This Old Bag’s Got More Old Bags! More Vintage Bag Love. Coach Has Returned into My Life

As we continue with our new normal of malls being closed and local businesses hopefully reopening and not going under, boutiques and small shops on hiatus, we haven’t been shopping as much as we used to.  Or is it that our shopping habits have changed?

  • Seriously. I don’t know if I’ll have the patience to deal with parking spaces at shopping centers after this is over!

I’ll go with the later.  For now.

Prior to this pandemic I refurbished a few Louis Vuitton bags that I purchased used. All were old. Quite old and one, in particular has been discontinued.  Here’s a look at the post I wrote about fixing up the Bucket GM that I purchased: I did Another Thing. I bought a LV Purse and Cleaned it Up!

The LV Neverfull bag that Bonaparte bought me for my birthday last year has a buddy.  A vintage, pre-loved LV Bucket GM!

And even with my semi-handy work, the bag’s trim was deteriorating.  I know where my aptitude ends. There was no way I could have made an attempt to replace the trim myself and I had to outsource.  Fortunately, I lucked out.  In perusing the local, Philadelphia area leather repair shops I came across Roxborough Shoe Repair.  I dropped, not only the bag, but a pair of suede Made-in-Italy, old J. Crew suede flats that I just about destroyed back in November after traipsing around in the Paris rain for three days.

Although the bag was in great shape, the trim was a mess. It was deteriorating at a rapid rate!

Mike Zinar, the owner of Roxborough Shoe Repair repaired my bag’s trim perfectly and did a stellar job on my shoes!  I’m telling you; a great shoe and bag repairman is just as good as finding a good physician!

Here’s Mike Zinar and his magic!  Owner of Roxborough Shoe Repair, he’s been doing this in the family business for decades! He needs a NY Giants shirt though!

And if you are in need for any leather repair, whether or not you live in the Philly area (you can mail your goods to him), here’s the contact information!

But the thing about the Vuitton purses is they are pricey. Even “vintage” and “pre-loved” can be overpriced.  Currently, I am trying to complete my LV collection with a vintage/preloved Noe bag but the pickins are slim.  Most used bags are ridiculously and unfairly overpriced.  While I realize that there is a great demand for used luxury bags—especially Louis Vuitton, selling a bag that is torn, ripped, has handles broken or severely cracked leather does not a bargain make.  Of all the three LV bags I’ve acquired none were over $275.  All have signs of wear but none are damaged.  And that’s where time and patience come in.

I’m extremely happy with the result of the trim.  The leather is a great match and since it isn’t Vachetta, I don’t have to worry as much about it.  The cost of the repair was $175 for both the shoes and the bag. The repair for the shoes was $36.00 The repair for the bag with the leather trim and labor was $139. This was very reasonable. I paid $239 for the bag. Adding $139 to that, the overall cost turned out to be $378. This is still an excellent price for a discontinued and now vintage LV bag. I can’t complain!

…and the shoes.  I damn-near destroyed these babies. The heels peeled off.  The suede ripped. They were a mess and now..

They are back to their thrifted-newness. Yes. I paid $7.47 for these shoes at Goodwill and $36 to have them repaired. But, these have been my most-worn flats ever since I got ’em. And I love them.  So it was worth it!

And that’s where Coach comes in.  I’ve got a Coach bag that’s about ten or eleven years old.  Oona got it for me when she worked at Coach during her college years.  I love the bag and it’s been in constant rotation since she gave it to me.  It was one of the few Coach bags that didn’t have those ridiculous “C”’s splattered all over them.

ww7-and-old-coach-bag | Atypical 60

This bag works!  It’s a roomy tote that has a zippered closure and tons of room. It’s kind of patent leather but then again, not really. And the burgundy shade is just beautiful.  It also has a history. Oona gifted me with it when she worked at Coach during her college years.  And might I add she LOVED working there!

Honestly, there was a time when Coach bags kind of lost their identity. They got cheesy with that C-logo phase and it’s good to see that Coach has finally come around and took a step back.

Coach New Cc and 6 Pockets Brown with Tradition Logo Diaper Bag ...

I’m sorry but the Coach “C” years were such a “WTF did they do?” thing for me.  I’m so happy to see the brand took a step back from this hideous design!

But I’ve taken a bigger step back and have been checking out the vintage Coach bags for resale.

