Your Handbag “Wardrobe”

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Are you a handbag girl? I know that some of you reading collect bags, others are happy with one per season or have even used the same one for years. How many do you really need? I thought I’d weigh in with my opinions on that topic in this post.

Here are the bags I think you need in your wardrobe:

1. Cross body  I never would have put that in the list several years ago. I thought they were totally impractical. I thought I always had to have a bag large enough to fit everything at all times. However, last year I found a great cross-body that was a good size and fit the basics. I realized how convenient it is especially when shopping. Cross body bags are also perfect when you have small children to carry and when traveling. I think you need to be somewhat particular on the size. If you want to carry your phone, a set of keys and a credit card you’ll get by with a pretty small bag. If you want to carry a little more, you’ll find larger sizes too.

2. Mid-Size Handbag  This is your “everything” bag. Many of you probably choose to go with this size in various styles and colors and consider that to be your handbag wardrobe.

3. Clutch or small bag  It can be dressy or casual, but this just holds the basics for an an evening (or afternoon) out.

If you don’t like the clutch style, there are many choices in small bags with a strap or chain.

4. Tote This bag comes in a huge variety of styles and sizes. You can use a bag in this category for the beach or business. Inside you store anything from a change of clothes to an I-pad.

What do you think? Do you have bags in these categories? Tell me about your favorite bag. I’d love to hear. All bags are from Remember to scroll over the photo for the style name for easy searching.

There are many sources. I’ve found some great bags on E-bay over the years. I also check TJ Maxx occasionally and they have great deals.

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Gigi Hill Bags Giveaway

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It’s been some time since I introduced Gigi Hill Bags. If you are fairly new to my blog, or don’t remember that post, you’ll want to go back for a review.  Be sure and use the CONTACT US feature at the very bottom of the home page. This will bring you directly to Brenda in case you have a question.

Brenda is offering  a $50 Gift Certificate to one lucky reader. All readers will receive 10% off their order when they mention Style by Karen. Details for this will be shared when the the winner is announced.

Here is the Look Book online. There are also great videos corresponding with most styles.

Now I’ll highlight some of their newer patterns and styles. What hasn’t changed? Gigi Hill continues to offer quality fabrics, practical styles that are so multi-purpose!

I have my eye on the Lucy a.k.a the train case. My makeup/toiletries travel system needs an overhaul.

Next, I loved the Hayley Lap Top bag which is ideal for a 15 inch computer or I- pad.

Their Messenger bag, Carol, is perfect for a diaper bag and business bag. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a design that is so versatile it could be used for both.

Check out the Olivia handbag and the sized up version– the Ingrid!


As I’ve been noting, Cross Body is the way to go for ultimate convenience. Here are two different size choices in this category. Barbra and Mae.


Enjoy browsing the site. There are bag choices to showcase everything from business cards, to sunglasses to jewelry. Let me know what caught your eye. All comments will be entered and winner will be chosen Tuesday, September 13th at 9 PM PST.

Brenda told me I needed a Gigi Hill update and I know that I’m going to have a really hard time choosing!

Check out All Things Chic for some great looks from Loft–one of my favorite stores! Be sure and take a look at all the other Fashion Friday posts.

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What I Wore: Day 4/InPink Winner!

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Thanks to all of you for leaving comments to enter the drawing for the InPink Giveaway. Our winners (thanks to are Comments # 8-Barb W, 14- Ally and 46-Merri. Congratulations! They each will receive $75 to spend at

All readers can place an order and receive 20% off using this code: STYLEBYKAREN20. Don’t delay-it expires on September 30th. I know I’m going back to the site. Thank you InPink!

After seeing the photos of the outfit I chose for Day 4 I had second thoughts because I felt I wasn’t giving you enough variety in style and color. I was considering many different things when I chose the clothes. I decided to go ahead with this one because it is more casual. I often hear…”I’m drawn to dressy clothes, but have no place to wear them!”

You can put a casual look together, still be polished and put together, yet not TOO dressed up.

I wore this with jeans in early spring and you could also pair it with dark brown pants for fall. On hot days–get rid of the sweater. Again, when you are building an outfit, always think how you can adapt it to get the most wear for 2 if not 3 seasons. The sweater is an interesting color. It also looks great over animal print tops that have black/brown paired black pants.

Sweater: Emu Australia found at Accentuate. We were excited to carry this line. It is machine washable merino wool that is so soft and comfy. Not itchy wool as we know it. When you can choose quality fabrics, you pay a little more, but they will last.

Shorts: Ann Taylor Outlet

Tank: Nordstrom

Bag: Nino Bossi found at Accentuate

Shoes: VanEli from Nordstrom

Jewelry: Street Fair in Palm Desert and Lia Sophia

I can’t say enough about the convenience of a cross-body bag. Women love them for travel. I love them for shopping (free hands to find more bargains quickly!) Cross body bags are all the rage. This was also noted in IN STYLE’s Top Fashion Tips. They promoted them for evening bags. I say they’re for every day too. The trick is finding one that is not too small and will hold the basics. The bag above is the perfect “Mom on the Go” purse.

 This outfit is a little blah if it weren’t for the jewelry. The Lia Sophia necklace (layered with a piece I’ve had for years) makes the outfit, and is one of my all time favorites. I wore gold hoops as well.

I sure have learned from this photo session that next time I’ll pay more attention to getting closeups of the jewelry. I have a new found appreciation for all that goes into magazine photos!

