Ranting about Handbags, Again

by Erin on August 30, 2007

First of all, a great big welcome to all of you who are here because this blog was a Yahoo! Pick!

In the Yahoo! interview it was mentioned that occasionally I rant about the Handbag Industrial Complex (you know, the folks who bring us horrible things like this):

versace bag

That is ridiculous, isn't it? Just horrible. I can't imagine paying $10 for that, much less the TWO GRAND it actually costs.

And even if you aren't looking at the two-grand end of the scale, lower-end handbags aren't any better. Tiny little handles, so that you can't carry them; covered with nonfunctional locks and useless metal bits and dangling braids and whatnot; branded with logos so large that you look like a mobile billboard. I hate them all.

Which is why I bought an old-skool Coach bag on eBay:

oldskool coach bag

(Don't worry: I removed that stupid hangtag first thing.)

I needed a bag that *wouldn't* hold my laptop — to prevent me from carrying it everywhere. Something that would hold a hardcover book and a wallet and my treo, but not much else. I wanted good leather, but no huge logos. And I wanted a cross-body strap to keep my hands free, which is IMPOSSIBLE to find in a handbag these days, unless you head to the Magellan catalog and get the ones that scream "TOURIST IN EUROPE — COMING THROUGH!"

I really wanted green bag, but a weird green — so this olive is perfect! A green bag works with black or brown, so no switching back and forth — who has time to do that?

I pretty much hate the modern Coach bags, with their splashy ad campaigns, tacky logos everywhere and (I've heard) quality problems, but the old Coach bags are something else. They have clean lines, neat colors, and even the most beat-up ones have a certain careless chic. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that old Coach bags are going to be the next big thing. What with the continuing 80s revival, can't you see a bunch of skinny Brooklyn hipsters deciding that these bags have huge ironic potential? You heard it here first.

{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

elke August 30, 2007 at 10:40 am

Love the bag, Erin. I have the same style in taupe, and it gets a lot of use in summer. Mine was a thrift store find (C$6.00, I think), as were most of my bags. The old Coach and D&B were so well made, and are so simple, I can’t understand the popularity of the wildly logo-ed, hardware-festooned numbers. And they aren’t even all leather!

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Kristen August 30, 2007 at 10:41 am

i have a question that is entirely off the topic of handbags: i thought i remembered someone saying on this blog that half sizes are for petites is that right? I need a 44b pattern for a friend and she is quite tall actually – - so i’m kinda hoping i heard wrong before….thanks!

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Ladygrande (Texas Marie) August 30, 2007 at 10:48 am

Erin, I love the olive green bag! That style is timeless as far as I am concerned. I, too, don’t like the new style of purses. They are just clumsy. Of course, I collect vintage purses and most of them are too small to use except for special occasions, but love them all the same. Good find!Marie C.

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Erin August 30, 2007 at 10:51 am
Chiara August 30, 2007 at 11:07 am

I too have been looking for a classic sort of handbag recently, and as I can’t afford a Kelly bag (tragedy, I know), I’ve been having a really hard time. So many affordable bags are just plain ugly, and they’re not even leather. I can’t believe I didn’t consider vintage bags. Brilliant idea, THANKS!

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Ju August 30, 2007 at 11:13 am

I’m with you on the Coach bags! The old Coach bags were classic and elegant. And part of the elegance was Coach’s apparent philosophy not to display logos or even its name. But now everything has those horrid elongated C’s. I’m no skinny hipster, but I might follow your lead and start looking for classic Coach bags on eBay.

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Miss Kitty August 30, 2007 at 11:17 am

Nothing wrong with a classic, classy handbag. Paying a lot of money for a handbag is great provided you’re going to get a lot of use out of it. What kills me is my students (I’m a college professor) who spend $600-$1000 on a handbag, and nearly $1000 on an iPhone…and complain that they have no money for books. :-P

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oliviacw August 30, 2007 at 11:18 am

Fabulous! I own two old-style Coach City Bags (like yours here, but more rectangular and without the little top handle), in black and brown. Bought them new, many years ago, and they have served me faithfully. Wish people would start making bags like those again.

