Are You Guilty of Accessory Excess?

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I’ve been thinking lately about accessories. Whether or not I am guilty of accessory excess. And more broadly, how one can ever ascertain what excessive means, particularly when it comes to handbags.

This musing about accessories started a couple of weeks ago when I was at a friend’s house for our book club luncheon. As we prepared to leave, several of us milled around in my friend’s front hall, pulling on coats and boots. I stood, coat on, boots laced, burgundy Marc Jacobs tote bag slung across my body, and waited for the others. While we waited, my friend Susan admired my tote, patting it fondly. I agreed with her that it is a lovely bag, even though it’s several years old. Then another friend looked at me quizzically and said, “How many purses do you have, anyway?”

“Huh. Good question. Six, maybe. I don’t know exactly,” I replied. Her question had been delivered in a tone which suggested, to me at least, that the answer was obvious. Too many.

Feeling cosy in my old green dress coat and a green vintage bag.

I’ve always considered myself to be an accessory minimalist. But it seems this is not an opinion shared by my friends. Much as I know they love me. Or I hope so anyway. I do know they think I am a bit of a shopaholic. That I have closets burgeoning with clothes and shoes and accessories. Which is, of course, not the case at all.

I’m even more careful about my purchase of bags, than I am about clothes. I buy totes, bags, and most accessories, rarely. At least I thought I did. But all this musing has made me think I really should look at how many bags I own, and whether it’s too many.

In other words, am I really an accessory minimalist like I thought I was.

So this morning, in the pursuit of self-knowledge, I hauled out all my bags from the small cupboard where I keep hats and bags and scarves, and from the drawers under the spare room bed where I keep out of season purses and totes stored in soft cloth bags. And I counted six spring and summer bags. Three fall and winter ones. And three sentimental, rarely used, but still can’t part with them, vintage bags. One of which is the black clutch given to me by my grandmother, and given to her by my aunt many, many years ago. I also own one fairly new travel bag from Longchamp, which I only use for travel.

My six spring and summer bags were purchased over several years. The oldest is a cream Michael Kors cross-body bag, bought pre-2000. And the newest is my beloved Eric Javits straw tote purchased last summer. I also have a gold tote from 2012. Two lady-like, structured bags that I love, a black and white Kate Spade from 2014, and a pink Cole Haan from 2004. And a red, cross-body bag from 2018.

I own three fairly new fall and winter bags. All are in heavy rotation. My burgundy Marc Jacobs from 2015 and grey All Saints tote from 2016 were both bought at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. I bought my small, black Mackage cross-body bag in 2016 as well.

My three vintage bags are given cupboard space for purely sentimental reasons. The black clutch because it is a family heirloom. Okay… maybe not an “heirloom,” but a cherished possession passed down to me by my grandmother Sullivan. The brown, faux-croc bag with the faux-Bakelite handle I picked up for $20.00 at the Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show a few years ago. I like to pretend that it’s not “faux,” but it probably is. And I don’t care; I love it.

And then there’s a little green suitcase-y bag, below, that I found in a vintage shop back in the early nineties. I think it’s part of an old luggage set. And is probably a vanity case. It has a silky, cloth interior with ruffled elasticated cloth bands to hold bottles and brushes, and even a tiny brass key. But it makes a lovely little structured bag, don’t you think?

I carried this little green bag as my purse for one week back in the early nineties. I remember the bemused expressions of my colleagues when I brought it to work. “Is that an old vanity case?” someone asked. Sigh.

Still, I think it’s sweet, and I love the colour. And the idea of owning something from another age. With this in hand, I might be boarding a train, a uniformed porter following behind with several other matching cases in a towering pile on a wooden handcart, steam rising around us. In fact, in the snow today, and in my long, long coat, I felt a bit like a character from Doctor Zhivago.

But let’s get back to the idea of accessory excess. Or not. For years and years when I worked, I was a true minimalist when it came to bags.

Back then I owned way more clothes than I do now, but for fall and winter, I owned one black bag and one brown bag. If I was wearing my brown boots and camel coat, I’d carry the brown bag and… well.. you get the idea. Except for the odd vintage indulgence, I couldn’t justify owning more bags than two. In summer I mostly carried a straw bag, and sometimes invested in a cream or white purse as well. That pink Cole Haan bag was the exception. I loved it the moment I saw it. And I still do, although I rarely use it.

But, once I retired, things changed. That’s because wherever I go these days, my bag goes with me. I don’t arrive at work and stash my purse in a desk drawer for the day. My bag is always part of my outfit. And as a result, I change it more frequently.

The first winter after retirement, it dawned on me, as I changed back and forth between my two bags, that I was right royally sick to death of both of them. I eventually sold them both. I started over, and began to invest in a new purse every now and then.

