Love & Sex

Tools of Attraction: Expensive Handbags

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Five New York women on the most absurdly pricey accessory.

Kara, 27, assistant producer

Where did you get that bag?
I got it second-hand at Boys and Girls Club fair.

Nice. How much did you pay for it?
I only paid $150 and then I went home and looked up the brand online and the bag is $1,000.

What? That is insane. You must have felt proud of yourself. How much would you pay for a bag?
Depends on who makes it, how nice it is, and how nice the material is.

What's the dream bag for you?
Prada. I love Prada. But I already have a few.

So you're living the dream. How many Pradas do you have?
Four. A collection. The most expensive one cost $2,000. I wouldn't pay any more than that. But I like to mix it up — I also have bags from Target that are like, $20.

Women in the city keep their lives in their bags, pretty much. What's in yours?
I have my lunch, my hair straightener, my clothes for the night, and my shoes for the night.

I want to hear more about your "clothes for the night."
Well, I have a date tonight. It's important to have a bag big enough for your second outfit.

Dress: Lily Pulitzer, sunglasses: Ray-Ban, shoes: Sam Edelman, bag: Kotur

Sabine, 31, architecture student

Your bag is amazing. How much did you pay for it?
Thank you! It was not much. It was $150.

How much is too much to pay for a bag?
$500.
[Boyfriend chimes in: I'll take note!]

Did you buy her this bag?
[Boyfriend: No, no.]
Sabine: I bought it myself.

Independent woman. What do you think of bags as a status symbol?
The brand shouldn't matter, but the style does. I can get an old bag or a new bag — I don't mind as long as there's something behind it. A story.

What makes a bad bag?
Cheap material or bad fake leather. Canvas is nice. Longchamps are classics, and they’re practical.

What do you carry in this bag?
Everything important: my iPhone, my wallet, moisturizer, and Band-Aids.

Tank top: American Apparel, sunglasses: Ray-Ban, shorts: American Eagle Outfitters, belt: Jo Fresh, scarf: Zara, bag: Soho in Buenos Aires

Ainara, 34, hostess

This purse is, as Rachel Zoe would say, bananas.
Thank you. It was a present from my husband. He found it in a vintage shop. But he didn't tell me any more about it.

Wow, he's a keeper.
Yeah, he's fantastic.

Does he buy you a lot of awesome designer stuff?
Yes.

Okay, stop bragging. Do you only like designer brands?
No, I don't care. I only like the design and the functionality — how many pockets does it have, does it go with my style. I have a lot of bags with labels and some with no labels, some from the street for $2 and some for $2,000. I don't have to have a default brand.

How many bags do you have in total?
Around twenty. I love bags.

What's the most you've ever paid for a bag?
It actually wasn't paid by me, but my husband bought me this bag in Paris. It was a limited edition Chloe snakeskin. Very beautiful.

What? Where did you find this guy?
Here, in New York. He just knows that I love bags, so when he finds something interesting and special, he buys.

So what goes in your bags?
Havaianas, iPhone, keys, and wallet.

How much is too much to pay for a bag?
I really do like to buy cheap. I like to go to the vintage stores or the stands on the street, and you can find cheap things in Williamsburg. For myself, I wouldn't pay more than $200. But if someone is buying for me… [laughs]

sunglasses: Ray-Ban, shirt: Zara, shorts: vintage, shoes: Italian Shoemakers, necklace: gift from mother, bag: vintage Chanel

Alessandra, 18, intern at Theory

So when did you get to the city?
About two weeks ago. It's going pretty well, aside from a few navigational things.

Welcome! You liking it?
People said that I should be careful because New Yorkers aren't the nicest, but so far everyone's been really great.

Well, it helps that you're a beautiful woman.
[laughs] Well, thanks.

Tell me about this bag.
I like the bigger messenger bag. It's really comfortable, and I'm always for adding a pop of color to catch the eye. And I actually borrowed this from my roommate.

In town for two weeks and you're already taking stuff?
Yeah. We got to know each other pretty well, and we share everything now. We're always interchanging clothes and outfits. It's a second closet. She takes some of my stuff too.

How much do you think your roommate paid for this bag that you stole from her?
Probably like $130.

Do you have any super expensive bags that you're going to give her in exchange?
I like bags by Beijo. They're more West Coast.

So you're not into status bags?
I mean, I like them, and I appreciate them, but personally I can't justify spending that kind of money on them. Not yet.

Do you like the bags with logos all over them?
It depends. I'm not a fan of the Coach thing, but if it's subtle like Chanel with the leather it can be really nice. But I try to think about the overall look, so if it's obnoxious, it's kind of hard to work around.

How much is too much to spend on a bag?
People in New York City can make a lot of money, so they can justify it. But for me, I wouldn't spend more than $500.

sunglasses: Ray-Bans, sweater: Pins and Needles, romper: Savannah Rue, bag: Deux Lux, sandals: Michael Kors, jewelry: Darling

Alexis, 27, model

What's in your bag?
Pellegrino, visa applications because I'm going to Brazil in two weeks, baby sunscreen, my journal, a book I'm reading, my wallet, and moisturizer.

How much was this bag?
Do you want to know the real story?

Tell me the real story.
So, I saw it in a boutique and it was $350, and I loved it. So, I said I'm going to walk away and think about it for twenty-four hours. Then, the next couple of days I just got busy and didn't get to go back, but I kept thinking about it and it popped up on HauteLook for like $60 — it was meant to be mine.

Would you have gone back and paid the $350?
Yeah, I would have. And those are the best sales, where you would have paid it anyway, and then you get up to the register and they're like "It's on sale" and you had no idea.

What do you like to see your boyfriend wearing?
He's fantastically preppy, in a really nice way. He's got a better closet than anyone I know. I love him in suits, and we just got him some really great Theory shorts that I'm in love with — they're these great seersucker pair. They’re perfectly narrow, but long enough so that everyone's not questioning his orientation.

How much would you pay for a bag?
I think the most expensive bag I've ever bought was a "Congratulations, you made it through" gift to myself that was just under $1,300. But it's an investment. I think that if you're going to spend money on things, spend money on things that are going to last you. I've had that bag for four years now and I'm going have it for another twenty years. My kids will run around with it. If you love it, and it makes you happy when you put it on, spend whatever you want on it. My mom always said, "If you spend a lot of money on something, divide by the number of times you use it, and then it's never that much."

Sunglasses: Gucci, sandals: Gap, bag: Amrita Singh, dress: can’t remember.