The first thing you should know about handbags is that there is a difference between the versatile monstrosities we sling across our shoulders to help us schlep around our day-to-day necessities and the pretty little things we can fit in the palm of our hand when we change into a Cushnie et Ochs bodycon dress after dark. There’s practical and there’s impractical, and both make great gift.
The next thing you should do is access Her Lifestyle. Always consider the reason why you are buying her a handbag in the first place. Is it because she needs something bigger, or sturdier, or maybe something a little more scratchproof? (Tip: For the latter, rule out lightweight leathers like lambskin—it nicks too easily.) If she’s in need of a chic and functional work bag, think about whether she’d like a top handle to tote it, or if her needs require a shoulder strap so she can be hands-free (in which case, flat and broad straps will be the most comfortable; bonus points if they’re adjustable).
One thing to never overlook—despite lifestyle or price tag—is the starting weight. Never buy a lady you love a handbag that’s heavy when it’s empty. Not even a supersize Balenciaga is worth the upper trapezius pain. Make sure you have a true understanding of her taste level. Pay attention to the things in her wardrobe she really loves—everything from the brands she wears most often to the various textures and colours she favours. Snooping in her closet is perfectly acceptable, as is seeking the counsel of her friends. But for added affirmation, peep her social media accounts like Pinterest and Instagram. Beyond her own posts and pins, check out the tastemakers she interacts with and follows to get some ideas or examples of a style she admires.
Check out her internet history for where she shops and look at teefamm.com for ideas. Beyond the style, the second most important aspect of a forever-in-rotation handbag (your goal, by the way) is the size. Remember to account for how much space her belongings will take up. For instance, if her daily haul includes a 13-inch laptop, a paddle brush, and a pair of commuting flats—size way up. If buying online, be sure to check the bag’s measurements to assure it’s the proper size, as a lot of popular styles come in various options (like the Bally Sommet tote, above).
To be more helpful, retailers such as Net-a-Porter and teefamm.com also showcase each bag on a woman’s figure, which makes it easier to decipher its actual size in comparison to your lady friend. When in doubt, a black carryall by an iconic luxury brand like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Celine, and Hermès will never fail you. But for a color switch-up, camel, tan, and gray are also considered classic, non-season-specific options. (Tip: Stay away from white—or bone—which typically requires too much upkeep for a wardrobe workhorse.)