I have had my share of handbag failures over the years. Mainly because I try to be a small dainty bag person but I am not. Or because I did not try the bag out before I bought it.
If I am making an investment purchase I usually buy a cheap version of the same bag and test it for a few months. If it works I then sell the cheap version or donate it to my daughter or charity and buy the real thing. This has never failed.
If I cannot do that then I test the bag in the shop. Yes, it can garner you some disapproving glances but I am at the age now that I don’t care. I take everything I need to carry with me and I put it in the bag. I see how it fits, feel how heavy the bag is, try it on my shoulder/hand/arm. I walk around a bit to see if the straps slip or it bangs awkwardly against my hip. I take things out and put them back as I would if I were in shop or on the bus. I check for a dustbag and protective feet under the bag. I adjust the straps, see how high or low it hangs. I test the internal pockets. I see if things fall into a heap at the bottom or if the contents of my bag remain where I put them. Can I find things easily with one hand and without putting the bag on the floor for a complete rummage? I also investigate the guarantee and if the shops will send the bag back for me if it needs repairs.
If you are quite hard on a bag avoid expensive bags in textiles or pale colours because they tend to show age and wear. If you would like a bag that is pale or of canvas or cotton, buy a cheap one. Light coloured lining will show dirt, pen marks and stains but it also makes it easier to find things. Also be aware that dark clothing and denim can cause transfer onto lighter coloured bags. If you are in doubt you can use a leather protector but this may alter the colour and texture of your bag so test on a small hidden area first.
Check that all all studs, buttons and zippers are firmly fastened and that they work as they should. Are they heavy duty? Pockets and flaps with real buckles are a huge pain to fasten and undo. Proenza Schouler bags are notorious for losing studs so if you have one, tighten and check the studs regularly.
Generally speaking if you are big avoid very small bags and vice versa.
For formal workplaces I think structured is bertter than pouchy but that is personal opinion.
Watch sales and specials online and in-store for those investment purchases that you would not otherwise be able to afford. Secondhand stores, charity stores and auction houses often have lovely handbags at very reasonable prices.
If you get a stain or mark on suede or an expensive handbag, don’t try to remove it yourself. Rather entrust it to a leather specialist. If you do manage to mark a light coloured bag you can have it dyed a darker colour but entrust this to a specialist.
Store your bags in their dust bags with acid-free tissue paper so that they keep their shape. This I used to do but don’t anymore because I have so many that they took up too much space.
If you have expensive handbags, make sure they are covered by your household insurance policy and keep copies of your receipts. Original receipt ink fades within a year or so so photocopy it.