porter. Shhh…don’t tell anyone.

    But, I agree with their suggestions to find a chic bag to last all year (i.e. am holding out for the Chanel 2.5). But, the problem is this damn blog keeps showing such amazing bags, that by the time I save up for the Chic, I’m onto a new fancy. Thaaaanks snobs! 😉

  36. I believe in buying quality over quantity, but with handbags, I must buy a purse from a well established design house, if I choose to spend over five hundred dollars on a bag.

    However I will limit myself price wise, because there simply too many bags out that there, and it really is way too expensive to buy them all, ya know. =]

    Worthy splurges to me come from Yves Saint Laurent, Hermes, Bottega Veneta (spelling error?) and few others.

    I do not buy a lot of purses, but the ones I will buy have to last, because its ridiculous to blow a large wad of money on a grocery sack emblazoned with a Gucci logo on it, right?!

    BTW, Mrs. Craig,

    Did you get that particular Bottega bag that you wanted for your birthday, and what do you think of Oscar’s resort 2009 bags? I saw the pictures on his website, and thought they were absolutely ridiculous.

  37. before i used to like cheapo bags but now, i am actually saving for a much more expensive one because i’m after the quality. i don’t want to have lots of bags but gets broken easily. i wanted less but quality, yes quality over quantity.

  38. I agree that a gal should buy quality but quality does not mean buying only the premiere designers. there are definitely other brands with interesting designs with great quality. also waiting for sale is a great way to buy top designers at a fairly reasonable price. ex, I recently purchased a ysl downtown in chocolate for $750. I don’t have to buy the latest but I stick with classics.

  39. I really love Longchamp as well. I have one of their nylon bags, a leather bag, and a wallet, and they are holding up great. I bought one for my mother as well and she loves how she gets compliments on it and gets to tell people it was made in France!

    Furla is another name that has nice bags in the $500-range, and they are made in Italy. I just wish they made more shoulder bags in addition to their handbags, though.

  40. Hi, I think there are some nice bags at the $500 price point. One might not really feel comfortable with a $1500 bag, or may want more than one! 🙂 I just discovered Ignes, a company headquartered in London and whose production is in Uruguay. Check them out, they were at the arm candy party the other week. Read about them on handbagdesigner101 and see their website

    (not the best website, and they have TONS of FABULOUS Uruguayan leathers not shown there, so email Ignacio Estrada to get more info). I had some bags made by them, with the best, softest suede linings you have ever felt.(that’s right, they were created just for me at this price point!!) High quality, and classically beautiful. I also have a tote from Magnes Sisters which I got at a discount. My advice is go for great quality on sale or discount. Don’t spend $1500 of your hard-earned money on one bag which could get lost, etc. My 2 cents!

  41. I am going to sound the “pretentious” alarm here and say:

    What is wrong with Cole Haan? Often their quality is good and

    is affordable for the other 99.9% than those who may be reading this.

    Especially in a huge recession as we are just admitting we are in now.

    Also, Coach et al may say mallrat, but Cole Haan does not (to me anyway)

  42. Also in the same category as Marc by Marc (in terms of cuteness, materials, construction, and price point):





    (Though, yes, as someone also said, I do think Treesje bags are awful but a lot of people don’t, and at least they’re not Coach or Juicy. I’m on the fence about Rafe.)

  43. If you are comfortable buying on Ebay, you can find absolute bargains.You do have to know who you are buying from, and have bag knowledge and ebay knowledge.A couple of months ago I bought a YSL Muse 2 for $500. It is brand new!!Large size in that gorgeous blue.I do pay retail on some bags, but find bargains on Ebay.

  44. Sherry, I would never buy anything bags from Ebay, you might get lucky and get an authentic piece, but most of them are FAKE!!how sure are you this Muse 2 is the real deal??

  45. Hi Jacqueline,

    I did not get the Bottega for my birthday (sob!)

    In fact, there hasn’t been a new bag in the bag closet in months!

    The resort bags I saw were in our video– baby blue goya and brushed coral… I love those two! Not sure about the others, must go check…

  46. Hi Bagsnobs, the ads at the side are covering the comments.

    I have the YSL Muse that’s been rec’ed on top but I don’t agree that $1500 bags are necessary better than $500 bags. I love my Muse but the threads come out and the leather scratches just like my $500 bags. I have Furla, Francesco Biasia and Aigner bags that are just as good. In fact, my DH thinks that most designer handbags make me look older and wishes I carried my Biasia more. He particularly detests the Hermes Birkin because he says it looks like a briefcase. Shows what he knows 😉

    IMO,don’t limit bag purchases to those above a certain price-point. You might be missing out on cute purchases. of course buying 3 $500 bags cos they’re cheaper is silly too. It’s much easier to just buy what you love and can afford, whether it’s a Birkin or a Tano.

