Talking Top-Handles: Louis Vuitton Dora VS Christian Dior Lady Dior
by Reece Morgan | September 16, 2017
Last month, Vogue UK’s fashion features editor Ellie Pithers published a list of her favourite top-handles for the coming season. As Pithers rightly points out, the Autumn/Winter 2017 fashion shows back in March were packed with totes and shoppers. The general feel was more a more serious, more couture look than the street style of recent seasons. Crossbodies and backpacks take a back seat, the top-handle is coming.
Pithers’ picks capture a range of the exciting new cuts from across the price spectrum, from Zara to Hermès, but with the exception of the Saint Laurent Sac-de-Jour, we can't help but feel that she’s overlooked the classics. There are a number of bags that we’d add to her list, including the likes of the Louis Vuitton Capucines and the Gucci Sylvie, but we thought we’d focus on two that would be near the top if classics were considered.
First up is the Lady Dior, eternalised by Princess Diana and simply one of the most popular top-handles ever made. Second, should really be the Louis Vuitton Alma, but we actually prefer the Alma’s latest modernised reincarnation, the Dora from the 2014/15 seasons. In honour of autumn we chose the traditional colours (aka red and brown), which meant we have a shiny red patent leather model Lady Dior from the 2012 season and a red and monogram Louis Vuitton Dora from 2014. Here I’ll compare the pros and cons of each, including prices, to help you get an idea of what to look for and what might be right for you.
The Lady Dior might be the most recognisable top-handle out there. For those that don’t know its backstory let me just give you the gist. It didn’t originally have that name but was assigned it after Lady Princess Diana was snapped carrying one in 1995. She had been given one as a gift by France’s First Lady, Bernadette Chirac, when she visited the LVMH-sponsored Cézanne exhibition in Paris in 1994. She loved it so much she ordered it in every colour. Yeah I know, diva, right? Anyway, being the most papped woman in the world and now always carrying her trusty Lady Dior, it cemented itself as a world favourite.
That aside, what’s the bag actually like? Well, as with the Chanel Classic Flap it has a very distinctive patter on the leather that you might have seen on some old school chairs. Said pattern is called “cannage”, which is a cane-weaving technique used on the chairs in the Dior workshop during the Christian Dior days. Simple, but effective, and in shiny patent leather the effect is accentuated as light is kicking off it at all angles. The handles are horseshoe-shaped and straightforward, with the silver washers and rings giving it a touch of detail. The charms, which spell out Dior, add another sparkle.
Louis Vuitton Dora
The Dora is actually a new cut and it was only made for a couple of seasons but it’s so close to the Alma, whose roots go back to the beginning of last century*, that it certainly merits the classic label. Oh, and it’s Louis Vuitton Monogram. That said, it’s Monogram but with enough bi-colour to freshen it up and make it modern Monogram. It also has sharper angles and more handle than the Alma. Its focal point is the handle strap ends, which are in the form of kind of squared snakes heads. The same edgy handle design is being reused for the latest City Steamer bags for Autumn/Winter 17 (which is sharp angles taken to the next level!) Anyway, the Dora’s debut was well received at Autumn/Winter 2014 and as Vogue points out its introductory snap on Instagram was Louis Vuitton’s most liked photo that year, with over 114,000 likes!
*The Alma was originally a night bag and it gave birth to the Steamer, intended for travel, which added a compartment for linen. In the 30s Gaston Vuitton made another version, combining the two, and called it the Squire. The Squire is what the Dora based on. It’s named after painter and Picasso’s lover, Dora Maar, who used to carry LV luggage.
Function, Quality and Value for Money
To make the arm of a Princess you can’t be cutting any corners. Each Lady Dior is handmade in approximately eight hours, which despite being about a third of the time it takes to make a Hermès Birkin is a clear sign of its quality. Each piece, of which there are 140 per bag believe it or not, is hand cut and formed, down to the charms that hang from the handle ring. The materials are first-rate and the leather is Dior patented to give it that superb glossy finish. Leathers like these do come with a caveat though, and that’s that you have to be careful with them as scuffs and scratches will show up easily and they are very difficult to refurbish.
The Lady Dior has a zip closure to reveal a spacious inside with a zip pocket. It also comes with a detachable shoulder strap. You can get these in top pre-loved condition for around the £2,000 mark, which is around £1,000 cheaper than a 2017 new version. This pre-loved price will hold well providing you can keep it in good condition.
The Dora is also excellent quality and is mostly handmade except Louis Vuitton permit the use of sewing machines. It also has a strap and it has a roomier interior with more pockets for separating your belongings. It's actually a little more practical than the Lady Dior, but that’s probably not going to be your deciding factor. The Dora can be picked up pre-loved in PM size for about £2,250, which is about the same as a Lockit but £500 less than a Capucines and £750 more than a Speedy. This is more expensive than old-school Louis Vuitton but it does have plenty of good leather.
Of course, with any handbag comparison, taste is going to play the leading role, but there are some points here worth considering. The Dora has a couple of things going for it. As I said it’s timeless yet relatively modern with its angular touches, but more importantly it’s already out of production, which makes it quite an interesting option alongside its relatives. It will likely sell on for at least what you pay for it and most people will see it as a refreshing take on the Alma and Monogram. That said, it’s reasonably expensive and for that money you might be better off with the all-leather, Monogram-free Capucines, which I recently chose as my Editor’s Pick. So, although the Lady Dior needs more care taken over it, it’s actually probably more bag for your money and it’s certainly worthy of Pithers’ list!
For more information on all the pieces mentioned in this article and more, visit our dedicated pre-owned and vintage luxury handbags page.