Handbag Upgrade

Best High End Designer Carryalls Around $1K


Let’s get it all out on the table – the world of handbags is more than a little daunting. I think this is mostly because when you first become privy to the price tags on some of fashion’s most coveted bags, you want to cry or hide. Chanel – $5,000. Celine – $3,000. Hermes- $10,000+. Eek! Yes, one can always make a case for good quality and craftsmanship, but some of us may not really be in that place right now. Before we can ever dream of spending $3,000+ on a handbag, we’ll likely need to start slow and splurge on something a little less ulcer inducing. So to all fashion lovers who are looking to make the first leap into designer handbag territory, this post is for you. Today we’re talking about the real deal, high end, designer pieces that will last you a lifetime. The ones you’ll look back on fondly as your “first,” and pass on to your daughters… but ones that are NOT in the “I could buy a decent used car with that money” realm. Here are my top picks for high end designer everyday handbags in the $1,000 range. Why $1,000? Well, the hard truth is if you want high end, $1,000 is around the minimum of what you can expect to pay. So, while there are plenty of stylish options from less expensive brands like Coach, Tory Burch, Rebecca Minkoff, and Kate Spade, I consider those to be in a different category – maybe for another blog post. The rules for choosing were as follows: 1) Must be an everyday carryall, no puny clutches. 2) Must be a recognizable, iconic style. 3) High end designer bags only and no secondary mid-range lines – Marc by MJ, See by Chloe, McQ, etc. 4) Absolutely nothing over $1300 – There were a few that came close which I just had to include, but once you go over $1300, you’re in a new category. There are of course several great bags I’m not calling out today – this is simply my personal opinion. These are the ones in the running when I’m shopping for a bag in this price range and the ones I often advise my clients to buy. There’s something here for everyone – from classic and timeless to edgy and obscure.

phillip lim, bag, shopping bag, gold, details, converse, shoes, all star

3.1 Phillip Lim Pashli Satchel, $895 – This bag is the perfect mix of edgy, classic, practical, and sturdy. It has the easy and classic elements you want in an expensive bag yet also those creative and artsy touches that set it apart from other bags. It can be dressed up or dressed down, worn several ways (vertical zippers zipped and structured, unzipped and relaxed, flap in tact or hanging out, top handles or long strap, etc). It also comes in a variety of sizes, colors, and fabrics so you can definitely find something that suits you. It’s not quite as popular as some of the others on this list, so it’s a good one if you’re looking to go a little unexpected, yet still a very solid and chic choice.


Louis Vuitton Speedy Bandouliere, $1,250-1,290 – There’s so much to say about this bag. As many of you know, I recently sold my Speedy 35 (the same bag, only no detachable long strap which now retails for $895) so that I could purchase something similar. This was the something similar. After using my Speedy for a couple of years, I was having a hard time only being able to carry it with the top handles. It wasn’t doing me any favors when shopping for clients or shoots and carrying arm loads of clothes. I need hands free. So even though getting the version with the strap is going to run you an extra $400 (gah), that feature is worth its weight in gold. This version of the iconic style was released in 2011 and offers some great customization features – it comes in 3 choices of canvas/pattern/color (which are all great, so it’s just personal preference), and 4 choices of size – the 25, 30, 35, and 40 (though I wouldn’t recommend the 40 because it’s basically luggage). You can wear the straps so many ways – cross body with the long strap extension, on your shoulder without the extension, take the strap off and carry it top handle like a regular Speedy, etc. Who doesn’t love to have options? The coated canvas is very lightweight, so it’s perfect for travel or shlepping around town. Another bonus is that Louis Vuitton offers complimentary hot stamping of your initials which I think is delightful in gold foil. But the best thing LV has to offer is history and timelessness. Louis Vuitton has been around since 1854 and their canvas designs haven’t changed since the beginning. They are never going away. The classic neutral canvas styles defy all fashion rules – they go with everything and on everyone. You really can’t go wrong.

