Everyone has things they like to spend their money on – I’ve personally always been a designer bag kind of girl. I love handbags. So, naturally, I was super excited to pick out my first designer bag ever.
I think the allure of a designer bag, for me, is because bags are like little houses you carry around. Think about it – they’ve got bits and pieces of your life inside. I’m a sucker for a good handbag and knew one day adding a designer bag to my collection was inevitable.
I researched, I lusted over different styles, and I finally took the plunge! I added my first ever designer bag, a Louis Vuitton Neverfull, into my wardrobe recently.
If you’re looking to buy your first designer bag, check out my tips on how to choose below.
Set a budget.
This is step is important – I recommend you don’t skip it. There are so many different “tiers” of designer handbag pricing and it’s important to pick a budget and stick to it. No designer bag is worth going into debt over. Let me say this again: no material item is ever worth taking on debt.
The reality is that not all of us can afford the $6K Chanel bags or the $10K+ Hermès Birkin – I sure can’t. Thankfully there are several amazing designer bag brands and styles right around the $1,000 USD range. The Gucci Soho Disco for example floats around $1,250 USD at the time of writing this blog post. You can also find some amazing quality Louis Vuitton Speedy bags pre-loved in the $800 range.
Whatever your budget at, there’s no shame, but make sure to set one. Often when I set aside specific time to save for a bag, by the time it comes to hit purchase I really know for sure if that’s the bag I truly want. Waiting and saving often allows me to best assess if my yearning for a specific designer bag is real or if it’s just because I’ve seen one too many Instagram influencer ads and have been sufficiently “influenced.”
We love luxury but we also love big bank accounts. Ya feel?
Pick a brand.
Setting a budget and picking a brand kind of go hand in hand. For example if my budget is $1K, I’m probably not going to walk out of a Chanel store feeling super satisfied. If anything, I’ll be a little bit sad that even a mini bag is well outside of my price range.
My main advice for choosing a brand is to think through the brand aesthetics and make sure they align with your own personal style. I also love to read about brand history – legacy is pretty much everything when it comes to buying designer.
That’s why these brands are “designer” after all – because of the history of the fashion house.
Chanel, to me, is the holy grail when it comes to a designer bag. While a Birkin may be the ultimate goal for many, I find Chanel is my dream boat bag brand for the reasons listed above – I love the style, the aesthetic, and the brand history far more than that of Hermès. Style is very personal.
Chanel bags come at steep price points and the brand implements regular price increases nearly every year. Designer handbags in general don’t come cheap, but given that a Chanel 2.55 bag is ringing in at over $7,800 USD full retail price right now – these bags really aren’t cheap.
When shopping Chanel, you’ll find an aesthetic that seamlessly blends the old with the new. Chanel is world renowned for classic shapes and silhouettes, but also for pushing the boundaries of print, pattern, and texture.
I was really drawn to Louis Vuitton as my first designer purchase because I love the story of the brand. I seriously cannot even believe the OG Louis Vuitton left home at age 13 heading for Paris – on foot no less. It took him three years to get to Paris and he used the time to stop and work along the way, perfecting his craft of box making. Louis Vuitton is a luxury brand that to me is synonymous with travel, durability, and French simplicity.
Louis Vuitton is also an amazing first designer bag brand choice because the fashion house offers plenty of “entry level” price point items. The Louis Vuitton Neverfull is arguably the world’s most popular designer shoulder bag. This tote bag costs somewhere around $1,300 USD at full price, with the price varying on the color/print and size. It’s actually possible to snag a Neverfull at an even lower price point (maybe even under $1,000) when shopping pre-loved on sites like Fashionphile.
I personally chose the Neverfull as my first real foray into designer handbags brands because it was both luxury and functional. The price is lower than that of other designer bags because this style isn’t a leather bag – it’s actually made of a coated canvas material. The coated canvas also makes the bag much more durable than your average leather bag, given it isn’t as prone to scratches and scuffs.
Formerly known as Yves Saint Laurent, this designer brand is best known for its edgy, rebellious style. YSL bags were the favorite of the more “edgy” influencers. Saint Laurent as a brand reeks of rebellious youth in all the best ways. From leather everything to black and white campaign photos, Saint Laurent is perfect if you’ve got that teen punk spirit.
