hand bag buying guide
hand bag buying guide

Things To Consider When Buying A Bag

12 minutes, 33 seconds Read

Buying a new handbag can be an exciting experience. With so many styles, brands, and prices to choose from, it’s important to consider a few key factors to ensure you select the right bag to fit your needs and budget. Here are some of the top things to keep in mind when shopping for a new bag:

Key Takeaways

  • Determine how you will use the bag – for work, travel, weekends, special occasions, etc. This will help narrow down size, features, and style options.
  • Consider the quality and durability of materials like leather, canvas, nylon, etc. Higher quality materials will last longer.
  • Make sure the size and shape suits your body frame and is proportional. Test out the bag by filling it will your everyday essentials.
  • Select a timeless over trendy style that you can wear for years to come. Classic silhouettes won’t go out of style.
  • Set a budget and stick to it. Designer bags can be pricy, but you can find quality options at lower price points too.
  • Shop with a purpose – don’t just buy a bag on impulse. Make sure it fills a void in your collection.

How Will You Use The Bag?

One of the first things to think about is how you plan on using the handbag. Determining the primary use of the bag will help narrow down the size, features, and style options when shopping. Here are some common uses for handbags:

Work Bag

If you need a handbag for work, look for styles like totes, satchels, or shoulder bags that have enough room to hold documents, a laptop, and other items you need to take to the office. Leather or nylon are good materials for work bags since they are durable and withstand daily use.

Everyday Bag

For an everyday handbag you’ll use running errands and shopping, choose medium sized bags like hobo bags, crossbody bags, or small shoulder bags. Look for compartments to organize essentials like your phone, keys, wallet, and cosmetics.

Evening Bag

Evening bags are smaller, elegant styles like clutches or minaudières that can hold just the essentials for a special night out. Look for a style that complements your outfit but avoids delicate materials like satin or beading.

Travel Bag

When traveling, choose a roomy tote bag or duffle bag that has sturdy material like leather or canvas to withstand being loaded with items and tossed around on your journey. Interior and exterior pockets help keep your things organized while in transit.

Beach/Pool Bag

For the beach or pool, it’s best to carry a waterproof nylon or vinyl bag that can get wet without getting damaged. A drawstring closure, mesh side pockets and bright colors are great features for a beach bag.

Bag Materials

The materials used to construct the handbag are one of the biggest considerations, as they affect the quality, durability, and price. Here are some of the most common materials used:

  • Leather: Leather handbags are very durable and age beautifully over time. Full grain is the highest quality. Options like calfskin leather are supple and lightweight.
  • Canvas: Cotton canvas is a lightweight and casual material. Coated canvas is very durable and water resistant. Popular brands like LV monogram canvas last for years.
  • Nylon: Nylon bags are weather resistant, washable, and durable while being lightweight. It’s often used for sports bags and backpacks.
  • Polyester: Polyester is a synthetic material that is more affordable but less structured. It’s easy to care for and can be made to imitate leather.
  • Straw: Straw handbags have a breezy, beachy look. They are usually made from raffia, willow, or seagrass and are perfect for summer.

Size and Shape

When selecting a handbag, be sure to choose one that is proportionate with your body frame and height. Make sure the scale and shape of the bag suits your needs as well. Here are some size and shape options:


  • Small bags: Clutches, crossbody bags, phone bags
  • Medium bags: Shoulder bags, hobo bags, satchels
  • Large bags: Totes, hobo bags, travel/weekender bags


  • Rectangle: Barrel bags, hobo bags, totes
  • Square: Box bags, frame bags
  • Oval: Doctor bags, bowler bags
  • Unique shapes: Half-moon, triangle, circle bags

Try filling the bag with the items you’ll need to carry on a daily basis to test the capacity. Make sure it’s not too small or overwhelmingly large for your stature.

Classic Versus Trendy Styles

Handbag trends come and go, but classic silhouettes stand the test of time. When shopping for a new bag, consider if you want a style that will only be on trend for a season or two, or one that you can carry for years to come.

Classic styles include:

  • Shoulder bags
  • Tote bags
  • Satchels
  • Hobo bags
  • Crossbody bags
  • Clutches

Trendy styles include:

  • Micro bags
  • Whimsical shapes
  • Neon colors
  • Unusual closures
  • Major logos

While it can be fun to buy a trendy bag, it may look dated after a year or two. Focusing on classic over trendy styles is recommended if you want to get longevity from your investment.

Quality and Budget

Designer handbags can cost thousands of dollars, but thankfully there are plenty of quality options available at lower price points too. Setting a handbag budget ahead of time and sticking to it will help narrow down the selection.

