Have you ever bought a handbag that spent more time in your closet than on your shoulder? Do you find yourself purchasing the most gorgeous handbags only to return them because “something just isn’t right?” Without knowing anything about you, I’m certain you’re buying the wrong handbag for YOU.
As a former personal stylist for Nordstrom—a company that has the most liberal return policy in the retail industry—I quickly devised methods to reduce customer returns and keep my commission. With a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Pitzer College (go Sagehens!), I approach everything in life from holistic perspective. It became apparent to me that women were making impractical and uniformed purchases because they were not considering their lifestyles when choosing handbags. If you follow my guidelines below, you will most likely never buy a handbag you don’t use again.
1. KNOW YOUR PURPOSE
Before setting out to shop for a handbag, clearly define the purpose of the purchase. Are you looking for an everyday bag? Are you looking for a special occasion bag? Is this strictly an emotional purchase—a bag you don’t need but really want and probably won’t use everyday? Emotional purchases are okay as long as they are planned. Impulsive emotional purchases almost always lead to regret and or return. When you walk into the retailer with a purpose, it reduces your chances of walking away with a handbag that doesn’t work for you.
2. KNOW THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF HANDBAGS
There is a whole wide world of handbags out there but, for everyday use, these are the types you need to know.
- Shoulder Bags (Classic, Hobo, Tote)
3. UNDERSTAND YOUR LIFESTYLE
Style is more than just what looks good. It is what feels good; what works. Style is life. You must consider your lifestyle and your roles when setting out to purchase a handbag. What type of woman are you? Are you one or a combination of any of these types of women? Consider the following:
– Mothers With Small Children
Women with a small child or children are extremely active and need their hands free. Ideal handbags include cross bodies and stylish backpacks. Stylish moms that don’t like carrying traditional baby bags should consider large, hobo or tote bags. Women with small children should also avoid bags made with too much hardware and heavy leather, as the weight will become uncomfortable as they go about their day and their duties.
There are all sorts of “bag ladies” out there. The easiest to select a handbag for are the minimalists. They need their bags like they need their lives—sleek and clean. They aren’t into big bags because they’re not into clutter or the accumulation of stuff. Minimalist women do well with classic shoulder bags. Fans of organization, they need compartments (which are very hard to find nowadays).
Gaudy hardware is not for them. Minimalist women may also opt for other styles like cross bodies and satchels but the look is always sleek and clean. Minimalist women aren’t into purchasing more than they need so convertible handbags with multi-purpose function are ideal. An example of a convertible bag is a satchel with an attachable and adjustable strap that allows for shoulder and cross body function.
– Athletic Women
Athletic women are extremely active. Even if they are concerned with style, function and comfort take precedence. They lead active lifestyles and need their hands free. Cross bodies and stylish backpacks are always great options for athletic women. Hobos are also great handbag choices for athletic women because they are freeform bags that collapse on the body, providing comfort and effortless style. Athletic women need durable or distressed leathers that can take a beating. They should also consider handbags made of washable materials like nylon.
– Business Women
Business women may have lives outside of work but they spend the majority of their time in a professional setting. The majority of their handbags should reflect where they spend the majority of their time. Depending on their daily operations, business women can opt for a variety of handbags. Clean, classic and structured handbags (shoulder, satchel or tote) always do well for business women.
Structured bags with durable leathers are ideal. Structured bags always tend to look more professional. Durable leathers, such as saffiano, will withstand the tests of time, travel, and commute. Business women should avoid daytime clutches as they don’t send a professional message and they are easy for a busy multi-tasking person to leave behind. Also, hobo bags do not translate well in the business world. They give the appearance of being too relaxed.
– Elderly Women & Women With Injuries
Being elderly or having injuries doesn’t mean women can’t still have an eye and love for fashion. But, it does mean they should consider physical challenges when purchasing a handbag. Elderly women and women with injuries should opt for lightweight handbags. Heavy handbags with lots of hardware may trigger or cause shoulder injuries. Bags with short drops (the distance between your underarm and the opening of the bag), like hobo bags, could also trigger or cause injuries as they require more physical activity to get into the bags. Cross body bags may not be a good idea for women with hip injuries. My go to for elderly women and women with injuries is a classic, light-weight shoulder bag.
For the fashionista, it’s all about the look. She has several handbags to suit her moods and ever-changing style. The fashionista selects whatever handbag strikes her fancy. Chances are, she has one or two everyday bags and the rest of her purchases are emotional. She knows her life. She knows her style. And she rocks the handbag gamut.
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