By Judith Rasband, AICI CIM
A briefcase is considered indispensible by women in conservative business positions with big-time needs in terms of space or a power look. Briefcases come in two types, hard and soft-sided.
Hard-sided or structural styles have a crisp, clean-cut appearance. The framework provides firm protection and keeps the case from expanding. If overloaded, they won’t close.
Soft-sided styles have a softer, less clunky appearance. They will expand to some degree, but look sloppy if overloaded. Choose the type that best reflects your personal and professional style.
For the best investment value, choose a leather briefcase. Prices range from $180 to $300, but should last from five to ten years. Briefcase leather should be somewhat thicker than the leather used in a firmly constructed handbag. Thin, delicate leathers and the glamour-leathers such as lizard, eelskin, ostrich skin do not hold up under daily use.
Belting leather, with its visible and desirable imperfections, is the thickest and most durable. It also the most expensive and subject to spotting or stains. Body oils and hand lotions readily darken the handle and closure area. This is not always appropriate for more formal business situations.
Select a briefcase with a wooden case instead of cardboard. Cardboard can crack, bend or curl, particularly if wet. Cases come in two, three- and four-inch thicknesses. Choose according to how much you have to carry. Consider cases that include small inner compartments for pens or personal items and large ones for papers. If you walk a lot, look for a slightly lighter weight case with a shoulder strap.
Preferred colors include burgundy, brown, cinnamon rust, black and tan –in that order. Black is the most formal looking briefcase. Light colored cases weaken a power image.
Examine all construction details. Look for double-edges, with extra leather stitched on for added strength. Double stitching increases durability. The corners of hard-sided cases should be rounded or reinforced with brass. Open and shut the case several times. Zippers should slide smoothly. Sturdy clasps should fasten easily and securely.
Handles reinforced with stitching are recommended. Check to see that rivets on the handle and hinges at the back of the case are secure. If glued only, the case will not last. A removable shoulder strap aids handling when traveling or shopping.
Quality leather-looking vinyl briefcases are available for prices that range from $50 to $125. They generally last four to five years. They should feature authentic stitching instead of embossing, reinforced corners and a reinforced real leather handle.
Shop for briefcases in large office supply stores as well as handbag and luggage departments or stores.
Many business women can’t get along without two hand carried items. A handbag used in combination with a portfolio allows you a place for personal items along with sleek protection for paperwork. Legal-sized portfolios come in leather, leather-like vinyl and canvas with leather binding.
The larger totebag with portfolio inside offers flexibility as the portfolio comes out to be carried on its own when needed for a less cumbersome look. A small clutch bag works well stored inside a briefcase or totebag during business hours, coming out for evening. For that matter, both a small purse and portfolio can slip neatly inside, out of sight until needed.
A smaller shoulder bag and briefcase carried on opposite sides of the body for a balanced appearance is also acceptable. This solution offers maximum space and leaves your hand free to shake. Select your bag to match or coordinate well with your briefcase.
What you carry in your purse or briefcase is strictly up to you. Just don’t stuff them to the brim or you will look clumsy and out of control. The strain will also shorten the wear-life of the bag or case.
Copyright Judith Rasband and Conselle L.C. 2009
Judith Rasband is the Image Expert and would love to work with you! Visit www.conselle.com or call 801-224-1207 to learn more.