  47. DEFINITELY CHIC OVER CHEAP ANYDAY! I agree with the ones who wrote that sales are a great time to get the chic bags at a less expensive prices. In my neck of the woods, we have the famous $1 sale where you can buy a designer bag (gucci,prada tods, bottega,etc) on sale and the second one is a $1:) great time to stock up on gifts:) However, sometimes, the really amazing bags are gone before the sales (so i don’t wait for the sale if i really want the bag). I totally subscribed to the philosophy of saving up for that one great bag vs. buying three “trendy” bags.

    I have quite a collection of designer bags including Hermes, Chanel, Bottega, Fendi, etc…but a lot of mine bags are quite unique. While I love YSL, I have not bought one of the bags b/c so many people carry them (i make an exception with the Birkins, but even with Hermes, i have some unique pieces that are not often seen such as a bright yellow Vespa). My point is that whatever your price point is, you should buy bags that defines YOU….i must say that the higher the quality, the longer the bags will last…of course, it also depends how you treat your bags! Ping

  48. I say chic over cheap any day! Can you post (if you haven’t already) on how to place an order for the ultimate bag, the hermes birkin? I would like to “graduate.”

  49. Sigh…one of your mallrats here…

    Right now I am the proud owner of Coach outlet bags, either classic Coach or legacy leather styles. I paid no more than $200 for any of them, mostly far under. Total I own somewhere near $800 worth of bags, tops.

    I used to subscribe to your philosophy – buying only high end bags occasionally and using them for every event. I quickly found that, of course, cost doesn’t equal quality, and, more importantly for me, cost doesn’t equal functionality. I got tired of bags with chain handles that couldn’t carry much, bags that had to be carried in hand that restricted my range of motion (and left me constantly bumping shelves in stores), suede and leather lined bags that weighed 10 pounds alone…in essence, I got tired of advertising someone’s high street brand to my own detriment. At least Coach bags are functional.

    Plus, and I really must inquire about this, I don’t see how carrying a bag plastered with Chanel Cs is so much more desirable than carrying one with Coach Cs. Both are showy and tacky. One just indicates that you paid 3K to be tacky and one indicates that you paid $300.

  50. Yes, the bag is authentic.I shop at Neiman’s, Barney’s, so I know an authentic bag from a fake. As I said you have to be an intelligent shopper on Ebay. There are reliable sellers, who sell authentic items.

  51. Amen Marie! Right this moment I own only 5 Coach bags (probably $1000 in total) and a couple of them were actually (Gasp! Dare I admit this?) bags made for the factory stores. The LVs and Guccis are gone via eBay as are a couple of Chanels that went to a relative. The Coach bags I kept have better suited my lifestyle and the image I want to project at this point in my life.

    I would never purchase a siggy bag in Coach, but they have some lovely pieces in leather and one of them that I still carry has seen 5 years of steady use. It looks as good as the day I purchased it.

    Having owned these high end bags, I honesty believe that quality does top out a point. Buy what you like whether that is Coach or YSL, but don’t do it based solely on perceived quality.

  52. We are in a financial crisis and yes, normal, everyday, 9-5 working girls still want to have choices. Cole Haan is a classy alternative and so are Michael Kors, Kate Spade and MARC by Marc Jacobs. Juicy is never an alternative for those of us who don’t want to look like Mall Rats, but we can’t all rock the uber hot YSL unless Neimans or Saks does a sale.

  53. Sherry, no offence, but just cuz you shop at Neimans and Barneys does NOT mean anything. The con artists that are out there do this for a living, they will make these fake bags look so real, using some of the best leather out there….

    Why would that bag only be $500 on Ebay??

    You dont have to be an idiot to be taking advantge of on Ebay!, so if I were you, I would for sure take that bag to YSL ASAP and get it checked out!!!

  54. I say buy what you want and not go by price piont. Example: If you are attracted to the Coach go buy it regardless of how people who are snobs will react. Even if you have disposable income.

    If you are in love with the Balenciaga or YSL do not settle for the Coach because you won’t be truly happy. Wait and save up! I have done this and ended up spending more because I end up buying the expensive one due to sleepless nights and now stare at my under $500 bag with disdain bec I got that and not the one i originally wanted.

