12 Classic Bags Every Woman Should Have in Her Closet
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Yes, you need more than one bag in your wardrobe
While the best classic bags are certainly versatile, there’s no one-size-fits-every-occasion purse out there, which is why top stylists suggest building a small collection of core bags that offer timeless style. The bag you wear to a business casual meeting is just not the same one you’ll be carrying at your friend’s black-tie wedding.
“You will never look back at a classic bag and think, I shouldn’t have spent the money on a quality bag,” explains Bernadett Vajda, an internationally acclaimed fashion model and a professional image and style consultant. “With a classic bag, the maintenance is low to none.”
Note: Prices listed were accurate as of press time; pricing fluctuations may occur.
The office-friendly top-handle bag
The structure and practicality of a top-handle bag make it a classic choice for an everyday purse. Find one in a neutral color (black and nude are always safe) in a size that’s big enough to hold your essentials. Keep your hands free by purchasing a style that comes with a removable shoulder strap. “Investing in a classic black medium size bag with or without a logo will be worth every penny. Just think of the cost per wear (CPW),” says Vajda. “The theory behind CPW is the cost of the item plus the cost of maintenance divided by the number of times you will wear it. With a classic bag, the maintenance is low to none leaving you with a day bag you can wear with every outfit and for generations to come.”
Try this Naturalizer Dylana tote, for a roomy play on a timeless design. The classic construction with removable tote will make it your go-to wardrobe staple for years to come. Here are the style secrets of women who always look put together.
A relaxing weekend trip deserves a quality bag to match, and weekender styles double as perfect carry-on bags. Try a small duffel in a neutral shade, or the forever-favorite black that Vajda suggests her clients. Don’t be afraid to venture into the men’s department for this one—the overnight bags there tend to be sturdier than the ones in the women’s department. But don’t over-pack: these are items you’ll regret bringing on vacation.
This Lulu Dharma Weekender bag is an affordable way to spruce up your love of neutral colors and bring all your favorite essentials on an overnight trip.
The evening crossbody bag
This is your go-to bag for a night on the town. The bag should be large enough to hold your wallet, keys, and a bit of makeup, but not so large it becomes a nuisance. “Everyone loves a crossbody bag with removable straps,” says Victoria Sanchez-Lincoln, a former fashion director at major glossy magazines including Real Simple and Latina. “This way it can be used as a clutch and also as a smaller bag inside a larger tote. Go for a soft leather that can expand so you can stuff in more things.”
This Makeda Crossbody from Parker Clay is the perfect example of versatility, supple leather, and quality that can be worn day to night. These 15 simple fashion upgrades make you look expensive.
The everyday tote
“Consider the tote for all four seasons, and size matters,” quips Bernadett Vajda. “Keep it proportional to your frame, make sure it’s not too big and doesn’t cover half your body. For the tote to work all four seasons, stay away from logos and keep it a solid color. There are great leather and vegan options to keep the cost down and you won’t worry if it gets scuffed or dirty.”
Try this Nisolo Women’s Lori Tote, in rich suede for a polished casual look that will stand the test of time.
The evening clutch
For a chic evening out, go back to basics with a sleek clutch. If you like sparkle, choose one with glittery embellishments. If you prefer to make a statement with color, look for one in a bold shade. Make sure the clutch can accommodate your phone, ID, credit card, and keys. Sanchez-Lincoln suggests taking this evening clutch moment as an opportunity to shine—literally—with a metallic finish. Just remember to pack light. Here are items you should never carry in your purse.
Opt for an easily-cleaned, timeless metallic finish in silver, gold, or pearl, like this Isobel bag from Nina.
A sensible luggage set
Not only will quality luggage get you through airport security in style, but it’s also more likely to hold up more safely to the wear and tear of travel. Look for one in a standout color you’ll be able to identify on the luggage carousel. Avoid making these airport mistakes before your next flight.
Try this eBags EXO 3.0 EXP Hardside Spinner Set, which comes with two versatile sizes of protective luggage—perfect for a long journey for one, or easily shared with a loved one.
The daytime crossbody bag
Don’t be afraid to choose a bag in a color that makes a statement. A cherry red, bold blue, or bright green works perfectly in all four seasons. If that’s not you, look for one in a nude tone with an interesting design.
Try this high-quality Ash Saddle Bag by Clove + Revel in an always-fashionable port shade of genuine leather, or stick with easily-coordinated basic black. Either way, this bag will be your go-to for running errands, meeting up with friends, and milling about.
A trendy mini-backpack
This bag is always handy—and not just because it frees up your actual hands. Mini backpacks are a trendy way to incorporate bolder colors, fabrics, and hardware finishes into your every day look, and are typically affordable. They’re a great way to evenly distribute weight, too.
Try this MYTAGALONGS mini backpack in an eye-catching rose or indigo shade, and wear it year after year with different outfits to keep the look fresh and on-trend.
A versatile diaper bag
Whether you’re currently a mom or planning to be one in the future, a timeless diaper bag is one of the essential bags you’ll rely on for years at a time—especially if you plan on having more than one child. “A diaper bag has to be both functional and stylish,” explains Sanchez-Lincoln, “Plus it should have compartments, offer easy access, and be machine washable.”
Carrying a diaper bag doesn’t mean you have to look like you’re carrying a load of potentially gross gear though, which is why the right bag will have the style of a purse you’d wear without kids and the function of one you couldn’t survive a day at the playground without.
Try this 7AM Enfant BK718 Backpack for a city-chic approach to parenting.
The bright, colorful summer tote of your dreams
Don’t think of a summer tote as a limited-time engagement, because anytime you head on a warm-weather vacation, that bag will be back on display. Warm weather is the perfect time to play up your wild side, so get ready to show off your love of color. “You can get it in neutral colors if it’s your every day essential,” tells Ali Levine, a celebrity stylist and fashion expert with a client roster including Lisa Vanderpump and Candace Bure, “Or go for bright colors if you want something fun.”
This BuddyLove Destin Bag is sure to bring a smile to your face well into September.
One really good designer bag
“Everyone needs one of these,” shares Levine. “We all drool over and obsess over a certain bag or a certain designer. This type of bag is usually something you save up for, and you keep for years. Sometimes you even pass it down in the family.”
While a good designer bag can elevate typical jeans-and-tees, little black dresses, or other looks, it doesn’t have to break the bank. Head to stores like Marshall’s for discounted name brands you’d likely buy at major department stores.
This famous Italian designer piece was marked down by over $500 recently.
An easily-packed clutch
A clutch bag is like the little black dress of accessories, readily lending itself to both day and night time occasions and is easily packed in luggage for vacation ensemble options. “It’s perfect for date night, but also for not carrying a huge purse,” shares Levine of this wardrobe staple. “It’s easy to travel light with a clutch, add a statement, pop of color, or play with prints and texture to an otherwise simple outfit.”
This Tribe Alive fold-over clutch is just as chic with worn summer denim as it is a chunky black sweater and caramel-colored skirt. It’s a great gift for the impossible-to-shop-for woman on your list too.
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