When I was in my twenties and thirties, I had a couple of these bags and loved them. One, in particular was an olive-green number. A rectangular shaped, simple and basic shoulder bag.  No logo. No nuthin. Just beautiful leather. Leather exterior and interior.

Vintage Coach Bag RARE // Bonnie Cashin Suede Pre Creed Dinky New ...

Although this photo was copied off the internet, this was the same olive green Coach bag I owned back in the day. And I wish I still had it!

The esthetics of old-school Coach bags are magnificent. And being of the nostalgic personality, I wanted a couple of these bags. And a found a couple.

One, a 9090 Bucket Tote found on Mercari for a mere fraction of the original cost. And the beauty of the vintage Coach bags is they can still be had for a very affordable price.

This. The 9090 Coach Bucket Tote. I fills my needs to carry a ton of stuff!

Overall, the bag was in good shape for a vintage.  The interior needed only a swipe with a lint roller and baby wipes. The exterior needed cleaning.

Might I add that I was using this before I cleaned it!  I’m that person!

I was also able to snag a brown Willis bag.  I love everything about this bag. The design. The hardware. The fact it can be worn as a cross-body, over the shoulder and a satchel.  It is a fantastic bag for travel because you can ride a subway, walk city streets and feel safe with this bag slung as a cross-body.  It doesn’t fit as much “stuff” as the 9090 tote, but it holds essentials for every day.

And my Willis bag, now clean and lustrous!

And as a fan of neutral colors, both bags filled my needs. The tote, in British Tan, and the Willis, in a deep brown, are great shades that go with virtually everything.  Brown in any shade with black shoes or a black outfit looks fantastic.  With prints, there’s no clashing. And the browns are all-seasonal.  Black leather can sometimes fade to a more charcoal shade but with brown, I dunno—it just always looks good.

All shades of brown are my jam in bags. Yes. I have other color bags but still manage to use more of the brown than any others. I think that’s why I prefer the LV Monogram compared to the brand’s other prints.

The Willis bag, although in very good shape was also a tad misshapen—which is to be expected with a bag that’s twenty or so years old.  So off went to internet land to watch YouTube videos and blog posts on how to clean and restore a vintage Coach bag.

Oh. And to make sure you’re getting an authentic Coach bag, check out the Coach Creed.  This is the one from the Willis bag. All lettering is Upper Case and evenly spaced. The Style Number starts with “No and ends with the four-digit style number for the Willis Bag” Also not the “target” or “bullseye” on the right.  This means a couple of things–it was sent to an outlet or factory store or was final sale.  I inspected this bag like nobody’s business and can say that it is not a factory bag so it must have been on final sale.  A number of people with pass on a bag that has a target but for me, it just says more about the bag’s authenticity.  And it allows me to get the bag at an even better price. $40 for a vintage Coach bag in decent condition is a win!

Another way to authenticate is the “YKK” on the zipper.  If there’s a “ykk” on the zipper, it’s the real deal.

The one thing that stuck out in my mind was the “dunking” or literally giving your vintage Coach bag a bath in water mixed with a bit of soap.  I was intrigued and even interested but I wondered if I wanted to take the time to do this.  There’s quite a bit of time and patience involved—especially if you want to reshape the bag. You need to stuff the bag with a towel, block it out, let it dry on one side, turn it over and the process was very involved.  I’m lazy by nature.

happyhomehabits | Jouneying to a happier home one babystep at a time

Some clean and reshape their vintage Coach bags by giving them a bath.  I balked.

And when I went to pick up my shoes and bag from Mike Zinar at Roxborough yesterday, I asked him about the “dunking”. He was quite honest in his thoughts.  He mentioned the fact that the Coach Willis had a wooden dowel and reminded me that wood does not dry the way leather does.  Even if I was to remove the dowel—would I want to dunk the bag?  It was good food for thought.

Ultimately, I decided to NOT dunk either bag.  The tote, even though the bottom is creased, smooths out when I load it with my stuff.  The Willis, I figured I would give it a good cleaning and then if need be, might give it a bath if I didn’t like the way the cleaning process turned out.

Here’s what I did.

I gathered my cleaning products.

From left to right:  Toothpicks (for applying Brasso to the hardware), kitchen sponge, Brasso, Lincoln E-Z Clean, facial cleaning battery operated brush, Pyrex custard dish, Water Wipes, Chamberlain’s Leather Milk Balm and accompanying sponge.

