Best Designer Handbags Under $500

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Best Designer Handbags Under $500

I love accessories—handbags being top of the list.  Anyone can wear them, no matter what size, sex, color, or shape they are.  Handbags can take an outfit from basic to elevated, and of course, they are practical.  We have to have something to hold our money, phones, and essentials, after all.  Designer and luxury handbags have been having a moment for many years, so much so that designer labels grace most handbags these days, regardless of price point.  

Often when we think of designer handbags, we think of higher quality, additional features, like premium leather, or other durable material, superior craftsmanship, and interior pockets,  to name a few, and for that, we are willing to pay a higher price tag.  However, not all designer handbags live up to expectations, especially when almost every bag, at all price points, has some sort of designer label, even if it is a name we don’t recognize.  

So how do we choose the right bag?  First, I advise determining the price point you are willing to spend on a bag, followed by the type and size of bag you like best.  Once you know these things, you can begin to shop.  As you shop, you may consider color and material.  Some wear one handbag with everything, some change bags seasonally while others style their outfits around their handbags and have many different bags to choose from.  If you fall into the category of long-term wear, choosing a black leather or faux leather bag is very practical.  Also, consider whether you like gold hardware or silver—though some bags don’t have hardware at all—perfect for minimalists or people who wear both gold and silver jewelry (if you care whether your handbag’s hardware matches your jewelry).

In any event, I have done the leg work, and rounded up beautiful bags at a lower price, just for you.  If you are looking for a luxury handbag, I wrote a blog post you can check out here.

What is the difference between luxury handbags and designer handbags?  

It’s true that most luxury handbags carry the branding of the design house that made them, but often that’s where the similarities end.  Luxury bags offer higher quality materials and are at least partially handmade.  Today’s designer handbags are mass-produced and come in an array of materials and quality levels—including within the brand.  For example, several years ago, I purchased a designer bag from the department store at full price.  The bag was made of leather with a cloth and leather interior.  Later, a similar bag was being sold from the brand’s outlet made of faux leather at 50% of what I had paid for my leather bag.

Designer and luxury handbags have been having a moment for quite a few years now—thanks to social media— so much so that a whole industry has emerged refurbishing, reselling, and authenticating bags.  We can even rent the latest in handbags!  There is a whole niche on YouTube for lovers of all things designer handbags—from discussions on the desirability, unique designs, exclusive bags, value, and background on the various design houses.  Handbags have become status symbols in some circles, which, of course, has the fashion industry creating more expensive handbag brands.

Designers and craftspeople have been designing and making bags for centuries, in fact, many of the design houses famous today started by making high-quality leather goods as far back as the middle ages.  The famous house of Gucci is one such label.  Gucci bags have been around for hundreds of years.

“Designer” handbags as we know them began gaining popularity when design houses began naming bags after stylish celebrities—and when celebrities began carrying their favorite designer bags.  Princess Diana favored the Lady Dior handbag, Audrey Hepburn is said to have encouraged Louis Vuitton to create the Speedy-a smaller bag perfect for every day.  Hermes named one of its famous bags after Grace Kelly, and one after Jane Birkin—both women are fashion icons and both the Hermes Birkin and Kelly bag are highly coveted bags today—especially those made in vibrant colors and rare hides.  These bags are a classic style and look great when paired with high fashion outfits as well as casual looks.  The Hermes bags are among the hottest bags on the market today.

Choosing the “right” handbag can seem daunting, there are so many styles to choose from.  The cost is another factor, one can fear making a mistake.  Remember, some designer handbags hold their value reasonably well, and can be resold in the event that you decide you don’t care for the bag or simply want something else instead.  Another option is to rent the bag and give it a test run—especially if you plan to use the bag on an everyday basis—you want to make sure that it works for you. 

I am one who uses her bags, but many collect handbags and don’t use them often, while others invest in handbags with an eye for financial appreciation.  Clearly, your plans for your bag will govern what you choose as much as the specific style you choose.  

Note:  It is wise to keep the box, dust bag, receipt, and authentication papers so that if you decide to sell the bag at some point, you will be able to get top dollar for it.

Most Popular Luxury Handbags by Type:

Here are my top choices for the best designer handbags:


A good tote bag is essential for travel, and for work.  Look carefully at the handle attachments to ensure they can withstand the weight of books or a laptop.  

Cross Body and Shoulder Bags:

Crossbody bags have been a favorite for many fashionists in recent years as they are “hands-free” worn across the body and can be worn over or under jackets or coats.  These bags are extremely practical as well as fashionable.  The Gucci saddlebag is one of the most popular crossbody bags going right now.  A good crossbody bag is a great basic to keep in your collection as they are so practical and go with most outfits.  In addition, many handbags come with a crossbody strap or an adjustable strap so they can be worn as a shoulder bag as well as a crossbody.

Summer Bags:

Summer breezes call for light-colored leathers, straw, and rattan.  The designers have come to the rescue by creating a variety of beautiful summer bags perfect for essentials, a good book a great pair of sunnies, and maybe even a beach towel.  This season you may want to look for bucket bags as they are making a comeback,

Belt Bags:

Belt bags have been in and out over the years.  We all have memories of the dreaded “fanny packs” worn by many an American tourist.  Today’s belt bag often sports brand logos and is worn diagonally across the chest rather than around the waist.  These are great for travel and are hot among the trendsetters.

Top-Handle Bags

The top handle bags are my favorite, especially those that come with an adjustable strap which allows them to be worn as a shoulder bag as well as being carried over your arm or in your hand.  

Weekender:  Louis Vuitton introduced the weekender, and soon after created the speedy, smaller everyday version which is one of the most popular Louis Vuitton bags created.  Finding a good weekender bag is easy these days,

Logo Bags

Many design houses create fabrics with their logos printed on them.  Louis Vuitton was among the first to create a logo for luggage, and this LV Speedy is wildly popular to this day.  Gucci, Coach, and MCM have also created logo fabrics for their handbags and leather goods.  These bags trend off and on in terms of popularity.  If you are looking to invest in a designer handbag, and you like the logo prints, you may want to consider one.  

Evening Bags

I remember seeing my first Judith Leiber evening bag when I worked in the handbags department at Bonwit Teller in the late 1970s. It was a crystal-encrusted beauty with a gorgeous silk interior.  It cradled beautifully in the hand—and sparkled as the light hit it.  We only got one or two in at a time, and everyone would stop to admire them.  Every woman should have a beautiful evening bag for special occasions.

Getting a good deal on designer handbags:

Finding affordable designer bags is fairly easy.  Clearly shopping end-of-season sales, and outlet stores are a great way to save money.  You can also check with resale websites and shops in your community.  Check on Facebook Market Place, and eBay—but beware, designer bags are often duplicated.  Inadvertently purchasing a duplicate can affect the bag’s resale value if you are concerned about leaving that option open—and there is always the ethical aspect.


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