Thanks for your comments and personal e-mails! One more day to go.

On the weekend, stay tuned for a post on Vintage Jewelry which will coincide with an article on vintage clothing in The Columbian, our local newspaper. I can’t wait to share what I’ve found.

You’ll hear less from me next week as I’m doing some research on hair styles; then an interview with an aesthetician to kick off a series on skin care!

If you like what you read on Style by Karen, please forward a post to a friend. If you have a question, or would like me to cover a particular topic, don’t hesitate to write me!

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Accentuate Boutique Giveaway Part 1

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Accentuate is truly a unique boutique located in Camas, Washington. I’ve featured clothing and accessories in previous posts. This article will tell you a little more about the shop. It will be a two-part post. Make a comment today or Thursday by midnight PST. Friday morning the winner of a $25 Gift certificate will be announced! Perfect timing for Camas Days July 23-24. Come and check out Camas this weekend. You won’t be disappointed.

Accentuate celebrates six years this summer. Unique handbags, shoes and other accessories were featured originally when the store opened. The following year they branched out and added clothing. I’ll  begin with handbags– showing photos of many sizes and styles for various occasions. Thursday’s post will feature clothing and accessories. Previously I discussed my personal taste in handbags. Now you’ll be able to see much more. Accentuate carries the popular brands: Hobo, Lodis, Brighton, Nino Bossi and Maxx New York. I listed the brand name if you are not a local reader. You can do a search for a retailer in your area.

Large/Medium Sized Bags:

Nino Bossi, Maxx New York, Maxx New York

 Brighton, Lodis and Nino Bossi

There are special events when a smaller clutch is the perfect accessory:

Unique evening bags by Brighton:

Wallets by Lodis that can serve as a small clutch and add a pop of color to an outfit:

There are some events where you just need the basics in your bag. Large bags can be cumbersome. These options with longer strap are perfect. All by Brighton

Many women are opting for a very flat cross-shoulder bag: Brighton

Love these 3 different looks by Hobo: Large handbag, smaller wallet/clutch. Lodis bag is perfect to carry a Laptop.

Did you see a bag that would work for you? Make a comment and you’ll be automatically entered. More to come in the next post!

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Handbags:Your Favorite Accessory?

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Thank you everyone for participating in the Gigi Hill Giveaway. Congratulations to our winner: Comment #5: Kristi J. Be sure and check out Brenda’s site if you are interested in ordering a bag.

I imagine it’s fair to say that if we took a vote on favorite accessory, handbags would be towards the top. If you were to choose, would it be Jewelry, Shoes or Handbags? I know women who have dozens of expensive handbags. I know other women who feel it’s crazy to spend hundreds of dollars on one bag. Over the years I’ve gone back and forth between quantity or quality. I had a Brighton phase, a “knock off” phase, a department store brand phase and an E-bay designer phase. The bottom line: A purse is an item I use every day; I want it to hold up. I have purchased the less expensive handbags that wore out after one season. I have found that I like to rotate a few favorites for a number of years. It seemed a wiser investment to spend a little more and be able to use them longer than one year. You wouldn’t think that a husband and two boys would notice a new purse, but they do. My younger son has been known to say–”Mom, is that another new purse?” Numerous tops go unnoticed. A purse–not so much!

My Personal Purse Criteria:

1. Perfect size. It must hold my basics, yet not so large that things get “lost”. Also, I don’t want to carry “luggage” or have my purse bump into others. I like an average sized purse for everyday use. See photos below. I have smaller bags for special occasions.

2. Strap Drop. I want a purse that sits comfortably on my shoulder–not too high, not too low. My perfect drop is between 9-10″.

3. Quality Leather. I’ve just had too many bags fall apart so this is key for me.

4. I like a bag to have a “bottom”. I want it to sit and not tip over.

Where to purchase:

I’ve had the best luck for designer purses on E-bay. I’ve really scored some deals over the years. I have also had good luck at the Nordstrom Rack and the Nordstrom Sale table right BEFORE they go to The Rack. In fact, I’ve found some great bags and I simply have to walk away. I only need so many! TJ Maxx is another good source.

What Colors are Best?

This is very individual. I like to have a basic black and brown. Then I want a couple fun colors. It is amazing the comments I receive when carrying a bag with a unique color. It brightens a dull outfit instantly. It also takes the eye to the handbag and at times away from my flaws. The way I see it, the right bag can take the attention away from my middle! I vacillated between showing purses I own or showing what is available. This post focuses on styles and colors I love. I do not switch on a daily basis. I carry one for a while and then rotate. Note: Shoes and bags do not have to match.

Here are some of bags I’m using right now: The Neutrals: Black/Michael Kors, Brown/B. Makowsky(new favorite brand), Pewter/Betsy Johnson. I get comments on all of these purses, especially the pewter. It’s a difficult color to find which is unfortunate because it is so versatile. These are older styles found on E-bay and at The Rack.

Colors: Red/Talbot’s, Blue/Maxx New York, Purple/Dooney & Bourke (I’ve received comments in stores from total strangers when I carry this purse. It’s a great color purple) Talbot’s has reasonably priced bags. The others are from E-bay.

Are you a little Coach, a bit Dooney or do you favor Louie? Not into name brands? Do you have handbag criteria before purchasing?

Coming Next: Handbags Pt 2.

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