Reed Krakoff

Reed Krakoff Boxer Satchel, $790-1290 – Reed Krakoff, Coach’s president and executive creative director, launched his boutique fashion line in 2010 and the Boxer satchel caught on like wildfire, with good reason. It comes in an endless array of incredibly chic color combos (some solid and some colorblocked) and sizes and the design is just genius. This one is an unexpected choice for a first investment bag in the best way possible. Another plus is that you can often find them on sale (even as we speak there are several good colors on sale for $600-800 on the Reed Krakoff website).


Alexander Wang Emile, $895 – This bag is unique yet minimal and classic at the same time. There’s no craziness going on, yet it’s far from boring. The wide opening at the top makes it easy to find your keys and lipstick, and it fits a ton – definitely more than the Rocco. So this could be the bag for you if you like to carry the world with you, and are looking for something a little artsy in shape. It comes in two sizes, both of which would serve an everyday purpose depending on your habits. The metal feet are my favorite aspect of this bag – especially in rose gold. Keep in mind the long strap isn’t quite long enough to wear cross body.


Alexander Wang Rocco, $895 – Oh you know I love the Rocco. I carried mine nonstop for an entire year after I got it and I still love it just as much as ever. This bag is the perfect choice for the edgy girl, yet the rivets on the bottom add some glamour as well. It’s been around long enough to have me convinced it’s going to stand the test of time, and it’s every bit as respected as the more expensive bags out there. The only thing to watch out for is that this bag is naturally heavy (with the thickness of the leather and all that hardware, how could it not be?). So you may want to opt for the mini (the Rockie) if you don’t tend to carry a lot with you or a heavy bag isn’t your cup of tea. Also, like the Emile, the long strap isn’t really long enough to wear cross body.


Louis Vuitton Neverfull Tote, $900-980 – If you’re a tote kinda gal, this is a fantastic option. The Neverfull comes in three sizes and three choices of canvas. The smaller sizes (PM and MM) are great everyday options and the GM would be wonderful for travel or just those jam packed days and can’t leave anything at home. The side drawstrings condense the size down a bit if you aren’t needing so much space. There’s no long strap, but the top handles are long enough to wear over your shoulder. This is the ultimate carryall and arguably the most practical/convenient of the bunch.


Alexander Wang Pelican Satchel, $985 – I know, I know. It’s controversial that I included three Alexander Wang bags on this list but the truth is that I really do think he designed three of the best bags out there in this price range. The Pelican satchel is the newest of the group, and it’s definitely on another level. It’s also a top handle + long strap style and it comes in an interesting selection of colors and leather textures. It’s reminiscent of the Givenchy Antigona satchel (a $2,500 bag) but not in an imitate-y kinda way. It certainly stands alone. I love how structured and polished it is – great for a professional environment. It’s not quite as ubiquitous as the Rocco or even the Emile at this point, so it’s the perfect choice if you want something a little more unchartered.

Phew! If you stuck with me til the end, extra points for you! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Tell me – what’s your favorite or first bag in this price range? What’s on your handbag wish list?

Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7


  1. fabulous list! I always have such anxiety picking handbags. I don’t want to make the wrong choice because its going to be a long time before I’m able to afford another! But I completely agree its the price you have to pay. my mom tells me about the days when fendi/ chanel were $500 max and I laugh and laugh…. another bag to consider in this price range is the mulberry bayswater. While its taken a bit of a price hike recently you can still find fun colors in the $900 range and the shape/ style is very classic.Oh and the balenciaga mini city— ugh remember when THAT one sold for $800 instead of $1200??? Now I sound like my mother…….

    1. thelifestyled 03/27/2013

      Hi Erika! I know – it’s staggering to think of how much those high end bags used to be back in the day. If only I had bought a Chanel when I was 9! Haha. Even nowadays, the pre-owned Chanels are going for $4500. At that point, I’ll just save the extra and getting a brand new one. Someday! And good call on the Mulberry Bayswater. That one came SO CLOSE to making it on the list, but the retail price was juuust above the $1300 limit. You’re right though – finding one on sale is the way to go!

  2. I’ll take one of each please! No but really, lol, they’re beautiful!


  3. What a great list!!!!! My friend brought here now that I am newly on the market for the 3.1 Phillip Lim Pashli!!!!

    1. thelifestyled 03/29/2013

      Great choice!!

