Worth Another Look: Coach - une femme d'un certain âge

Worth Another Look: Coach

Back when I first became aware of Coach handbags, they were known for excellent workmanship, timeless design and a lifetime guarantee. I coveted the elegant, classic bags like this one that would have satisfied my equestrian aesthetic, yet would have been at home in an urban or corporate setting.

Coach at ShopStyle

Then a few years ago, something happened. In pursuit of the twenty-something, logo-crazed market, they jumped the shark with the crazy C logo canvas bags in mud brown or jellybean colors, heavy horse-sized hardware and logo patchwork prints that were the visual equivalent of a jello-shot hangover. The Legacy line continued to feature the basic sturdy bags that Coach was known for, but there seemed to be no middle ground, and few offerings that could be considered stylish and chic.

The powers-that-be at Coach seem to have come back to their senses, and are returning to a sensibility closer to my own. Suddenly I’m seeing bags from this brand that I would definitely carry, and probably for many seasons. (Click on pictures for details.)

Coach at ShopStyle

Who needs a Fendi baguette when you can carry this little number (with a very comfortable shoulder strap)? Parker small flap, $278.

Coach at ShopStyle

I’m a sucker for a kisslock. This satchel, also from the Parker line has three compartments, lovely soft leather, and is available in several colors including this butter yellow, light violet, and classic black. $458.

Coach at ShopStyle

From the Madison line, this mildly metallic pleated tote would be a stylish work bag, $458.

Coach at ShopStyle

For those who prefer a simple hobo, this one from the Zoe line ($398) reminds me of my very first Coach “bucket” hobo. Yes, they still are hung up on the horse clips, but at least on these bags they’re functional.

Coach at ShopStyle

I love the style of this Addison satchel (at $698, one of their pricier bags) and especially in this show-stopping pink, which up close is slightly more mauve and less bubble-gum than it appears in the pictures.

Sure, they still offer plenty of cheap-looking logo prints and questionable detailing, but Coach seems to have remembered that bags with classic styling can be stylish too.

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  1. March 2, 2009 / 3:14 pm

    That Addison is the essence of spring. I recall when a Coach bag was austere, practically impervious to wear, the kind of gift your well to do aunt bought you for graduation. They really mucked up the brand and unfortunately since so many 16 years olds carry them, they alienated me.

  2. Anonymous
    March 2, 2009 / 3:17 pm

    I have been very disappointed with Coach in recent years (dropping from lifetime quality and classic styles to “mall style”) so it is glad to see them get some sense back. I’m still carefully keeping and carrying my 15/20+ year old Coach bags, though.

    We keep hearing about how consumers need to spend more to boost the economy. What if there are a lot of things for sale that we DON’T WANT?

  3. Anonymous
    March 2, 2009 / 4:51 pm

    I agree many times over! Love the soft metallic–a fun alternative to brown and yet still basic enough. PS–will you please give Karen a slap up the side of the head! I hope she doesn’t give up her fabulous blog. So many of us depend on all of you!

  4. Sheila
    March 2, 2009 / 6:17 pm

    Love those bags and wish you could get them in the U.K. I have been trying to find a new bag for the past three weeks and so far have had no luck finding something in my price range which gives me joy. Somewhere out there is a bag just waiting for me.

  5. March 2, 2009 / 7:01 pm

    I could never carry a Coach bag without having high-school flashbacks. Yikes.

  6. March 2, 2009 / 8:49 pm

    Coach bags are beautiful, but they weigh a ton even before you get your stuff in! It’s due to the thick leather they use, very sturdy.

  7. March 2, 2009 / 9:56 pm

    I’ve “bookmarked” one of their cross-body bags as a possible addition. Had to laugh, though, when the sales guy tried to direct my interest to the heavily-logoed, to my mind garish bags — not a chance!

  8. March 2, 2009 / 11:57 pm

    Oh, boy. Miss Psue has Miss J coveting several of these.

  9. March 3, 2009 / 12:09 am

    I’ve seen a couple recently that look gorgeous!

  10. spacegeek
    March 3, 2009 / 12:29 am

    Rita@godivas-you should check out the new coach bags in person–they are much much lighter even than those purchased a year ago. They have newer leathers which are more supple and thinner too. Don’t know how they will wear, but they are definitely much lighter than the ones I have.

