This is one of my all time most popular blog posts so I wanted to give it a little refresher and bump it up! This blog post was inspired by a reader email that I received a few years back before Christmas. I wrote her back immediately as I had a lot of thoughts here but was inspired to write a little post about this. I had no idea how popular this blog post would be, but it’s a great post to bookmark or come back to if you’re considering purchasing a Chanel bag.
“I searched your blog before asking this question and didn’t find a post on this topic – I’m sorry if I missed it! I am starting to think about buying my first investment purse… maybe a classic Chanel. I’m a little older for a “first,” almost 33. But it took me awhile to have the salary to do so which I imagine is true for a lot of people. But I feel intimidated and uneducated. I can read simple posts on how to buy a Chanel (flap vs boy etc) but what I really want to know is— Is it worth having those kinds of purses?
Are you scared to use them IRL bc they are so expensive? And I’m intimidated by the stores—will Barney’s think I’m gross bc I’m going in with a Madewell purse to shop and obviously don’t know how this works? What do I do/say? I don’t know why this scares me so much but it does! An insightful post would be great!”
Buying Your First Chanel Bag
First of all, if I had to pick one investment item that I love most, it would be my classic black Chanel bag, pictured above and below.
Should I Buy a Chanel Bag?:
Honestly, I don’t think that 33 is a little older for such a purchase AT ALL. I was a long time Chanel fan but didn’t get my first Chanel until I turned 30, and even then it was a gift from my boyfriend at the time. Also, I didn’t buy my next one (with my own money, finally!) until I turned 33. I think your early/mid thirties are the best time to treat yourself to something like this. You are most likely more sure of your personal style, likely have more spending money, have worked hard to buy it for yourself, and will appreciate it even more.
If you are in your twenties and can afford it, good for you and definitely do it, but I definitely couldn’t afford a bag like that until I was in my thirties. A Chanel bag is an investment and not to be taken lightly. Same goes for all designer bags.
With regard to shopping in the store, do not be at all intimidated! I love the experience at the Chanel boutiques and it is literally these people’s jobs to cater to you and if someone is even remotely rude to you you should absolutely leave and go elsewhere. (Also, Madewell is nothing to be ashamed of!) I would go in, and just very sweetly tell the salesperson that you are looking to invest in your first Chanel bag. They will most likely be really excited to help you out and share their expertise.
Is it worth buying a Chanel bag?
This depends on your style, your income, spending money etc. To me, a Chanel handbag is worth the money. It’s timeless and elegant. That being said, I work in fashion in a city and have a somewhat fancy life where I’m always at events and so on and so forth. I cannot honestly say to you that spending $2-$5k on a handbag is “worth the money,” because that is crazy. It’s beautiful but it’s just a purse. You can’t drive it or live inside of it. But if you are looking to indulge and treat yourself to a beautifully made bag you will have forever, it’s Chanel all the way. Buy the bags. I will also add that I am a firm believer in using your good things everyday and not saving them for a special occasion. Life is too short!
I have a few shopping tips, but keep in mind that these are all personal preference!
What size to get?
I think that the Chanel classic flap bag is the most timeless of all and a really popular choice (did you know Coco Chanel designed the first flap bag in 1955!!?). I have a mini and recently bought myself the maxi in tan but my classic is still my favorite. It holds just enough, it’s not too bulky, it’s appropriate for literally any occasion from brunch to black ties… it’s just timeless. For a long time I thought the jumbo and maxi were a little bit tacky (only because the bags are SO big!!) but I’ve come around to them.
Caviar leather all the way, especially if you are hard on your things or (to her question above) will. It’s a little bit more expensive but it’s so durable. My lambskin leather mini was not my smartest purchase, as it’s gotten quite dirty and the leather shows more scratches. The caviar leather is basically bulletproof. My black caviar double flap bag (very Karl Lagerfeld) is in perfect shape and I’ve had it for nearly ten years. I do love the lambskin leather so much (it’s buttery smooth) but the caviar is way more durable.
What about hardware?
This is totally subjective. It’s strange because I generally wear mostly gold jewelry but tend to prefer silver hardware to gold hardware on my bags. I have no idea why. My black and tan bags have silver hardware and my two vintage bags have gold hardware. I like both! The metal chain is durable and holds up really well.
Are you scared to use them IRL?
The short answer is no, absolutely not (again, I’m a big believer in using your fancy things every day), BUT there were definitely some mistakes I have made, which I’m going to share with you as I walk you through my little collection. I’m going to be really honest with you about what I love (and don’t love), with the hopes that any person reading this won’t make the same mistakes I’ve made.
I do want to stress that I am 41 years old and have slowly been building a collection. I think we all have this natural tendency to compare. A friend of mine once tweeted “don’t compare your early twenties lifestyle to my mid thirties.” Early 40’s, but same. I also don’t have kids!
I bought my vintage mini in the summer of 2014.
As I mentioned above, it was the first Chanel purse that I bought with my own money. I was 33 and so excited! But this one was a mistake. I guess I (justly so), figured I had a classic black one so wanted something light and a little more “fun.” I LOVE it, don’t get me wrong. But it gets dirty so easily and needs to be professionally cleaned so I find myself not using it very often. It’s relegated to special occasions (and never with jeans because the dye rubs off, no matter how careful you are.) The lighter bags are so beautiful and I love how the gold hardware looks against the cream lambskin but just don’t do it, and if you must, get the caviar – it’s way more resilient.
I’m not planning to sell it, but I hate that it’s only a special occasion bag.
The next one I bought was a year later in 2015 (I think.)
I absolutely love the color but the lambskin leather is really soft and shows every scratch, etc.
The caviar leather would have been so much better for a long term investment. I get a lot of wear out of this bag but worry about it constantly when I wear it. I’m hard on my things and am nervous that I will ruin it. It is one of my favorites (I love red) but I wish I had waited until I could find a good red caviar one with gold hardware (they’re realllly hard to find!!!)
Since I’m always going to be honest, this pink velvet Chanel boy bag (and okay let’s be brutally honest… this whole outfit!!!) was a BIG mistake. I bought it in the airport in London in 2016. I ended up selling it on The RealReal. Shopping fail.
I loved it so much at the time, and it’s a great bag that someone else will cherish but I bought it because:
a) I was v. v. emotionally distraught about boy stuff. (lolz).
b) The dollar was extremely strong so I got a great price.
The bag isn’t me AT ALL though. The pink velvet is fun but it goes with very little in my wardrobe, and I am not really into the boy silhouette. I also don’t like the color of the metal chain. I’m a silver or gold gal, not gunmetal. It’s great, and so chic on someone else, but I’m more of a classic style, flap kind of girl.
Also, I just gotta say it. Don’t ever make a big purchase at the airport. Unless you’ve really thought it through.
This is my newest addition to the fam and quite possibly my favorite next to the classic black flap. This one is the classic flap maxi, in tan caviar leather.
In all honesty, I was not planning to buy a new bag this year but I sold my Cartier love bracelet on The RealReal and bought this with the credit. I knew I was going to treat myself to something special (I was originally thinking jewelry) with the credit. But when I saw this bag I knew that it was just perfect. As I mentioned above, I really wasn’t sure about the maxi or the jumbo but they’ve really grown on me. The biggest reason is the bag features..it can hold a book, which if you know me/read here at all, is obviously a very important priority for me. I do love a little bag though, and think maybe the wallet on chain will be next!
I really hope this post was helpful – if you have any more questions, leave them in the comments!