Help Me Find the Perfect Grown Up Classic Purse
December 26, 2013 8:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for suggestions for an everyday classic, leather, cross body purse without any bling. Mefi bag experts, I need your help to sort through my options or find the purse I saw on the green recently.

The purse must hold a long wallet, keys, phone and a few other bits and bobs. Ideally it will also fit an 8.5 x 5.5 inch sketchbook (even if I need to take the wallet out) but it's not necessary. I'm trying to avoid anything too heavy, too large, or covered in metal studs/"bling"/chains/decoration. Because I dress very colorfully I'm thinking of going black so it will not clash and can be used for many years.

I've been carrying a Tom Bihn Large Cafe Bag for the past five years, but in my mid-30s think it may be time for a grownup purse. Most top-handled bags slip off my shoulders, my large chest doesn't leave room to tuck a shoulder bag under my arm easily, and I often bike with my bag tightened around my body so I think a cross body bag would be best. I'd like it to look appropriate whether I'm wearing a t-shirt and jeans or a a pencil skirt and cloche.

As a beginner purse owner I don't think I'm ready for a Chloe or Prada. A classic Coach is probably a good bet, but I like the idea of something more interesting or indie. I love great little details. I'm thinking of something in the $100-600 range.

Bonus: Within the past 3-6 months I saw a purse I'd like linked to somewhere on mefi but I have not been able to find it again. It was rectangular, about this width, and by a small designer on an independent website. I recall looking for locations to purchase and finding one boutique carrying its products in Chicago. It was ~$550, black leather and very plain, possibly a "classic satchel" shape but more modern.
posted by Bunglegirl to Shopping (18 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Have you thought about searching etsy, if you're interested in something kinda indie? There are some fantastic grown-up looking bags that are handmade or vintage. I like this shop and this shop (i've fondled those bags in a local shop, and they were really lovely).
posted by Kololo at 9:11 PM on December 26, 2013

Indie crossbody bags mentioned here recently with Chicago stockists:
J.W. Hulme
Deadly Ponies
Clare Vivier
posted by acidic at 9:11 PM on December 26, 2013

Best answer: Several years ago, my purse requirements matched your description almost to the letter. I found the perfect bag at Fossil. It's leather, cross-body, and I tie a Coach scarf on it for a jaunty look. I'm certain their selections have changed a bit by now, but I think it would be a great place to begin (or end!) your search.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 9:17 PM on December 26, 2013

I can't say enough good things about the purses I own from crystalyn kae. I've owned a troubador tote (not a cross-body) now for about five years, and also own two topstitch hobos (cross-body). They're made of excellent vegan leather and have held up beautifully--and I wear them equally with jeans and with business or other dress up attire. Love them.
posted by pril at 9:40 PM on December 26, 2013

Best answer: The J.Crew Claremont purse. Sooo cute, and fits the description. Got myself one for christmas!
posted by 01080591 at 9:41 PM on December 26, 2013

For indie purses, try Laura Bee Designs in Seattle. I can't link from my phone but it's easily Googleable.
posted by matildaben at 9:43 PM on December 26, 2013

Not sure if these are classic enough for you, but Elliott Lucca has lots of bags that are pretty plain. Here are two:

I like Derek Alexander bags a lot. They're very classic and not at all blingy, but since it's a Canadian company, you may want to check if the purses can be shipped south of the border.
posted by sardonyx at 9:47 PM on December 26, 2013

Rebecca Minkoff
Valhalla Brooklyn
Raramodo will make the Jali in black if you request it
I have both the Rebecca Minkoff and the Raramodo bag and I love them!
posted by hellomiss at 9:49 PM on December 26, 2013

I think you'll love Kate Spade's Cobble Hill Ellen. I have a slightly smaller version and I love it! Easy to dress up or down.
posted by blithecatpie at 10:53 PM on December 26, 2013

The bag absolutely does not need to have any brand name attached to it, much less any that charges big bucks for the name alone, to be of great quality and style. There are many craftsmen and craftswomen who put a lot of time and love into hand making leather goods that will hold up for decades. Those bags will be way more unique, some might even be quirky, than the hundreds of thousands of Chloes and Pradas around. And with a budget of $100-600 you could even buy 2 or 3 bags if you wanted. Also get some leather-care products to go with your new bag.

If you don't find anyone locally, check out etsy, as Kololo suggested. Check out this shop from the Ukraine that has some classic, hand sewn pieces for example. Since you're thinking neutrals, how about this metallic one or this one? This blue one is nice as well, at triple the price. The smaller ones are over 8 inches long, 6.5" (H) and 2.3" (W), so a long wallet and your other bits and bobs will fit. As per your post, they don't have any chains or bling but are interesting in themselves and would easily match a dressed up as well as dressed down outfit. But there are many sellers on etsy, so take a look if you like.
posted by travelwithcats at 3:57 AM on December 27, 2013

Seconding Fossil. Non-blingy, high quality. And don't be afraid to look at some of their men's bags, they might be exactly what you're looking for.
posted by MexicanYenta at 4:42 AM on December 27, 2013

Best answer: I've recently been stalking vintage Coach bags on eBay. The older, unlined leather bags are really well made, incredibly sturdy, and a little more interesting in design compared to the more recent models. They are also well below your price point.
posted by instamatic at 5:44 AM on December 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

These might be too busy or colorful for what you're after, but there are some neutral color options. She's about 4 blocks away from me & I know she does good work.
posted by yoga at 5:51 AM on December 27, 2013

Best answer: I'll second suggestion of second-hand Coach via eBay or Etsy. The leather quality is second to none on the unlined bags, and by buying one, you're re-homing a great old classic.

Plus you're not adding to the coffers of off-shore manufacturers, but that's my personal bugaboo.
posted by BostonTerrier at 7:43 AM on December 27, 2013

I would second the recommendation for Derek Alexander, but would encourage you to check them out on eBags, which has some on sale right now, and in my experience also has excellent customer service and returns. (In fact, inspired by this thread, I just took a leap and ordered the Three-Quarter Front Flap Handbag, in black/brandy, which comes closer than anything I've seen in a while to meeting my own criteria, and might hit some of yours as well.)
posted by Kat Allison at 10:42 AM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Sadly, the purse I was looking for isn't here but I'm not giving up. I like some of the Etsy purses linked (but haven't found a cross body one so far that's nice and modern and simple). The idea of a vintage Coach is great (a friend found one in a thrift store in the boonies for $5 recently!), and the JCrew purses are pretty close. I think I need to see them in person to see how much each fits.

So many tassles and chains, yikes! If that's plain then I think I must be looking for a men's bag then. I'm keeping my eye out for a vintage Coach and need to have a good sit down on Etsy. Thanks!
posted by Bunglegirl at 9:09 AM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I bought a tote recently from a question I posted on the green, but as it's too big for running-to-the-grocery-store type trips, I also bought a Fossil Memoir Novel Flap crossbody bag that works beautifully. It looks almost like a simple briefcase, and its height and length dimensions are similar to that of a sheet of paper.
posted by telophase at 9:59 AM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

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