The Broke Girl’s Guide To Handbags

Designer handbags are the one accessory that as you get older, you start to appreciate more and more. I remember when I was a young, struggling University student and all I ever wanted was a Herschel bag pack that could carry my laptop and the thousands of readings that I had to lug from class to class. I would see some girls carrying their Louis Vuitton Neverfull to tutorials and scoff at their vain impracticality.

 

As I get older, I realise that handbags aren’t just a practical accessory to hold all the crap I need day to day. There are nuances to these fashion objects.

As Karl Lagerfeld would say, ” Luxury bags make your life more pleasant, make you dream, give you confidence, and show your neighbours you are doing well.”

That last bit hit the nail on the head. It’s not so much a parade as a subtle indicator to the public that you are doing well. At first I was turned off by this, thinking that it was justifying showing-off and shoving your wealth in people’s faces. Though I think some (tacky) people do that, what Lagerfeld meant wasn’t a parade of wealth or even a status thing. Taken in moderation, it just means that you have worked hard and reaped the benefits. To me, it represents how you have taken adulthood by the horns and won.

With this new outlook, I too decided that a good quality, designer bag is something I would want to look into. Not just for their gorgeous aesthetics, but also for the designer’s promise of high quality and getting what you paid for. But if you are like me, a semi-broke freelancer, it might be tough deciding exactly what to save for and what is worth the hard-earned money.

I thought I would share my insights on the handbag world, with its overwhelming amount of choices.  But go into this post knowing that designer handbags are NOT AT ALL an essential. I have known that all my life. To me, designer bags are milestones in your career. It’s all dependent on the amount of disposable income you have in that moment. Sometimes you have more, sometimes you have less. However, “disposable” is the operative word here. Designer bags aren’t worth debt or starving yourself for.

Here are my tips:

Get The Best Of What You Can Afford

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Photo: LeHappy.com

There are different tiers to designer and not all are created equal. We look to Chanel, Hermes and Louis Vuitton as the holy trinity in the designer handbag world. However, not everyone can or want to spend 7000 to 20,000 dollars on a handbag. There are other brands for you to consider that are equally great in quality and design, though less “prestigious” in the eyes of others.

Instead of getting the lowest “entry” bag to a maison that you like, get the bag of your dreams. If that bag is way beyond your means, then get the best of what you can afford. That was advice that I found extremely helpful for me. No point getting the cheapest bag that might not be the best quality just because it’s from Chanel, Dior or whatever. What’s the point? It’s no different from any other bag. Get the best of a mid-range or mid-tier designer brand instead. Don’t discount and disregard mid-tier brands like Coach, Tory Burch or Longchamp Even though these bags aren’t extravagantly expensive or have prestige attached to their name, their bags and leather goods are well-made and stand the test of time. For the price, their bags are well-worth it, made of quality leather. I recently invested in a Coach Swagger bag and I’m beyond happy with the wear I’ve got from it.

 

Stick To The Basics

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If you are, like me, more adventurous when it comes to accessories and more understated when it comes to clothing pieces, it’s tough to not fall for an amazing graphic print, a unique bag shape or bright saturated colours. Anything cobalt blue or forest green, I instantly fall for. As boring as it may seem, your first investment should be the most versatile colours, so that they compliment every outfit you choose to wear it with. Hence, it’s probably safe to stick to monochromes.

 

Don’t Fall Into The Hype

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This is something I need to practise myself. I am awful at not falling for the hype and trends. The most important thing to consider when you are planing to purchase a solid handbag staple is, especially if it is your first, is to keep it classic. Just because the trend is to own a flashy bag with crazy appliqué designs, know that these trends will come and go. The crazier the design, the more likely it is that you’ll grow tired of it.

However, if that particularly design is totally in your aesthetic, then by all means! The point is to listen to your heart and stay true to your own aesthetics, despite whatever that’s trending at that time. If you know that gold hardware is not your cup of tea, then stick to silver, even if the white-and-gold combo is so in these days. If you prefer a more clean-cut design, then stay away from elaborate floral prints, even if all the fashion bloggers are hyping the latter. When you do that, you are more likely to use the bag for longer as your core style won’t change as frequently as trends do. Furthermore, the bag will most likely compliment the rest of your wardrobe well, if you consider your own style and nothing else.

