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Study: Designer Handbags Send A Firm Message To Other Women

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A new study has found that beyond being a symbol of fashion and status, designer handbags may also be used to tell other women to back off.

Researchers studying what women buy -- and why -- found expensive handbags send a very distinct message: stay away from my man.

The power of the purse can extend beyond a mere fashion statement, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota.

The handbags can act as a shield, protecting against other women who may pose a threat to their romantic relationship, according to the study.

"I think women dress for women overall, so that's an interesting statement," Valerie Echavarria said.

Teaneck, N.J. marriage and family therapist Dr. Jane Greer reviewed the study, which concluded women wearing luxury items are perceived to have a more devoted partner.

As a result, other women are less likely to flirt with him.

"You're giving a message that 'I've got the goods and you can't compete with me.' So having that pocketbook or those expensive designer shoes is really a way of saying, 'don't try to step into my turf, my space or get it on with my man,'" Dr. Greer told CBS 2's Kristine Johnson.

Researchers put more than 600 women through a series of experiments.

In one, they triggered feelings of jealousy in some women, but not in others. Then, the researchers asked the women to draw designer logos on a handbag.

The non-jealous women drew small symbols, while those who experienced feelings of jealousy drew logos that were, on average, twice as large.

"She was feeling more insecure, so she was making a bigger statement. 'Fendi - Fend off. I'm fending you off with Fendi!'" said Dr. Greer.

Some stylish shoppers in the trendy Meatpacking District said they were somewhat skeptical of the study.

"I have always felt that wearing designer anything just signals to other women you have fabulous taste. Very little to do with my man," one woman told Johnson.

"I buy things because I enjoy them and the way I look in them. It has nothing to do with how I feel about my husband or other women around me, so I think it's a little silly," another added.

The researchers said studying why women buy what they buy is serious business.

Americans spend $250 billion a year on women's luxury designer goods, and the average woman buys three new handbags a year.

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