The Limited Simple Tote in Black

Photo: Courtesy of the Limited

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The Tote You Can Trust
Instead of choosing a flimsy fabric tote (which can sag and dig into your shoulder), invest in something more durable that keeps its shape—like a sturdy leather, coated canvas or rainproof rubber in a neutral color (like black, camel or tan) that won't show dirt and works year-round. (Try this sleek version from the Limited at left.) Look for thick, reinforced handles that are at least two fingers wide—this ensures they won't stretch out or snap if you're carrying a heavy load (like a laptop or half a dozen apples from your favorite fruit vendor).

The right size: Something roughly the size of a cereal box that doesn't jut out more than six inches from your body.

The most common mistake: Choosing straps that are too short or too long. Make sure that your bag can be easily swung over your shoulder (with the top hitting at the middle of your ribs) but doesn't drag on the ground if you carry it with one hand.

One to try: A two-tone tote made of contrasting colors doesn't just add style to a standard shopper—many brands (like C. Wonder) feature versions with a darker color on the bottom so that you can set it down at the grocery store or under your desk without worrying about stains.