 

Bags Are Just Bags

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At the end of the day, they are meant to be functional. Consider this when you are looking at sizes and pricing. Some expensive bags are so damn tiny they can barely fit an iPhone 6 Plus, let alone all your other crap! I mean, if it cam only carry your lipstick *ehem*Valentino*ehem*, that’s what pockets are for! For me, personally, I prefer a medium sized bag for every day and one smaller “special occasion” bag. So if I can only afford the smallest version of a certain bag, and it’s something I’d prefer to use everyday, then I probably won’t get said bag even if I think it’s so darn gorgeous. Design aside, ultimately the functionality and practicality of the bag matters more. It’s what separates a good purchase from a regretful one.

Material plays into this category. Do I want leather or PVC? What kind of leather? If the bag is made of suede or lambskin, you would have to baby the bag as it’ll be more prone to scratches and stain. Is a white bag practical? Will future stains be easy to wash off? My suggestion is to pick a sturdier leather (probably cow hide) that has been treated such that it won’t be too damaged by water and is relatively scratch proof. You want your bag to age gracefully, just as you would yourself.

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There you have it!! The biggest tip for a broke girl who wants to have her first foray into designer bags is… Don’t spend beyond your means. I know this is a super naggy and obvious thing but I find it very hard to stick to this primary tip. Sometimes I think that having that gorgeous shoe or bag can make me feel like a million bucks and give me a major confidence boost. It makes me think, “I MUST HAVE IT” because I am addicted to that feeling of confidence. However, that feeling is temporary. It’ll evaporate once you wear that item more and more. And then we set our eyes on a new thing to get our fix.

So awful! It’s something I am working on. To invest my money in a piece that I KNOW I will love for a long time and get the wear it deserves. Ultimately you don’t HAVE to get a fancy bag, but I hope this helps if you are looking into making a bag investment.

 

Visual Diary #4 : Saying Goodbye

Here’s a rather emotional diary entry.

In this instalment, I say bon voyage to my best friend, Diyanah. She moved to Japan to start a new chapter in her life. I couldn’t be happier for her, though in the video, it really doesn’t seem that way. I promise you I am happy for her. It was a bittersweet moment as we have always been childhood friends and I couldn’t imagine not having her around.

It’s a more personal post for me. But I wanted to stay true to my diary format and be real.

It wasn’t the video that I had imagined in my mind. However, I did my best to put together something as it’s a pretty big moment for me.

 

Hopefully you guys enjoy it!

The Thing About Beauty YouTubers…

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Let’s talk YouTube for a second.

I am an avid fan of YouTube. It has replaced television channels in my life. Not to mention my addiction to beauty channels, it’s almost unhealthy. I watch them religiously and follow massive amounts of beauty Youtubers. After years of watching beauty videos, watching the market get more and more saturated, I realised that slowly I have been unsubscribing to more channels than I am subscribing to new channels.

“YOUTUBE IS BROKEN” was a major headline that went viral.

Apparently, people have been unsubscribed to channels and there has been a general decline in views. While, I do believe that YouTube has been tinkering things around without communicating the changes they have applied, I also believe that people are unsubscribing actively. Or perhaps auto unsubscribing to channels where you are a dormant subscriber.

I too realise that I have not been watching as many beauty videos as I used to.

Why?

Because it’s ALL THE SAME.

 

Sponsorships

This argument has been going on for ages. People hate sponsorships because it destroys the credibility of a YouTuber. At the same time, some sponsorships come from genuine love of the products being advertised. Ultimately, they are paid to say the things that they say. And this tarnishes the integrity of the YouTuber, even though the viewer is aware that this is their job.

My preference was to simply skip sponsored videos altogether. While it is easy with UK YouTubers that indicate their sponsorships with a #AD on the title, it’s tougher to distinguish with other YouTubers.

