A purse is far more than a simple accessory. It is a practical carrying case, a way to express your sense of style, something to play with during awkward moments, and even a weapon in times of trouble. In fact, if I were going to write a post called How To Choose The Perfect Man, it would probably be half this long because that subject is not nearly as important. The thing about a purse is that you carry it every day, so it has to be comfortable, versatile, aesthetically pleasing, and good quality enough to endure rough commutes, chronic overstuffing, and harrowing public bathroom trips. Shopping for the right handbag can be a daunting task. Here are the most important variable to consider when you’re in the market for a new purse…
Handles: I was just talking to my mom about how the wrong handles are probably the biggest purse dealbreaker. Have you ever bought a shoulder bag that kept slipping off your shoulder? Or a purse with small handles only to realize you hate having your hands full? Or a cross-body bag with a skinny strap that dug into your boobs? Figure out your personal purse strap preference, and don’t stray too far from your comfort zone (literally–what’s the most comfortable for you?). We carry our purses with us every day; how we carry them matters.
Size: Think of a purse like a garage: you need enough room to park your wallet and store important supplies, but if it’s too big you’ll end up filling the whole thing with crap you don’t need and you’ll never be able to find anything. When you’re shopping for a new purse, examine the contents of your current handbag to figure out what your necessities are. For me, I need room for my wallet, keys, cellphone, sunglasses, 8 packs of gum, chapstick, a notebook, and 300,000 bobby pins. Those are my non-negotiables. What are yours? And how much space do they need? Be realistic–that teeny tiny clutch might be cute but if it only has room for a tube of lipstick and a couple of barbie shoes, it won’t do you much good as an everyday bag. Larger bags can be great but personally, I have a tendency to fill whatever bag I have to capacity. When my bag is the size of a dump truck, this can pose a problem.
Color: The most important factor here is versatility, but that doesn’t mean you are required to choose conservative tan purses all the time. Think about what you want your purse to add to your daily outfits. Do you want it to blend in? Do you want it to be the focal point? Or somewhere in between? A bright orange purse, for example, can be a totally versatile choice if you want an eye-catching accessory and wear clothing that complements it.
Safe color bets: Black, gray, most shades of brown.
Unexpectedly versatile options: red, burgundy, forest green, dark blue.
Quality: Leather purses are usually the best quality and longest lasting, but you can find solid bags made of many different fabrics. Look at the stitching, how sturdy the seams are, if the handles seem strong or flimsy. Look for little details like tiny metal feet on the bottom that let you set your bag down without getting it dirty, a nice lining, reinforced handles, or strong zippers. Keep in mind that it can be worth paying a bit more for a good quality purse from a brand that you trust.
Structure: Never buy a purse that doesn’t have at least a couple smaller pockets to organize your things. Trying to locate your keys at the bottom of a dark, cavernous handbag is as hopeless an endeavor as Rose locating Jack at the bottom of the Atlantic (too soon?). Other factors to consider: does the bag stay upright when you set it on the ground or does it crumple or fall over? Does the top close with a zipper or a clasp or not at all? (If you travel a lot you will need a purse that closes for security reasons.) Are there too many pockets, pouches, and doodads? Is the main storage space easy to access?
Cost: Here’s the deal. If you have a little extra money to spend on a good quality purse that you love, you will not regret it. You carry it every single day, so if you divide the price of the purse by the number of times you use it, pretty soon that purse is cutting you a check.
Now I’d like to hear from you guys. What do you look for in a purse? How often do you buy a new one? What’s your dream handbag?