From a pricing perspective, you’ll find it’s absolutely possible to buy a crossbody or smaller bag from this brand at a price point under $2,000 USD. This pricing puts the brand somewhat in line with Louis Vuitton and well below the pricing of mega luxury brands like Chanel and Hermès.
Dior is the brand for the classic, timeless style lover. Dior bags were much loved favorites of Princess Diana, after all.
The brand today has held on to its classic roots, but infused new takes on the old classics. I’ve personally been lusting over their Book Tote for years at this point. Dior, though, admittedly isn’t in my personal price range. Dior pricing comes in steeper than Louis Vuitton for their base level bags (like the Book Tote). Although we’re not quite looking at Chanel pricing, I personally can’t afford to spend $3,000 on a canvas tote.
Can you tell designer tote bags are my Achilles heel?
I’m going to toss this brand into the mix simply because the social media world cannot stop obsessing over the Pouch bag. But like – let’s be honest with each other here. This brand isn’t classic designer – it’s very hyped. There’s nothing wrong with a hyped brand. But there might be something “wrong” with a leather pouch bag pricing at almost $3,000 USD.
Again, just not personally in my own budget.
Gucci is for the fun, the wild, and the free. Gucci is absurd and makes it fashion. I wanted a Gucci bag for years, years ago. The Soho Disco was topping the list of designer bags every blogger had to have, but seems to have quietly faded in popularity over time.
Gucci as a brand does offer some slightly more entry level price point bags, but overall the brand is still luxury and is priced accordingly.
Choose a silhouette.
This is probably my most important tip – pick a silhouette that fits into your lifestyle. I did not do this when I bought my first designer bag and paid dearly for my mistake.
You may have noticed that I am showing off a Neverfull as my “first” designer bag in this blog post – but it technically wasn’t my first. I was proudly toting around this little Louis Vuitton purse only a couple weeks back. That little bag, the Pochette Metis, is beautiful.
It also broke after literally five wears.
I was so devastated. I popped into my local LV store and they offered to replace it with a brand new one. It was a nice gesture, but I felt burned. It made me realize that little bag really wasn’t the right bag for me (not to mention I didn’t trust that it wouldn’t break again). It is gorgeous and seriously “Instagram worthy” – but it also was super impractical. I work a full time corporate job and a Pochette Metis was not a suitable bag to take to work.
The LV store wasn’t into the idea of letting me exchange (what part of it broke in less than 30 days do you not understand). One phone call to the amazing customer service hotline and that was cleared right up. Now I’m the happy owner of a practical tote I can use and enjoy every day.
And that’s why I love Louis Vuitton as a brand – Louis Vuitton bags can be luxury, functional, or both.
Think through colors.
If you’re about to drop major money on a bag – you want to make sure it pairs well with the wardrobe you already own. Not everyone wants to rock their bag on a daily basis, but it would be a real bummer to invest in a piece you hardly wear because you have nothing to wear it with.
For the record, this is why I’m a huge fan of capsule wardrobes.
I chose to go with Louis Vuitton’s Damier Ebene print because it felt classic and neutral. Whether I’m wearing all black everything or a pop of color, it’ll pair back perfectly.
I did go out on a limb and opted for the light pink lining instead of the traditional fire engine red. For the most part no one gets to see the inside so it’s like a little pop of pink just for me to enjoy.
When you’ve grown a designer bag collection a little further, I’m all for adding pops of color, pattern, and seasonal prints into the mix. When it comes to choosing your first designer bag, I really recommend sticking to neutral tones that pair well with a variety of outfits in a variety of seasons.
Shop Popular Designer Handbags
Pick where to shop.
A lot of people want to shop designer to get the “luxury experience.” Heck – that’s totally what I expected. I was ready to walk in, talk about the history of the brand, shop around, and get excited with my sales associate about my first ever big girl designer bag buy. I was thinking it would be an occasion for champagne.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the reality of shopping in store. Sales associates sell these handbags every single day. Dealing with these high price points is a norm to them, even if it’s an exception to you. I’ve definitely met some amazing “SA’s” but unfortunately my experience at both Christian Louboutin and Louis Vuitton boutiques have been less than stellar.