The worst parts about sponsorships are the scripted dialog and the giant infestation that appears in your subscription box, because the videos are scheduled to be released around the same time. Furthermore, big companies would reach out to several influencers all at once. Next thing you know, your subscription box is filled with “so-and-so” lipstick or some random hair tool.

Just. No.

 

PR

Even if the video is not technically “sponsored”, more often than not large beauty companies will send out free PR packages containing the products they want to promote for these YouTubers to try. We are talking GIANT boxes filled to the brim with products. More than any one person can fathom to use to its entirety before it goes bad. Most of the time, they use these PR products for giveaways.

Most of these PR packages are sent out all at once to a plethora of influencers. So in certain portions of the year, you get a bunch of YouTubers mentioning the same products again and again because it is a new product they were sent. Therefore, even if the companies are not officially sponsoring these YouTubers, because they are all sent the same batches of products from companies, eventually they end up talking about the same products.

It’s inevitable. And incredibly boring.

 

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Constant Newness

On top of that, subscribers have the expectations that these YouTubers always have their hands on the pulse of the beauty community. Hence, these influencers are constantly talking about whatever’s new. Whatever it is that they were raving about 4 months ago is conveniently forgotten to make room for newer things. It is exactly what the large beauty companies want. They want you to keep buying and buying anything that’s new.

It cultivates a wasteful culture, which I had fallen prey to myself. I lose interest in products quickly and move on to new things faster than I can actually finish one. It’s horrible! It’s wasteful to the environment and it’s wasteful to my wallet. Whatever product is hyped at the moment is THE thing I want to get my hands on, completely disregarding the copious amounts of stuff I still have yet to use up.

Therefore, essentially, the videos are constantly about whatever’s new at the time. YouTubers are hardly talking about the older products again and again even if they are their tried and true. They will mention one or two offhand but these videos matter less than ones involving new things. It leads to perfectly good items being discontinued and overlooked. The companies also churn out product after product, launching something new every other week, in order to stay relevant and in the spotlight.

 

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What’s next?

My rant is tapering to an end. I was just overwhelmed with a sudden wave of anger and annoyance as I was trying to find something to watch on YouTube. The videos that started out as a friend recommending products to other people became an advertising platform. So much so that majority of the videos currently are paid in some form or other.

Nothing is genuine anymore.

There is no difference between watching a youtube “Get Ready With Me” video and a full-blown ad on the telly.

For those who are looking for integrity, look for smaller YouTubers that don’t try to emulate the “popular crowd” too much. For solid beauty recommendations, go for Emily Noel’s, she has never done a sponsored video in all her years on YouTube. Stephanie Nicole is also infamous for her scathingly honest review. As for skincare, I love Gothamista’s videos as they are filled with information and honest recommendations.

 

What do you think about the current state of YouTube?

Ultimately, I will probably stray away from YouTube, beauty-wise. I am going to be focusing on using up the stuff I have now and forming my own opinions on things. YouTube is in dire need of originality. If I want to see paid posts, I might as well opt for Vogue.

Finding Snippets of Silver

Social media has created increased pressure to depict a pristine lifestyle at all times. Even though we all know that life is never all sunshine and rainbows. Here, in Singapore, there is very little light shed on mental illness or anything of that sort. We tend to believe that the brain is an organ that we have control over, that you can control your thoughts and actions. This is true to a certain extent. More often than not, we are at the mercy of our thoughts and like the heart, it is an organ that is constantly working on its own.

Many Asian households tend to instill this habit of showing your best and putting the best face on for the rest of the world. There is a tendency to sweep problems under the rug and pretend that it doesn’t exist, praying that eventually they will go away. It’s true in my family and the relationships that I have in my life. The whole mindset strikes a bad cord in me and it’s something that I fight against every day.

 

Why is it so wrong to admit our problems?

