The Mystifying Process of Shopping for a Handbag - Wall Street Journal 2/8/13

Feb 13, 2006
1,698
378
Honolulu, HI
Cute article, LOVE the paper sculpted bags!



http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324610504578278363232415982.html

The Nerve-Racking, Soul-Searching, Exhilarating Process of Shopping for a Handbag

By RACHEL DODES

F. Martin Ramin for The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Malina Joseph Gilchrist and Paula Knight, Paper sculpted bags by DSM Styling, Model: Michelle C./Wilhelmina Models. These paper versions of iconic styles were created by artist Daniel Sean Murphy.

FOR THE PAST SEVERAL MONTHS, I have been carrying a decidedly unglamorous bag to work. It's a beige canvas tote that says Espolón Tequila with a picture of a skeleton riding a rooster. My husband got it free at an event. Nobody likes it.

As much as I would like to declare that I am making some sort of anti-fashion, pro-tequila statement, I have to be honest: This bag is not so much a choice as it is the consequence of not making a choice. Following some expensive missteps, and facing the recent explosion of beautiful options, I appear to be suffering from an increasingly common condition. Call it Handbag Decision Paralysis (HDP), a type of commitment phobia in the accessories milieu.

This past year, I first lusted after the near-ubiquitous Céline Luggage tote, then the very ubiquitous Proenza Schouler PS1—a trim, double-buckled satchel that seems to have colonized the first floor of Barneys' Madison Avenue store, in all sorts of fabrications and hues. Most recently, I've been obsessing over the softly voluminous double-handled Givenchy Nightingale tote, which has similar cult status. 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. It seems I may not be alone.

Jennifer Zucher, co-founder of matchmaking service Project Soulmate, likens HDP to the dilemmas of dating. "Everyone thinks that the next person is going to be better than the last, and that's why people don't settle down," she said. "It's the same thing with bags." She speaks from experience. For the past three months, Ms. Zucher has been struggling to find the perfect black handbag to fit an iPad, folders, books anda large wallet, perhaps with the option to wear cross-body.

The main cause of HDP anxiety, I suspect, stems from the irreversibility and economic significance of the decision amid what behavioral economists call "conditions of uncertainty." That is to say, once you plunk down $2,000 or more for a bag and start wearing it, you can't return it—and there's no way of knowing whether everybody else on the street will simultaneously decide to start sporting the same style (or, worse, counterfeit versions of it). As we have seen with the Prada backpack, the Fendi Baguette, the Chloé Paddington, the Goyard tote, the Balenciaga City bag and countless others, an "It" handbag can be an unpredictable and bittersweet phenomenon.

Faced with an overflow of beautiful options, and hindered by the regret of expensive missteps, many women are unable to pull the trigger on buying a handbag.

In a modern, mobile world, there's also something deeper going on with women and their bags, according to Judith Clark, professor of fashion and museology at the London College of Fashion. "On one level, it's this banal thing: How do I choose a handbag?" said Ms. Clark, who curated the permanent collection at the recently opened Simone Handbag Museum in Seoul. "But it's also a very intimate decision, having to do with the privacy that goes along with the inside of a bag." In picking a bag, we are in essence showing the world how we pay respect to the contents of our lives, and perhaps even ourselves.

Kathleen Vohs, a University of Minnesota marketing professor who studies decision-making, said that the likelihood of paralysis rises when "people think that a decision reflects who they really are." (Ms. Vohs is the lead author of the paper that President ***** cited in a recent Vanity Fair profile to explain why he only wears blue or gray suits. Apparently wasting mental energy on less important decisions impedes the ability to make crucial ones.)

Getting past HDP can take time. Rebecca Sinn, a 32-year-old editor at Glamour magazine, said that she has been eyeing the neat, top-handled Yves Saint Laurent Muse II bag for more than three years but just can't pull the trigger. She likened buying the bag, which costs about $1,500, to "committing to adulthood," something that she's not quite ready to do.

“Ask yourself: Will I love this bag no matter what?”