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vanessa.e. August 30, 2007 at 11:22 am

i agree! i have a little lavender shoulder bag i got about 10 years ago and still feel has such style and quality — mainly because it is nothing like the coach bags of today. I am much happier with my old skool bag and glad that i had it before the trend. i think you picked a great bag for the right reasons and will be happy with it too.

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melissa joy August 30, 2007 at 11:25 am

that’s a great bag. i’m having the worst luck trying to find a new purse.

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Kristen August 30, 2007 at 11:30 am

thanks erin!

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Nora August 30, 2007 at 11:32 am

Nice score, Erin! That is the very bag my Mom carried all throughout my childhood (hers was black though – the green is even better, but I say that about all green things, thereby ending up with a lot of greens that don’t QUITE go together). And I know what you mean about a not-too-big bag, with a strap; I currently have only a messenger bag and a handful of vintage handbags (bought secondhand in a fit of nostalgia, before remembering that I’m a hands-free kind of gal).That other thing–it looks diseased. And $2000!?!?!? It would be funny if it weren’t so disgusting. Clearly, some people have too much money, and it warps their sense of appropriateness – we don’t just need fashion police, we need Robin Hood.

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Latter-Day Flapper August 30, 2007 at 11:33 am

I think it’s called, “More Money Than Taste.”I like that Coach bag. I like a nice, plain, understated bag myself. My everyday purse is black vinyl: I’m not so big on vinyl but it was $10 on sale and it’s got lots of interior pockets. I’ve also got a cute red leather one I found for 25 cents at Goodwill, but it’s too small for everyday stuff. I hate all these overblown, over-ornamented, tacky bags that are “in” these days. They’re like overstuffed chairs–they don’t hold enough, considering their ridiculous exterior dimensions.

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Marie August 30, 2007 at 11:39 am

I think you’re right about the revival of 80′s bags. I’ve been carrying the same Coach bag since the actual 1980′s (the original lasted 20 years, and I’ve just replaced it with an identical one I found on ebay — you really have to try to wear the damn things out), and strangers are starting to comment on it and ask me where I got it. Coach does sell some of its “classic” designs on its web site, for those who don’t want to buy used.

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Nancy (nanflan) August 30, 2007 at 12:01 pm

I think I bought this same style of Coarch bag at a charity auction a couple of years ago. Mine’s navy but a little small for my current taste.The last bag I bought was at TJ Maxx, some Italian designer that more about leatherwork than fashion. Don’t forget them, because I’ve found some nice upscale bags there that haven’t cost a fortune.

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lucitebox August 30, 2007 at 12:14 pm

I agree that some (even most) of the handbags out there are just overkill with garish, useless doo-dads. I love novelty bags and details of interest, but that Versace bag looks like a someone got hold of toilet seat and a riveter and said, “Let’s quilt it and make it into a bag!” The BEST Coach bags in my opinion are the vintage Coach bags by Bonnie Cashin. I have a neat bucket shaped one of hers that was done by Myers that’s great. Know why? Kiss lock pockets!My last real bag purchase (meaning one that was over $60 and not vintage) was a mistake. I carried it a lot but I couldn’t help but feel I’d bought a Marc Jacobs knock-off even though it really isn’t one. I got it on eBay on the cheap, though. It’s by Hype in pink and lined in green. I wish the inverse were true. I love green handbags! Thank you for removing the hangtag on yours. Holly

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Amy B. August 30, 2007 at 12:15 pm

shhhhhh!! how am I supposed to find one of those classic, beautiful Coach bags when you’ve got everyone looking for one now? hmmm?? Modern handbags are trash. I havent’ even been slightly tempted to spend bunches of money on the trendy bags. ugh. I do however keep getting these urges to make my own. Still tracking down baby pink leather . . .

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Erin August 30, 2007 at 12:19 pm

My mother-in-law has that same Coach purse in black, and long have I coveted it. I loved this one, but it’s just a tad too small. I have a nice plain one that I got at Wilsons Leather or somewhere like that, but the classic Coach bag is so much prettier.

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Anonymous August 30, 2007 at 12:43 pm

I’m against the large logo trend in general. I mean, if I’m going to advertise your brand, should I be paid and not pay you???