 

Negativity

Singaporeans are notorious for being overly negative and complaining a lot. I have grown up in a society that is constantly in discontent. We are always very vocal about how unhappy we are with one thing or another. As frivolous as this may seem, it does impact the mindset of millennials who fixate on the negative and feel entitled to the good. You would think that this means that we are open to listening to people’s problems but this is where society draws a fine line. We love commiserating and blowing steam on shared topics, not on individual ones. It is taboo to air your “dirty laundry” or talk about them in an open manner. It is considered rude and self-centred, which boggles my mind. Who do you turn to, to discuss your own personal struggles? More often than not, you are encouraged to find a solution for yourself.

 

Isolation

Which brings me to the point about having friends and a support system. This system is often botched by the false self-centred notions that I was talking about previously. We think our friends have their own problems to deal with. They are busy with their own lives and when we do have time to spend together, these are precious hours that you wouldn’t want to ruin with your personal problems. Thus, even with a close group of friends, ultimately we are incredibly isolated. No one knows who anyone really is. Life here is so fast paced that we often forget to check up on our friends and loved ones. Meanwhile, those friends and loved ones are too afraid to reach out and they end up feeling neglected. It’s a vicious cycle.

 

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Catharsis

Being isolated, it is important to be comfortable on your own. Remind yourself that negligence is not personal, it is a way of life. We can’t solve everything on our own, but we can manage them. Finding a project or activity that is cathartic is important. When there seems to be no outlet for the negativity, find one that creates something positive for you. Be it working out, meditation or retail therapy. Writing is a cathartic experience for me and I have written journals, poetry and prose since I was 10 years old. As I grew older, I would kick it up a notch and create projects such as my self-published book, “The Unorthodox Cat Lady”, where you can clearly see instances of me releasing my negativity in the pages. Not everything that comes out of negativity is ugly, sometimes they push you to create or experience the most rewarding things.

 

Digging Yourself Out of It

When you are stuck in a rut, it is very easy to wallow. To prevent yourself from falling deeper into that hole, you have to acknowledge your feelings, release them in some form or other and then try to climb your way out of it. This is the most difficult step to execute on your own. Most times however, you are on your own. Realistically, it is difficult to reach out in an open manner without inciting judgement. Hence, I think it is equally important to find ways to climb out of that negative headspace by yourself. Leaving positive reminders is one way that I think helps. These reminders can come in the form of quotes, photos, even scents that evoke positive memories for you. Recently, I have started creating visual diaries of simple everyday things that to me are poignant and evoke positive feelings. They remind me of good times and I will watch them whenever things get rough.

 

My life is not exciting in the least, so everything is very ordinary. But I think it’s important to find joy in the ordinary. I truly enjoyed the entire process of making these videos and want to make more of them, even if they don’t turn out amazing. Sometimes, logging memories down into words is not enough. They need to be relived.

 

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Briefcase Free

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Unemployment is something no one really talks about where I live, in Singapore. It’s somewhat a taboo subject. Your friends are overly positive about your prospects, because they want to encourage you and keep your spirits up. Your parents don’t know what to do with you around the house, acting like they are walking on egg shells. Everyone else who knows you otherwise  assume that you are employed elsewhere, even if you aren’t with the previous company. You have to be working for another, right?

People here think of it as a fleeting moment. Just a simple unfortunate incident that can easily be remedied.

I mean, just get another one, right?

Wrong.

I have been debating about writing more personal things on this site. Simply because no one really cares about personal experiences from someone they don’t even know. The futility of it makes this whole thing seem like a waste of time and effort. Everyone projects the false image of a perfect life, be it through conversations or social media. No one wants to talk about the horrible and real things that are going on. It’s uncomfortable and painful, so everyone, myself included, tends to avoid it.

Part of the reason, I think, is because the unemployment rates in Singapore are one of the lowest in the world. It’s at 2.1% currently. So to classify yourself under that small percentage means that you are not the norm, a failure.

 

 

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Getting it Together

Having a job and career are all wonderful things. But not when it completely defines you as a person. Humans are multi layered creatures. It’s impossible to sum someone up in just one word, their occupation. There is this mentality that growing up and being an adult means that we have to have it together all the time. We need to be walking towards a direction or goal. If, like me, you have lost sight of that goal, you need to start working towards another one quick. Wandering around aimlessly, getting your bearings is not an adult thing to do, apparently.

