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Elizabeth’s Picks: Handbag advice from Portero’s expert

As a Portero shopper, you might wonder how we guarantee the pre-owned and vintage handbags listed are authentic. The key – we have experts on staff. When it comes to handbags, Elizabeth Bernstein knows everything. And for a good reason, she loves and treasures them. Case in point: She’s pictured here with a vintage bright pink ostrich Hermès envelope clutch.

We’ve been featuring Elizabeth’s favorite picks, so here’s the scoop about her personal approach to handbags and collecting.

Q What is your handbag right now?

A For everyday right now, I am in love with a large Fendi peekaboo that is the perfect size for my MacBook, and has the perfect strap for carrying on my shoulder. Often when you think about having to put a computer into a bag, they can look sloppy. This seems to be my current answer to a heavy yet chic load. Same goes for my brown suede Celine phantom tote. For evening I prefer a 28cm or 32cm Kelly or something crocodile in a good color. Oh, and cross-body bags on weekend days, no matter what.

Q How did you become an authenticator?

A Over the years I have always been an extremely passionate handbag collector and a lover of vintage pieces. If you like vintage as much as I do, you better learn a thing or two about authentication because department stores do not sell these kinds of treasures. I am an investigative person by nature, and I became fascinated with the construction of bags, furs, clothing and accessories at a very young age. I have been gathering tidbits of knowledge through many years of working, traveling, studying, meeting artisans, visiting factories and finding great mentors. It is truly a labor of love to continue acquiring more knowledge about luxury craftsmanship . The “learning” process of authenticating is never over, as long as our beloved luxury brands continue to provide innovation and creations that we all adore – there is always more to be learned!

Q Why handbags?

A A handbag says so much about a person. I can often tell where they might be from, age, interests, if they have children, if they are a romantic or conservative, type of clothing they might buy, where they vacation, etc. Yes, it sounds crazy, but very true. It is a type of language in fashion that is one of my favorites to speak.

I have always been in love with luxury craftsmanship, leathers, exotic skins, details, handwork, etc. A great bag and accessories can make make outfit sublime, rather than just a little bit better. Especially over the last 20 years, women have taken so much pride in their bag collections – they really say a lot about who they are. I often meet people who have little interest in the traditional adornment of jewelry, yet have bag collections could that bring a tear to your eye.

I myself have always been a busy person on the go with a lot to carry. It has always been important to me to look very chic whilst toting my essentials all over the city and the world!

Q What was your first handbag?

A It is hard to say… as I cannot remember a time when I did not carry a bag. What comes to mind is a vintage leather Bottega Veneta doctors bag. That could be one of them. Otherwise my mother had beautiful evening clutches & shoulder bags (and her furs) that I regularly started to wear around the house and quietly squirrel away around the age of 3.

Q How many bags in your collection?

A Also a very difficult question. I am a very unusual bag collector, since this is my work as well. I tend to keep a relatively slim but healthy collection. If I buy something I am in love with, I try to part with something I don’t use as often or I have found that it was not quite working out the way I planned.

I do like to keep my collection fresh, and I often have bags I will only wear a few times before I “pass them on” to a happy new home. I also own bags I have kept for over 10 years. Compared to people – you have your long term lifetime relationships that you will never let go of, and also people who you meet in passing that add color to your life but you may not spend a lot of time with.

Q How do you decide which one to carry?

A Occasion is first and foremost. Then it depends on what I am wearing, and what type of mood I am in. Also, I most definitely do the reverse if I have a new bag I am dying to wear, the entire scheme of getting dressed can be around this piece. When I am deciding to buy a bag I often create outfits in my head that I am going to wear with this piece before I even pull the purchasing trigger. I am also very inspired by art, travel & different cultures, different eras of fashion, street style, music, etc.

New York City is a great place to live because we see so many different people on a daily basis that I have a constant flow of inspiration though that as well.

Q Do you need to match your bag and shoes? Any other rules?

A Most importantly, I do not believe in rules. As we all know, rules in fashion change so rapidly that many have a hard time keeping track of them.

My goal when putting together the entire outfit (I cannot just look at shoes and bags), is to be creative and have a good flow between the pieces.

I often like to try things that most “sane” people would never think to pair together because creativity is so important when dressing. Even if it doesn’t work out, it might inspire you to try something else you wouldn’t have thought of that does look good! The key is not to have too much going on, but focus on what is the important aspect of your outfit, and build around that.

You cannot have your cake and eat it too. A great pair of thigh high flat riding boots, doesn’t necessarily go with your most trendy and largest bag. I find it can really look to harsh or aggressive. Better if the boots are the focus, and you pick a more classic exotic elegant but sporty vintage bag, maybe a blazer or leather jacket (leather jacket only if the boots are suede), a printed or solid classic cut top, etc.

Oh, and a side note, I am officially a hoarder of shoes. I cannot have enough of them. And, yes, my husband thinks I should have help for this problem. None of us are perfect though are we?

Q What do you always have in your bag?

A The 2 C’s ! Chapstick and Cliff (my teddy bear iPhone cover – with iPhone of course)


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