Handbags have a long and distinguished history. Dating back to the days of the Ancient Egyptians, handbags have served a variety of purposes from indicating a person's status in society, reflecting the fashion of the day and holding pretty much everything you can think of in them - from weapons to wallets and sun cream to selfie sticks.
The Complete Guide to Buying a Used Handbag
Although the handbag, even in days long gone by, has always veered between its dual purposes of functionality and status symbol, it wasn't until the development of railways that the handbag as we know it today began to emerge and grow in popularity. It was with the development of rail networks that more and more people began to travel longer distances and handheld luggage became a necessity. It was also during the Victorian era that French fashion houses, such as Louis Vuitton and Thierry Hermès, first began to develop what we now know today as the designer handbag.
Of course, moving forward to the present day, handbags now come in pretty much every size, shape and style imaginable.
Handbags are designed with a wide variety of fashions, functions and occasions in mind. Buying used handbags is a fantastic way to save yourself some money, and if you are looking to purchase a used designer handbag, you can save yourself a considerable amount of money! As you will no doubt be aware, the top of the range designer pieces from the world's leading brands come with an often jaw-dropping price tag.
But whether you want a used handbag for its practicality and functionality or as the ultimate fashion accessory, with a top quality handbag it is perfectly possible to pick up a bargain that will last for years and look good for years. This buyer's guide sets out to be the complete guide to buying used handbags and will give you all the information you need to make your search for your perfect used designer handbag easier, and ultimately very successful.
Handbags: Types of handbags and their uses
Firstly, we've already said that handbags come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, so let's take a look at the different types of handbag that are out there. Typically, handbags will be categorised in listings by brand, but within the listing description the type of handbag will indicate to you what the handbag might be used for.
The clue really is in the name with a clutch bag. They come without a strap or handles and are meant to be held in the hand, hence the name clutched. Because of this they tend to be described as 'evening bags' and are usually associated with such occasions as formal dinners, parties and weddings.
Clutch bags are a fashion statement rather than being for practical use. You are not going to be able to pack an awful lot inside one. They are just meant for the bare essentials, such as money, keys, make-up - and, of course, the obligatory mobile phone!
Cross Body Bags
Cross body bags are also commonly known as messenger bags, dating back from the times when important documents, letters and messages would be carried across towns from business to business. Cross body bags feature a long strap for use across the body which means the bag sits around the hips and waist.
The hands and arms are kept free and cross body/messenger bags come in all sizes: small, medium and large. Sometimes the bags will just have a single, large internal compartment space, but many also come with several internal and external pockets and compartments too.
Because of their design, cross body bags have a variety of uses. They are useful for work and school or for travel. The benefit of the cross body strap means they are great if you are riding a bike as your hands and arms are always free. Messenger bags can be functional and practical but are equally suitable for casual use.
A satchel shares many of the functions and practical uses as a messenger bag. Most commonly associated for being used by schoolchildren in days gone by, the satchel has evolved over time. Satchels are usually either small or medium in size with short straps, and these days are usually designed to be carried by hand rather than other the shoulder or back. They come in rigid, more structured versions (with a range of pockets and compartments) and looser, more unstructured types with a single, larger compartment. Depending on the specific type, satchels have a variety of uses - from professional use in the day to parties in the evening.
Next on our list is the conventional evening bag. Similar to a clutch bag, an evening bag will come with a strap. However, such straps can usually be tucked away to convert into a clutch bag. Evening bags often come with a wristlet - a small wrist-sized strap that means the hands can be kept free. Evening bags are small and elegant and are designed with formal occasions in mind, just like clutch bags. Space, again, is limited and will only hold your absolutely essential items.
Shoulder bags are probably the most common of all handbag types. This is because they are equally suitable for everyday use and evenings out. They can be functional and fashionable at the same time. Often coming with a variety of internal and external compartments, shoulder bags are usually sized from medium to large. A single strap or pair of straps will fit easily over the shoulder and can often be carried by hand too.
A tote bag has the largest capacity of all handbags. Typically, a tote bag will come with two handles, usually long enough to place the bag over the shoulder or to be carried by hand. Sometimes a tote bag will just contain one large compartment, but most will contain some sort of internal pockets as well. The large capacity of tote bags mean that they are fantastic for holidays and beach days as well as the gym or work.
Just as used handbags come in all shapes and sizes, they come in a range of different materials too. Again, it's very much down to personal preference and other things that could come into play when making a purchase decision would be what type of budget you have and how formal or informal you want the bag to be. Let's now look at the most commonly found types of materials you will find handbags in.
Leather. It comes as no surprise that leather is most commonly used material for handbags. Leather is durable and is also appealing because of its appearance. However, it's not as simple as simply saying 'leather handbag.' There is a good deal of variation in leather. This will depend on the animal the leather is taken from and which part of skin is used. Finally, differences abound because of the various ways leather can be processed.