Long green coat from Holt Renfrew, Stuart Weitzman boots, scarf from Chatsworth, vintage bag.

So, to answer my friend’s question, I own twelve bags. Except for the pink Cole Haan bag, I use most of the six summer bags several times each season. The Eric Javits straw tote is my default bag. My three fall and winter bags are all used a lot. My three vintage bags, I mostly just admire. For a grand total of twelve. I didn’t count my Longchamp travel bag, which I only use for, well, travel.

Is that excessive? Does that make me guilty of accessory excess? Or can I still be considered a minimalist?

Well, I guess that depends on your perspective. You could justify almost any number if you tried. And if you don’t see the need for anything more than one bag, then two is excessive. But I will say that my bags are all very different from each other. In colour, style, and purpose. I don’t need two black cross-body bags, for instance. Or two straw totes.

But despite owning a dozen purses, I need at least one more. Maybe “need” is too strong a word. I’d like one more bag. A small-ish, cross-body bag for fall and winter that is not black. Something in a warm colour. Maybe chocolate brown, a bronzey-teak, or even a warm burgundy. I’ve been looking at brands which I like. All Saints for one. And I’ve narrowed it down to these four options.

You know when I started writing this, I did wonder how many bags I would haul out from their hiding places. What the final count would be. I told my friend I thought I owned six, but I couldn’t remember. And in that moment, six seemed like a lot. So maybe I was unconsciously minimizing the number. Maybe I was actually a bit embarrassed by how many purses and totes I owned?

But in the end, even though I own twice as many bags as I said that afternoon at book club, I’m quite pleased with the result of my research. I can live with owning twelve bags. Maybe even thirteen soon. Especially when I look at my blog photos over the years and see that I do use each and every one of my bags. Even if only occasionally. Well, except for that little green number. And I’m going to remedy that soon.

Long green coat from Holt Renfrew, Stuart Weitzman boots, scarf from Chatsworth, vintage bag.
This is the scarf I bought at Chatsworth in 2017. Hmm. I wonder how many scarves I own.

The only potential problem with my owning twelve, soon to be thirteen bags, is storage. We have a small house with very limited storage space. I don’t have a huge walk-in closet with a multitude of shelves on which I can proudly stand all my bags. I have a small free-standing Ikea cupboard in our spare bedroom. In it I keep my vintage hats, baskets of scarves, and the bags I am currently using this season. And in the drawers under the bed in that room, I keep my off season bags.

And what I’ve begun to do is to store each bag in the cloth bag in which it comes, then stuff the smaller bags into the larger bags. I end up with my two large totes, stuffed with two other smaller purses. Like Ukrainian nesting dolls, except with bags. This works a treat, and helps keep the bags from collapsing as they can do when they are stored empty. I hate that wrinkled, unloved look that bags can have when they are pulled out of storage.

So, I hereby find myself “not guilty” of accessory excess. I still identify as an accessory minimalist. I don’t think that owning twelve bags, soon to be thirteen, is excessive. Maybe you do. Maybe you buy one bag and use it until you are sick of it, or it wears out, before you buy another. And if that’s how you roll, that’s just fine.

Or… maybe you own six, or even twelve bags? Come on, count them and tell us how many. We’re all friends here. We won’t judge.

P.S. Clothing links are affiliate links. If you purchase something after clicking my link, I will earn a commission.

Linking up with #IWillWearWhatILike , #ShareAllLinkup, Visible Monday , and Monday Runway.

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55 thoughts on “Are You Guilty of Accessory Excess?”

  1. I looked at a cute green “vegan” bag at a Winners in London on Sunday, told myself I have a brown , a black and a blue one and I don’t need a green. Now I am home, ticked I didn’t buy it.

  2. only five bags, brown and black totes, grey, black and straw cross bodies ( i hate swapping bags over) but oh dear when it comes to shoes i am in double figures starting with a 2!
    scarves are a bit of an obsession too and i rarely wear them. i love your green bag. looks as though it has stories to tell

  3. Hmmm, I don’t think having 12 bags is excessive – each to her own I say. I’ve counted 6 bags in my collection, one small, yellow leather, cross body (though I only ever wear it as a shoulder bag – the strap is adjustable), 1 mid-size black leather shoulder bag, 1 red Lipault tote for travel or when I have more than usual to carry, 1 cane basket and 1 largish straw basket, which I take to my local produce market, on picnics or to the beach, and one black evening clutch.

    I don’t like moving stuff from one bag to another so I mostly carry the same bag till it starts to look shabby. For the last 20 months the favourite has been the yellow bag, which I loved at first sight but thought I’d only use occasionally. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well it goes with so many outfits, adding a pop of colour to dark winter outfits, fitting right in with warmer weather clothing and it’s received more compliments than any other bag I’ve owned. Not sure what I’ll do when it wears out 😂

    My favourites of your collection are the straw bag, the yellow tote and the black and white Kate Spade. Good luck with choosing lucky 13!

