Privilege Blog

Where To Go For A Good (Very Good, Stand-Out, Spectacular) Handbag?

This post is sponsored by Neiman Marcus

Neiman Marcus, Stanford Shopping Center, California

Certain stores do certain goods best, don’t you find? For example, I like UNIQLO for most of my daily basics, and J. Crew for my mid-range lotta-color stuff. But for bags, the no-holding-back, oh-I-shouldn’t-but-think-of-the-low-cost-per-wear, handbags, there’s nowhere like Neiman Marcus.

It dawned on me the other day that every single bag I’ve owned since the 1990s has come from Neiman’s. Consider the saga.

The Bags Of Yesteryear

In the early 1990s, exact date forgotten, I bought this Ferragamo at Neiman’s in the Stanford Shopping Center. For work, ostensibly, but probably to help launch me back into the world lacking my two small children. I missed them anyway.

‘Twas ever so fancy. And yes, Ferragamo still does bags.

Black Vintage Ferragamo Bag Giveaway

I gave it away 20 years later, here on the blog.

In the early 2000s, I got a Marc Jacobs “doctor” bag. I remember the day I brought it to my hair salon and the highly fashionable assistant said, “Oh, is that Marc Jacobs?” It was logoed, but almost invisibly, like the Ferragamo. The latches identified the brand, like the Ferragamo. A discreet logo matters.

Still have the doctor bag, obviously, since these photos are from last year. By the way, when the piping on the corners wore out sooner than seemed right, Neiman’s replaced it for free. So gracious.



I liked it so much I subsequently bought another, identical, in caramel. Then I realized it was the wrong color for my clothes, and gave it to my daughter.

In 2009, retired for the first time, my fondness for black ebbed. Suburbs don’t do severity. Whether I needed to escalate all the way to holographic sparkling aubergine patent leather is debatable, but there you have it. Louis Vuitton Monogram Vernis, in Amarante. The most visibly logoed of any bag I’ve ever owned, but arguably the LV logo has become a design element. Oh, frisson of High WASP naughtiness.


Camper + Louis Vuitton

I did like wearing white and orange sandals with Mr. Vuitton’s old-world luggage leather, but when I started working in the city in 2011, I gave the LV away. It seems my bags request a second life.

And so I entered the intrecciato world of Bottega Veneta. First, a small cross-body messenger. Great in the city by day. Fit into my backpack for a walking commute.


When I retired for the second time in 2013, I began carrying different bags for different use cases. Monobagamous no longer. I needed something that was easy to put on and take off for car errands. Welcome, Bottega Veneta Large Hobo. Sometimes I relent and take it to the big city too.


However, I still hadn’t satisfied all my use cases. Neither the Marc Jacobs, the cross-body, nor the hobo work for evenings. I have a little minaudiere for dress-up nights, but what about something between casual and full-on fancy?

Here’s an outtake, an outfit I’ve never shown on the blog, worn to my aunt’s 80th birthday party. You see my problem, the hobo’s too big, the outfit too matchy. I was happy to get a little color-silly for a party, but I don’t want to look like a theme park. Powder Blue World, no thank you very much.


And what to carry for Thanksgiving lunches?

Hello, 2016!

So, for Christmas, my husband gave me this Céline Box. It’s goatskin, not the classic smooth leather, for those who care about details. The logo is hidden under the latch. So well-done. So good-looking, as my mother would say.


And again, found at Neiman’s, this time at the San Francisco store. My husband and I shopped together. I was interested in this bag from Loewe’s.  I thought. But we walked out with the Céline. By the way, I was by no means dressed up, but the salespeople treated me with full respect. Thank you.

It opens like this. Not to haul stuff in, still a little stiff, but I expect it to break in well and last forever. The color makes my mouth water. Set off by the just-this-side-of blatant gold-colored latch.


Fancy days call for a structured bag. So do date evenings, if you tend to date in jeans as I do.


I much preferred the intentional discord of these blues to my prior over-matching.

A Few Possibilities For 2015

The stratosphere’s available, but optional.




OK, so I stretched to include the Valentino. Let’s say it’s for a very exuberant lady who appreciates both craftsmanship and lepidoptery. I saw it in the store – a thing of beauty. (I wish they weren’t “rock studding” everything these days.)

Speaking of stores, here’s San Francisco.

Neiman Marcus, San Francisco, California

Look at this entrance. The rotunda. Not shown here, the stained glass cupola ceiling.


I think I’m set for bags, until one wears out or I’m again seized with the desire to give one away. It’s OK. Neiman’s also does good lipstick.


Affiliate links may generate commissions. Céline and Louis Vuitton not available for online purchase. Free shipping and returns for almost everything. All images by LPC, except product shots in collage. Thanks to the staff at NM San Francisco and Palo Alto for their help!




64 Responses

  1. As you know, I LOVE that bag, and I think that since we both dress up in jeans, a smart, lady-like bag is perfection. Celine does make the greatest bags, and this is my favorite in a long time. And I do prefer it in the goatskin like yours, as the smooth calf does scratch. Although I do like them on others, chain strap bags look strange on me, so love the leather strap as well

    Such a great Christmas gift! I may be copying you, yet again…..