  11. Rubiatonta
    March 3, 2009 / 1:23 am

    I have a large Coach satchel from four years ago that I adore – the leather is soft and supple, and the hardware is fairly understated. The only downside is that it seems to fit about as much as Mary Poppins’ hold-all, including the hatrack! My poor aching back…

    But I’m glad to see that Coach has finally remembered that there are some grown-ups out there that need handbags. The last time I was at the outlet store in Gilroy, CA, about 90% of the customers looked to be around 20 years old — and they were all buying keyrings!!

  12. March 3, 2009 / 1:42 am

    Ahh, back in the day I craved Coach bags but could never afford them (or so I thought). I have a vintage Madison that I got at a silent auction a few years back. A little small, but a nice bag. And still in great shape. I like the ones you show so much more than those tacky “C” bags.

  13. Anonymous
    March 3, 2009 / 1:50 am

    Remember their marketing and insert materials from the 1980s that showed their NY area (Brooklyn?) workers sewing bags and touted the baseball glove leather. Those were the days. Wish I’d bought more in 1986 and archived them (I always wanted one of those big hobo bags).

  14. Daffodil Planter
    March 2, 2009 / 6:46 pm

    Who knew? Thank you for the look at the New Look in Coach. Back in the mid-80s in the SF Financial District the choices for yuppies like me were Coach or Gucci. I was a Coach girl and still have some–but the navy has faded over time to a dark gray (they replaced my navy Court Bag with a new one that I now carry to funerals).

  15. March 3, 2009 / 5:11 am

    Duchesse – I love that one too.

    Anon@ 714am – no kidding! I can’t believe they went from being to classic to so tacky in such a short period of time. I’m hopeful they’re moving in a saner direction.

    Anon@ 851am – I’ve never been a fan of really bright metallics, but this one is subtle enough to not look trendy and too “disco”. No need for any physical coercion, Karen will be back!

  16. March 3, 2009 / 5:13 am

    Sheila – I’m really surprised that Coach bags aren’t available in the UK. I hope you find something suitable that you love.

    Daffodil – I’ve only had two Coach bags…a black bucket hobo (which I still have) and a wristlet that I sold a few months ago. By the time I could afford their bags, they’d started to morph into the Bad Coach.

    • Linda S.
      September 16, 2016 / 8:10 pm

      I collect vintage Bonnie Cashin Coach bags. Made in New York and IMO still current after 40 years. Bought one last year that looked brand new!

  17. March 3, 2009 / 5:16 am

    WendyB – you had nicer bags in high school that I did…:-)

    Rita – some of these new bags don’t though. The leather is thinner, softer and lighter.

    materfamilias – no, I definitely could not see you in one of those horrible logo bags!

  18. March 3, 2009 / 5:19 am

    Miss Janey – they are certainly covetable…much nicer than recent years.

    Imogen – yes, it was seeing someone carrying a really cute Coach bag recently that got me to look again.

    spacegeek – yes, they are much lighter.

  19. March 3, 2009 / 5:22 am

    Apocalypstic – probably not, except for maybe the Legacy line. Wish I’d bought one of the classic Coach bags back in the day.

    Rubiatonta – I haven’t been to a Coach outlet store in a long time, but I’m not surprised about the key rings!

  20. March 3, 2009 / 5:26 am

    Nancy – your bag sounds nice. My bucket bag seems small now compared to what we’ve all become used to carrying.

    Anon@ 550pm – I don’t remember that, but I know they used to be known for very high quality and excellent craftsmanship. Nowadays they’re made in China, I think.

  21. Apocalypstick
    March 3, 2009 / 1:16 am

    The leather is not as lovely as it was back in the day, though. The styles recently have improved but they will not wear and weather as they once did. Boo.

  22. Sheila
    March 3, 2009 / 10:48 am

    Have just found out that the only place in the U.K. to stock Coach bags is at Heathrow airport. I’m not passing through Heathrow in the near future but next time I do I’ll check them out. One of my favourite bags was bought at Milan airport so it’s worth a try.

  23. March 3, 2009 / 12:12 pm

    Am I the only one who would prefer not to carry a handbag?

    Yes, handbags are great to have but why do we carry them with us?

  24. March 3, 2009 / 8:26 pm

    many years ago now, in my careless youth, a slightly older friend offered me a bag to carry around, because i had lost not one, but *two* bags (pocketbooks, as we were still calling them here in the bronx). she gave me the bag, which was saddlebag style, in a basic tan colour. it’s a coach, she told me, knowing perfectly well that i was totally oblivious to any sort of “brand” name. i loved it. it was the perfect size, held everything i needed and was comfortable. i carried it for about two years and then one day, going through macy’s, i saw a display for coach bags. well, i thought, i love this one so much i’ll buy another in black. imagine my stunned astonishment (i was in my late 20s!) when i saw the price of those bags! yoikes! i immediately called my friend, and said, basically, are you *crazy* to give careless, name-ignorant me, a coach bag!? she said, but you haven’t lost that bag, have you? i never did. i loved it and used it until it completely wore the strap out and even then i kept it for years. i’ve hate the bags in recent years, but perhaps i need to take another look. i’m old enough to deserve a new coach bag.