When my friend Julie, a stylist, began emailing me pictures of the large Proenza Schouler PS1, we started a lively debate over whether the bag was still "It"—and if it was, whether this was a good thing or not. I had seen versions of it on the flash-sale website Gilt.com, which is a mixed blessing for bag enthusiasts. On one hand, it means you can get the bag for about 30% off. On the other, the discounting is a signal that the bag could be nearing the end of its "It" run. I've carried bags past their invisible expiration date; it's a feeling akin to betting on the wrong horse at the Kentucky Derby.

"When you are considering spending that much money, you have to remove the question of trends from your mind," advised Julie as I waffled over the PS1. "Ask yourself: Will I love this no matter what?" She and I both decided that we would not love this bag no matter what. Instead, Julie bought a Céline Luggage Tote a couple of months ago.

Ms. Zucher, the matchmaker, has been torn between three options: a Miu Miu tote ($1,495), a large Chanel shopping tote (about $3,000) and a YSL Cabas Chyc "East West" bag ($2,450). She finally chose the YSL because she felt it had the most "longevity."

That quality might be more easily found in brands that have dispensed with the quest for It-ness, but still make bags that aren't boring. Each year, Italian leathergoods company Valextra makes only two to three new models of its bags, which are scratch- and stain- resistant and highly functional. Chief executive Emanuele Carminati Molina sees them as "the expression of an enduring aesthetic."

Longevity is also what French designer Myriam Schaefer is seeking in her bags. Ms. Schaefer—known for helping to design the Balenciaga City bag, which was an "It" sensation over a decade ago—has gone in a discreet and minimal direction with the eponymous collection that she started in late 2011. "I was tired of these bags that cost a fortune and that everybody's copying after three months," she said. "With my bags you can use them for 10 or 20 years like my mother and grandmother did."

That sounds like a promising proposition, although committing to a handbag for 20 years is a little overwhelming. Maybe this is the root cause of my anxiety: knowing that my track record is spotty. Every single time I have bought an expensive bag, I envisioned us having a long future together, then soon tired of it.

I recently abandoned my plan to buy Givenchy's Nightingale bag after seeing three women carrying them in Las Vegas. For now, I'm still carrying that canvas tote, but getting closer and closer to curing myself of HDP.
 
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NamkhaDrolma

Off to the tower...
O.G.
Jun 12, 2007
2,899
772
Enjoyed the article very much! Thanks for posting it. I ask myself a version of question: Will I love this bag no matter what? as part of my decision-making process too. It's saved me from a few expensive mistakes.
 

indiaink

Eh
Authenticator
O.G.
May 3, 2007
15,999
6,485
I love this line ".... 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. It seems I may not be alone."

Well, I've finally reached my bag plateau, and it feels good!!! Thanks for posting the article - also interesting to read about President *****'s decision on suit color; imagine, would we feel as good about a president who obsessed with material goods? LOL.

I do believe I'll get getting rid of another of my BVs - which will leave me with two handbags. Before I started the madness, I 'only' had one; two is almost back to 'normal', yes?
 

sandc

likes giraffes
Sep 16, 2009
4,432
7
Enjoyed this article! The picture was great. That's about how it feels when trying to find the perfect bag!
 

slowlikehoney

Member
Feb 12, 2012
1,850
220
Wheaton, IL
Wonderful article! I actually can't quite relate to it so much, but that's probably because I refuse to spend that much on any bag, which takes a lot of the pressure off. I only have to love it $100-$200 or so worth and not $1500 worth. Also I don't work in an office so I don't feel as much pressure to make sure that my bag is a representation of myself. I actually don't have very many bags that I've bought and then not loved as much as I thought I would and I don't think I've ever owned an "IT" bag since I won't spend the money required. In that way I rarely see anyone else carrying the same bag as mine, which I prefer.
 

loveable

Member
Dec 18, 2011
230
11
I like this article, but I did come to a different conclusion myself than Julie - I got the PS1, and I do love it no matter what. :smile:
 

cvlshopaholic

Member
Apr 26, 2012
513
4
I guess I'm the only one who didn't particularly like the article, lol. Maybe I read incorrectly, but I felt like she was implying that "It" bags can't have longevity or that they have quality issues, which isn't true in most cases.

and there's no way of knowing whether everybody else on the street will simultaneously decide to start sporting the same style (or, worse, counterfeit versions of it).

