Whether you’re just starting to care about handbags, or you simply want to add a bag to an already covetable collection, read on to learn about what I believe to be the 5 basics of a great handbag collection!


Handbags serve so many purposes, the most notable being that they often contain the contents of our lives. I have been a long time lover of handbags, so today I’m imparting my wisdom on the 5 parts of a well-rounded handbag collection. Also included in this post are shopping tips to make sure you end up with the perfect structured satchel, do-it-all tote, versatile shoulder bag, clutch and statement bag.

Shown, from left (may only link reference source of photo, bag might not be available for purchase): Celine Tie Tote, Annabel Ingall Large Isabella Tote in Mist, Loeffler Randall Medium Rider Leather Crossbody Bag in Black, Clare V. Foldover Clutch in Leopard, Henri Bendel A-List Satchel in Turquoise


Arguably the star of all the handbags I’m going to cover today, the structured satchel is my handbag of choice. This style is sleek, chic and works in most situations, professional or off-duty, so you could call this your everyday bag. Many structured satchels have a top-handle, accompanied by a shoulder strap, making it a versatile staple in your handbag collection. I will say, structured bags in general have a habit of tipping over, so having a secure closure is very helpful!

Shown: Serapian Milano Luna Leather Satchel in Cream, Tory Burch Lee Radziwill Bag in Moose, Strathberry Midi Tote in Black, Reiss Chancery Leather Satchel in Mid Grey, Cuyana Trapeze Satchel in Stone


The tote goes by countless names: ‘Mary Poppins’ bag, work bag, carry-on, super hero. My favorite kind of tote is the slouchy, buttery leather kind. Totes come in all shapes and sizes, so when deciding on what kind of tote you want (need), think about what you’ll use it for. If it’s going to be purposed as a work bag, does your laptop fit? If it’s an everyday bag, are there compartments so you don’t loose everything into the abyss? Will it turn into a beach bag one day, and if so, can you get a towel, bikini and sunscreen in there? But most importantly, make sure the tote you end up with does it all.

Shown: Cuyana Tall Structured Leather Tote in Stone, Rebecca Minkoff Megan Tote in Tahini, Little Liffner Large Open Tulip Tote in Black, 3.1 Phillip Lim Odita Modern Lattice Shopper, Senreve Voya Tote in Dolce Butterscotch


A versatile shoulder bag is one with adjustable straps to convert from shoulder bag to crossbody. You may not realize how important this function is, until you’re carrying a crossbody with a fixed strap, or a shoulder bag that you’d like to style as a crossbody. Many shoulder and crossbody bags have adjustable straps, but there is a considerable amount that do not, so be cognizant of this while browsing.

Shown: Strathberry Crescent Shoulder Bag in Vanilla/Diamond, Rebecca Minkoff Edie Flap Shoulder Bag in Equestrian, Mulberry Medium Lily in Charcoal Small Classic Grain, Polène Numero Un in Black Crocodile, MICHAEL KORS Large Whitney Convertible Shoulder Bag in Hemp and Leather


Many think the clutch only identifies as an evening bag, but that’s simply not the case. Clutches are wonderful lunch companions! They’re also very handy to store essentials (money, ID, keys, lip), and stash in your do-it-all tote bag, in case you need to run to the corner coffee shop mid-workday and don’t want to haul that beast around with you.

Fun tip: once you have a great basic clutch, go crazy with pops of color or bold prints!

Shown: Oliveve Anastasia Clutch in Black Snake, Senreve Bracelet Pouch in Pebbled Chestnut, Rebecca Minkoff Leo Clutch in Ballet, AERIN Suede Pouch in Sand, Botkier Lennox Flap Clutch in Croco


So the statement bag isn’t necessarily imperative, UNLESS it is. Your wardrobe and handbag collection will survive without a statement bag, UNLESS they won’t. The right statement bag will present itself to you, and you’ll just know in that moment that you must buy it. It’s destiny. There aren’t many rules when it comes to a statement bag, because chances are, it’s going to be a trend. But say it with me – trends always. come. back. Retire your statement bag to its dust bag and store in your closet if you find you aren’t reaching for it as much over time. You’ll be happy you held onto it one day!

Shown: Yuzefi Doris Shoulder Bag in Caramel, Loeffler Randall Alma Large Shopper Tote in Leopard, Cult Gaia Eos Box Clutch in Sand, The Kooples Medium Ostrich-Print Emily Bag, Tory Burch Lee Radziwill Bag in New Cream


When shopping for your key structured satchel, tote, shoulder bag or clutch, look for one in a color that complements your palette for maximum wearability. Often, neutrals like black, brown or cream/white are good choices, and I’d even include grey and navy blue as easy colors to incorporate. If you need print in your life, look for a bag with a patterned liner! Keep the exterior of the bag classic and mostly solid, or colorblocked!

Be mindful of the hardware tone (if any). I’m all for mixing metals, but not everyone is, so if you wear primarily gold, look for a bag with gold hardware. If you’re starting out taking baby steps with mixing metals – proud of you – gold and silver are always a good pair, and rose gold goes particularly well with silver or hematite (gunmetal).

Regarding material, it’s helpful to decide first if you’re interested in leather, vegan leather, canvas, nylon, etc. There are also varying properties within each material category, and the most important to keep in mind is maintenance. Often, handbags are treated to a certain extent during fabrication, to protect the material. That said, certain materials are very susceptible to stains no matter what, so re-treating with a protectant when possible is (almost*) always a good idea.

*When using liquid on any material, whether it’s a cleaning agent or protectant, refer to care instructions from the brand. Also, I usually test the liquid on a small, discreet place and allow a day to dry, to make sure there aren’t any adverse effects.

PRO TIP: BEWARE of the light colored handbag against denim. Color transfer is no joke, and 9 times out of 10 is the kiss of death to any bag. No matter how many times you have washed your denim, be very careful if the bag rubs against it.

The last tip I offer refers to the bag’s opening: make sure you can get into the bag, and it’s not a complete pain in the you-know-what. There are beautifully designed bags out there, but if the zipper rips up your hand when you reach in, or if you have to un-flap, un-clasp AND un-zip to get to your wallet, run, don’t walk, away from that bag.

Handbags have been, and probably always will be, my favorite accessory. I’d love to hear about your go-to handbag, or other favorite accessory!

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