Fancy yourself a bag lady? Join the club. My purses regularly cost about five times as much as my outfits. It just makes good economic sense to own a nice, sturdy bag that you’ll wear over and over again. From my own experience, if it’s under $75, it’ll just fall apart under the weight of your laptop, books, smuggled children, and whatever else you’re carrying around. So let’s say you’ve caved and bought that statement purse (Dooney & Burke, Coach, whatever the case may be) or your rich aunt bought it for you for Christmas, but you’re still living on a salary of peanuts. How do you do this lovely accessory justice? You don’t want to look like you’re from the bargain basement while your bag is from Neiman Marcus — I’ve seen some unfortunate examples of this on the street recently. Thankfully, it’s much easier than it seems, so read on!
Look 1: Lovely $698 tote from Coach, with classy hardware and in such an of-the-moment color too. Nice job splurging! Here, it looks right with an affordable shirt-skirt combination. The tweed-lace of the skirt makes it look much more expensive, and mixing textures looks sophisticated. The shirt is cheap but such a classic style that it doesn’t draw attention to itself, instead enhancing the outfit around it. The suede pumps also elevate the outfit and make it look more expensive — black is your safe bet, but pink is fun if you can pull it off at your work. Finally, you can afford to add a few playful accessories here, but I think the black agate ring is the key piece, lending the outfit some gravitas. Click here for the items.
Look 2: I have to admit, this outfit is a bit matronly for my own taste, but I do think it would look amazing on an older woman — or on a younger woman who can pull it off. The Michael Kors bag screams “I have a sugar daddy” so you need to negate this effect with a subdued, professional outfit and accessories. The black midi Topshop dress is the perfect office-wear antidote to such a loud bag. And if you accessorize it right — here, I chose a wooden ring statement necklace and a sparkly green cocktail ring — it won’t look quite so “Topshop” either. Choose a pair of black pumps or sandals and you’re good to go: no flats with a dress of this length unless you want to look like a midget. Click here for the items.
Look 3: So you’re lucky enough to own a Birkin bag. I hate you. Haha, just kidding: Nobody in real life actually owns a Birkin bag. I felt compelled to include it as an example because it’s one of the nicest bags you can own, yet you can still make it look right while rocking an affordable outfit. Even if it’s this lovely Easter egg-Pepto-Bismol color. Just choose a navy and understated dress, like this one from Topshop, which has a flattering silhouette with its cap sleeves and belted waist. A cream cardigan and wingtips (whether you like them with a platform or not) continue in the feminine vein of the outfit without making it overly precious. It would be so easy to make this outfit super-cutesy, especially if you succumbed to the temptation of wearing a black-and-white polka dot dress with the pink bag — but don’t do it! And ditto for the jewelry: Pearls or such would have upped the “precious” effect; the pictured timeless silver pieces just add elegance. As Ron Burgundy said, “You stay classy, San Diego.” Click here for the items.