What color purse should I carry if I will only carry one?
April 27, 2012 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Help me figure out what color purse I should buy to maximize it's versatility with different colors in my wardrobe.

I am in the market for a new purse but am stuck on what color to get. I was taught growing up that one doesn't wear carry a brown bag while wearing black and vice versa, but for several years I just ignored this a carried a brown bag since I was not interested in having a brown and a black and having to swap over all my stuff every time I decided to wear black.

Then the past couple of years, I've gone a different direction and gotten red, so that it would coordinate with either black or brown, but then sometimes that looks funny with colors, and especially it looks strange to wear red while I'm carrying it. (My wardrobe is very varied, with essentially all colors appearing, except for yellow. There is no yellow.)

What do you ladies of Metafilter do? Just own multiple bags and switch between them? (Most style magazines I read, "What Not to Wear", etc seems to operate under this assumption.) Has the "no brown and black" rule relaxed in recent years and I didn't get the memo? (By observation, I don't see women tend to do this.)

I've thought about a cream or off white, but am concerned that would get dirty looking very quickly. Right now I am looking at this color, which seems like it would work ok with browns and blacks and blues (which I also wear of lot of), but again, probably not red.

Obviously, I am not very fashionable but am trying desperately to do better. Your words of wisdom are very much appreciated.
posted by pallas14 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (28 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Apparently it is now OK to wear brown and black together, but I still will never, ever do this, because I'll hear my mother's voice in my head chiding me all day long if I do. To solve this I have a bag made of both brown and black leather. Presto-no-chango, everything's ready to go all the time and always matches.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:34 PM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I actually kind of like the look of brown and black together. I think black everything can look more dated. That said, I find that gray is the perfect go with anything color.
posted by Jess the Mess at 2:43 PM on April 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

I like black and brown and have a great vintage Bottega Veneta Marco Polo bag that combines both colors. But I like to switch, too.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:49 PM on April 27, 2012

Seconding gray. In my opinion gray is the perfect purse color.
posted by ootandaboot at 2:49 PM on April 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

My go with everything purse colour choices are olive green and dark purple. Grey is also nice but green and purple are more fun.
posted by Go Banana at 2:51 PM on April 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Go lighter -- grey or tan (something near what is called "cognac" sometimes) both look nice with both brown & black, as well as with basically any color. I'm not at all a fan of that pinky color you linked to.
posted by brainmouse at 2:51 PM on April 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Purple is a wonderful, versatile color for accessories, and it's only a FAIL if you wear it with red or burgundy.

Green is an even better color, and (at least in my experience) it is never a fail. Finding a really awesome green bag (or green shoes) can be quite difficult, but it's worth the effort.

I know a fair number of people who've done quite well with mustard-colored purses, too. (I have a visceral aversion to the color myself, but I can see how it makes a nice accent, sometimes.)

My current, everyday purse is an oilcloth bag with a black, brown, grey, and blue pattern, and it works pretty well with just about everything. I'd trade it for the right hunter green leather bag in a second, though.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 2:55 PM on April 27, 2012

There's a certain shade of brown that goes very well with black. A muted brown, not too dark and not too light. I think a grey bag could be very versatile too, or at least I've been wanting one for years! A bag with two neutral colors in it is really useful - I have one that's black with some tan accents, and that goes with almost everything. I also have a pumpkin colored one that goes with a surprising range of clothes, but it has its limits. I agree that green can be very good too. I've seen bags in patterns made of different colored leathers, say brown, black, tan, and white (I can't find an example at the moment) and though I've never owned one, they always seemed like a safe bet for matching almost anything.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 3:11 PM on April 27, 2012

Best answer: I find that a camel color goes great with pretty much anything you wear. But your concern about changing over purses is familiar, until I realized that I can just unzip and dump everything in one fell swoop. I don't need to place things in my purse delicately... there is nothing fragile in there. This realization means I am much more likely to switch my bag up. I keep a couple in our mud room for exactly this purpose.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 3:17 PM on April 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

A muted metallic like not-too-shiny pewter works well (that pic isn't the best example but it's all I had time to find).

I also second grey.