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kim p. August 30, 2007 at 1:03 pm

May I suggest a good used Furla bag (more than 200 listed on Ebay right now)? Fabulous Italian style and quality. If you want classy, good quality leather, with a bit more style than a Coach bag, check out Furla. I’m a bit of a bag hag, I must admit, and Furlas are my latest obsession. Unfortunately, this season’s bags are disappointing–more hardware and weird textures. So, it’s Ebay for me!

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India August 30, 2007 at 1:08 pm

I love the color!My current everyday handbag is a brown Chirp Trucker by Queen Bee (the appliqu on mine’s not quite like the ones on the website, and I sincerely doubt that I paid that much). I wish it had more interior pockets, but it basically works for meholds neither too much nor too little, and goes with most of the goofy (Brooklyn hipster?) things I wear. And I get compliments on it pretty often, which is a nice bonus.

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Zoltar Panaflex August 30, 2007 at 1:10 pm

I love the green bag, I got one just like it on Ebay (in black) for $9.99. I love Ebay.As for the expensive bag, why do I think it resemble a feminine hygiene product with straps?

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Jonquil August 30, 2007 at 1:39 pm

I love my two old Coach bags in that exact style (which I bought in the mid-90s), but sadly I need an AmeriBag nowadays. I think I’ll upgrade to leather rather than microfiber, though.http://www.ameribag.com/catalog/home

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Meghann Early - Owner: Pop-Up Vintage August 30, 2007 at 3:40 pm

I just purchased the same bag at Salvation Army, but in brown. I love it and it was only $5!

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Cecelia August 30, 2007 at 3:41 pm

“bags that scream Tourist in Europe”–exactly!I so appreciate your perfectly pitched take on contemporary handbags–including Coach and the pictured befurred, befuddled, garish number. I love styles that are all about coloring outside the lines but these are making me queasy instead of covetous.

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Cassie August 30, 2007 at 4:21 pm

I don’t understand why there isn’t more innovation in bags. I have two purses and a bag– the bag holds everything, the purses are for when I’m wearing a skirt (no pockets for me yet). One purse is black, one is brown… and the brown one has a light in it. That comes on when you open it.Every single person who has seen this has wanted one.Why shave a yeti when all you need is an LED, a watch battery, and a magnetic switch?

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Anonymous August 30, 2007 at 4:22 pm

Coincidently, driving home from work tonight, and Labor Day coming up, I had decided to switch to my old Coach bag, which is just like yours, but black. And it does look used, but is still very workable. Got it many many years ago. I do like the green, and had not thought before about trying to get (another) one on Ebay, it’s a good thought.

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Thoughts on Life and Millinery. August 30, 2007 at 4:46 pm

For fun: Take a man who wants to buy a purse for you into a purse department and attempt to explain why you hate so many purses. Have him attempt to find things (keys, glasses, pens etc) in the bags he likes.I did exactly that. It was an interesting date, and a great education for him on what we women have to put up with.

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enc August 30, 2007 at 5:32 pm

I agree with you about the old Coach bags having had a certain careless chic. They had classic shapes and great quality.I always made a policy of removing the hangtags and using them as keychains. They swung around and annoyed me, and anyway, everyone knew what bag you were carrying, so the tag was moot. I stopped buying the bags when they began producing them in China, however, and I never looked back. I think the new styles are appalling-looking, and I can’t fathom paying $500 for jacquard.I like Italian-made bags. They’re expensive, but I carry them for years, so I can justify parting with that much cash. Sometimes I feel silly about it, but mostly I don’t.

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cindy b August 30, 2007 at 5:57 pm

That is EXACTLY the Coach bag I have been coveting for 20 years! Meanwhile, I carry Liz Claiborne bags that I find at Salvation Army. Simple black leather for winter and a bright blue one for summer(it has raincoat vinyl on the outside so I never have to worry about rain).

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mamafrog August 30, 2007 at 6:42 pm

I’m with thriftyfashionista–get my bags at thrift stores. I want to go back to making mine soon, when I get the energy! They always look better, last longer, and have exactly the right amount of pockets for my needs. I like one just big enough to carry a magazine or hardback book, my other necessaries, something to drink and sometimes a nibble, and the stuff hubby hands me because he can’t sit on anything anymore or doesn’t want to carry his spare glasses! At least he carries his own phone. Here’s an absolutely great place for vintage bags–they know their stuff:http://www.hooticouture.typepad.com/

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Katie August 30, 2007 at 7:32 pm

wow. this is my first read and already i am hooked. i feel the exact same way about modern purses, but i thought that nobody understood me! thank you for not falling victim to these new atrocities.

