Coats and Handbags: Secondary Style Influencers

Already Pretty Outfit featuring cashmere boyfriend sweater, Karen Kane asymmetric dress, cognac boots, wrap belt, Foley + Corinna Mid-City Tote

After college, it occurred to me that I should probably buy a purse. In addition to feeling like that’s what adult women did, I realized that my beat-up knapsack wasn’t going to cut it at my new office job. I had no idea what I wanted, so I just bought a bag that looked like what I’d seen the women around me carrying. It was a long-strap duffle, it was real leather, it seemed to work fine, and I stuck with it for ages.

It wasn’t until I became a regular cell phone user that handbag design began to matter to me. Sure, it’s best to have a bag that lets you access your wallet and keys fairly easily, but when you’ve only got four to five rings to extract a live telephone, that ups the ante. In 2005 I owned an unbearably gorgeous, handmade leather messenger bag that weighs about nine pounds completely empty. I loved it passionately, but it was a pain to haul around and I could never unbuckle the buckles in time to reach my ringing phone. So I searched for and located a lovely bag that had two external pockets with magnetic closures. And I carried it every day for about four years. I figured that, for the vast majority of my waking hours, I was NOT visibly carrying my handbag. I was sitting at a computer or talking with a friend or working out at the gym. My bag needed to be attractive and useful, and one attractive, useful bag would suffice.

But at a certain point, it dawned on me that handbags aren’t just utilitarian. (OK, I’d known that from the start, since I wasn’t willing to buy just any bag, but this realization felt different.) I began to see why I might want to own multiple bags and swap them out. I may not have my handbag on me at all times, but when I do, it becomes a secondary style influencer. I’ll look my best if it makes sense with what I’m wearing, and the bag presents an opportunity to add color, personality, texture, and interest to my overall look.

It took me another year to understand that coats, too, were secondary style influencers. I had worn black coats for nearly my entire life because I knew I needed outerwear that wouldn’t clash. But it wasn’t until, oh, 2006 or so that I began to feel like one coat might not suit every outfit. Or, more accurately, that a coat may be a temporary addition to my outfits, but it can make them feel more cohesive, polished, and complete. A beautifully tailored black wool coat will definitely work with 99% of possible outfits, and that is often sufficient. But wearing a bomber with jeans, a faux shearling with funky boho ensembles, and an anorak with trendy garb made me feel more focused somehow. In the heart of winter – when it’s 20 below from dawn till dusk – I wear the same damned down coat every single day. No question. But when the weather is less brutal, I enjoy choosing coats that complement my clothing choices.

And, of course, none of this matters if you don’t like bags or coats, or cannot afford multiples, or have a bear of a time tracking down bags or coats that suit your tastes or figure. Yes, they are marvelous pieces for supplementing your everyday style, but owning them in multiples is entirely optional. (No matter what the fashion mags may imply. Really.) You can certainly find your ideal bag and carry it until it collapses, gasping, into a heap of seams and hardware. And that’s what you should do if you just aren’t a handbag girl. But bags CAN add another level of intentionality to your style, and CAN amp up your looks. You can certainly invest in and wear one lightweight coat and one heavyweight coat, and wear them until they collapse, gasping, into heaps of down and pocket lining. But coats CAN add another level of intentionality to your style, and CAN amp up your looks.

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  • Sonja

    I have more than one jacket/coat, although my black woollen jacket is by far my favourite and the one I wear most.
    When it comes to handbags … well, I would love to have more than one, but I struggle to find even one that I really like. I have some things in mind that are absolutely necessary (zip + flap), not too big, flexible, versatile, black, with a shoulder strap, and I envision a certain style, but I’ve never found one that was really what I was looking for. So I’ve been carrying around the same sporty black handbag by Kipling for years, because it is black, it’s the perfect size, very sturdy and practical – but actually I do not really like the way it looks. I have bought other, cheaper handbags in fun colours, but have always ended up donating them, because I don’t use them. So I think I totally am the “one black bag goes with everything”-type, but I would really like to change this one to the perfect one. I think one day I will commission it or learn how to sew it myself…

  • AnnR

    I’m the opposite on magnetic purses. They’re bad for my farecard.
    You only need to have $20 zapped once before you put up with buckles or snaps!

