+ Look for Less

10th Commandment: March 19

hmprodH&M Satchel ($49)

H&M is a good place to find budget-conscious bags with designer-inspired details, like the Celine-like handles on this satchel.  I also like the slim look of this black top-handled tote with cross body strap.  If you’re in the market for brown, this chic cognac bag with peaked corners is a great option.  I also like this light taupe bag with subtle hardware and a sleek shape.

If you’re looking for a good resource for handbags in this price range, I recommend the juniors section at Nordstrom for bags from Street Level and Emperia.  Limited also makes some stylish, well-priced bags.

Inexpensive handbags are a great way to add form and function to your wardrobe.  But if you’re trying to decide the difference between a bag that will look more expensive than it is and one that will show it’s price-point in wear and tear, there are some tips to consider.

1) Examine the material.  Does it feel like leather?  Does it look like leather?  Is it malleable like leather or stiff?  Is the material too shiny or textured in an unnatural way?

2) Look at the construction.  Do the handles seem securely fastened?  Is the hardware of good-for-the-price quality or weak?  Is the zipper stiff or does it move easily?  How about the stitching, is it firm and secure or loose and uneven?  Is the lining material a good weight or is it thin and easily torn?

3) Perform the scratch test.  Lightly scrape your thumbnail along the bottom of the bag in a place where it won’t show.  How does the material react?  Does the color come off?  Does the material damage easily?  A bag that can be visibly damaged by such a light scratch will not wear well over time.

Have any tips to share?  Leave them in the comments.



  1. Joules says:

    Great advice! My paradigm about hand bags is that generally if you can afford a more expensive, higher quality bag you probably should go that route. I’ve had too many cheap bags go from looking great to looking like crap after a year or two.

    Style by Joules

    March 19, 2014/Reply
    • DontBlameTheKids says:

      I agree. IF you can afford it, quality beats quantity in my book. The first bag I bought out of college was Coach. I had it for 5 years, and used it every day! I think the $300 I spent on that one bag was less than I spent on the dozen of Nine West bags that broke or wore out very quickly.

      March 19, 2014/Reply
  2. Vicki says:

    I have been carting around the H&M light taupe purse that you referenced in your post (but in black) for a few months and have gotten compliments on it every time! I really like the shape and structure of the purse – perfect to carry all your essentials as well as files/iPad for meetings.

    March 19, 2014/Reply
  3. save. spend. splurge. says:

    I’d suggest just buying ONE good quality bag instead of having multiple varieties of cheap bags. No matter how good it looks the first day, it won’t last through the year in my experience. They always fade, scratch, and end up looking cheap rather than wearing down nicely like real good quality leather does.

    March 19, 2014/Reply
    • Caroline says:

      I disagree. I actually have a $25 H&M purse that I bought over a year ago and have been using every single day since then. It’s light colored and I thought it would at least be looking dirty by now, but it’s still as good as new!

      March 21, 2014/Reply
  4. nancy says:

    I finally did the splurge and treated myself to a good quality bag. Now, within 2 months of use, the side seam is coming unstitched. Any recommends for repair? I’ve checked the designer’s web site and really do not want to have to mail my bag cross-country for such a repair. any luck with local leather shops?

    March 19, 2014/Reply
    • Mish says:

      I recently found out that Nordstrom can fix lots of purse issues. I have a Michael Kors bag and the strap is coming off. They said they can easily fix that. I would check with your local Nordstrom if you have one.

      March 19, 2014/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Check last Friday’s Weekly Reading, there was a link to a place in NYC that takes bags by mail and repairs them.

      March 19, 2014/Reply
  5. Nancy says:

    great suggestion, thanks!

    March 19, 2014/Reply
  6. e says:

    BELLE- i just bought a similar one at H&M https://www.hm.com/us/product/23144?article=23144-A and I’m loving it! I was in the market for a new bag, and was even willing to spend a few hundred dollars, but couldn’t find one that was perfect. H and M did a great job this season…

    March 19, 2014/Reply
  7. Alaina says:

    Does anyone have experience with Zara’s faux leather handbags? I’ve been eyeing the bucket bag but am hesitating as I don’t have a Zara anywhere near me.


    March 19, 2014/Reply