    1. @Kathy, I’d be honored to have you as my bag twin:). I have to say, the smooth leather is awfully tempting despite the scratches…

  2. oooh!! i LOVE that you got a box bag. for my birthday, i bought the classic black box in paris. and while i’ve yet to take it for a spin (waiting for more spring-like weather) i just know i’ll have it forever.

    great minds strike again :)


    1. @jane, Great minimalist elegant tomboy minds;). The black classic to me is like that prep school girl from college, who dressed in jeans and sweaters at school but take her home to New York and the white Tretorns and camel coat and lady bag come out and she just looks so great.

  3. That’s a fabulous bag, Lisa. Love the colour and size. Just bought a small cross-body bag myself a few weeks ago. Love it. Will undoubtedly wear it more in summer. Winter at times calls for space for glasses and sunglasses, and gloves and items which I seem to need and can’t fit into my small bag. Unless I’m going out for the evening, in which case it’s perfect.

    1. @Sue Burpee, Thank you:). And I liked your crossbody bag a lot. We don’t have winter as you do, of course, but I have come round to the wisdom of different bags for different situations.

  4. I love that Celine bag too…a great understated classic.
    I purchased a new leather cross body bag as my days of carrying heavy bags are over. Shoulder problems and my doctor’s advice. My new leather bag is woven on one side which reminds me of Bottega Venetta but it is by Maggie and very reasonably priced at around $100.00
    Service should be the same for those dressed casually as for those who are well heeled. I had a very off putting experience in Talbots of all places. I think it was because I was wearing faded boyfriend jeans!!

  5. Is Neiman Marcus in San Francisco located on Union Square in the old City of Paris building? I think I recognize that rotunda, from when I used to live and work in the city in the 70’s. I loved it at Christmas when they would fill the entire space with a huge Christmas tree. There were also various Magnins (J. and I.) sprinkled about the square, now long gone. But Neiman Marcus seems an appropriate replacement for the City of Paris. Do they still have a doorman? Ah, memories.

    1. @Sherrie, Yes, yes, and no, no doorman. But I remember it too. That entrance is such a lovely moment in San Francisco architecture. Ah, memories.

  6. What a beautiful history of your bags! I love all of them(and your stories even more!),
    Celine is so elegant and it suits you great.
    I remember almost all of my bags and shoes,they were loved and cherished(I still love my LV Monogram Vernis although it is my only bag with visible logo)
    I like (and have) also Lancel,Longchamp( I learned from you- my bloggers- that models have names,so my older bags have only “last name” :-)- one is camel laptop bag which I wear as a bag,the other is bronze crossbody),considered Leowe when in Madrid,but could’t make a decision.
    You are so happy to have such a choice and Neiman Marcus!
    Access capability was very important for me because in old days I could buy “the bag ” only when travelling abroad(of course,we had some bags here,but,well,you know…..!) And even now,for shoes and bags, I like to “feel” them in real world
    Last week I made my first online purchase from USA-Equipment shirt(couldn’t find this slim signature model nowhere in EU(even in London)
    I had to get custom number (personaly,not via web) and now I am waiting and waiting for my rate of duty to pay (and I payed full price on the Net,although it is exported to a foreign country) and to get it
    I must say,it is very complicated
    Once more:beautiful Celine! (a couple of years ago, head designer of Celine was Croat woman,Ivana Omazic)

    1. @dottoressa, So interesting. I can imagine the retail situation in your country must have changed so much in the past few decades. (If you ever felt like writing a blog post on that topic, I’d be all ears.) But I am glad you like my new bag, and, hope that your Equipment shirt shows up eventually!

  7. I was hesitant to step inside NM the first time, but I have to say everyone was very nice and welcoming, and even though my husband and I looked a little downmarket from their usual clientele, no one ignored us or implied we couldn’t afford what we were looking at, which is an experience I’ve had at other high end retailers.

  8. Having moved away from the Bay Area years ago, please excuse this Idaho hickster question, is Neimans SF in the old City of Paris? Do you remember C of P? The gigantic Christmas tree in the center? Wow, hadn’t thought of that place in years. Brings back memories of shopping with my mother. So long ago.

    1. @Mary anne, Not a hickster question at all! And yes, they remodeled the building, keeping the entrance area and redoing the rest. It’s an interesting combo, the ornate interior and the very unadorned exterior.

  9. I have been in love with that Celine bag since seeing my daughter’s young friend sporting it last year. Every once in a while, I go on the Celine website just to ogle it. It’s the bag of my dreams. Congratulations on getting it! It is perfection. And thanks for mentioning the interesting architecture of the NM in SF. I will be in SF this coming Thursday, staying near Union Sq. for the weekend, so I must check it out.

    1. @Jane, Oh you must! It’s really a nice interior. And, if you find yourself with at loose ends on Friday, in the mood a cup of tea somewhere and nothing in particular to do, let me know and I bet I could manage to get up to SF and say hi.