  • No and no. I’ve never owned a black coat in my life. And there may or may not have been a cheap black fake leather bag in the distant past. I avoid classic black items like the plague. Mainly because it’s what my countrywomen believe is the only acceptable colour for a coat/bag/boots. Any investment piece of clothing basically.

  • Patrice

    I tend to change purses seasonally (fall/dead of winter/early spring/late spring/summer). I went through a phase of changing purses with each outfit and then got exasperated with the time it added to my getting-ready routine, and with the fact that it invariably led to me misplacing items in the purse switch-offs.

    I find coats are a simpler way to change up a look because they’re easy on/off. Estate sales and thrift stores are a fantastic source for coats at ridiculously low prices. I have a collection of vintage coats in an array of colors and styles. They have personality for miles and most I purchased for $10 or less.

  • It was (perhaps ironically) really freeing for me when I finally realized (at age 30) that there was no such thing as one Perfect Bag, or Perfect Coat, that would always match every outfit all the time.

    I wear a pretty classic and simple wardrobe, and I love to add a little punch with a carefully-chosen coat or bag. And I have quite a few 🙂

    • I came to this same realization earlier this year and, like you, I found it really freeing. Now to find a few coats that work… : )

  • LK

    I own a couple purses but that’s it. Mostly they change with the season. I need more room in my purse during the winter so I get a bigger one then. Or sometimes the straps dont fit over a coat on your shoulder so it gets retired until winter ends. I really only own about 5 bags. 1 coach in the traditional Cs, a black one, a little red one, multicolored patchwork with brown, and a black,gold, and white. That seems to be fine. Unlike my mother who owns about 20 bags. Same with coats I own like 4 and that suits me just fine.

    One thing that drives me nuts though is no closures on a purse. When did purses stop having zippers? One magnetic closure in the middle will not keep your stuff from falling out or pick pockets from getting in. I always have to add velcro.

    • Sal

      LK, that’s so funny – I hate zippers because they always scrape my hand on the way in! I love no closures and magnetic closures.

      • Holly

        I had to look hard for a zipper purse for my latest Fossil too. Everything will fall out otherwise. But that is because both me and my daughter will throw it around in the back of the car and all the stuff winds up under the seat. I’m always bummed when I forget to zip!

        • Val C-MN

          A fix I found for the purses with only the magnetic closures and no center zip sections (nor top zip closures) is to use a silky scarf within the bag on top of your things. That way, the scarf catches the loose items before they fall out of the bag or else they will all gather in one place (as a bundle within the scarf) – if the bag tips open.

  • Katharine

    I like coats, but have never had a good place to store them! I’m always in old houses (or apartments in old houses) with minimal closet space and never, never, never a hall closet. So I have more than one coat, but when not being worn (and you can only wear one coat at a time) they are inconveniently placed and annoy me. (Right now, the only spot I have to store out of season coats is on one of those over-the-door hooks in the utility closet. Which is NOT ideal, especially for bulky winter coats.) Anyway.

    Bags… I am super, super picky about bags. It’s very rare for me to even find a bag I like. For the last little while I have been carrying the same Matt & Nat doctor-ish satchel, in cream for summer and black for winter, and though I’ve been idly looking at other bags, nothing has appealed. They need to be practical, sturdy (a LOT of bags fail my shoulder strap test, as the flimsy hardware used to attach many a shoulder strap will never stand up to the kind of abuse I’m going to give it), big enough for a notebook, a paperback and/or a script, and with multiple, roomy pockets (I loathe the mass jumble of everything in the bottom of an undivided bag). I like style in my bags, sure, but a bag is the prime star of the Function over Form show in my life.

    I’ve considered maybe getting one of those liftout purse divider things and branching out in my bags, but it’s not worth it to me. I think right now I’m looking along the lines of a well-made, leather messenger-type bag. Maybe.

  • Jamie

    I own a few coats (a regular black wool, a raspberry with a pleated, flared bottom, and then a dark purple that’s actually my regular winter coat). In addition to that I have several lightweight hip length or cropped jackets in both wools and cottons, as I find them very flattering on me and they are a great way to add a punch of color or dress up/down an outfit, depending on which jacket I pick.