    That feels like $478 down the drain. which gould have gone to funding a new drool worthy bag!

  55. Well personally I detest Coach, it is so suburban. Then again I don’t think anyone should buy a bag that costs more than a make in a week or month even if they save up for it. Because if you’re spending that much of a percentage of your income on bags you can’t afford it. So I say balance is key. I’ve also bought lesser known designers and generally been disappointed. My favorite bags do include a fabulous Kooba though. I say go for style and try not to be common in your choices.

  56. I used to go quantity because youth can carry a Kipling or a Lesportsac with flair.

    Now that I am oldER, I’d rather buy one pricey bag a year that I will be using for seasons.

    Here’s something for 99% of the bag-buying women to think about. Pick a landmark, like say your 50th b-day, and open a savings account to auto transfer a fixed sum (say $20 or $30) into it monthly. By the time you reach your goal date, you will have a tidy sum to buy a classic Chanel or even a Birkin (start saving at 25 please)!

  57. I just bought a Kenneth Cole bag for under $300 and I couldn’t be happier. My bags tend to get really grimy so I prefer not to buy ones that cost $1000+. I once got a fabric Gucci bag as a gift and it sits on a shelf in my closet most of the time. I might have bought something “cooler” but I haven’t found anything worth parting with $1000+ for.

  58. My sentiments exactly, Marie!I live in a world where every other arm has an LV or a Gucci and the like hanging on it and I just don’t get the point!I am often asked why i don’t do the “obvious designer” thing.Why would i want to have those letters splayed all over my purse? Just so I can show them how much I make? Seriously, people.When the day comes that I am able to convince myself that spending a ridiculous amount of money on a purse is OK, it’s not gonna have screaming letters all over it, that’s for sure.

  59. Hi Tina,

    I really enjoy your site and I agree completely with quality over quantity, however price or status of a bag does not always indicate it’s quality. I recently stopped by a Coach store to take a look at their leather bags to honestly judge the quality since they seem to be consistently knocked here. I was pleasantly surprised to find the quality of the leather and workmanship is on par with the Botkiers, Jaldas etc often mentioned here as cheap thrills. I especially like the sabrina bag which is simple/classic and the leather was lovely. I guess I just agree with Nina Garcia who says cost does not matter that there are bags available at astronomical prices and at reasonable prices and to just go with classic and what one can afford (I am paraphrasing here). I would love to own some of the incredible couture bags you feature here but it just is not possible now but one day a croc bag will be mine. Again really do enjoy your site.

  60. For the most part, I would say save up for the bag of your dreams. As a graduate student, I can’t go out and buy every bag I like. So I wait for one I truly dream about and get it. If something is in fashion at the moment, I might get a cheap version of it. For example, purple is really in right now so I got a Michael Kors bag for around $300. Its definitely not about money, all about self control and perception. And not to be an ass. but Coach is for rookies. Sorry, everyone has one and I can’t stand it the big C’s everywhere, but you get the leather ones that are inconspicuous then its okay. To summarize, just buy whatever you like and don’t be pressured into buying crap.

  61. You make some valid points but let’s remember that price is always relative. To many women a $500 – $700 handbag IS a luxury and the same could be said that they should consider one $500 bag instead of two $250 bags! They are definitely better quality!

    Perhaps this should be another blog all together! LOL

    In my store, Zoey Bloom, we specialize in handbags and jewelry in this pre runway-designer range. They are excellent quality and even perhaps more unique than the IT bag because they are knocked off less and you don’t see everybody else carrying them like you do with many of the gold range designer bags you speak of.

    We have some bags in stock that are $60 dollars and some $1,200. The $60 bags are loved by their new owners just as much as the more expensive ones are loved by their purchasersu. It is all relative 🙂

  62. Here’s my opinion. Buy what you truly truly truly want. I am a total bargain shopper by nature but if there is something that I can’t figure life will go on without, I’ll get it. I’ve been through too many frantic searches on ebay in hopes of finding that one thing that I decided not to get because of the cost. The regret eats me alive. Of course, you don’t want to put it on a credit card and pay for it for the next decade… but I allow myself a tiny bit of craziness when I start dreaming (literally) about a certain bag or shoe or jacket. I figure, I deserve it by being frugal 99% of the time! I was an apparel design major so I’m usually pretty good at finding quality for less most of the time.