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The Mysterious Traveler August 30, 2007 at 7:54 pm

If you like Coach bags, you might also like Libaire bags from San Francisco. New, or via eBay.

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Beth August 30, 2007 at 8:15 pm

I myself was worried that I was in a bag rut… I realized that the purses I do carry come from two lines- The Sak (both in classic black) and Coach (all 3 are the classic black leather). The irony is all of my bags came the thrifts and the most I paid for any one was $4.00. They are all classic styles that I will be able to carry for years. I’ve looked at the current purses and wonder what companies are thinking. There is something somewhat wrong in the cosmos when a purse from Target is more classic and looks to be of higher quality then a $200+ purse from a major department store (and the pricer purses look like something cheap from the dollar store)

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jill August 30, 2007 at 8:38 pm

Absolutely love the bag. Green is perfect! When not carrying a bag I made, I use a Liz Claiborne I picked up from the Goodwill for a buck…real leather and before I began to abuse (I mean use) it, it was flawless. How could someone just toss it aside?Vintage is good, thrifty is awesome. Now if I could only find some vintage, thrifty patterns for a plus-size woman with after-multiple children hips, life would be perfect.

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Sandra August 30, 2007 at 9:16 pm

Hi Erin,Thanks for the bag tip!Skinny Brooklyn Hipster-in-Progress

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Emily August 30, 2007 at 9:16 pm

I live in the Texas Panhandle, where we “all” wear cowboy boots and hats. My handbag is a little stuffed horse. His name is Buckie and he has almost as much personality as my husband and I. He gets recognized before either of us, and has his own custom wardrobe and everything. He was even the “best horse” in our wedding. He makes a lot of sense in our area, but if we go more than 100 miles, no one gets him.

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john August 30, 2007 at 11:01 pm
zimmersarmy August 30, 2007 at 11:27 pm

Q: Do you know what is even worse than a flashy, trashy, cashy purse?A: When such a purse is paired with a ratty t-shirt and bad jeans!If you work your outfit around the novelty purse it can work, perhaps. Nevermind that I think no purse should really have the power to rule over the rest of your wardrobe. It needs to be a team player.With such an outlandish bag if you don’t even try with the rest of the ensemble, the bag becomes even more of an eyesore.This is one of many fashions yucks seen too often at the grocery store.-Janet

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Gabrielle August 31, 2007 at 5:24 am

I have this bag in navy, I bought it new in 1989. It is still going strong and looks great. I’d love one of the older ones from the Bonnie Cashin era but they are just sooo expensive!

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jen August 31, 2007 at 6:10 am

I concur with the Furla suggestion, except its not too likely you’ll find a cross body strap in the more recent collections. But they are high quality, not outrageously expensive, and don’t have logos.I think actually that in Europe you can find a lot of good bags. The american market is terrible which is why I’m 35 and carrying around a canvas tote bag or a messenger bag. its cute and not unstylish but I would love a good leather bag. I’m going to check out libaire.

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Anonymous August 31, 2007 at 6:50 am

I bought my first and only Coach bag in 1993. It’s a black leather doctor’s bag and I love it. Wouldn’t trade it for the world. Thanks for the old school Coach bag shout out!

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Anonymous August 31, 2007 at 7:17 am

I feel much better now about the two 10-year-old Coach bags I’ve been schlepping around. The reason I’ve kept them is because of the cross-body strap. A few years ago I went into the local outlet store carrying my old Coach bag. The clerk commented that they have a lot of people who come into the store looking for exactly that type of bag.I have one of the newer Coach bags. The strap is just barely long enough to fit over my shoulder, but the buckles at the end of the strap continue to come undone so the strap is not very useful. I stuck this bag in a drawer and pulled out the old ones. I may look like a dinosaur, but at least I’m not fighting my handbag into submission every day.