Even if it is subconsciously done, the people around you will start pitying you, thinking that you’re losing it. Whatever “it” may be.

A tough concept that people can’t grasp is that confiding your problems with someone doesn’t automatically mean you are soliciting sympathy. Most times, it’s just stating the current fact of the matter. There are times, when I had to tell white lies, to avoid the standard looks of concern and pity on people when they learn about my state of joblessness. Then comes the onslaught of suggestions and advice. It comes from a good place yet it feels like salt to a gaping wound. Unless mentioned specifically, most people who are unemployed do not want their unemployment to be the discussion topic for the day.

We aren’t mentally unstable. It is okay to take some time off. We will get back on the horse when we are ready. To be honest, just a simple, “You okay?” is all we need. Not a discussion on what we are doing to land a new job ASAP.

Because god forbid that we are idle for a week or two. Adults don’t do that.

 

Helplessness

Job application is a job in itself. Sifting through Linkedin and Jobstreet, looking for something that would fit you and your abilities, but still aspirational. It’s tough. Not to mention the incredible competition you face. Typing out cover letter after cover letter, hoping to stand out from the other 500 applicants vying for the same position. It’s exhausting and demoralising, especially when you don’t hear back from the companies for a while. The whole thing is a merry-go-round of waiting, hoping and searching.

The helplessness settles in. You have to stretch that dollar, everything is suddenly a financial burden. Every time your friends ask you to hang out, you think “How much is this going to cost me?”. When they offer to pay, the weight on your chest doubles. It’s hard enough that you are a financial burden to yourself, now you are one to others as well. You just can’t enjoy moments 100% because there is always something nagging at the back of your head. You miss outings and parties to scrimp on cab rides and possible shopping. You end up barely meeting anyone and you feel everyone drifting away. When, in reality, it is you that’s drifting.

 

Taking Time

What we all need to realise is that this process takes time. This is a concept that I took a while to really understand. You can get a job overnight. But will it be the right one for you? That dream job feels like it is right around the corner, yet there seems to be a giant clock ticking away plus the uncertainty of the future. In addition to the tightening of the purse strings, so much so that it’s almost strangling you. You feel as if time is running out. There is a constant battle in your head whether you should settle. Or wait?

It takes time. And you shouldn’t feel bad for taking time. It’s something I struggle with as well because I always feel guilty for not applying and rushing into any job that pops up. Especially after the crushing defeat of not hearing from the initial one I was pining for. Patience is never my virtue but it has to be. Making a timeline is a good idea. Being open to part time jobs to help tide over this rough patch is something to consider. Settling, however, is not an option. So long as you are still alive, there is time.

 

Adulting

Finally, your entire personhood and level of maturity is not defined by your occupation or whether or not you are currently have one. It plays a big part, especially if you are passionate about what you do. But your job does not define you. It isn’t your only reason to live.

I would beat myself up for not being productive, for not being a busy worker bee. I am presented with all the time in the world and for some reason, I feel guilty. All of a sudden, I am transported back in time and I feel like a child again. What I needed to realise was that actively searching for a job is part of being a mature adult. I am adulting. Even if there is no swanky office or cubicle involved, I am an adult.

 

 

Either way, being jobless does not mean that you are a failure. It isn’t shameful or something that deserves pitying looks and sorry pats on the back. It doesn’t warrant talks about “how to get you on your feet”. You don’t owe anyone explanations. You don’t have to validate your efforts. There is nothing to prove. In fact, people take time off all the time. It is normal, as crazy as that sounds. And it is important for your sanity that you internalise that. I say this to myself as much as I am saying this to you guys.

You might be in the 2% right now, but that spot is in constant rotation, just like the Earth always is. It’s temporary and it’s just another chapter in this thing called Life.

 

 

 

Photos by Josh Magbanua 

@stuntmannjosh