The 5 Handbags Every Woman Should Own
Look for a size that's just large enough to carry a hardcover book or a 7-inch tablet. That way you won't be tempted to overstuff the bag with "just in case" extras that will kill your shoulder after an hour's wear.
Clockwise from top left: Neon Yellow Crossbody, $65; RachelRoy.com. Tory Burch "Robinson - Mini" Crossbody Bag, $195; Nordstrom.com. Legacy Colorblock Leather Swingpack, $178; Coach.com. Colorblock Perforated Leather Mini Bag, $168; AnnTaylor.com. Ted Baker London Large Quilted Crossbody Bag, $165; Nordstrom.com.
When buying a tote, pay close attention to the handles. Make sure they're long enough to easily slide onto your shoulder and sturdy enough that they won't tear off easily when the bag is stuffed full (which, let's face it, will be more often than not).
Clockwise from top left: Leather Shopper Bag, $238; FrenchConnection.com. Leather Stripe Tote, $80; Gap.com. Dianne Tote, $250; BananaRepublic.com. Shopper Bag, $169; Zara.com. Lauren Ralph Lauren Newbury Color-Pocket Fashion Tote, $278; Zappos.com.
Top-handle bags are appropriate for any work environment, but pay attention to the color. If you plan on carrying it every day—or you work in a conservative office—go for a dark neutral, like tan, gray or black.
Clockwise from top left: Daubs bag, $50; AldoShoes.com. Shopper with Braided Handles, $80; Zara.com. Alexis Barrel Satchel by Ivanka Trump, $150; Macys.com. Color Block Faceted Turn Lock Satchel, $70; Express.com. Swanky-Grass Green satchel, $88; OliviaandJoy.com.
Like the tote, it's important to check the handles, since you can (and will) cram a lot into this bag. Also pay attention to the drawstring—or clasp—closure. If it slides open easily, it will only get looser over time.
Clockwise from top left: Marais Alvina Bucket Bag by Sam Edelman, $118; Nordstrom.com. Lily Drawstring Tote by T Tahari, $198; Nordstrom.com. Drawstring bag, $139; Dooney.com. Michael Michael Kors Marina Drawstring Canvas Tote, $198; SaksFifthAvenue.com. Pastel Colourblock Duffle, $62; Accessorize.com.
When shopping, make a fist around your cell phone and stick it in a prospective clutch. If it fits, the handbag should have just enough space for your night-out essentials, dubbed "PMILK" by sartorial minimalists: phone, money, ID, lipcolor, keys.
Clockwise from top left: Rachel Rachel Roy Impulse Small Frame Clutch, $59; Macys.com. Shagreen Embossed Minaudiere, $88; CWonder.com. Lila clutch by Tinley Road, $85; Piperlime.com. Monique Clutch in Coral, $98; BananaRepublic.com. Mina Cage Clutch, $128; BCBG.com.
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