    1. I’m narrowing in on the burgundy croc All Saints cross-body bag. Since I’ve been moving back and forth between bags so regularly I’ve put most of the things I move into a small zippered pouch. I kept arriving somewhere without my lipstick or Kleenex or whatever.

  4. Your green bag is amazing,I love it!
    As for my bags-I would say twelve (-ish :-). I’m still in bed and if I wait and count them,all the day’s errands will start and who knows when I’ll comment again). I’ll count them eventually and tell
    I love scarves and wear them almost every day,they add interest and colours to my outfits. Some of them are over 35 years old and I don’t buy more than one a year or every two years so I could wear all of them regularly
    Dottoressa

  5. Oh dear , I’m feeling very uncomfortable here . I don’t get drawn to shoes much but bags are my weakness & have been since my first pay packet . I can remember bags I’ve loved & lost ( to the charity shops ) & I still miss them . I have big bags , small bags , hard bags , squashy bags , some formal bags , mostly casual bags , modern bags , vintage bags ( including a navy croc clutch 1920s , a black lizard formal bag 1940s , a brown lizard evening bag 1960s ) I like sensible bags in black , brown or navy but then there are some wonderful coloured bags ……. Do I use them all regularly? No but I treasure them & polish them lovingly .
    In my defense there are many material things I really don’t care about – cars , fancy household equipment , precious jewelry , expensive cosmetics , perfume etc etc . Facials , manicures & spas bore me to desperation too . I’m not high maintenance . So if I don’t have time to count all my bags perhaps you’ll forgive me .

    1. I am the same, in I have a lot of bags and shoes and scarves… I blame some on our 160 degree temp change every 6 months and these items always fit and make me feel pretty. I also love some vintage and feel bad leaving a pretty purse in a consignment store. I do buy most secondhand these days.

  6. I love bags and have about twenty, I think, just totting them up as I sit here. Most I have had for years and I use them all, changing them just as I change my jewellery. Got a lot of that as well. Some expensive, some not. Accessories are much more interesting to me than actual clothes and I don’t think twice about owning so much. Only recently somebody commented on a bag I was carrying, noting that it was yet another. I hadn’t even realised she had been paying attention to my bags but there you go. A bag for all seasons. They make me happy.

      1. Shortly after posting this, I was given an early Christmas present of the most beautiful black and gold scarf, embroidered and glittering with bling, from an Asian store. I cannot tell you how glorious it is and EXACTLY what I was wanting. And now I feel I need a pair of beautiful black sling-backs, probably soft suede, to make a fab outfit.

  7. Take no notice! Enjoy your bags. I enjoy mine, and there far too many (north of 30). Like you there are some sentimental bags but they’re all classic and timeless. They’re lovingly looked after, stuffed with tissue and stored in cloth bags. Scarves, shoes and lipstick are also my jam!

      1. Hello Twin! The bags, shoes, lipsticks (well makeup in general really) are often a source of annoyance to my husband – to which I say phooey! He loves cameras, ties, jackets and plants – it all evens out!!

    1. Thanks, Lesley. I’ve parted with a few bags over the years, ones that weren’t great quality because that was all I could afford at the time. But now I rarely anything good, I just store and keep. My only problem will be if I run out of room.

  8. I love bags, I always have. I currently have 16 and use them all. I have quite a few totes in different colours which are used the most hauling groceries and library books as I don’t own a car. I change bags based on what I am wearing and the activities I will be involved that day. I am currently looking for a smaller crossbody bag in the same green as your wonderful bag. Some of my bags were bought when travelling and have become very useful souvenirs as well as lovely reminders of place and time.

  9. Probably have in the range of 15 bags. A bit silly considering I am not one to change my bag often. Several of them are crossbody travel bags of varying size–not yet having found the perfect travel bag. Amazing how something like a strap being just a bit too wide can turn a crossbody travel bag into a fail. In my defense (not that I need one), I often loan them out to family and friends when they travel. I don’t like large bags, but the older I get and the more stuff I need (e.g. prescription sunglasses, reading glasses, phone, writing implements, small Moleskine notebook, coin purse, thin wallet), I find I have to carry something that can at least handle this load. Currently have a relatively small black leather crossbody one that fits the bill. My favorite totebag is a Longchamp medium sized shoulder tote I picked up in London some years ago and used as a briefcase for quite a while–still going strong though no longer in daily service since retirement.

    1. I know that straps can be a problem. I will probably ditch that red cross-body bag I bought in 2018 because the strap is so thin it always twists. I definitely got what I paid for with that one.

