Mary Lee Pappas

Nothing has peeved me off so much as a story in the Gannett-owned Indianapolis Star (Jan. 5, 2006, section E): "Status Faux, Designer-Purse Knockoffs Bag a Growing Market Share Among the Fashion-Conscious." The fashion-conscious? No, dear author T.J. Barnes, fake bags are seen only among fashion victims and the fashion-unconscious.

Fashionable women, even women who know anything about fashion, absolutely do not buy fake handbags come hell or high water.

While Barnes collects interviews from women involved in the scam of selling counterfeit handbags, which is (ahem) illegal, there is a child in China stitching together one of these travesty fakes in a sweatshop for a pittance because the child's family can't afford to send them to school. Don't believe me? Pick up the January 2006 copy of Harper's Bazaar, turn to page 53 and read "The Human Cost of Fakes."

That fake Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Burberry or Dior made by that child's nimble fingers will wind up on the shoulder of a suburban Indianapolis bimbo (for what, $50?) who wouldn't know what a real one looks like.

So, I know a lot of readers have fake bags because I've seen you carrying them - including that fake Vuitton wallet you whipped out at the grocery. I've even seen them hustled at, of all places, an elementary school. They have hung from vendors' racks at the Indiana State Fair, and are on local Web sites selling "designer look-alikes," which is only another word for faux, fake, counterfeit, tacky and immoral.

T.J. Barnes writes, "It's difficult to tell a knockoff from an original handbag."

Sorry, but it's not.

Don't you know that people know your bag is fake? We do! And it's not just symptomatic of your insecurities; it demonstrates your complete lack of good taste. The tell-tale signs that your bag is a fake (hardware, stitching, canvas, color, etc.) are ever apparent to those not stupid enough to buy the fake in the first place.

A woman with good taste can look like a million bucks putting together an outfit from Target. And, there are bags at Target that are made better than your fake, child-slave-labor-made Vuitton. Any humble working girl can safe her pennies for a $1,000-plus designer bag of her dreams. You save your money for other things, right? Peruse Saks, ask questions, try your dream bag on for size and then make your wish list and save your pennies. TJ Maxx is a wonderful source of gorgeous designer bags priced way below retail. Nordstrom is another great place for purses. Have a salesgirl point you in the right direction for a beautiful bag within your budget no matter how humble.

Counterfeits, made by children in China, according to the Harper's Bazaar story, cost the world economy over $600 billion a year. Losses to U.S. businesses alone are $200 billion to $250 billion. So, your fake purse is ultimately pretty unpatriotic, too.

Do I have to hit you over the head? Be not just fashion conscious, but conscious period and don't buy fakes.