I recently received a question from a reader (hello L!) about putting together the perfect “bag wardrobe.” L had just graduated from college and was ready to start building a more professional and “longer term” wardrobe, and invest in key accessories, but wanted to make sure they were the right ones.
I think this is a great way to think about one’s closet. I know that for myself, I purchased haphazardly for years trying out all kinds of various bags until I figured out what my “must haves” were and the various functions they would fill. I sat down and wrote out my must haves as well as nice to haves for my definition of a perfect and well rounded handbag collection. I tried to provide some examples but there are so many bags out there – make sure to explore!
From left to right: the shoulder bag, the convertible clutch, and the work bag.
The Must Have Bags
The Shoulder Bag. Easy to carry, doesn’t take up too much space, and you can put all your every day goodies into it. Something easy to take from walking around running errands in the day, to meeting your friends for a drink at night. Neutral color like black, brown, tan.
The Work Bag. Something understated, preferably without noticeable logos that you can take to interviews. Fits what you typically need to bring for work, including a laptop and files. Looks professional. If you’re really minimalist, this can probably be combined with the shoulder bag, but I would find my work bag too unwieldy for everyday activity. Neutral color.
The Convertible Clutch. Honestly you can just get a regular clutch, but I am very clumsy so most of the time, I appreciate ones that have a strap. This will be a bag that will take you from weddings to nice dinner outs, office parties and more. Tuck the strap in for a more formal look. If you’re going to only have one of these, I think it should be black or close to it.
Once you get the Must Haves checked off, you can start adding….
From left to right: the handheld bag, and the colorful bag
The Cross-body Bag. Something to use casually and when you’re running around and need to be hands free. All my friends who have young children use these quite a lot, they can also be great when traveling. You can have a small one that’s light and maybe add a larger one. I included my Nano as an example here, but my favorite is actually a Talbots bag that I use quite often – I’ll have to take a picture soon!
Another example is this M by MJ that I’ve always found adorable.
The Handheld Bag. An accessory that makes you feel like a lady. And that ideally comes with an optional shoulder strap for those times your hands are full.
The Colorful Bag. If you’re a neutral lover like me, you tend to opt towards “neutral” bags that can match with everything. However, nothing beats a bright color for adding some interest in your outfit. And I’ve found that colors like red, yellow, blue and chartreuse match with more items than you may originally think!
I personally have added this yellow Bottega to my list as a future possibility in this category!
The Hold Everything Bag: To me, this is a bag similar to the work bag but that is a little more casual – that you would take on a casual day to the supermarket or while traveling for pleasure. If you’re a student, you might use it for school. I’m still looking for my perfect one ( thoughI have some in mind).
From left to right: the crossbody bag, the bright clutch, and the hold everything bag
The “It’s Summer!” Bag. I don’t really have one of these. There are some bags that I just think look perfect in the summer – little straw totes, white/canvas colors, fun summer prints. I’d love to add one but I’m always afraid of getting a light color dirty. Maybe I will look into cheaper options.
The Beach Bag. The name is self explanatory, right? Something you can bring on vacation when you head to the beach. Ideally waterproof and something you won’t be bothered about if you get sand in it (which is impossible to get out).
The Bright Clutch. A black one should suit most purposes, but I also think a bright colored clutch looks wonderful against neutral evening wear. It will make you stand out!
I still get the most compliments on my brightly colored YSL clutch (which comes in all sorts of colors).
Note that I tried not to include specific brand names in my main descriptions, because I do think that sometimes we can get attached to a very specific brand/style, and not just the function. I know this is something that I often do, thinking, “I want to get a blue Chanel flap bag!” instead of thinking, “I’d like to get a neutral colored shoulder bag that would work for day/night.” In the past I’ve been overly fixated about a particular brand/style, and just ended up just filling that particular want instead of a genuine need in my wardrobe.
Writing this list took way longer than I thought, and made me realize that there’s still quite a few gaps that I need to fill in my closet, and that I have to stop getting distracted by pretty things along the way. I hope this was helpful to some of you, and would love to hear your comments/feedback – what’s on your “must have” bag list? Do you disagree with anything I had, and what would you add?