    As for handbags (and shoes), I have a little bit of an obsession. I probably own 30 bags, give or take. I do sell off bags that I feel no longer get any use or that don’t meet my current style as it evolves. That said, these days I use one regular every day bag, a Radley grosvenor from last fall, because, although it’s not very convenient for very quick access to stuff, it’s classic, beautiful, and fits everything I need it to fit. But it’s big, fairly heavy, and definitely not convenient for much more than commuting. My other bags fill in the gaps. Nothing makes me happier than swapping out purses to one that I think really fits an outfit or my mood.

  • Mary

    Like LK, I like feeling safer from pickpockets, and like AnnR, I am wary of what goes next to my monthly fare card, so I go with zippers or a smaller top opening when I buy a bag.
    Other challenges include: I need to be maneuverable, so it should not have a large footprint (ie a giant rectangular base); and I walk and take the train everywhere, so it needs to be smallerish, thus discouraging me from stuffing it with heavy things.
    I also won’t buy a bag that looks cheap, although there are times at Target and Forever 21 where I seriously consider breaking that rule.
    My dream is a good bag under 100 bucks that will fit a paperback, my journal, and a thousand hair ties, with a foldover closure, in a pale peach or lilac color. With two shoulder straps. And magical hidden pockets. The search continues …
    Oh, and am I the only person who finds the one great-looking bag on the rack at TJ Maxx, says, “Hey, that one’s cute,” only to find that the price tag has three digits?

    • Anneesha

      Totally with you on always going right for the most expensive bag on the TJ rack! We obviously have good eye/great taste….

      • Iona K

        Wow, I do exactly the same at TJ Maxx! I guess we can comfort ourselves with the thought that we have expensive taste!

      • Jen

        Oh, I found this gorgeous lilac colored leather bag with ruffles at Burkes (kind of a Southern TJMaxx type store). I was flat broke at the time, so I thought I would wait for the $30 bag to go on sale, but when I went back, it was gone. Apparently there was only that one . . . ;( I have a gorgeous purple leather bag that is my winter staple.

        I’m one that almost always carrys a colored or patterned bag, and I try to switch them every month or so, because I probably have about 20. I really don’t care that much about matching with outfits. But they’re all basically the same design–slouchy bucket with a long strap, and two or three interior pockets. Big enough for my huge wallet, Kindle, make-up and pretty much a medicine cabinet. Zipper only–I’ve had too many spill out or grabby preschool-aged fingers get into ones that don’t zip. And I hate the divided middle–I’m always losing something if my purse is divided. I love the couple that have an outside pocket for my keys.

        I have a bunch of coats, including gray, black, and camel thick peacoats (black is about worn out), blue jean jacket, two zippered hoodies, two raincoats (one winter weight), a red jean jacket, a short sleeved white eyelet and a short-sleeved jean jacket, and my most recent acquisition, a bad-ass moto jacket.

  • Interesting points. I never owned a purse– I always used my jean pockets. Then I realized it was kind of nice NOT to have pockets that were way too full and bulging out. I ended up buying a few “cute” bags because I like cute things before settling on my new adult purse. It’s leather, soft, and very spacious. I own a few others, gifts from family etc, but I don’t dig them out often to use them. Maybe someday I’ll arrange them in a way as to be able to see and find/use them. 🙂

  • I admittedly have a hard time with coats. Growing up in Mississippi you didn’t need one often and when you did it usually wasn’t a very heavy one. What I found out when I moved to the midwest is that I hate big heavy coats—I find them stifling to the extreme and unflattering on me. I will wear shorter/lighter coats, layer up under them and run like heck. Given I don’t love coats, finding good ones can be hard. My main winter coat is a lovely wool cape that an artisan made me that has lasted 8 hard years and is in need of repair. It’s a lovely variegated deep grey and it super warm and I can move easily in it which is a plus. Finding warm coats I love is hard.

    Bags, on the other hand, have come into focus for me as a functional fashionable item in the last 4-5 years. I like options, and it bugs me when my bag is hugely disconnected from an outfit, esp when going out (not so much for work). I hunt them on sale admittedly and I have too many (ah vintage bags are like works of art though!). But they definitely brighten a day and make that all too rapid cell phone grab more effective.

