Conspicuous Consumption with Designer Handbags

Seeing someone carry a purse or handbag is one of the easiest ways to tell a person’s social status.  Society has come to know of all the high end designer handbags and what they generally retail for.  These handbags are a status symbol and posses what Jean Baudrillard defines as ‘sign value’, which entails that the more prestigious one’s commodities, the higher one’s standing in the world of sign value.

Some of the more famous name brand bags include Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Dior, Prada, etc.  One can normally see these bags on the runways at fashion week or on the arms of various celebrities. These bags represent success and prestige as only the very wealthy can afford their hefty price tags.  The hoopla over the next “it” bag is so great that normally there are month long waiting lists and some people only receive the bag when it is now considered last season’s.

A bag is the easiest piece of fashion on a person to be recognized as the majority of the public know the logos of each designer and can spot them, unlike having to know a designer’s shirt or pants.  By having the purse be the most recognizable piece of fashion, this is leading some consumers to deceive the public into thinking they are wealthy.  This happens a lot through people saving up to buy the cheapest and smallest available designer bag, buying second hand, or buying knock-offs.

In todays world it is so much harder now to decipher who has the real thing and who has a knock-off.  The only real way of knowing is if you can take the bag into your hands to examine it.  With all the contraband material now being developed worldwide and selling vast amounts, it has now allowed all social classes to pretend to be a conspicuous consumer by buying a knock-off and playing the part of a member of the higher social class.  Now because of this, the contraband market is a billion dollar market, with more people buying knock-offs then the real thing.

My personal views on this topic is that I was one of those people who bought the knock-offs for people to look at my bag and think of myself in a higher class.  I bought most of these knock-off bags when I was in high school, and would wear them around proudly. However, after a little bit of usage I found that the quality of these knock-offs are definitely not like the real bags.  First off the leather is very hard and not soft, the zippers are not good quality and neither are the magnetic closures.  I have now stopped using these knock-offs and actually went out and purchased a real Coach bag from an outlet in Las Vegas.  When choosing my bag, I decided that I did not want a bag with the C logo and opted for an all-leather brown bag, that only shows the logo of coach on the buckle and is not obvious to anyone walking by me.  When I purchased my new ‘designer purse’ I bought it for the quality and not for the designer logo.  This brings me to my other thought that society is way to concerned with how they believe people are perceiving them and that is why the contraband market is so large.  The way we learn about the conspicuous consumer is that they are wealthy and therefore buy expensive things to show off their wealth to the world and to make them stand out from the other classes.  However, nowadays anyone can purchase a ‘name brand’ purse and provide an illusion that they belong in that group of people.

Jillian Bureau


One thought on “Conspicuous Consumption with Designer Handbags

  1. shaina ellis says:

    Status symbols are very easy to interpret in deed. A handbag is a simple way to exude certain characteristics or wealth because it is very visible and something women carry around with them daily. Having a Louis Vuitton bag screams money because it is very apparent in our society that a bag like that can cost up to 5,000 dollars. If you paid that much for a bag, how much did your car cost or your house? It screams not only wealth but cultural captial.

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