Let me mention that I cleaned out both interiors first.  After using a lint roller, I wiped the interior of each bag with Water Wipes.  It is paramount to use a water-based wipe on the bags—especially on the exterior.  Alcohol-based wipes will ruin the leather.


Some schmutz and crispy bits that came off the interior of the Willis bag after wiping down with Water Wipes.

I allowed each bag to dry completely before moving on to the exteriors.

The hardware was cleaned with Brasso. There wasn’t a lot of tarnish but there was enough to be noticed!

No home should be without Brasso!  It does a remarkable job cleaning my copper cookware! But I use it mostly to clean hardware on purses!

The hardware wasn’t that badly tarnished..

..but a bit of Brasso, a toothpick and a paper towel worked wonders!

The tarnish wiped right off.  If you have an eye for detail, you will notice the carton of eggs in the background.

….that’s because I made egg salad while I was cleaning the bags:  Egg Salad:  Cook eggs in shell in simmering water for 15 minutes. Shut water off.  Drain water.  Cool eggs. Remove shell.  Chop eggs.  Mix with mayo–use a generous amount.  Add salt and pepper to taste. You’re done.

I wiped the exterior down with the Water Wipes and wiped with a cloth.  After the exterior dried from the wipes, I used Lincoln E-Z Suede cleaner to clean the exterior.  Following directions, I shook the cleaner then poured a small amount into one of those clear glass Pyrex custard bowls.

These water wipes are the greatest! I wiped the exterior of the bags down with these, wiped them then cleaned with…

I purchased this at the suggestion of Mike Zinar of Roxborough Shoe Repair. Thankfully he warned me to NOT dilute. And as someone who rarely reads instruction, I would have diluted!  He also said you could use a regular kitchen sponge to apply, which I did but then I had a brainstorm and…

Then I used a battery-operated facial cleaner that I purchased at Walmart for $7.00 to clean my face. Seriously, I had a brainstorm. This facial cleaner came with two brushes so why not use one to clean my bags?

….opted to use this $7.00 battery-operated facial cleanser to apply the leather cleaner. It worked!

I turned the brush on and it did a great job if distributing the cleaner on the bag.  I was mindful to get at all areas of both bags –body and trim.  I took the straps off both bags and cleaned them separately.

The handles on our cupboard worked well for hanging the moistened straps to dry!

Both bags darkened as soon as the cleaner made contact but as they dried, their natural color came back.  Both bags were placed upside down for better drying.

I placed the tote over a vase to dry..

..and placed the Willis bag over a box of Equal. Hey. You gotta use what comes to mind!

When they were completely dried, about three hours later, I went in with the conditioner.  I used Chamberlain’s Milk Balm, which I purchased on Amazon.  This balm looks like solid coconut oil. This balm smells just like coconut oil.  It also came with a sponge for applying but I opted to apply with my fingers.  The heat from my hands made the balm melt a bit and made for easy and smooth applying.  The balm was applied in a circular motion and I allowed it to settle in for about fifteen minutes per bag.

I swear this stuff is coconut oil. But whatever it is, it does a great job!

Then I wiped the excess off.  If you use too much of the balm, you stand the chance of a sticky bag.  I did have a bit of this on the bottom of the tote but after wiping the excess and buffing and buffing and buffing, the end result was a nice luster.

I used my fingers to apply the balm…

For buffing, I used a clean sport sock. Let me tell you, these sport socks work so well for buffing. Just slip it on over your hand like a glove and get to work.

The sock–after buffing. It buffed and cleaned a bit more!

The end results?  Wonderful. Both bags had a nice luster but weren’t “shiny”. There’s a nice patina which happens with age on a good leather bag. And if you are familiar with the old Coach bags, the leather wasn’t shiny. It was more on the dull side—and I don’t mean that in a bad way!

Nicely cleaned, conditioned and ready for use.  Please note that as clean as the bags are, there are still markings that haven’t gone away. This is to be expected with bags that are over twenty years old.  It doesn’t bother me but if it bothers you, you might want a more recent bag!

A “polished” look  wasn’t the goal to be achieved. It was a clean and lustrous look, which was the result!

As for the shape of the Willis bag?  I had a second brainstorm.  A while back I ordered a bag organizer for my LV Alma bag that fit perfectly.  I ordered another for my Speedy 30 but it was a bit on the small side. And so, I took the organizer from the Speedy and placed it into the Willis bag.