  10. That Celine bag really is beautiful. In the past I have scoffed at paying this kind of money just for a purse, but looking at the inside view of yours I have to admit one of these might be worth it.

  11. Lisa what dark slip on shoes are you wearing in the photo about theBottega Veneta Large Hobo? I am looking for a pair like that. They look neutral and comfy. Please let me know. My feel at crying for some classic relief.

  12. I’ll have to retire my High WASP badge … I literally have more bags than I can count. And my most recent acquisitions have been covered in multi-colored LVs. Ooh, I’m wicked!

  13. Great bag! I love the color, structure, and hidden logo!

    I also enjoyed reading about your “bag history!” I really like the doctor’s bag. I’m looking to add a brown bag, and I think a similar style would be great. I’m going to add it to possibilities. Since I want the bag to be “perfect” and last a long time, I am taking my time… Searching for the “perfect” bag is half the fun! :-)

  14. You have wonderful taste.

    I’m more of a Neiman Marcus Last Chance customer, and even that is a rarity. I do own a pair of jeans purchased from the store back when they only took their own credit card or cash, so of course I went to the ATM. The jeans were by Ellen Tracy, from when they still did sportwear. Size 16 Missy. On sale, they were a stretch for my budget but I still wear those jeans and they still fit perfectly, even if my weight fluctuates a little–or a lot.

    I love the Valentino Butterfly satchel but I’m afraid hell would freeze over before I could part with the money. That’s my clothing budget for the rest of this decade.

    Even if I won the lottery (impossible since I don’t play–waste of money, right), I couldn’t bring myself to spend the cash. It would be the most valuable item in my house by far and I’d likely never bring it out of the bag for fear of soiling it.

    But I do think it’s lovely.

  15. I’ve been eyeing a Celine Box, and I love that blue for you. I need a smallish, structured bag for dates and fancier days, especially since I live in jeans and boots. I also need a small cross body bag but haven’t seen one that sends my heart soaring yet.

    I’ve been seriously eliminating big heavy bags, and replaced my every day bag with a Bottega Veneta large hobo in gray last fall. I wonder what took me so long? They always sounded too big when I read the dimensions online, but when I tried it on, perfect. It has just enough balance between structure and the relaxed line of a hobo, without the width that hobos too often take.

    1. @Mardel, Yes! That’s the thing about the BV large hobo. Somehow they engineered it to fall perfectly. One would not predict that from the photos.

  16. The Badgley Mischka blue cross body bag you showed (#1 above) is available at Saks Off 5th for only $114; a bargain.

  17. Of all the bags you’ve shown, the Céline really caught my eye. Your mother is right – it is so good looking and your husband has great taste.

    Love love love Neimans. I always feel so good when I’ve shopped there. Must be the atmosphere.

  18. Your lucky daughter! I don’t have expensive bags, but I guess some of them are relatively pricey to my youngest daughter who claims “Dibs on Mom’s handbags when she dies!” I’ve started sleeping with one eye open…

    The Celine is the perfect choice for you, Lisa!

  19. That is a beauty, and what a luscious color! I feel the same way about logos as you – not to be seen! However, like you, again, I broke down about thirty years ago and purchased a lovely LV speedy that I still own today. I think one could call it a classic design as it is still being made.

  20. The color of that bag is stunning! Well done, Significant Husband!

    I’m in perpetual search of a bag that probably doesn’t exist. A slouchy, crossbody hobo, sans giant branding, with a zipper…..someday my bag will come!

  21. Ooh, I do love a good bag! I don’t ever spend significant money on them, but I did have a habit of splashing out (for me) on a nice leather bag every year (usually for Christmas) and using it most days.

    These days I’ve been lugging a hugely ugly and uncomfortable laptop bag (issued by the company) to work so only using a handbag on weekends (or evenings if I happen to go out, doesn’t happen often). I’m hoping my new job (please, Jesus!) will involve being able to actually carry a proper bag again.

    PS – your bags are all absolutely gorgeous.

  22. Today: blush pink Coach Legacy satchel with those adorable tassels from Saks Off Fifth. $99. So perfect for spring. I’m 43. DINK, which will never cease to grieve me but has its financial advantages. I could afford a premier bag as a splurge but I. Can’t. Do. It! And I’m not even a WASP! Just the “P” but, no. I love them; they’re gorgeous but, no.

  23. Lisa great post. I’m crazy about nice bags and Neimans too. I love your new bag and your Bottega bag. I have a similar shaped teal Fula one I bought in Italy and it is very comfortable. I always find it is worth getting the unique colors. They stand out. I have a collection of nice bags and feel like I need to start purging. I rarely switch bags and use the same one until it’s getting raggedy! Kim

  24. A lovely bag and I especially approve of the detail that the logo is hidden! I have a pet hate of big-logo’d bags; they seem expressly designed to communicate I SPENT TONS OF DOSH ON THIS PLEBES. So much more elegant to let the quality speak for itself. (My big day bag is a Gerard Darel hobo from a few years ago; I love it because the leather’s excellent and only people who know the brand will recognize it.)

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