Top-grain leather is very durable. However, the processing that is used to create top-grain leather reduces the overall durability. It uses the hide's outer layer and is then sanded down to remove markings and processed to create a smooth and soft feel. Full-grain leather is the strongest, most durable form of leather that is available. It also uses the outer layer of hide but is not processed. This means that natural markings remain on the surface.
Top-grain and full-grain are the most commonly found leather types used in handbag construction, but there are several others. Napa leather, is highly durable and is often dyed black. It is one of the supplest types of leather around. Patchwork leather, as the title suggests, features different pieces of leather sewn and patched together. Quilted leather has a puffed-out look which is caused from the stitches along the leather. Finally, tooled leather is the type where, in the final stages of processing, intricate designs and various different colours and textures are added.
Offer variations in leather are due to the type of animal skin that is. Cowhide is the most common and the most durable. Sheepskin is the next most popular but is considerably less durable than cowhide. Goat and kid leather is far less common but it better in terms of durability when compared to sheepskin and it produces a finer quality of suede than cowhide, so it does have its advantages. Pigskin accounts for around 10% of all leather products. It creates a very fine suede but also has pores that remain visible on top-grain forms. Exotic leather, derived from alligator skin and snakeskin, can be highly sought after because of their unique markings.
Faux leather is the most obvious alternative to real leather. It is also known as eco-leather and leatherette or pleather. It has the look of leather but can appeal to many people, who stand ethically against the use of animal products or those on a budget. Although, the lowest quality pleather can look decidedly cheap, this is absolutely not the case all with types that are available on the market. In fact, many have a luxurious and highly supple feel. Faux leather used handbags are strong and easy to care for.
Of the other materials that are in use for used handbags, canvas is particularly popular. Canvas handbags from being particularly durable. They are a practical and highly durable option. Furthermore, canvas can printed and dyed in a variety of colours. Satin is often used for evening bags and clutch bags, offering a stylish and elegant look. Although the not practical of options, satin bags can be the perfect accessory to match evening outfits and party dresses. Similarly, luxurious silk is often used for evening bags and other materials used for handbags in general include nylon, which is lightweight and faux fur.
Tips for buying used handbags
As already mentioned, the first important consideration you need to make when choosing a used handbag to buy should be your intended uses for the bag. Think about how often you will use the handbag, when you are likely to use it (work, weekend or evening) and where you will be using it.
The next step is to consider whether you are after a handbag that looks professional and formal, or whether you want a casual and informal look. Some bags fit the particular seasons and others are fine for use all through the year.
Colour and design is the next consideration - you might prefer bright and colourful or something more subtle. Handbags are often purchased to complement a particular outfit or you might be after something that will blend with a range of clothes and fashions.
The final consideration should be whether you want a used designer handbag. Designer handbags can be extremely expensive and even used items can still be pretty pricey. However, with the high price comes high quality and a highly durable product that should last for years and years to come. If owning a handbag from one of the top designers isn't essential for you, you'll find many, more affordable options that are still very stylish and good quality.
Tips for buying used designer handbags
Special care and consideration needs to be taken when looking for a used designer handbag. The biggest issue is the authenticity of the bag, as counterfeiting is rife with all types of designer goods. There are some basic steps that should be taken. Photos showing all authenticity marks and details should be posted in a seller's listing. If they are not present, you should always ask the seller for proof. It is a good idea to download the listing photo for reference and compare this for accuracy with the designer handbag when you receive it.
The other important thing to remember is to always do your research before you buy. Look at the product lines and features of the designers you are interested in. Make sure you know the different product ranges and find out what hardware is used in manufacture. Look for brand indicators and stamps. Fortunately, there is plenty of helpful information on the internet. Please also read our companion article on this site, How to spot a fake used designer handbag, for more advice.
Although care should always be taken. It's also important to remember that really it is just down to common sense. It's also worth bearing in mind that the vast majority of sellers will be completely genuine. Follow the basic advice and you should be absolutely fine.
The condition of used handbags
The condition that a used handbag is in should be reflected in the price the seller is asking for the item, naturally. Any issues should also be detailed in a seller's listing and in photographs. Even so, you should take time to inspect the overall quality and condition. Look for signs of general wear and tear along the seams or on handles and straps. Check that the lining is intact and that there are no signs of fraying. Look out for any discolouring or stains and check that all zips, snaps and buckles are functioning and secure. Cleaning and repairs can be made that can restore a bag to almost perfect condition, but bear in mind that it is often difficult to completely remove the most stubborn of stains.
The handbag has become an essential part of everyday life. Handbags are needed for the hustle and bustle of working life and for that you will see a vast array of professional, formal looking items. But handbags aren't just for work, they are for play too - so if you want a used handbag that is casual and cool, you'll also find a massive choice out there.
Basically, you'll find a used handbag for sale that fits every situation and every occasion. From the most formal of all formal events to a beach party, there's a handbag out there somewhere that will be perfect for it all.