  10. I dress very simply, almost uniform like – jeans, sweater, boots – so I do carry different bags to sort of change up the look and color.
    I should change my bag more often, but I’m lazy. Currently carrying a very large cognac leather tote – and I never even need a shopping bag if I purchase something, I just shove it in there!
    I love your bag choices that you posted.

  11. WELL
    I have had the same concerns as yourself in regards to how many bags do we really need.
    I did not know how many handbags I owned until this week, having moved them to make way for other things.
    50 is my total, excluding evening bags and totes. I like leather bags and unusual bags, some have been purchased on trips, other gifts and I do like op shopping. I can’t help but “save”a bag from an op shop. I also like to “save” handmade items like crochet tablecloths.
    I adore all of my bags, but I do realize this may be starting to get out of hand, so do question myself if I see one at the op shop.
    This year I have even purchased bags for my family from the op shop for Christmas.
    I mix quite happily with friends who have 1 handbag and only purchase a new one when the old one is worn out😉 jeanette

    1. I grew up having only one purse at a time, one that went with my good winter coat. Plus a straw bag for summer. I’ve been gradually overcoming that affliction, though. Ha.
      P.S. I had to look up op shop. That’s a new bit of Aussie slang for me.

  12. Who doesn’t love a great bag? They amp up your outfit, always fit, don’t need laundering. I do have several that aren’t in rotation currently it they are in good shape and when I need that pop of color, I’ll be able to pull it out and use it. For the most part, my current retired life loves a zippered tote which is big enough for volunteer gear or shopping. Leather or Coloured Nylon both work for me.

    1. My cream cross-body bag from Michael Kors was stored for years. But it is such a perfect size I never got rid of it. I was glad I still had it these past couple of summers, because I’ve worn it a lot again.

  13. Handbags are an essential accessory in my wardrobe and since they are not only enjoyable but necessary for carrying important, ‘must have’ items with me, I make no apologies for my growing collection. Since my wardrobe is classic and based primarily on black and white a handbag and a coordinating silk scarf is often the pop of colour that finishes the look…too many handbags? Never!

    1. I agree. When I was working I saw a Pinterest post of a woman wearing black pants and sweater with a red scarf and red tote bag. She looked so chic and elegant I copied the look and wore some form of it the entire month of December. I would change it up with a beautiful Burberry black/red bag. So simple and easy.
      When retired I donated most of my totes and started collecting crossbody bags in my colors, much easier on the shoulders. My favorite is a faux fur bag I wear in winter that goes with EVERYTHING.

  14. Oh my goodness. Now I need to feel guilty about how many purses I have? I’m afraid to count. I do have some that are vintage Botegga Venettas that I refuse to part with. I also have baskets from India that I refuse to stop wearing. I figure if they’re interesting go for it. Same with my overabundance of scarves that I love wearing around my neck to keep me warm. Lipsticks? Don’t ask. So bottom line you have permission to have as many purses, scarves and lipsticks that you want. I mean everything around us is a no no. No sugar, no carbs, no meat, you get the idea. Be free to enjoy what you enjoy as long as it hurts no one.

  15. I’m in my sick bed and without getting up to really check thoroughly I count 21., so maybe really more. But 15 are resale shop ones and about 8 of those are beautiful vintage coach that were not speedy. So maybe not so bad. Your count is not excessive!

  16. As with anything IT DEPENDS. Do you buy something rarely and then keep it forever? So if you buy something like a bag or a scarf once every three years and keep them for 25 years, well….they will pile up. And let’s face it, the resale value of such items diminishes a lot after they are no longer pristine. So if you have that bag you loved and paid so much for but it has that little mark on the inside that nobody sees, if you want to sell it it’s worth almost nothing, but to replace it would cost a lot. So obviously it’s better to hold onto things. Much better than the “minimalist” who changes everything every few months.
    Anybody who gives you side-eye about how many bags or scarves you have, well, just know you have an army behind you giving side-eye right back.

  17. Now, I think my next purchase will be a new purse. I need to keep up 😉 Six is the amount that I have, not counting baskets. Now scarves and shawls, maybe thirty or a few more. I wear them everyday, and feel almost naked without one around my neck…even in the summer, silk tied loosely and I’m good to go.
    Ali

  18. I truly envy all the ladies with their collections of bags. I love bags but having hard time choosing one in my price range. There is always something wrong – not big enough, straps are wrong, not in my color or something else. I have been looking for a cream bag for a year! I overcompensate with scarves, though. I don’t wear them all but like to look at the beautiful silk fabrics, so I fold them often 🙂

  19. You’ve given me the perfect solution to my “where should I store my bags?” dilemma! The drawers under the beds in the basement bedroom, of course! Why didn’t I think of that? Now I need to gather them up and figure out how many there actually are. Like you, I suspect that I’ll discover that there are more than I can think of off the top of my head.

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