JULIE FINDS IT FOR YOU: The Best Bags on a Budget

Gorgeous, quality bags around the $200 mark are a bit of a fashion anomaly, but they are out there!

Nov 9, 2011 at 5:08pm | Leave a comment

Dear Julie: Can you help me find a purse/bag that is not huge or tiny or way too expensive (under $200)? I think about 12 inches long by 10 inches high is a perfect size ... and at least 3 inches deep. Those purses for holding pieces of paper are so weird and useless! Also, I do not change bags from day to night or even winter to summer, so it's important that it be awesome for all occasions, unless it's something formal. I'll use a little clutch for that.

Sometimes it seems like every bag in stores is either a major investment or an impostery knock-off. When it comes to finding a lower-priced bag that doesn't scream "fake" or "free gift with purchase," look for styles made with 100 percent leather and pass on anything featuring excess embellishment and lame-o logos. Remember: you want to carry this thing every day, so simplicity and discretion are key. While gorgeous, high-quality bags around the $200 mark are a bit of a fashion anomaly, they are out there. Here's what I found:

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Zara Fashion City Bag, $169: OK, so there's a Mulberry Neely reference here, but Zara's City Bag gets a pass for being 100 percent leather, having a classic shape and the perfect size at 12 x 11 x 5 inches.

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Coach Janice's Legacy Bag, $258: It's slightly over budget, but this sleek, simple leather bag is the definition of timeless. It's also the sort of bag that just keeps getting better with age. Can't you just see it all lived-in and cool five years from now? It also comes in black and silver/black. What's not to love?

DKNY Vintage Leather Classic Bag, $185: The detailing on this bag makes it look far more expensive, no? It comes in black as well, but you can absolutely wear red as a year-round neutral. In fact you should! Like the others, it's 100 percent leather.

Banana Republic Dree Leather Satchel, $198: How lovely and ladylike is this little satchel? It's 100 percent leather (because that's the rule) and just structured enough to carry you from the office into the evening without looking commuter-y. Oh and it comes in black and plum too!

Now let's talk about the bags you're obsessing over right now. They don't have to be under $200. In fact, most of my thoughts are consumed with whether or not I should throw a few paychecks at one of these.