This is the organizer I had in my Speedy 30. It was too small for the Speedy but fit the Willis perfectly!

A perfect fit for Willis!

Lo and behold, it was a perfect fit that reshaped the bag perfectly!

Perfectly shaped due to the organizer and didn’t need to be dunked!

Buying a bag is a very personal thing.  There are pros and cons to purchasing vintage and pre-loved or pre-owned.  You need to be careful and you need to make sure that the brands you are repurchasing are authentic.  In addition, you need to be mindful that a vintage bag will most likely have imperfections like scratches or marks or faded edges or corners. Leather can have watermarks. It depends on what you can live with.

The bag isn’t brand-new perfect, and I love that it has a history!

As one who is hard on bags, I don’t mind the watermarks or the slight scratches.  I will pass any tear or damaged handles.  You need to know your budget and how far gone a bag is that you can work with.

And by showing these bags a bit of love, I’ve made them my own!

Cleaning and restoring a vintage bag can be a very fulfilling project.  A bag that has a history and a story. And these are bags that were made at a time when quality-control was more important than it is now.  I think these bags were made of a better quality.

I’m something else with the photos–aren’t I?  Egg salad, my kitchen and vintage bags.  I should be a photo stylist–Just kidding!  Seriously, restoring bags is a fun project!

So that’s about it.  We all love a project and these bags have been mine.

Do you have any vintage bags in your closet?  Well…take ‘em out and show ‘em some love!

About Catherine

Far from perfect, but enjoying life as a non-perfect and flawed individual at 60 years young. I'm still wondering what I'll be when I grow up! The characters in my life's screenplay include my better half. He is a refined Frenchman who grew up in Paris and summered in St. Tropez. I grew up in Long Island and summered in Long Island. I am not refined. My three grown children are also a big part of my life. For their sake, they happily live where their careers have taken them! But I can still mother them from a distance! I write about the mundane. I write about deeply shallow issues. But whatever I write or muse about--it'll always be a bit on the humorous and positive side! It's all good!
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21 Responses to This Old Bag’s Got More Old Bags! More Vintage Bag Love. Coach Has Returned into My Life

  1. Wow! Great job. I never thought of using Brasso on purse hardware. I’v’e got an old LV that had the strap eaten by my son’s bunny. I don’t think it’s repairable. I love Vintage but fell in love with MZ Wallace. So that that’s what I’ve be’v been wearing for the past few years. But Vintage is very cool. The he egg said? Try adding some yellow mustard to that mayonnaise. It’s good!

  2. Suzi says:

    My love affair with Coach Goes way back. It was the first “designer” bag I ever owned. My husband gave it to me before we were married 38 years ago. (I still have the bag.) I haven’t purchased a Coach bag in over a decade for exactly the reason you sighted, the overused logo. Absolutely everyone had one slung over their shoulder. If you peruse their online site, clearly Coach is going back to the beautiful, classic and substantial handbags.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Suzi! Right?? Somewhere along the line Coach had an “oops” moment with that ridiculous logo but they are back on track these days!!! XOXOXO

      • J says:

        I have a couple of old Coach bags I have not carried in years, but I learned long ago never to throw away a nice leather bag. My husband has a well-loved and worn brief case that he will pass on to a grandson one day. As to the logo, don’t you think they were just trying to be a LV mini? I personally don’t care for the LV logo bags, but certainly admire what you have accomplished with the refurbishing.

  3. The Lakewoman says:

    Hi Cathe…enjoyed this blog. If you want that leather balm to soak into your bags, use a hair dryer on low, the balm will soak right in. I use it on work boots!