  25. March 3, 2009 / 11:34 pm

    I still see things in Coach that make my eyes hurt. Luxury bag manufacturers should be ashamed – why don’t they just release versions with iPhone sleeves to show off your iPhone?

  26. March 4, 2009 / 12:18 am

    I just can’t bring myself to pay big dollars for a purse. I usually get tired of mine. Maybe if I invested more I wouldn’t. I really love the yellow and pink bags.

  27. March 4, 2009 / 3:21 am

    Sheila – how interesting. I wouldn’t expect to find them at the airport.

    Rooi_Skoene – I’ve always loved handbags. It’s just a sickness, I guess. ;-p

  28. March 4, 2009 / 3:26 am

    Bonnie Ann – Great story and just goes to show that the product itself is more important than the brand. If you love the classic Coach bags, check out the Legacy line.

    fmcgmccllc – it sounds like you focus your energy and budget where it works for you. I love good handbags, and I’ll spend when I think it’s a bag I’ll use year after year. I don’t do “It” bags anymore.

  29. March 4, 2009 / 3:31 am

    Thomas – yes, they still have plenty of eyesore bags that could just as easily be found in the Hello Kitty store. That’s why I was surprised to see these.

    Karen – oh, I’ve done that and regretted it. I’ve become far more selective with my bag buying, but I’m also keeping bags longer before selling or donating. I’m glad you talked me into keeping the pink Darel. I’m probably going to pull it out and start using it soon.

    Julianne – if you prefer variety and novelty, then it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot on bags. There are plenty of inexpensive but really cute and functional bags out there that will last a season or two.

  30. fmcgmccllc
    March 3, 2009 / 10:42 pm

    My job requires constant travel in auto assembly plants, no desk or even a place to put my things. I have Coach bag that straps around the waist-do not want to hear the word fanny pak, and wear it everyday with extreme use of the zippers. Still looks good as new and had the zipper replaced free of charge once after 3 years. Also have green and luggage tan small type bags that goes over the neck and can hide under the jacket for travel.

    Coach was the first expensive bag I bought and they will always have my loyalty. Now tho I buy great bags under a hundred bucks for fashion wear and save the big bucks for jewelry. Or Coats. Or Jackets. Just not handbags anymore.

  31. Karen
    March 3, 2009 / 11:39 pm

    Holy Cow Coach has gotten expensive. I remember buying a bag like the first one you show, in 1989, after I got my first paycheck as a New Yorker. It was $175 then and a fortune for a young working gal. Like an idiot, I gave away the bag to the Goodwill when we were living in the Cayman Islands, thinking it to be too heavy and out of style for island life. Well, lo and behold one of my husban’ds colleagues wives shows up one day at a work function wearing my old Coach bag!!!! She was giddy, telling everyone she had found it at the local Goodwill for $20 and how could someone ever give away a Coach bag!!!!! I was mortified!!! I should never have given it away, but it just didn’t suit the lifestyle I was leading at the time.

  32. Karen
    March 4, 2009 / 3:22 pm

    I agree with the point that if you really are a handbag gal, then it makes sense to buy lower priced bags to use for a year or two.

    Who ever said we had to choose a handbag like we would a marriage partner! This is not a forever relationship we’re talkin’ about!

  33. sisty
    March 9, 2009 / 12:33 am

    Bonnie Ann– I’ve got good news for you. You can send your old Coach bag back to the factory where they will put on a new strap, new binding, new hardware, whatever you need. It used to be free for the life of the bag (honestly!) but now I think it’s $20 maximum for whatever needs to be done to it. Unless they’ve discontinued this program, which wouldn’t surprise me.

    I may be in the minority, but I don’t like any of those new bags, although they are a great improvement over the logo-ed out, bling-bling canvas things of late.

    I still have three or four Coach bags from their heyday — heavy leather, unlined — and I still wear them. I have two black flap-type shoulder-bags and a British tan flap shoulder bag, which has aged beautifully. The price seemed exorbitant at the time I bought them but now I’m glad I did, since they’ve held up so well. They are all at least 20-25 years old, not a frou-frou detail on any of them.

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