  • Living in Florida for 20+ years has deprived me of a coat wardrobe :

  • I have about 4 outerwear coats (as opposed to jackets, which encompasses about 5 leather jackets of varying styles) that I rotate depending on what I’m wearing. It is certainly possible to find a winter coat for cheap – my nicest long fitted red wool coat was only $24.99 – by searching vintage stores or thrift stores for one that’s been gently used.

    As for bags, I used to use one black bag until it fell apart (I walked to and from work every day and used a knapsack). However, since I started wearing my regular clothes to walk to and from work – it’s much closer now – I have realized the style value of having a few bags to switch back and forth to change and compliment my look.

  • Man oh man I love purses and handbags. I would change them every day if I could! I don’t think I own too many though, I have about 10, which to some people is probably a lot but to others isn’t too bad. I think I change my bag more in the summer, trying to match it up with my outfits each day, but in the winter, I tend to go more with what looks nice with the coat I’m wearing. Yep, I’m a matchy matchy nerd! I do need it to be practical too though – I prefer zippers over buckles.

    Coats, I have about three, an everyday peacoat, a dressy going out coat and my “OMG is it cold outside and I need to be bundled up” coat. I like coats a lot and see many I wish I could have, but do not have the money or the space for them!

  • Sara

    I change bags nearly every day, depending on my outfits & what I’m doing that day. I can’t imagine NOT changing!
    As far as logistics, nearly all of my belongings are grouped in little pouches so I never leave something in the previous purse. That also helps me to switch to a smaller bag, since I already know which pouches contain items I consider to be essential. =)

  • Mel

    I wear a pretty basic wardrobe only because I’m short/heavier, and can barely find basics that fit, let alone fun things.

    So….I jazz it up with colorful/fun shoes and bags. I recently discovered that I can get the cutest Relic purses at the thrift store for not many dollars. Relics are sturdy, they generally have an adjustable shoulder strap, have a nice selection of pockets on the inside, and sometimes the outside. AND…they come in wonderful colors! They’re a nice size/shape for my body size.

    I love choosing which purse to use each day. Makes me feel so good tripping out the door in my colorful purses and shoes! I love looking down at my feet and seeing my fun shoes peaking out.

    However, like the poster above….changing purses with each outfit does add quite a bit of time my getting-ready routine….which I need to plan for. And this from the lady who gets up 1/2 hour after she’s supposed to be at work. Not good.

    Coats are soooo fun! I wish I had more room to store them. They finally started making leather coats in 2x, and I was soooo excited. I’ve been dying for a leather coat forever! And now they make them in my size!!! But, alas, I look HORRIBLE in every one I’ve tried on. Sadness reigns.

    Guess I’ll go thrift some more shoes.

  • I really hate shuffling the contents of my purse from one bag to another. I always forget to switch over a really important item like my headphones or BART card! I have a sturdy waterproof Timbuk2 messenger bag for the rainy season and usually some sort of cute handbag for summer – I’m still searching for the perfect one!
    As far as coats go, I have a whole rack full for various occasions/temperatures. I’ve got winter covered but I still need to find a nice lightweight spring jacket!

  • Anneesha

    I find it so easy to find and purchase fabulous coats for minimal money – sadly, I’ve run out of space. And at some point, you realize you aren’t wearing them indoors so half the effect is gone. Upscale consignment is excellent for thrifting the perfect handbag! But I’m trying to keep with 4-5 standards as well.

    On an unrelated note – today I notice everything I have on (except for lingerie and shoes) is from consignment! sweater, blouse, fab velvet military pants, 2 bracelets, earrings. Love consignment!

  • I’ve always been a “one coat, one bag” kind of girl but the past few years I’ve found that to be really frustrating and limiting. Not initally even for the sake of fashion (though that has been added to the pile of reasons) but simply because then it puts so much pressure on that one coat or one bag to be PERFECT. And really? Nothing is going to be PERFECT. So instead, I left shops empty handed and frustrated. Of course, now that I have realized this I have a new problem–I can’t afford to buy masses of coats/bags. So I’m moving toward trying to get 2-3. So a black, a cream, and a brown jacket, each a different style and weight. That way no one jacket has to do it all and I’m more comfortable and more fashionable. : )

  • Beth

    But the belt in this picture…I’m on an obi belt mission and love the look of this one…any idea? Thanks!

