Know how to tell if they’re faking it

We see designer brands everywhere: Coach, Louis Vuitton, Dooney & Bourke, Chanel. It seems like everyone and their mother has a designer bag these days. When did everyone get so rich?

The modern woman’s best kept secret is no longer her age, but the authenticity of her handbag. It’s become an unspoken fact that most of the “designer” bags we see women wearing aren’t the real thing.

Knockoff handbags are illegal to sell, but that doesn’t make them difficult to buy. Vendors set up carts on the streets of New York, women throw “purse parties” and countless online stores sell replica handbags.

We live in an era when designer logos are slapped on anything and everything, and these replicas are affordable and easy to find. But are you really getting a great deal? Knockoff bags are cheaper for a reason: they lack the quality and craftsmanship of the real thing.

Designer bags have clear and distinct logos. Seams are evenly spaced and the fabric or leather is never puckered. Zippers do not get stuck and snaps and buttons do not come loose. A designer bag will last a lifetime.

In an episode of “Sex and the City,” Carrie couldn’t bring herself to buy a knockoff bag out of the trunk of a car. She knew she’d be able to fool people into thinking it was legit, but the “Made in China” tag on the inside would be a constant reminder of her bag’s true identity.

You may be able to convince others that you have a designer handbag, but you will always know that your bag is a fake. For some women that’s all that matters.

Others see nothing wrong with wearing a knockoff bag. Why splurge on the real thing? A close replica selling for hundreds – sometimes even thousands – of dollars less than retail price can be a great deal. Plus, it’s only illegal to sell knockoff purses – it’s perfectly legal to buy them.

If you’re going to wear a knockoff, just don’t wear a bad one. There’s nothing tackier than a “Prado” or “Goach” bag. The only way to avoid such a calamity is to know the authentic product. It’s not a bad idea to visit high-end department stores like Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom to see the real bag in person. You don’t want to be stuck with a knockoff Fendi bag shaped like a Louis Vuitton.

It also helps to know the common mistakes found in knockoffs. The CC logo on Chanel replicas is often thicker than the logo on the real bag. Kate Spade knockoffs usually have bulky, metal feet, while the real bags have flat feet or none at all.

Zippers with cloth or leather pulls are also clues that a bag isn’t real, and cheap or unfitted lining is another giveaway. The more you compare real bags to fakes, the more discrepancies you’ll be able to pick out.

Beware of buying bags online. Whether you’re looking for a discount on a real designer bag or searching for the closest replica, online shopping can be risky. eBay has around 800 listings for Louis Vuitton bags.

Some, like the Louis Vuitton Morgane Polka Dot Fleurs handbag selling for $11,000, are probably the real deal.

But hundreds of other eBay listings sell obvious knockoffs for a fraction of the retail price. And even if you’re looking to buy a knockoff, it’s hard to assess the quality of the bag from a picture on a Web site. Whether your handbag is real or fake is your secret, just be prepared for people to ask about its authenticity.