25 In Shopping Tips/ Styling Tips

A velvet handbag with potential: Is this a shopping mistake?

Several weeks ago I fell in love with a handbag. I was in SAX Consignment in San Anselmo, visiting a daughter who co-owns the place, when I spotted this eye-candy of a bag on a hook behind the jewelry counter. Love. At. First. Sight.

handbag makeover

It’s a rectangular soft-edged bag. The fabric is luxurious and the shape is relaxed. It suits my love for anything fancy casual.

Oh, I wish you could all touch it this handbag. It’s sumptuous. The background is a beige woven fabric with a subtle shimmer to it. Vertical velvet stripes of various widths circle the body of the bag. The stripes look like they could be velvet ribbons. I had a flashback to when I made wearable art clothes and used ribbons in mixed media surface design. (Here’s a peek at the way I would piece fabrics and make clothes, in this case, kid’s clothes.)

The colors are romantic: white sand, rose pink, deep purple, and a soft cocoa brown.

And when you look inside, you see this!

handbag makeover

Surprise! It’s a Pucci-like print. Think back to the ’60s or ’70s. I mean who made the decision to use such a colorful, contrasting print for the lining in a sophisticated striped velvet handbag? Someone having fun, I’d guess. The brand name is Glenda Gies.

In my wearable art days, I always wanted the inside of the garment to look as great as the outside. Do you see why I’m falling fast for this bag?

Headquarters, we have a problem with the handbag

I politely ask the daughter in charge of the store that day if I can try it on. Before I get the straps over my shoulder, I hear this clanking.

I look at the handbag closely to see what all the clanking is about. That’s when I notice the clunky chain links leading to the leather straps that go over the shoulder.

I’m particular about noises. It’s probably why when a client tries on a jacket in a fabric that makes a rustling noise with movement, I ask her if it bothers her. You have to be able to live with the sound a garment or accessory makes.

This could be a dealbreaker.

What do I do about the chains?

I’m so in love with the bag and so not happy with the noise. The daughter in charge says, “Take it home, Mom, and think about it.” I say, “I’d have to get rid of that noise.” She says casually, “You’ll figure it out.”

I tried my best to figure it out, but I didn’t have an easy fix. I accepted what I could not change and headed for professional help at Marelli Brothers Shoe Repair in San Rafael.

handbag makeover

See what I mean by all those chains? It’s like the movie Pride and Prejudice meets Boyz n the Hood. Telling one of the Marelli brothers what my dilemma was, he gave me hope. We picked out a piece of leather that came close to the color of the straps. He said he’d replace the chains with leather strips made to fit. I was handed a ticket and told to come back in a week.

I’m a purdent shopper…was this a mistake?

I have to admit I was nervous. I paid $40 at the consignment store for the bag and the repair was going to be $40. Without knowing what the results would be, I knew one thing for sure: I was into this experiment for 80 bucks.

A week later I stopped back into Marelli Brothers with my ticket in hand.

handbag makeover

A big old smile crossed my face when I saw the bag. When I tried it on and there was no noise, glee filled my heart. It was so quiet! I asked if I could take a picture of the doer of good. Apparently he doesn’t get asked that a lot, but he agreed.

Happily ever after with my handbag makeover

putting an outfit together

There are certain fashion limitations I’ve agreed to accept. I’m not showing cleavage anytime soon. I lost my butt and pants don’t fill out in places they used to. Shoes have to be flat or I can’t stand in them for longer than five minutes. But handbags, my friend, handbags are always at the ready to bring pleasure to any outfit.

putting an outfit together

That’s what I have beside me right now–a lovely bit of pleasure to brighten any day that needs brightening. When I want to feel feminine, I can lean on this handbag. When I want to be in touch with my sensual side, this velvet striped bag will my first choice. I’m such a lucky woman!

I know you have makeover stories to share. Have you transformed a piece of clothing or an accessory to make it just right for you? Are you a handbag lover? Oh, please tell us all about it.