  • Coats (and outerwear in general) and handbags aren’t just secondary style influencers for me: on days when I feel like dressing down, they can carry an outfit. Even if I’m just wearing a striped tee and jeans, if I have a great coat and a nice bag I feel much more put together.

  • Aziraphale

    First of all, I like the gray/black/tan ensemble you’ve got on today. 🙂

    And yes, I wholeheartedly agree with you that bags and coats are big style influencers. I’m covered on the coat front — I’ve got, hm, let’s see, maybe ten? And I live in the Pacific Northwest, so I don’t even need a super-duper heavy winter one. (I’ve got more than one raincoat, however!). I work from home, so it often happens that no one sees what I’ve got on underneath my coat besides my immediate family. So yes, coats count for a lot with me, and I choose them carefully.

    I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t come quite so far with my bags. I see bags I like all the time, but they’re expensive, and somehow an new pair of expensive shoes or a nice new coat always wins out. So I have one bag and one bag only. Maybe next year will be my year to start a small bag collection. It’s the one huge, gaping hole in my wardrobe!

  • cori

    i’ve definitely been guilty of building an entire outfit around a handbag. i also recently cleaned out our hall closet and found that my boyfriend has 3 coats/jackets in there and i have 12……so yes, i’m a fan of having a number of coats/jackets to choose from for style! 🙂

  • I always want to change out purses to match outfits, but I just carry too much stuff! And it’s important stuff, honest, stuff I use every day. I like putting stuff in the pockets of a purse, so the ‘use small pouches’ theory doesn’t fly with me (also, it takes more time, imo, to sort thru small pouches & unzip each one). The only time I switch out a purse is for evening events, bec. then I want a small purse with only the bare basics.

    Coats can be more versatile, esp. when you add in lighter weight jackets. That’s easier to have a variety of & swap out, esp. since sometimes you want a coat for rain or a dressy coat, a long coat, a short coat, etc.

  • Oh yeah, I definitely swap out my coats depending on what I’m wearing. I do have multiple bags too but tend to stick with the same one for months at a time then I’ll swap it for something else.

    By the way, you are looking lovely Sal! Liking the short hair on you, and this outfit has a really gorgeous simplicity to it 🙂

  • I own many of both — I never get rid of any of them, so they started adding up.

  • It’s taken me until this year to come to terms with both of those things. Handbags still fall by the wayside because I don’t have storage. I invested in thrifting a handful of jackets, and outright purchasing a second coat.

    I feel like there’s less day to day struggle to feel cohesive.

  • I’ve got 50 bazillion bags. well, probably about 25. I keep them in a drawer that is rammed full to the top. I go through phases of wearing particluar ones. Right now I am alternating between a navy satchel (for work) and a denim one my husband made (for casual)

  • I can so relate to your story, and I agree with Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy, there’s not just one all purpose purse or coat.

    I spent years carrying a black purse, but once when I was shopping for a replacement I ran across a red bag that would not quit begging to go home with me. Now I own two red, a teal and a purple… and no black. I rotate them when I get bored or really want to have my bag “go”.

    I need a variety of coats because of the changability of the weather in Seattle and the context of my outfits. I need mid to heavy weight, and I need dressy to casual. One coat wouldn’t cover all of my needs.

    I love Patrice’s suggestion of finding good vintage coats at estate sales. I think I need to give that a try.

  • ily

    Hmm…good point. I love bags, but I tend to carry the same messenger bag with every single outfit. I don’t even carry that much on a daily basis, but switching the items from one bag to another feels like an obstacle. The pouch idea is something I might need to try. I’ve seen bags that have an inner compartment that can be transferred to various “shells”, but I didn’t think they were very attractive. I much prefer cross-body bags…they look weird with some outfits, but they’re harder to steal and I don’t have to worry about putting them down somewhere and forgetting them. But at the same time, they do strange things to my chest, so…I guess I’m still figuring it out!

  • I used to wear a red wood coat with a white scarf, very Mrs. Santa Clause, and really enjoyed the remarks from little kids in my neighborhood when I was in grad school. Now I rock a heavy sweater while I winter-bike in St. Paul!

    As for bags, if it’s not a knitting bag, it’s probably a fairly utilitarian computer bag with room for knitting. And I’m ALL about outside pockets!

    (BTW, is that YOU in the Arcs Value Village ad?)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MPNDVOcjUs

    • Sal

      Hahaha, sure is!

