What It Really Means To Be A Bag Lady In 2019

Confessions of a handbag addict

I suffer from a rare affliction called Handbag Addiction. It came over me while I was still young; entranced by my grandmother’s handbags full of loose receipts and strawberry candies, and my aunt’s closet full of pebbled leather handbags. 

I’m ready to admit it: I’m a bag lady.

On a cold morning, I checked my usual roster of online retailers as I sipped my morning coffee. I’d been careful about spending money because I hadn’t been working as much, but I know a good deal when I see one. Something came over me and I needed to have it at that exact moment–convinced it would fulfill a need I had (for a small crossbody bag with gold hardware and a bold, modern logo). I transferred a small sum of money from my savings account to my checking account to buy a Gucci Black Chevron Matelasse Quilted Leather Camera Bag

I told myself it’s an investment as I entered my credit card information, my hands shaking with adrenaline, warm with sweat from tapping the keys as fast as I could. 

Of course, this wasn’t the first time this has happened.

I have been an obsessive decade-and-half search for “the perfect handbag.” Was I convinced that owning that bag would validate me as a person? 

The designer handbag – so powerful, so addictive, and so fun to flaunt.  

If you’re carrying a certain type of handbag, you’ve reached a level of success–it’s a visible identifier of status.  There’s something about picking up that bag and walking out the door with it that makes you stand a little taller.  When you’re carrying that bag, people stop you on the street and shriek, “I love your bag!”.

I’m guilty of it too: “nice bag,” I say to the woman walking down the street, holding one of my ultimate holy grail bags: an Hermes Kelly Sellier in black Epsom Leather with Palladium Hardware.

Walking down the street with an Hermes bag nestled onto the rook of your arm says, “Look at my Hermes bag, world. I’ve fucking made it.” 

The Bag Lady Is Online Now

The Internet is the place where collectors come together to share their collections, meet like-minded individuals, and feel better about their desire to collect.

When bag lovers (who have retired the ‘bag lady’ nickname) aren’t in luxury boutiques or styling their bags in floor-to-ceiling walk-in closets, they spend their time online.

On Instagram and YouTube, luxury influencers post their collections, film unwrapping videos, review and compare bags, talk about what’s on their wishlist, and connect with other bag lovers. If you click through the #bagaddict Instagram hashtag, you will find yourself looking through a grid covered with Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Hermes collections; some collections boasting over $100,000 worth of designer handbags.

On Facebook, bag lovers buy and sell bags that have been collecting dust in their closet in one of a dozen drama-fueled, rule bound Facebook Groups that comment ADMIN in all caps when someone breaks the rules, like little girls on a playground.

On Purse Forum, the internet’s biggest forum for handbags, members ask if their items are authentic to a panel of authenticators (a real business, btw), while other members post pictures of their absurd handbag collections. 

There was a collection with Birkin bags in seven colors of the rainbow (including an incredibly rare White Himalaya Crocodile Birkin).

There was a massive Chanel collection: six sizes of the Chanel Classic Flap collection in all four classic colorways (black with silver hardware, black with gold hardware, beige with gold hardware, beige with silver hardware). Plus, their favorite size in both delicate lambskin leather and the more durable for an everyday bag pebbled ‘Caviar’ leather.

One member posted a picture of her neatly decorated closet with over 50 Limited Edition Speedy handbags (which ranged in price from $1,000 to $10,000 on the pre-owned market). The caption read, “I could feed a small nation on my Speedy collection! Still missing the Takashi Murakami Fringe Speedy from 2009.”

I cringed at the thought of her being able to feed a small nation with the value of her rare Louis Vuitton collection, but then find myself admiring her collection, especially the Limited Edition Stephen Sprouse Neon Pink Graffiti Speedy

I felt an enormous amount of guilt wash over me for wanting to own expensive things, knowing that there are children starving and people that walk 100 miles a day for clean water… and here I am, drooling over a designer bag.

It pains me to think that I could help so many goddamn people in the world, but here I am saving up to support a self-indulgent passion (if you could even call it that).

Designer Handbags Are A Luxury

I try to tell myself that collecting handbags is a very expensive hobby. I know it’s a privilege to be able to afford them. They are, by definition, a luxury. I love carrying them, looking at them, talking about them. In department stores, I go straight for the handbag section. I browse handbags on every single website I visit. 

Though my bank account reflects that I am a part of the middle class, I strive to make enough money to be able to afford designer handbags without needing to save for several months, budget my spending, and spend months stalking online consignment sites like Yoogi’s Closet, Fashionphile, and Rebag for the perfect deal (that balances both affordability within my budget, an investment piece that I could sell later in case I need the money, and a bag I want to carry all the time).

“Nice bag,” a woman walking by me might say, but I would hear, “Must be nice to own that super expensive bag, you entitled brat.”

The caption read, “I could feed a small nation on my Speedy collection! Still missing the Takashi Murakami Fringe Speedy from 2009.”

For some people, handbag purchasing is an addiction. Buying a bag is a fix. The rush of unboxing a brand new bag, trying it on for the first time, changing outfits to see how it looks with other clothes, admiring every grain of leather and etched hardware, the first time carrying it outside the house and how fucking amazing it feels (especially if someone compliments you).

But the cravings always come back again. 

Though I already have a brag-worthy collection, I find myself obsessively thinking about the next bag. The thrill of the search and the find, the good deal I find on resale sites, the rush of waiting for it to arrive at my door step, and then opening the box to find this beautiful gift I’ve purchased for myself.

Handbag addiction is a mixture of the shopping high (when dopamine and endorphins hit your brain after purchasing something new and exciting) and impatience (I NEED IT NOW because what if it sells out and I’ll never have a chance to get it again).

I thought, as long as I’m not hiding my purchasing habits or going into debt for it, it isn’t that bad, right? 

The next thing I know I’ve purchased a Yves Saint Laurent Pale Pink Wallet on Chain that barely fits my phone and keys in it. I tell myself it’s an investment. I can sell it for what I paid for it (months later, I sold it for $120 more than what I paid for it).

Am I addicted? Is it because there’s something lacking in my life? Like, maybe a Chanel Mini Rectangle Classic Flap bag in black Caviar leather with Silver hardware… 

Stay tuned.

By Becca Risa Luna

Seattle-based fashion writer and personal essayist. Likes designer handbags, glaring openness, and subtle vulgarity.

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