Key Pieces: The Iconic Black Bag...

Whenever someone asks for my assistance shopping for bags, I instinctively guide them towards my favorite black totes. Why? I feel this is a foundation piece that every woman needs to own. Supple black leather and gold hardware will take you from cafe to conference table any day of the week in any city in the world. It is the black Benz of handbags; a classic everyone should own. 

Now, before you start shaking your head, understand that the classic black bag comes in many forms and price brackets. Tory Burch makes lambskin bags every bit as well as the next designer. Should you choose to bump it up from "key piece" to "investment bag" I feel you should carefully consider your lifestyle and preferences. 

Are you a structured bag lover? If so, Saffiano bags from Prada and others are wonderful as are YSL's many delicious variations. Tory Burch's Robinson Totes also fall into this category. Good, solid ladylike bags with crisp structure. Often they have top carry and cross-body strap options. Crave squishy, soft leather? Gucci comes to mind. Love edge? Obviously you'll covet the dreamy Valentino Rockstud totes amidst the sea of black leather options. Structured bags will also always come with protective feet (something I adore), whereas a soft bag will likely be designed to puddle on the floor and feet may be optional. 

Next, ask yourself if you need a zipper top closure or if an open top is okay. I've had my bags tumble over in the car far too many times. I love some style of closure at the top, but more important is the presence of an interior zip pocket. The solution is to place the bag on the floor and use the "bag within a bag" method which I'll describe in another post. ;)

Also, how tough are you on your belongings? Lambskin is supple, soft and sublime, but it most certainly cannot take abuse. Consider pebbled calfskin or napa leather for softer options, Saffiano if you seek a tough as nails bag. Let me caution you here, once you touch lambskin you'll never want anything else. It feels so soft you'll push all logic aside and choose anything and everything in this baby soft material. So consider your lifestyle carefully before shopping!

Finally, decide if you're a hands-free girl or if you're okay carrying a bag by hand. I vary on this issue. It is far prettier to delicately hold your bags by hand to pose casually for those amazing street style shots. But isn't it nice to toss a bag over your shoulder and go on about your day? Form over function is the question. Frankly, if you have small children (or a fur baby) this decision is often made for you. Those cross-body straps (which I used to loathe) now seem like your best friend when push comes to shove. So decide how you'd like to carry your bag and perhaps it will lead you to selecting two different bags: one for the shoulder and one for the hand.

I've rounded up my fall favorites from Neiman Marcus in prices ranging $500 to considerably more. The common thread amongst all is their timeless appeal, solid black styling and gold hardware. Which is your favorite?