    • Ha! thanks for posting this. She moves! She speaks! Who knew? 🙂

  • Irene E

    I’m another who only relatively recently started having more than one basic black purse (plus a few smaller dressy options), which got replaced only when it fell apart. My balance of quick access and security is to have a small pocket for the cell phone either on the outside or close to the top on the inside, but always a zipper. And it has to be a shoulder bag for every day use, or it just gets in my way too much. Once I started having multiple bags, I got a large organizer wallet that holds most of the stuff I need (besides keys, cell phone, kleenex, camera, and of course a few random other things.)

    As for winter coats, I’m still wishing I had more options, but again, need more space to keep them! I currently have a pale dove grey microfiber not quite a parka for everyday use, but it gets trashed a bit too quickly and has to be dry cleaned. I wanted a light color since our subdivision doesn’t have sidewalks or lightpoles, so I want to be visible when walking at night, but this has turned out to be a problem. This replaced a similarly styled black microfiber coat, which in turn replaced a warmer and more casual sage green one that I still have for winter yard work. And I still have the black one for when I might ruin the new one, but don’t want to look quite so threadbare. I also have one long dressy black coat (again microfiber) that I bought right at the end of my life in the corporate world and which now only comes out for formal events. I’d love to have a sportier winter coat as well as perhaps a hipper option than the not-quite-a-parka, which tends to be a bit suburban momish.

  • Eleanorjane

    I have several coats, but only one bag I use regularly. For the last few years I’ve been buying myself something showy for Christmas and using it all year. This year it’s a squishy raspberry pink bag with brass hardware. I’ve enjoyed it, but the squishiness means that the vinyl is too thin and has rubbed/ torn a bit.

    I’d like a new one for Christmas – cobalt blue? Mustard yellow? Grass green? but we’re going to live overseas so need to save all our pennies. I’ll get one when we’re settled there, I guess.

  • Generally, handbags have to be leather – soft, smooshy leather. Although I also need a bit of structure to them. They have to fit my basics (filofax, wallet, sunglasses, mobile phone, coin purse, folded up shopping bag and assorted miscellany). Plus the two re-usable coffee cups for take away! So a generous size is called for, but they need to be shallow and long rather than deep (buckets just don’t work for me). I need to be able to carry it in my hand AND over my shoulder. Because I tend to dress according to mood I find that colour beats ornamentation every time and I do swap them around fairly frequently. So they’re all fairly plain. (No, I don’t want much). But (playing by memory from work) – two black ones, one burnt orange, one sage green, one burgundy, one cream, one cognac brown, one light brown. There’s also a straw one for summer and I’m hunting down a woven cane bag like my Nan’s. A couple are new, most are eBay finds (love eBay).

    Coats are the same – they’re like the ribbon on a present… So a light linen duster for spring/autumn, a floral silk kimono-style for spring/summer, a couple of blue denim jackets, a cream corduroy jeans jacket, a long brown leather coat and a short black leather jacket. I used to wear a lovely purple wool jacket that my mother owned – but it got threadbare over a few years. And that rapidly taught me the value of having multiples (coats, bags, shoes) – things last so much longer. Which is imperative when you have particular tastes and a limited budget!

  • Eliza

    As far as coats go, I have one everyday (ankle lenth brown wool blend), a green leather jacket, a vintage red german dress coat that’s so full, it’s basically a cape with sleaves which only comes out at Christmas (the only time I get dressed up all winter), a rain coat that isn’t waterproof (by the time I made that discovery, it was too late to return) and a (thrifted) black,padded, silk and velvet coat that looks atrocious but could probobly keep me toasty in the arctic.

    I have seven handbags which get pretty equal use throughout the year. I’ve collected 4 vintage bags which are perfect for the weekends or occaisions where I want to look a bit dressier. They don’t fit more than my wallet, keys, and cellphone, so it’s easy to swap them in and out. When I’m going to classes, it’s a small brown camelhide messenger bag from Far Horizon Traders, or an even smaller tapestry and leather bag that still manages to fit a few books. In the summer, I tend to use my vintage bags all week, and switch to an enormous fabric anthropologie bag on the weekend when I hit up the fleamarkets/thrift stores/antique malls.

