How to make a bag

For a person who makes and spends very little money, I have inappropriately expensive taste. I have a thing for bags and shoes, specifically bags and shoes that look like they were handmade by the last remaining leather maker in a small Croatian town (or, I guess Williamsburg). Somehow, somewhere, I saw a photo of Jennifer Aniston carrying a bag I found perfect, and while I’m not a Jennifer Aniston fan, I became her bag’s biggest champion.

The bag:jennifer-aniston-tom-ford-flap-over-handbag

I knew I couldn’t afford the bag, but I’m industrious, and in the market to procrastinate, and so I began looking for a used version of the bag (used is my second favorite form of clothing, but that’s another post). The bag itself is probably $3,000 and I couldn’t find it for anything less than $2,000. I was willing to pay $200, which for me is extravagant, but I couldn’t even find  a knock-off in my price range.

Then I went on Etsy where I found a deliciously good replica, rich dark leather and all. I bought it, and when it arrived I was crushed by the stiff, cheap (and vaguely gaudy) coating. I brought the bag with me everywhere neurotically asking my friends, “Is this gross? Is this bad? Is this ugly?”


It was custom-made and didn’t feel I could send it back, so I decided I’d do what I normally do, and customize it until it resembled the Tom Ford Jennifer Aniston bag I will never  be able to afford.

Here’s the bag that was sent to me:

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I went to the hardware store and bought Acetone because I knew I needed to strip the coating, which is hard to see here, but trust me–blech. Then I stocked up on sandpaper (fine grain 220), rags and steel wool. Next stop shoe repair store for dark brown leather dye.

The goods (minus the sandpaper)

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Then I got busy stripping the leather with the acetone. It was tough to start, so I accelerated the process by adding rubbing alcohol. I kept at it until I had stripped the entire bag of the first layer of nasty coating.
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Then I went at it with the sandpaper. I found that sanding worked better than the steel wool, and right after I sanded, I used a nail brush to buff.

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Once I sanded the shit out of it, it was time to dye it the proper shade of brown.

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I tried a couple things at this stage which kinda worked, but not enough to recommend, but one of them was to use conditioner to bring out the richness in the brown. What I found worked better was this:

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The Resolene coats the leather so that it won’t rub off on your clothes and won’t bleed or run if it gets wet. The catch is that it darkens the color by a considerable amount and it also dries so damn fast you have to apply it really carefully so you don’t end up with long dried streaks. Here’s the end result.
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Aniston’s bag still wins, but this is the closest I can get for now, and I’m pretty psyched.

The bag I bought, the bag I wanted, the bag I made.

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And that’s the story of why my book is not finished.


One response

  1. Hi,I am so relieved th find this post.I purchased same bag in black,when I recieved the bag I was sop disappointed,mainly in the quality of the leather! Yeah,it feels cheap and plasticy. But reading almost all the review in her shop,people are facing a soft buttery leather. I thought my eye is wrong. Or did I just get the bad one? It’s funny though,I got mine almost exactly same time around your blog post was written,so may be we both got bad quality leather. I mean how can anyone say this is even close to being soft and buttery.

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