According to a survey of 2,000 women, buying a new handbag is the most satisfying purchase you can make. However, as we all know, it can also be one of the most fraught. The joy we feel on plucking a shiny new shopper from its dust bag can be matched only by the despair we experience on discovering that it’s not big enough to house our bulging purse, let alone our trusty umbrella or emergency banana. And the perfect bag not only has to hold everything we own, but go with everything we wear and stand the test of time as the carousel of fashion continues to turn and red wine continues to be spilled. Avoid the pitfalls with our guide to the five things you need to know before you buy a new bag…
1. Fit counts
It’s just as important to try on a new handbag as it is a pair of jeans. Does it slip over your shoulder easily? Make your favourite coat bunch unflatteringly? Will it go with your work and weekend wardrobes? Don’t forget, different types of bags suit different body shapes, too. An undersized bag may make you appear larger by comparison, but a bulky tote which slots under your arm could add unwanted bulk to your waistline. Pear-shaped ladies should opt for shorter shoulder straps, backpacks or handheld styles (avoid saddle bags if you want to minimise your own!) whilst apple shapes can add length with longer strap styles – try a bucket bag. Ordering online? Look out for model images to check size and strap length.
Carol Tan Grained Leather Shoulder Bag, £225, L.K.Bennett
2. It can pay to be a little bolder
Black is a failsafe colour choice, but, if you’re after a bag you can tote all day, every day, consider tan, grey, navy or metallic tones – they’ll slot into your summer and winter wardrobes just as effortlessly whilst injecting a touch of je ne sais quoi into your everyday ensembles. Watch out for cream and white tones, though – colour transfer could well become the bane of your life. Don’t be afraid to experiment with trends, either – simply choose wisely. Think classic with a twist: metallic ring handles and bucket bags are set to be future wardrobe classics.
Metallic Handle Tote Bag, £35.99, Mango
3. Size matters
Bag shopping on the high street? Take a tape measure – it’s the only way to be sure your precious cargo will fit (emergency banana and all). Ordering online? Check the measurements – and the weight – you’d be surprised how much heft metal hardware can add. Measure your current handbag so you have a baseline from which to compare. If you suffer from back or shoulder pain, however, now could be the time to consider downsizing. Buy a Tardis-like tote and the temptation to throw in everything bar the kitchen sink ‘just in case’ can be tricky to resist, so be brave and invest in a bag just big enough for (actual) essentials…
Folded Leather Shopper, £175, Cos
4. Be prepared to compromise
Consider the lifestyle you have, not just the lifestyle you think your dream bag will convey. Then split the difference. Love ladylike top-handle handbags? Pick one which can be wiped clean with minimal effort and doubles up as a backpack or comes with a detachable shoulder strap.
Faux Leather Stud Tote Bag, £39.50, Marks & Spencer
5. Shop around
High street favourites such as Whistles, Cos, Marks & Spencer and Mango now produce near-designer quality handbags, so there’s no need to spend a small fortune on a new bag. Not convinced? Bag a bargain on The Outnet, a future classic at YBD (Young British Designers) or a nearly-new beaut at Vestiaire Collective or Hardly Ever Worn It – if you can ever bear to part with it, you could make 80-100% of your investment back.
Pebbled Effect Shopper Bag, £29.99, Mango