As for switching purses, it helps to store everything in various pouches/small zips so it's easy to transfer a bunch of things in one motion. Things like pens and tissues, I just keep in every bag, so I never have to transfer anything.
posted by (alice) at 3:31 PM on April 27, 2012

Khaki would go with navy, red, brown AND black.

Really, I think you could make do with a "summer" purse in a light shade, like the khaki, and a "winter" purse in black or grey.

And keep the red purse just for fun, for when you want to stand out!
posted by misha at 3:34 PM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have two purses that I use, depending on my mood. They both go with everything. One is a cream colored leather hobo and the other is a larger gold tote. I especially love using the gold one--it adds a great pop to any outfit and never clashes.
posted by chatongriffes at 3:42 PM on April 27, 2012

I'm also chiming in on gray. Gray forever and always. Love gray!
posted by Kronur at 3:54 PM on April 27, 2012

I switch purses around too, but I try to keep the amount of Essential Stuff to a minimum and I know exactly what needs to be transferred each time. I have a small professional-shape pink purse, a larger bright yellow suede one, a preposterously preppy tote which is incredibly useful for storing everything and the kitchen sink, a cream fancy purse, and a small brown suede Coach wristlet which hold ID/credit cards/cash/my phone/a tissue. Of everything I use the small pink one the most and the wristlet; I don't worry about it clashing as it's five inches long. The terracotta color you linked to looks very lovely and I shouldn't imagine anyone really scoffing at it being worn with red? Seriously considering a gray purse next after all of these comments...
posted by jetlagaddict at 3:56 PM on April 27, 2012

Best answer: I think of purses as statement pieces so for me I gravitate to something kicky that makes me happy, since I have to see it all the time (I'm like this with coats too).

I definitely felt more fashionable (both inside, because it makes you feel exciting and bold - and outside, based on people's reactions) once I stopped being afraid of color and pattern, and being too stuck on closely matching everything. Black and brown and tan and so on, it's expected, it's often not memorable. I think we tend towards what we consider practical but when you look at magazines or fashion blogs or makeover shows, being too concerned with practicality is rather dull, like you're dressed to hide rather than shine; what's the point if it's not fun sometimes?

So, keeping more subdued, I'd consider a dull metallic (yes, pewter, I'd probably love that most, although a muted bronze or a pale gold would be fine) or a cream/off-white.

If you're not afraid of color then my favorite "neutrals" for the past little while have been bright yellow-green and cool pale blue; If you're not afraid of pattern, snakeskin is fun, and you can find snakeskin that has both black and brown mixed in.

It's important in pulling off a punchy handbag that the material and trim not look too cheap/garish/shiny but the color not be dull and muddy either.
posted by flex at 4:06 PM on April 27, 2012

Taupe, grey, cognac, or camel.

My favorite bag right now is a Longchamps Le Pliage in Graphite, which is a smoky grey. The handles are cognac leather. It goes with any color, and is awesome for everything from workdays to weekends. I want another one in taupe!
posted by keep it under cover at 4:11 PM on April 27, 2012

The two purses that I've been using most often are a dusty rose (a little gray, and very pretty) patent leather and mustard yellow leather. My work bag (that fits files) is black leather. I've found that the grayish-pink (dusty rose, whatever) works with pretty much everything - primarily because I don't wear pink. I look for bags that have texture - that bag has pleats in it.

I do think that nowadays pretty much anything goes and I'll agree with everyone prior who said gray is a great neutral color. As are navy and purple.

Personally I don't like the cognac color that you linked to, it strikes me as kind of old lady but if you like it, by all means get it!
posted by echo0720 at 4:27 PM on April 27, 2012

I use brown, but I have a couple of different browns and swap for size - but I mostly use a sort of caramel coloured one the most. I think possibly you might consider whether the clothes you usually wear are cool or warm in tone, and choose a shade of a colour that is cool or warm to match.