Here are some tips for finding quality bags that fit your budget:

  • Calculate the cost per wear – a $100 bag you wear daily for 5 years is a better value than a $500 bag you wear once a month.
  • Check out brands that offer quality leather bags from $150-$500 like Tory Burch, Coach, Kate Spade, Dooney & Bourke.
  • Shop department store brands and outlet malls for discounts on premium brands.
  • Search sites like eBay, Poshmark, Thriftbooks for pre-owned designer bags in “like new” condition at 50-60% off retail.
  • Wait for seasonal sales around the holidays, Black Friday, etc. to score major discounts. Sign up for email lists!

Fill a Void in Your Collection

It’s always tempting to buy a beautiful bag when you see it, but take a pause first to consider if it fills a hole in your current handbag collection. Shopping with purpose will prevent redundant purchases and save your wallet.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I already own something similar?
  • Would this work for an occasion/event I attend regularly?
  • Does it fit my lifestyle needs – work, travel, everyday?
  • Will it transition well across seasons?

Make a list of what’s missing from your closet and stick to finding those styles rather than buying on impulse. Cross items off as you go to build the perfect all-purpose handbag collection.

Key Features To Look For

Once you’ve determined the style, material, size and budget – take a look at these key features when evaluating specific handbag options:


  • Pockets and compartments
  • Zipper or snap closure
  • Lining material
  • Key fob or lanyard


  • Number and placement of pockets
  • Type of handles – short, long, chain, leather
  • Adjustable, convertible or removable strap
  • Reinforced corners and bottoms
  • Metal feet

Other Considerations

  • Phone pocket or compartment
  • Laptop sleeve for work bags
  • Sections to organize cosmetics, pens, cards, etc.
  • Bag weight when empty and filled
  • Water resistance

Trying on the handbag and testing the features will ensure you select the perfect bag to match your daily needs and keep you organized on the go.

Popular Handbag Styles

Here is an overview of some of the most popular handbag styles to consider:

Tote Bags

Tote bags offer ample space and an open top for everyday use. They come in many sizes and materials from basic canvas to luxurious leather:

  • Longchamp Le Pliage: Foldable nylon tote perfect for travel
  • Louis Vuitton Neverfull: Iconic LV monogram coated canvas tote
  • Longchamp Le Pliage Cuir: Buttery leather version of the famous nylon tote
  • Cuyana Zipper Tote: Structured leather zip-top tote for work
  • Herschel Novel Duffel: Casual canvas zip-top tote for weekends

Crossbody Bags

Crossbodies have an adjustable long strap to wear comfortably across the body hands-free:

  • Gucci Marmont Mini: Elegant tiny matelassé leather mini bag
  • Louis Vuitton Pochette Accessories: Classic monogram canvas crossbody clutch
  • Tory Burch Kira: Pebbled leather chevron quilted crossbody
  • Kate Spade New York Margaux: Saffiano leather crossbody with an adjustable chain strap
  • Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Mini: Cut proof material with locking zippers for security

Shoulder Bags

Shoulder bags have shorter straps designed to hang near the hip and rest in the crook of your arm:

  • Chloe Woody Tote: Slouchy suede and leather tote with boho vibe
  • Saint Laurent Sac De Jour: Structured leather work tote with accordion sides
  • Gucci Jackie 1961: Classic piston closure shoulder bag inspired by Jackie Kennedy
  • Polene Numero Dix: Sleek French leather saddle bag with belted detail
  • Michael Kors Jet Set: Signature MK monogram shoulder bag for everyday


Satchels are defined by their classic doctor-bag shape with flat bottom and zipper closure:

  • Louis Vuitton Neverfull MM: Roomy tote version of the monogram satchel
  • Tory Burch McGraw: Pebbled leather satchel with elegant top handle
  • Madewell The Transport Satchel: Casual everyday satchel in quality leather
  • Polene Numero Un: Buttery full-grain French leather satchel
  • Longchamp Le Pliage Neo: Nylon satchel great for travel or commuting

Hobo Bags

Hobo bags have a crescent shape and slouch beautifully when worn in the crook of your arm:

  • Bottega Veneta Shoulder Pouch: Iconic woven leather hobo clutch with knot details
  • Chloe C Bag: Soft rounded leather hobo bag with braided shoulder strap
  • Michael Kors Sutton: Signature monogram print leather hobo
  • Tory Burch Gemini Link: Pebbled leather hobo with shiny chain accents
  • COACH Willow: Colorblock leather hobo with removable crossbody strap


Backpacks allow you to evenly distribute weight across two shoulders:

  • Louis Vuitton Palm Springs Mini: Tiny version of the monogram backpack
  • Gucci Ophidia GG Supreme: Logo canvas backpack with leather trim
  • Tumi Voyageur Just In Case: Nylon backpack with lots of organization
  • Herschel Pop Quiz: Casual canvas zip backpack for everyday
  • OiOi Project Adventure: Water resistant nylon backpack made for travel

Choosing Your First Luxury Bag

Buying your first designer luxury handbag is an exciting milestone! Here are some great options to consider for your first investment:

  • Gucci Marmont Mini Shoulder Bag – Iconic GG logo with elegant chain strap
  • Louis Vuitton Neverfull MM – Roomy tote in classic monogram canvas
  • Saint Laurent Lou Mini Bag – Compact leather crossbody with tassel detail
  • Prada Re-edition Nylon Mini Bag – Vintage-inspired nylon bag with a 90s look
  • Chanel Flap Bag or Wallet on Chain – Timeless quilted styles with chain straps
  • Celine Triomphe Shoulder Bag – Modern Celine logo style with luxe leather
  • Dior Saddle Bag – Oblong saddle shaped bag with distinctive details
  • Givenchy Antigona Mini Bag – Structured urban design with envelope shape

Look for versatile, classic styles from heritage luxury brands that will retain value and last for years in your collection!