  4. LOVE that Reed Krakoff! Thanks for this post, it’s good to know that not everybody is just buying bags like there’s no tomorrow.

    Chelsea & The City

    1. thelifestyled 03/29/2013

      I know what you mean – sometimes it really feels like everyone and their mother has a Chanel or a Celine!

  5. Great list and review. I agree with the above.. the Boxer bag is one of my faves as well and not instantly “It” bag recognizable

  6. Great post! I have been on the $500 per bag once a year plan for awhile now and have a lovely collection of Kooba, small LV and Rebecca Minkoff in my closet at this point. However, last month I made the leap to a $2000 I will own this forever purchase and OMG, it was life changing. One evening, I went to the shops of 10 luxury brands and felt confident that my selection was what I loved above all else and the next morning I took the plunge. I have no regrets and know I will forever remeber that day! Have fun, can’t wait to see what you choose!

    1. thelifestyled 03/29/2013

      Congrats on your new purchase! What did you end up choosing? Do tell!

  7. Absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE this post. Just over the past couple years I’ve been getting the itch to invest in a really nice handbag. I’ve splurged on Kate Spade and Rebecca Minkoff options before, but now that I’m entering my mid-20’s (scary), I feel like I really need a timeless bag that will literally last forever! I absolutely adore all of these options, but I truly have to thank you for introducing me to my new obsessesion that is the Reed Krakoff Boxer. Pretty sure I’m still a few years away from being able to afford it, but it just has to be mine one day!

    Thanks so much for writing a post for those of us who can’t and will never cough up thousands of dollars for a bag. Especially with so much detail and pros/cons :)

    1. thelifestyled 03/29/2013

      Good choice! Keep an eye on the sales – you never know when you might be able to find one for like half price!

  8. I loved reading this post. I am looking to invest in a mid-range handbag, so this list will definitely come in handy. The Givenchy Antigona Satchel is probably my favorite of the higher-end bags to choose from. It is a silhouette that I will never grow tired of seeing. Back to a more realistic price range though, I am loving the 3.1 Phillip Lim Pashli Satchel right now – it is a great shape and seems to be fairly versatile, as well as functional. Another bag, I have had an affinity for is the Meli Melo Thela bag. It is a great shape and size, and it’s not one that you see everyday. Thank you for providing such an in-depth analysis of each of these bags. Xx

  9. Love the Emily bag!

  10. I am not really a bag girl, so I just upgraded my 4 year old Rebecca minkoff(which still looked great!) to a clare vivier duffle. I was really obsessed with the pashli for awhile but am getting a little sick of it… But that Reed krakoff is perfection! Will have to think about that when I’m ready for the next one!

    1. thelifestyled 03/29/2013

      I love the Clare Vivier bags! Awesome choice. And the Rebecca Minkoff’s are all wonderful as well. I use mine all the time. But when you’re ready, definitely go for the Reed! No one in MN will have it, but everyone will love it. :)

    2. So true! I get sick of these bags from seeing them when I travel or online, but really no one has them here anyways!

  11. At first glance, my eyes were drawn towards the Phillip Lim. I feel like out of all of them, it is not too overexposed (like the Alexander Wang Rocoo and the LV) and would give any plain outfit an edge! Great for lazy days. The size also seems to be pretty good for my lifestyle. The only thing stopping my is the price… But hey, that’s what birthdays are for right? And if I simply cannot resist, I can always justify it as an “investment”. Got to look good – first impressions count! hahahaa.

  12. […] The Life Styled | Handbag Upgrade Let's get it all out on the table – the world of handbags is more than a little daunting. I think this is mostly because when you first become privy to the price tags on some of fashion's most coveted bags, you want to cry or hide. […]

  13. Thanks for the inspiring post! I really like the look of the Alexander Wang bags, but I am not sure if they are worth the investment though, as they are made in China!!! All “real” designer hand bags, that remain classics, are made in Italy or France, and it is the high quality that you pay for, not only the design, IMO. I have never had a chance to see an AW bag in person. What do you think of the quality of craftsmanship?

  14. […] as into discussing the relative merits of investment handbags as I am, then you should check out The LifeStyled’s very informative post–girl knows her […]