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Anonymous August 31, 2007 at 7:35 am

Erin I use a black coach bag similar to that one daily, no matter what season.I change shoes and clothes styles, but always keep that same coach bag. Do you know that you can have them recondoitioned at the factory when the binding finally wears(after 15 years of hard use) for abouy $25!

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Anonymous August 31, 2007 at 8:03 am

I have not been able to find a purse I like since 1986. They’re too large, sit too high under the armpit (whoever designed that?!), too huge, too tiny, too silly, too ugly, etc. I have a small collection of new purses, with the stuffing paper still inside, never used because I keep buying them, hoping they’ll “do” until I find one I like. But Erin–I love that purse. Time for me to do a little vintage shopping. And I do love the green, too.Laura

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Latter-Day Flapper August 31, 2007 at 8:36 am

I went on eBay to poke around at the vintage Coach listings and realized that the cheap-o vinyl bag I’ve got is just a not-close-enough-to-get-sued copy of these. It even has the brass-colored hardware and long strap. I refuse to own a bag whose strap is too short to go across my body. I don’t want to fight with keeping the bag on my shoulder all day. I still hate vinyl, though, so now I’m watching a couple of those listings.

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Anonymous August 31, 2007 at 9:09 am

Not so long ago i had one of those purging urges and threw out two old Coach bags – really pretty beat up – that between us my mother and i had carried for almost 40 years. One was brown and the other a soft wine. I could kick myself when i read this, Erin. I now have 300 patterns slated for sale, or failing that, some kind of removal. Stop me, somebody!!!Chris

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bonnie-ann black August 31, 2007 at 10:52 am

i join in the general chorus in my love for old coach bags… i have a beat up old brown one that i’m thinking of having dyed black because it is the messenger style — but just like erin says, only big enough for a notebook, paperback and a wallet. i just walked through macy’s yesterday and was appalled at the coach bags on display, and the coach store up the street is even more hideous. one could weep. i’ve been shopping thrift shops and ebay for years and classic is always something to aim for — even if your shirts and pants and skirts are trendy, if you can keep a classic bag, jacket and shoes around, you’re set to go.

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Joni August 31, 2007 at 10:58 am

I carry a purse very rarely – in the unlikely event that I’m wearing clothes without pockets AND am unfettered by the kids & thus have no diaper bag. But when I do, it MUST go across my chest. None of that fiddling with shoulder straps for me. And the nice thing about big boobs is, that baby is going NOWHERE.Love the featured Coach purse. I almost think it has a 40s vibe to it but maybe that’s just the green?

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Anonymous August 31, 2007 at 11:25 am

REAL Coach is heaven. The new Coach is garbage, plain and simple.REAL Coach: beautiful leather, simple functional design, heavy brass hardware but not too much of it. American Classic!And that green is to die for.Vintage Mark Cross is also fab.

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Anonymous August 31, 2007 at 6:43 pm

i’m actually craving a simple large 1975-or-before etienne aigner bag, for some reason…just plain burgundy hopefully but with a big weird brass ‘A’ somewhere on it. Before she standardized the “a” as a horseshoe shape, she did some weird ones (like aztec, art nouveau, etc) and i’m looking for one of those. the earliest ones are nice too, before they went to the signature burgundy, they did all bags in a dark honey brown stiff leather with brass feet. Whats’ weird is i have no idea why i’m drawn to these right now. -robin

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Anonymous August 31, 2007 at 7:21 pm

robin…those bags are great. I live in a town where they test-marketed Aigner back in the day so I find all sorts of unusual purses and shoes. My mom was a big Aigner fan in the 70′s and my name starts with an A so I love those bags.

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Anonymous August 31, 2007 at 8:47 pm

Purses with all those straps and buckles make me think of bondage gear. Who wants to sport a purse that has sexual proclivities of its own?

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Jezebella August 31, 2007 at 10:52 pm

It just slays me that Coach has gone all logo and trendy. I acquired a nice little collection of classic leather Coach bags from eBay & TJ Maxx in the mid-90s and use them All The Time. I expect them to be in my closet until I die. I kind of thought I was done buying them but that nice olive green has me wanting maybe…just…one…more.