Handbag Essentials to Keep Organized

The best handbags make it easy to stay organized on the go. Here are some handbag essential items to keep organized in compartments or pockets:

  • Wallet – Keep cash, cards, ID secure in a wallet that fits your bag
  • Phone – Stash your phone in its own dedicated pocket for quick access
  • Keys – Use a key ring, strap, or lanyard to easily locate keys
  • Hand sanitizer and wipes – Keep a mini bottle and pack of wipes for clean hands
  • Face mask – Tuck disposable or reusable masks in an exterior pocket
  • Sunglasses – Have your fave shades on hand in a protective case
  • Power bank – A portable phone charger prevents low battery when you need it
  • Pain relievers – Stash OTC meds for headaches, aches, cramps, etc.
  • Hand cream and lip balm – Mini lotions keep skin moisturized on the go
  • Breath mints – Freshen breath when you can’t brush your teeth
  • Tampons or pads – For unexpected emergencies
  • Hair ties – Pull hair up in a ponytail when it’s hot
  • Bobby pins – Tuck a few in a small case to smooth flyaways
  • Tissues – Helpful for wiping hands or unexpected messes
  • Notebook and pen – Jot down notes, ideas, and reminders

Different Types of Bags for Different Occasions

Having a selection of handbags for different uses and occasions is important for keeping your style versatile. Here are some types of bags suited for various events and activities:

Work Bags

  • Tote bag – Roomy for carrying documents, laptop, and work essentials
  • Leather satchel – Polished and professional with a shoulder strap
  • Structured hobo – Sleek silhouette with space for commute items

Evening Bags

  • Envelope clutch – Sleek style that fits essentials for an evening out
  • Woven pouch – Textural handheld clutch adds visual interest
  • Wristlet – Compact wristlet with removable strap for night outs


  • Crossbody bag – Hands-free style perfect for errands and tasks
  • Shoulder bag – Easy access with enough room for daily essentials
  • Nylon tote – Lightweight with multiple pockets for organization


  • Tote bag – Durable and roomy bag that fits everything you need
  • Backpack – Both hands free and weight evenly distributed
  • Duffle – Casual and practical with lots of packing space


  • Straw tote – Lightweight and breathable for beach essentials
  • Nylon tote – Durable and water resistant material
  • Mesh bag – Allows sand to fall through the bag


  • Backpack – Hands free bag to carry all hiking gear comfortably
  • Durable tote – Withstands the elements and rough handling
  • Crossbody bag – Lightweight and secure for valuables

10 Handbag Styles and Names

Here are 10 of the most popular handbag styles and names:

  1. Tote bag – A classic open top tote with double straps. Great for everyday use.
  2. Shoulder bag – A crescent shaped bag with a short strap meant to hang from your shoulder.
  3. Satchel – A structured bag with top handles and a flat bottom. May have an optional crossbody strap.
  4. Hobo bag – A slouchy crescent shaped bag that dangles from your shoulder.
  5. Crossbody bag – A small bag with a long adjustable strap meant to be worn across your body.
  6. Clutch – A hand-held evening bag without straps. Can be envelope-shaped, box-shaped or fold-over style.
  7. Wristlet – A very small bag with a short wrist strap. It can be carried or worn on the wrist.
  8. Backpack – Soft or structured bag with two adjustable shoulder straps worn on your back.
  9. Messenger bag – A rectangular bag with a long adjustable crossbody strap worn across your body.
  10. Bucket bag – A bag with a drawstring closure and a shoulder strap shaped like a bucket. Casual slouchy style.

Factors To Consider When Purchasing a Handbag

  • Use – Will this be an everyday, travel, or special occasion bag?
  • Size – Make sure it fits what you need to carry but isn’t too bulky.
  • Material – Leather and canvas last longest. Nylon is lightweight. Consider weatherproofing.
  • Compartments – Interior and exterior pockets keep you organized.
  • Comfort – Adjustable, padded straps prevent digging into your shoulder.
  • Security – Zipper closure and flap over snap button keep items safely inside.
  • Budget – Set a spending limit and stick to it. Don’t overspend on impulse.
  • Style – Choose classic over trendy so it stands the test of time.

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