  • Bags – I love them but I have a lot of practical requirements. I do have a few and tend just to wear a couple (I’m not a changer). Now coats, those I do well. Living in Canada, as I do, I have a rotation to suite many moods and outfits. Can’t have too many of those, I think. They’re what everybody sees first and last.

  • Paulina

    Love this look!!

  • At this point, I’m utilitarian with my coat and handbag. It just keeps it simpler and I can’t imagine swapping the content of my purse every few days! However, that is one of my style goals, to eventually add a couple more coats and purses into my wardrobe.

  • I usually have one real wintery-warm coat at a time. When it utterly bites the dust, I get a new one. I have a few others, but one definitely dominates the rotation (for the last 3 or 4 years, it’s been a bright red princess coat!). I’m only just getting to the age where I’m ready to start carrying a bag (other than my school bags – still in grad school) regularly. It’s just about time … I’m starting to look. My mother in law bought me a completely amazing rustic, boho shoulder bag that I wear EVERYWHERE, but I know I probably couldn’t take it on a job interview. But bless her, it is SO ME. It’s probably a little eccentric to be an “everyday bag” for a lot of people, but I’m generally pretty eccentric/boho myself so I think it works with pretty much anything I wear, from jeans to frills.

  • Cat

    Love the bag! Like you, it only gradually dawned on me that handbags matter and that I might want more than one. When I started my current job, it occurred to me that going into a big meeting with a ragged, gnarly purse might reflect on me as a professional person.

  • Kenzie

    I might focus more on coats and bags when I’m not living in a dorm. Like people have said before, they’re not the easiest things to stock up on when I’m living in a limited amount of space! I have a lot of mid-weight jackets though, which are alright for a lot of the year here.

  • Val C-MN

    I have always been a “purse girl” and since I worked retail for almost 11 years for a company that sold a lot of handbags, I, in turn, own a lot of handbags I bought at discount….LOL I love colorful purses mostly but do own a few black ones (the black ones must have tailoring, pretty hardware, or texture about it for me to purchase). Places I recommend for handbags are TJMaxx, Marshall’s, QVC, and JCPenney’s. However, Chico’s and White House Black Market have great clearance sales on bags and I hear some bloggers scoring deals at thrift stores.

    I also own a lot of coats. I like having the variety to change my look to “pop” an outfit with color, for warmth (like shearling or faux fur), for trend (motorcycle/bomber jackets), and for different types of weather (raincoat, wool peacoat).

    Sometimes, I will let a coat dictate my look but often, I plan my outfit around jewelry or a purse. Regardless of how many coats or bags you own, make sure it is something you love.

  • I have quite a few dressy and summery purses, but I tend to just carry my black purse with me on a daily basis. When I switch purses, I inevitably forget something either going to the off purse or back to my main purse. Then I end up at a client office without my pass to get in. Same thing happens with coats, pass goes in the coat pocket. Maybe it’s raining the next day so I wear a light coat that is more rainproof and find I can’t get in the building or don’t have my medication or… whatever. So I don’t switch often and I try to be careful when I do.

  • I have been carrying the same purse for 10 years. It’s a longaberger basket. I. love. it. Just last week, I finally found a new purse that I am willing to shell out bucks for and carrying until , how did she put it…..”You can certainly find your ideal bag and carry it until it collapses, gasping, into a heap of seams and hardware” LOL
    It’s a red, large croc printed leather bag. I ♥ it big time.
    Coats…..all shapes, lengths, fabrics and colors. I’ve got a closet full from your basic flannel shirt to something to keep you toasty on Antarctica. My current fave is a knee length plum colored quilted coat….light weight. I feel all matrix-y when I wear it! LOL

  • I love love love handbags and coats, but since I am suspicious of clutter and aspire to a minimalist wardrobe, I very strictly limit what I own. I have two wool winter coats (one gray and one black) and two transitional coats (one trenchcoat, one brown coat) and that’s it. As for bags, I own 5 total, but one is a weekender sort of bag that I only use for travel since it’s pretty large. Of the remaining 4, two were previously owned by my mom when she was in her 20s, which makes them really special to me. I like to switch up my bag every two weeks or so and they all work for my lifestyle. I’m on the lookout for a spectacular black leather bag though, and am finding that the search is just as fun as having it.

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