That said, purple (especially duller purples) are always versatile; I think pink reads as neutral, in the right circumstances; red is always awesome, if it's a good red; but I'm looking for green myself - either emerald, or hunter!
posted by thylacinthine at 4:45 PM on April 27, 2012

My purse is a statement and it's multicolored, so it matches everything - I'm definitely not a purse switcher. Before that, what I used to do was always get bags that had both black and brown in them, like a brown bag with black stitching or a black bag with cream in the pattern. Tommy Hilfger bags were particularly good at this.
posted by sm1tten at 5:13 PM on April 27, 2012

Pale gold is a great suggestion. It makes everything look a bit more glamorous, is a metallic neutral, and won't clash with anything. Except maybe yellow. But you don't wear yellow!
posted by Night_owl at 6:21 PM on April 27, 2012

I've never worried too much about the fashion police, but I went conservative for years just out of sheer laziness. Black or brown, it didn't really matter. I'd just find one I liked, use it til it wore out, then find another. I detest transferring all my crap. But a couple years ago, I got a bright red Tommy Hilfiger at Ross or TJ Maxx and started using it with everything, and it was so sassy (I kid you not) not a day went by that I didn't get a compliment on it, regardless of what I was wearing. Now I've got a cute little Tignanello in this shade of green (http://allkindsofpretty.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/pursetignanello.jpg), and though it looks a bit odd with some things, I still get tons of compliments on it. I guess my point is that gray or taupe is great if that's what you want, but whatever makes you happy is always the best choice. Even if it only comes in bright orange. ;) Good luck!
posted by Sal Monella at 7:14 PM on April 27, 2012

Best answer: I have an awesome beautiful bag that is like a dark bronzey leather with dark tealy green curlycue cut overlay and green edging. It holds everything and looks gorgeous doing it and I'm comfortable wearing it with anything. (I, too, have a very multicolored wardrobe.) I call it my "Elven Princess Forest Adventure Bag" if anybody compliments me on it, which happens kind of more often than I was expecting.

I think it works because of a combination of things:
-It's a good size for my body, as in it's not silly and oversized nor is it a tiny clutch - it means business and can hold my laptop but doesn't overwhelm my (small) frame.
-It's a metallic neutral combined with what many consider a hued neutral. Green is one of those colors that is in the background of nature so it ends up going with most things to human eyes, like blue.
-It's decorative in a way that can be perceived as fancy with one outfit and casually whimsical with another, but since it's only two colors of a similar brightness it doesn't read as too busy like, say, a black and white chevron would.
-There isn't much hardware and what there is is a simple silver, of a low-luster.

So take these as you will, but my suggestion, since you like color so much (yay!) is a metallic neutral that appears often in your wardrobe paired with a low-impact color like a soft blue or green.

Or you could do what my aunt does, which is actually have a whole cloth bag that she uses to carry all the important things in and just keep that bag inside whichever purse goes with her outfit that day.
posted by Mizu at 7:15 PM on April 27, 2012

If I were feeling adventurous, I'd go with a teal/mallard blue purse. I wouldn't go as far to say it goes with everything, but it goes with a lot of colors.

If you want to keep it neutral, my vote's for gray/pewter.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:24 PM on April 27, 2012

I love my grey purse. So another vote for grey.
posted by k8lin at 8:17 PM on April 27, 2012

When I acquired my latest Holy Grail-esque bag, I got it in orange. It's a surprisingly great color that works with everything in my wardrobe, and it always gets admiring glances and compliments. A friend also chose a similar shade for her Grail bag to equal, if not greater acclaim.
posted by evoque at 9:19 PM on April 27, 2012

I would wear a brown bag with black, but not a black bag with brown, go figure! I've had this one for nearly 15 years, and looks exactly the same as the day I bought it.

Good neutrals like taupe or cream or dull teal or flat red. Coach calls this "fawn" and I think it is the perfect bag color! Wait a sec for the pop-up.

And I change it up almost every day! It's the best way to keep my bag clean and organized, and to not over-carry. Nothing less fashionable to me than a bag stuffed to the gills. Ugh.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:51 AM on April 28, 2012

Response by poster: You guys are awesome, you've given me lots of great ideas, opening to eyes I never would have considered "neutral." I'll probably be getting either a grey, green or purple handbag.

Also thank you for the tips on easily switching, so that I can mix it up a little bit.

AskMetafilter is wonderful. :-)
posted by pallas14 at 5:09 AM on April 28, 2012

Late to the party, but I really want to add that Hello Kitty goes with everything.
posted by hishtafel at 7:37 PM on April 28, 2012

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