The associate who sold me the first bag seemed passive. The store also gave me tons of trouble during talks of an exchange. When you spend that much on a bag it should last – and if it doesn’t the store should be willing to talk about an exchange or refund. In my case, the bag broke in far less than 30 days of ownership, so the amount of pushback I got felt really…icky.
Literally my girls at Vera Bradley take way better care of me.
That being said – I’m personally fully over the in store experience. I personally think shopping in store is overhyped and often unnecessary. Unless you have a trusted SA, I would recommend ordering online. Shopping online also means you might be able to snag major deals because you can shop around – or shop pre-loved.
Since buying my first designer bag in store, I’ve actually been shopping for designer bags on eBay and Fashionphile. I’ve recently published posts about how to buy designer bags on eBay and an updated Fashionphile review – talk about snagging amazing bags at crazy prices.
Where can I buy designer handbags for cheap?
Straight up – I recommend shopping all designer items pre-loved. Because I believe in using my designer bags, not keeping them around as collectors items, I know they’ll eventually show signs of wear. I love being able to buy a designer bag at a discounted price and shopping pre-loved is the best way to do it. Many of the bags sold on sites like Fashionphile are in amazing condition.
Whatever you do, do not shop counterfeits, fakes, or poorly labeled “dupes.”
Dupes were never meant to be exact replicas. If you see an Instagram influencer calling a blatantly copied designer bag a “dupe” – run for the hills. That’s not a dupe – it’s a fake, a counterfeit, or a replica.
Fakes, counterfeits, and replicas are illegal because they steal intellectual property. Because these bags are illegal, they’re produced under unverified working conditions. This may mean workers are underpaid, abused, or working in unsafe conditions. I know it’s incredibly tempting when you find designer bags on sale – but these bags are not real and aren’t worth the danger and harm they cause to the garment workers who make them.
I have several blog posts that highlight the best designer bags 2021 dupes out there – and they’re truly “inspired by” a designer bag, not a direct copy.
My top picks for your first designer bag.
The Louis Vuitton Neverfull
The Neverfull makes for an amazing first designer bag. Not only is the tote shape and silhouette classic and functional, but the Neverfull comes in three different sizes as well as a variety of colors and patterns – meaning you can really choose the version you love most. This bag also generally prices in at under $1,500 USD and even less when purchased pre-loved (which I highly recommend).
Chloé Mini Marcie Leather Crossbody Bag
Chloé is an incredibly approachable designer bag brand. The Mini Marcie prices in at under $1,000 USD for a leather luxury bag. Chloé as a brand is an amazing elevated boho bag designer. All styles look effortless and exude understated luxury.
Gucci Soho Disco
I know this bag isn’t strewn across Instagram feeds like it used to be – and I’m okay with that. The Gucci Soho Disco has a classic, functional shape that honestly won’t ever go out of style. This bag has seen price increases over the years and is currently up to around $1,200 USD. Given its ability to be worn as an everyday crossbody bag, I still think it’s a bang for your buck kind of style.
Saint Laurent Noe Rive Gauche Logo Canvas Tote
This bag is reminiscent of the Dior Book Tote, but at a fraction of the cost. The Saint Laurent Canvas Tote is spacious, not prone to scratches or heavy wear, and will be timeless thanks to the boxy shape. It’s hard to deny that $1,300 for a canvas handbag is a little crazy – but it is designer.
Stella McCartney ‘Mini Falabella – Shaggy Deer’ Faux Leather Tote
Stella McCartney is a designer bags designer that I admire because of the continued use of faux leather rather than real leather. Although this may seem like a con given the luxury price points, I personally love that there’s a designer standing up for animal rights. The Mini Falabella itself has a slightly more trendy design compared to some of the other bags on this list, but it’s undeniably fun and a little bit rock and roll. Plus, it’s under $1,000 USD.
Enjoy your new designer bag.
I’m a firm believer that bags are meant to be used – even designer ones. Every scuff and scratch has a story. You’ll remember that time you got caught in the rain every time you look down at that watermark. If you’re a bag collector, more power to you.
I’ll be sitting happily over here loving, using, and abusing my first designer handbag. And I fully encourage you to do the same. 😉
Other handbag blog posts I’ve written
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Photography by Hamee Ha