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  • Reply
    January 7, 2020 at 3:54 am

    I am more of a handbag gigolo. I covet them, dream about them on display but am unable to commit at the cash register! After all I may find one I like better tomorrow! If I do buy, I rarely am satisfied…not enough pockets, too many pockets, wrong shade, wrong strap….so it goes. I’ve dealt with this my whole life and have considered therapy only to miss the first appointment because I was purse shopping! Love your solution to a noisy purse and will definitely keep that option in mind! Great solution to taking control and making your purse use it’s indoor voice!

    • Reply
      January 7, 2020 at 8:08 am

      Kathy, thanks for the laugh that I needed today!

  • Reply
    Ramona Puckett
    January 7, 2020 at 5:20 am

    I love this! It’s a beautiful handbag and I love your outfit! It’s a great solution and you have given me ideas, thank you so much!

  • Reply
    Cori Kelly
    January 7, 2020 at 5:24 am

    I recently added a long leather strap to a calfskin leopard purse with short handles to give me the option of either carrying by the handles (and hiding the strap) or using the strap when my hands were full or I didn’t feel like (literally) carrying a bag in my hands. I took it to my local shoe repair shop and they fixed it right up! I LOVE IT NOW!

  • Reply
    January 7, 2020 at 5:39 am

    LOVE this story! YES – I have many vintage and inherited bags that I use and try to rework if they’re not perfect for my needs. Well done on the vision to give this bag a 2nd and better life!!

  • Reply
    Cheryl Ann
    January 7, 2020 at 5:48 am

    You are hilarious! Love the Pride & Prejudice meets Boyz! Great bag…love the solution, too! I am a consistent resale shopper…and have spent a lot of money at the shoe repair. They can do wonders! I love expensive shoes made in Italy and will go the extra mile and $$$ to repair them. It’s my new hobby!

  • Reply
    Susan Blakey
    January 7, 2020 at 6:44 am

    That is SUCH a wonderful bag, and a great find! Good for you for thinking outside the box and customizing it to suit your needs. It’s amazing what some of these shoe/bag repair people can do!

  • Reply
    Diane B
    January 7, 2020 at 6:47 am

    I love that bag. The great thing is also that no one else will be walking around with anything like it. I shop thrift a lot and will find a fabric that I adore and may rework the article to work for me. I am another one who cannot wear something that makes noise so am very aware of that as well. There have been times when the alterations are more than the original price, but if I wear it and love it, it is worth it. Happy New Year to you Brenda and looking forward to many fantastic posts to come.

  • Reply
    January 7, 2020 at 7:07 am

    Happy New Year!
    Reworking clothing and accessories is fun and rewarding. Good for you. I hope Marelli’s finds a use for those chains to help another customer!

    Recently I removed collars from two garments. I realize I don’t like conventional collars !
    I had a white linen shirt that every time I put on, I took off, not knowing quite why I didn’t like it, and an olive linen dress (Sigrid Olsen, Adrienne Vittadini, respecitvely, so well made, and both from thrift sores, for about $5 total). I bought the dress knowing I’d take the collar off., but then I realized the collar was why I wasn’t wearing the white shirt! Luckily both were constructed so I could remove the collar and still have a band remaining. I hand-stitched these closed with a running stitch– light gray thread on the white, and matching olive on the dress. I’m so happy with my rudimentary skills that you’d think I’d made a wedding dress!

    • Reply
      January 10, 2020 at 5:17 pm

      Love Sigrid Olsen, and found items at Marshall’s.

  • Reply
    January 7, 2020 at 7:24 am

    Thanks for writing about losing your butt and having to wear flats. I have the same fashion limitations. I love handbags but now with shoulder problems can carry only light ones so have sought out colorful nylon totes. Never have altered a bag though. It’s great that you come up with creative solutions to challenges — helps me think out of the box!

  • Reply
    Ann McGrath
    January 7, 2020 at 7:25 am

    It is always so good to find your blog in my mailbox. I love it – you are doing interesting things and not always trying to sell me something! Thanks

  • Reply
    January 7, 2020 at 8:16 am

    I’m thinking that handbag spoke to you as I doubt I’d ever have gone to the work you did to make it work. Maybe I’m just too lazy ;). But…the bag looks perfect for you.

