The real price of that handbag in the window

  1. The real price of that handbag in the window
    Expensive fashion accessories can undermine financial stability.
    By Marilyn Gardner
    Christian Science Monitor
    March 14, 2007

    Status symbols take many forms. From fancy jewelry and designer clothes to luxury cars and oversized houses, they send a variety of silent messages from their owners. "Notice me," some status symbols plead, while others appear to boast, "Anything you can buy, I can buy bigger and better."

    In recent years the status game for women has added another category: "arm wear," a term describing pricey designer handbags, coveted by women of all economic levels.

    Walk through high-end fashion stores and you're likely to see handbags displayed on walls like paintings in an art museum. There are bags with buckles and chains. Bags with pockets and pouches. Bags with snakeskin-embossed leather or python and alligator skins. What they all have in common is a hefty price tag.

    The current InStyle magazine includes pages of handbags, with prices soaring to $5,283 for a yellow leather creation by Versace. In London, the most astonishing arm wear of all may be a Louis Vuitton patchwork bag costing £23,484, or $45,235. As The Times of London reports, that's nearly $6,000 more than the cost of a new Mercedes.

    If that's just slightly too much, you might consider one made by Fendi of sable and chinchilla. That will be £20,000 ($38,500), please, Madam.

    Such purchases elevate the term "bag lady" to new social status.

    For women of means, a four- or five-figure handbag represents a mere blip in their checkbook. Easy come, easy go. But for those with modest paychecks and middle-class lives, even a $300 or $500 bag can hurt a budget.

    Just ask a young fashion designer in London, who told The Times, "I know a lot of women who will starve to get a handbag. I've got a lot of friends like that." How ironic that the very objects designed to carry wallets are playing a role in flattening them.

    In defense of such splurges, a 30-year-old makeup artist who has bought more than 200 handbags told a reporter for The Times, "When I wear a designer bag, the way I walk is different, the way I feel is different. It makes me feel good to have a designer bag." Yet this expensive game of ego gratification might not make her savings account feel great.

    "Starving to get a handbag" is hardly an approach that would please Suze Orman, author of the just-published "Women & Money." Despite the impressive advances women have made in recent decades, she finds that very little has changed in the way they deal with money. When it comes to personal finance, they "hand over control and refuse to take responsibility as they do in no other area of their lives," sometimes spending recklessly or refusing to save.

    Although women are making more money than ever before, Ms. Orman states, "they are not making more of what they make." Offering one example, she writes, "Your closet houses the wardrobe of a powerful and stylish woman, but the dirty secret is that your credit cards are maxed out and you don't know how you're going to pay them off."

    In a survey last year by Allianz Insurance, Orman notes, nearly half the women responding said the possibility of becoming a bag lady – the impoverished kind, not the one with the equivalent of a Mercedes on her arm – had crossed their minds.

    Some middle-class women defend their purchases by explaining that they spend less on clothing these days, preferring to invest in a few good accessories.

    The handbag mania comes on the heels of an earlier passion for expensive shoes – think Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo. But even the most expensive status symbols can prove to be ephemeral. Fads come, fads go.

    Just when some handbag lovers might be thinking they own enough and can start stashing a paycheck or two in the bank, another temptation is arriving on the fashion scene. The new must-have accessory, according to trend-spotters, is an expensive watch. And not just one watch, but many.

    "Sadly, we have bid farewell to the handbag as the self-expressive accessory," says Patricia Pao, a retail specialist in New York. As a replacement, she notes, at least one high-end watch company is "embarking on an aggressive strategy to promote watch-wardrobing to their female customers."

    "Watch-wardrobing." Think of it as the next way to keep a budget off balance.

    Fashion always represents a tug on the purse strings. Who doesn't enjoy the pleasure of a new purchase, another addition to a wardrobe? It's probably a classic case of all things in moderation. But one thing is certain: A fleet of high-priced handbags in the closet and an array of expensive watches in the jewelry box won't help to finance a retirement or pad a savings account.

    Making a case for good financial planning for everyone, a billboard for Charles Schwab offers this clever warning: "Crossing your fingers doesn't work."

    The real price of that handbag in the window |
  2. Wow!! Thank you for posting that very interesting article.
  3. You are welcome.
  4. Thanks for posting!! :smile:

    I've been wondering why in the world I keep wanting a watch in the back of my mind!!! :push: All well... handbags are just too much fun, I would rather have a variety of handbags then watches!! Hope that sticks.
  5. Interesting. :yes:

    Thanks for posting, coachwife! :biggrin:

    I've always loved bags. I loved them before the trend for 'it' bags started and I'll love them when it ends (as I think it has begun to). But then, I also love jewellery, clothes and shoes (and always have).

    The order of these obsessions may change (for the last couple of years I've been more into jewellery, than bags), but I never just buy one type of item, to the exclusion of the others.
  6. Good article!
  7. Yeah-great article!! I see a pattern in myself here...although I've always had an obsession w/ shoes & handags..I do kind of 'make a run' on an accessory and move on....A few years ago I was focused on beefing up my jewelry collection..Then I got that settled and moved on to watches...then I got that situated and was stuck on sunglasses....Who knows what I'll be into next...maybe belts!!
  8. interesting article.

    watches over handbags lol come on

    thanks for sharing!
  9. Well I think its not good if you're stretching your budget or still in school to shell out lots of money for a handbag, but if you're a profesional woman why can't you spend some money on your wardrobe? The guys I know spend big money on their suits, ties, watches (lets not forget cars) and none bats an eyelash but people have made comments about my bags/clothes/scarves - ridiculous! My fiance could be in a suit that cost a few thousand wearing a Hermes tie and he gets no comments other than 'nice suit' or 'you look great.' None makes a comment about the cost. I've also noticed guys never comment on my stuff other than a compliment, or with one friend he's recognized the brand of a few things so he'll be like 'oh that's nice, is it Fendi?' Other woman though are ridiculous - like I need to hear from another attorney that something I have costs too much. Just today I got an e-mail complaining about how I can afford all my Manolos from a friend making about 150k a year. I think she can buy some shoes if she wants.

    I also know lots of professional woman who have a hard time treating themselves, who have the financial means. That to me is a problem. I also don't really like Suzie Orman, but then its probably because alot of her advice doesn't really work for me or in my situation.

    Anyways, thanks for posting - this issue is really interesting!