I mean, so what? I don't refuse to carry bags just because there are replicas being sold on the street. I know what I'm carrying is genuine and I don't care how many seasons ago it was considered hot. It sounds to me like she's bothered by the prospect that someone else in the world might -gasp- have the same bag as her, or even worse, that it's a fake! How that would affect her and her real bag, I'm not sure.

Not to mention she wrote about the importance of staying away from trends and then promptly noted that her friend ended up buying a Celine....but I digress.
 

Aluxe

The Gimme-Queen
Nov 29, 2010
5,253
140
DCA via the DMV via NGA
Interesting article.

I don't think bag buying should be complicated, even though I know it can be for many of us. We just have to be honest with ourselves - will I use the bag? can I resell it if I don't want it anymore? I set certain metrics and rules for myself very early on to help me. Thankfully, they have worked so far.

If you want a bag, can afford it and will use it - get it. Wear it whenever and wherever. Ignore rules as they are meant to be broken and forget trends as they are fleeting. Remember why you bought the bag. And when you forget why, then, its time for it to go.

Now, if I can only just stay on track with my bag ban... :thinking:
 

BgaHolic

Emma 4ever in my <3
O.G.
May 23, 2009
7,342
132
NYC
For me, since I reached the premier designer plateau, I can honestly say there is no perfect bag. I am wearing my Gucci hobo repeatedly day after day because it can carry your stuff, my stuff and your childrens things in it. On a practical note, the leather is indestructable and the bag happens to be very bohemian looking and nice. On a less practical note, it is heavy to the point it always ends up hurting my back after a few days and lately, I am having trouble finding things in it.

At over $2k for a bag, I want it to be as near perfect as it gets and yet, from what I've learned, there still is no such bag! It turns out my YSL Rive Gauche, which I try not to wear in the rain, while it has a dark color interior, is probably the easiest of my bags to find things in. Yet, the straps are an inch away from being comfortable on the shoulder and the leather has a tendency to show water marks if not careful. Like I said, despite price, I don't think there is a "perfect" bag. I am going to join the HDP anxiety club!
 

catsinthebag

adopt a shelter pet!
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Sep 7, 2010
6,847
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For me, since I reached the premier designer plateau, I can honestly say there is no perfect bag. I am wearing my Gucci hobo repeatedly day after day because it can carry your stuff, my stuff and your childrens things in it. On a practical note, the leather is indestructable and the bag happens to be very bohemian looking and nice. On a less practical note, it is heavy to the point it always ends up hurting my back after a few days and lately, I am having trouble finding things in it.

At over $2k for a bag, I want it to be as near perfect as it gets and yet, from what I've learned, there still is no such bag! It turns out my YSL Rive Gauche, which I try not to wear in the rain, while it has a dark color interior, is probably the easiest of my bags to find things in. Yet, the straps are an inch away from being comfortable on the shoulder and the leather has a tendency to show water marks if not careful. Like I said, despite price, I don't think there is a "perfect" bag. I am going to join the HDP anxiety club!
The HDP Anxiety Club -- love it! I looked at the graphic at the beginning of the article and thought, that's me, except the bags should be floating in a circle above my head along with a giant cartoon question mark! :noggin::confused1:
 

oladushki

O.G.
Sep 11, 2009
420
98
The Garden State, US
I did not like this article at all, and I'm surprised it was printed in the Wall Street Journal.

Particularly this line bugged me: "I've carried bags past their invisible expiration date; it's a feeling akin to betting on the wrong horse at the Kentucky Derby." Really? If you love it, how can it have an "expiration date"?

Overall I felt this article was a bit of a caricature. Women are capable of making decisions, about hand bags as well as about public policy, business, their families, etc.