  • Reply
    Kathleen O'Brien
    January 7, 2020 at 9:16 am

    What a great fix for the bag – those kind of artisans are heroes in my book. I love a great shoe repair/fixer. There is a small shop in Monterey (where I used to live) that could fix, repair, remodel ANYTHING! He fixed straps on boots, shoes, any leather repair – genius! I even had him put a coating of dance rubber on my dragon’s feet (I’m a costumer for theater). They were always up for any challenge.
    I now live in San Jose, and with lots of looking, I think I found a repair shop here. They are few, but wonderful gems.
    And that handbag looks great – you got a keeper there in both things, the bag and the artisan that made it yours!

  • Reply
    January 7, 2020 at 9:52 am

    It is so much nicer without the chain. Really beautiful! A good shoe repair shop is valuable.

  • Reply
    January 7, 2020 at 5:04 pm

    Oh those children’s clothes! So artful. Get them outta the memory box and into a frame for wall art for the little one.

  • Reply
    Sue Lewellen
    January 7, 2020 at 6:20 pm

    I just love your sense of adventure and “never give up” attitude. I will share with you my favorite Beatitude: “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape”! Keep smilein’ and keep shopping consignment stores!

  • Reply
    Bess Nathan Rice
    January 7, 2020 at 9:02 pm

    Love the leather straps BK!! I don’t like chains on my bags. They are noisy and cold.
    I love the fuchsia in the scarf you are wearing, stunning color on you, and part of a perfect beauty bundle, or accessories bundle! You are so creative!

  • Reply
    Tricia Joy Brown
    January 9, 2020 at 12:16 pm

    Love the bag without the chains! Brenda, I have enjoyed your books & columns for years and always appreciate you incorporating so many consignment pieces. I used to live in San Rafael & was a customer of Marelli Bros for many years. I’m now living in the Bahamas but continue to bring my repairs & alterations to them during I annual trek back to Marin. And, I hit as many consignment & upscale thrift stores as I can while I’m there!

  • Reply
    January 10, 2020 at 5:14 pm

    Your shoe repair man is an artisan. He made this into the bag it was always meant to be. Chains were so wrong. He got it right. Bravo!

    My favorite shoe repair man came from a family of Italian craftspeople, the skill handed down through the generations. He is a favorite of hockey goalies for the magic he works with goalie pads, but he actually enjoys fixing purses. He added zippers to make them better. Yep, goalie pads, purses AND biker jackets are his thing!

  • Reply
    Trinnie Q
    January 13, 2020 at 7:04 pm

    All so cute ! I needed the smile and distraction…No, I don’t like chains either, except on a bike …You are all gorgeous . Thank You…Sending love from Oz

  • Reply
    January 14, 2020 at 6:04 pm

    I LOVE this bag and how you transformed it! It reminds me of the box of ribbon candy my mom always bought for Christmas. So surprising but yummy!
    I’m always changing buttons out on favorite blouse finds or adding embroidery to make an item zing. Just enough change to make it my own and make people ask: “ where did you get that?! It’s lovely!”
    Nice new year find Brenda! Enjoy!

  • Reply
    Lee Rosenthall
    January 15, 2020 at 2:37 pm

    I just love all your creative solutions and how much you embrace whimsy in your life! I’m a big lover of chains on my bags, but not on that one, so I love what you did there. And where would we all be without our shoe repair people? Our local guy sold his business and still works there to oversee the transition (i.e., suggest areas where the new owner “can do better”). I dread the day he steps away completely! I’d never heard of her before, but it turns out Glenda Gies is local to me. Gonna keep an eye on her stuff. Your chenille bag likely retailed for several hundred dollars, so you got a great deal, even with the modifications. I love bags too – but don’t care about designer names. It’s more about love at first sight – a je-ne-sais-quoi combination of beauty, simplicity, and/or utility.

  • Reply
    Menopause and Anxiety
    February 6, 2020 at 4:51 am

    Hello! Great idea, I really like your bag. You have such a good style, you combine clothes so well. You are an amazing woman, you inspire me and I like to follow your blog. I have a vintage bag from my grandmother that has been lying for many years, I decided to remake it, update it, you inspired me. Have a nice day!

    • Reply
      February 13, 2020 at 5:02 pm

      I’m so happy to inspire you to use that bag from your grandmother. Yay! And thanks for your kind words. xx

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