  4. Juliet says:

    Lovely post – those bags are just beautiful and it is so good to read about things being lovingly restored and cared for. Sometimes you have to wonder why people get rid of such beauties – I certainly I wonder if the previous owners ever have regretful moments when they think a bag is no longer made and has achieved iconic status, still as bag-rescuer you totally scored. Maybe you need a new profession as bag-whisperer as these are fabulous

    • Catherine says:

      Thanks Juliet! It’s funny how our trends in shopping can change. I’m all about the vintage bags these days. With the escalating prices, and Louis Vuitton had the second raise in prices this year alone. I think that’s vulgar and a ding against the brand. It’s better to try to get a used one for a fair price! XOXOXOXO

  5. Julie F says:

    Wow, those are some beauties! My mother & I used to drool over the Coach catalog when it came in the mail(!) back in the 70s. Of course, everything was out of our price range, but as she aged, mom bought 2 for herself & I bought 1 in the 90s. Those old ones just can’t be beat – high-quality craftsmanship, classic styles, quality leather, classic colors – understated elegance that will always endure. I cleaned 2 of mine just before the virus hit – they were very dry, but had a bit of mildew – you’ve been to Fla, so you know how humid it is down here. I need to go over them with conditioner again – that Chamberlain’s Milk Balm looks like it would be good. I think you have a calling as a restorer of vintage leather. Be well.

    • Catherine says:

      Oh Julie. I remember those catalogs well. That first Coach bag I purchased made me feel so good because even back then the bags were rather pricey. But they last for years! After cleaning those bags up I was amazed at how, after decades of use, they are looking fantastic. That Chamberlain’s Milk Balm really is great! XOXOXOXO

  6. vavashagwell says:

    I have the Willis bag in a neutral color, lighter than the brown. It’s a great bag, I don’t use it very often and I should!! It survived our house fire, thank god!

    • Catherine says:

      Vava! Now there’s a testament about how strong those old Coach bags are. Yours survived a house fire. The Willis bag is just so a beautifully designed bag! XOXOXOX

  7. marsha57 says:

    I have the Willis bag in black. I wanted a Coach bag for sooooo long. I’m glad I bought this one before the advent of the dreaded C! I also have the very first Dooney & Bourke my husband bought me. It’s probably thirty years old. It has just that little bit of patina on the handles. I rarely carry it as it’s heavy! I now buy Brahmin bags. They, along with Lagos jewelry, are my husband’s go-to gift. When we moved five years ago, I tucked them into an unused armoire. I was going to unpack them, but my husband thinks they’re better stored there. I agree…he doesn’t know when I add to my collection!

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Marsha! That Willis bag is certainly a popular bag! You know, I much prefer the “old school” D & B bags to those I see today. When I worked at Nordstrom the Brahmin bags were extremely popular–they are very well made and durable! LOL. My husband, unfortunately, has eyes like a nun. Nothing gets past him!! XOXOXOXO

  8. Cindylou says:

    I love your Coach bags. I bought my first one in 1982, a red one like your green one. Then I bought a black court bag. I used to love to go to the Coach store in San Francisco, the smell, the array of bags, what an experience. To me the women who carried Coach bags back then just had a certain elegance and simplicity, such style. I used to go to New York for meetings and I loved seeing women there with their Coach bags and briefcases. I gave my red bag to my daughter so it’s still in the family. I have a small crossbody in British tan. I donated a red bucket bag and the black court bag, now I’m sorry I did. Those bags just did not wear out.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Cindylou! I love the Court bag and the Stewardess bag too. I’ve been on the prowl for both. Those old Coach bags are so elegant and casual at the same time. Classic! I’m glad to see that the brand has finally taken a step back!! XOXOXOO

  9. patricia blaettler says:

    To celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, I wanted a LV handbag. Hubby bought me a Coach handbag (He probably thought they were the same-ish) I was like ‘HECK, NO!’
    I returned that bad boy so fast it’d make your head spin. And I’ve been using my LV nearly every day for years now.

  10. deborah105 says:

    Oh my love for bags started when I was in middle school! I bought myself a Dior inspired box bag from my downtown St Paul Daytons. Oh I loved that bag. And I was off and running ever since.

    I have that Willis bag as well! In black. I bought it brand new from the downtown Minneapolis Marshall Field’s. I think I carried it for four years straight without switching! It was THE bag that all the downtown ladies carried. It was the best commuter bag and a workhorse for sure.

    I now have some hella fancy bags. My husband does like to spoil me from time to time and couple that with my absolute love for finding vintage bag treasures and I have an impressive collection. It delights me every day.

    But searching and craving the vintage will never leave me. I’m all about it.

    Thanks for your tender care of these lovelies! xxoo

  11. Denise says:

    What is the size of the insert you added to the Willis? I have a brown and a black one that are a bit mis-sharpen and this will be just the trick! I also have a black Weston bag that I bought as a steal of $25 off poshmark. The dowels are slipping and fall out. Any tips to help with this?

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