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Pencils September 1, 2007 at 11:46 am

I totally hear you on the new bags. They’re way too expensive, I hate all the logos, and why don’t they have decently long straps? I work in Manhattan, I like to wear my bag slung across my body so it can’t be snatched. Besides, it leaves both hands free, so I always wear them like that. Coach still makes a few bags each season with a long strap, but you have to search them out. I, however, read somewhere in a fashion magazine that long straps are coming back. I hope so! Whenever I see the trendy girls with their giant bags hung off their forearms I think, Doesn’t that hurt?BTW, doesn’t Coach still make some of the old-school bags? They did up until a few years ago–I remember seeing them in one of their little catalogs. I’ve carried Coach since I saved up enough to buy my first (small) one in the 80s. I loved them because they looked good and they lasted. I carried one of their leather briefcases all through college, grad school, and my first years of work, until it began to look shabby–yes, even old-fashioned Coach starts to wear out after ten years of daily use. By then I had realized just how incredibly heavy the bloody thing was all by itself. So I got a Coach black nylon messenger-style bag, with a leather strap and trim, and I’ve been carrying that for six or seven years. It still looks great. I have a small matching handbag that I usually use as an evening bag that gets loads of complements.However, you can usually still get decent-looking Coach bags, at a semi-reasonable price, in their outlets. If you search. About two years ago I bought a plain black bag, probably about the size of that green one, with a zip top. It does have a long tassel, but it’s really a keychain and it’s removable. I like it though. The strap is just long enough to wear it slung around my body, and the zip top closes securely (another of my pet peeves with bags.) I’m hoping that the logo thing is a fad and bags that emphasize good lines and gorgeous materials come back.

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Anonymous September 1, 2007 at 9:00 pm

Bobbie-Ann Black:I once tried having a shoemaker dye a light colored Coach bag I found in a thrift shop and it didn’t work. Something about the finish, I think. Maybe you could have a test done on the key chain tag?

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Mandy September 3, 2007 at 11:17 pm

Delicious bag. I adore the old, unlined lether Coach bags; I only becamse really aware of them this summer and have bought 4 on eBay.I kind of hope you’re wrong about their incipient popularity, but I fear you may be right.

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Sara October 25, 2007 at 12:27 am

I too was in handbag hell (damn you, broken Longchamp strap!) before my most stylish acquaintance wowed me with her brown Tano handbag.To Google I went, and found Must Have Bag (their authorized online retailer), and lemme tell you, Sex Bomb just called to me.I told myself that if it wasn’t the most perfectly awesome bag I’d send it back…but it turned out to be everything I wanted. My favorite parts are the smell (THE SMELL!) and the purple satin inner lining. My least favorite part: the pricetag! But it’s an investment, right? :-)

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AuntieShel January 20, 2009 at 11:05 am

OMG, Erin, I bought this bag (in luggage) back in the 70′s, brand new. I think it was $25 then, which, as a girl fresh out of high school, at her first job, was a bit of money, as I remember. Who knew I had something that would be in demand someday (read, I gave that bag away ages ago.) So, where do you draw the line between keeping everything you ever bought in case it’s “worth something” some day and culling and editing and purging, which is something I’m way too good at. Feng Shui should be my middle name.

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Britt July 29, 2009 at 9:55 am

I have a british tan color small messenger coach bag that was purchased in the late 80s, similar to the olive green bag, and was wondering if I should keep it. But as I was looking at it and admiring the beauty of the bag with scratches and all…I starting feeling like I did not want part with it. I am glad I hung onto it, because I am going to start wearing it.

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Doris June 8, 2012 at 3:17 am

Erin, up until recently, I bought black bags almost exclusively. A few years ago, I branched out in red, pink and blue, but after I read this blog post, I started seriously considering green bags. Well, last week, I bought my first green bag (very similar in color to the one pictured above), and it was after much careful consideration. I came back here to search your blog to see when I first read this, and I’m shocked to see that it was 5 years ago! I’m shocked that it took me 5 years to get a green bag, and also shocked that I’ve been reading your blog for over 5 years. I can’t remember when or how I discovered your blog, but I love it! Thanks for the inspiration!

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Erin June 8, 2012 at 3:20 am

Doris, you just made my day. Also, it turns out that old Coach bags are now a big thing! So I was prescient, too! :-)

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