Where to Carry Your Handbag


Yesterday I did a post on What Size Handbag to Choose – one of the commenter’s asked about handbag placement,  should you wear it at your hips or under your arm,  down the side of your body and what happens when you wear it across your body?

The answer lies in knowing your body shape and your personality style.
Let’s take a look at body shape first.
If you want to de-emphasize a part of your body, don’t place your handbag at that point.  So if you are an A (pear) or and X (hourglass) or 8 shape, don’t wear your handbag on a long strap with the handbag sitting against your hips as this will further widen your hips.
Or carrying your bag on the side of your body will also draw attention to the hips, but if you carry it infront it can disguise a more curved tummy (O, H and V).

But if you are an O, H,  V or an I shape then this hip length bag placement is great for you.

Carrying your bag low at your knees is great for all but the petite woman, who it will shorten as it draws the eye downward.

Under your arm is great for X, 8, A, H and I shapes, but not so great for V and O shapes as it adds bulk to the upper body.   The more you wear the bag on your back (pushing it behind you with your arm), the less it intrudes on your silhouette.

Across your body is an option for H, I and V shapes, but it will distort your clothing and is better for those with a small bust.

cross body bagIf worn to the side, not so great for those who don’t want to draw attention to their hips.

monet mazur cross body bag at backIf worn at the back, great for women with flatter bottoms (I, H and Vs), not so great for A, 8 and X shapes.

What is also important is not only the placement of the bag, but what it’s made of.  So a bag that is soft and shapes to the body will not appear as bulky or enlarging, as one that is wider or made from a more structured material.

Of course we now add in the all important personality factor.  Those who are more casual and relaxed and like to be comfortable and no-fuss, will not want to carry their bag in their hand or in the crook of their elbow, and may not like to wear a bag hanging from one shoulder, instead they are more likely to look for a messenger style bag that goes across their body, or a back pack, both of which are hands-free options.  Alternatively they may choose to not carry a bag at all!

Classic and more conservative women tend to look for a structured shoulder bag.

Dramatic women will choose a larger scale bag, and are often happy to carry it in the crook of their elbow, as  will many who are more feminine.

Creative types care less how they carry, and more about the design of the bag.

So how do you like to carry your bag and how would you describe your personality.

Celebrity pics from People.com
Japanese Obi Bag from Kimono Chic at Tokyo Made – you can buy it there – yum!


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  • Hi Imogen,

    Thanks for addressing my question!

    I am definitely 'relaxed', hence messenger style across the body. Putting it behind instead of on the side is a good tip; I will keep it in mind. And being an X, I don't put it low, it's at the high hip. Small bust helps, too 🙂

    I will look out for an unstructured bag to carry under the upper arm as an occasional alternative. I wanted a colorful bag anyway, this would be a good combination.

    Tall & slim anon

  • Remember that while aesthetics are important (I didn't study art for years for nothing, and have no trouble understanding the proportions in your entries) so are ergonomics.

    I'm even bustier than you are: if I'm in some semi-business situation, will be photographed or otherwise have to look specially nice, I'll definitely shorten the strap on my Ameribag so as to look nice and not be cut across the bust, although the strap hurts my shoulder, with the computer and everything else in there.

    But this kind of bag: http://www.ameribag.com/home.php also made by LLBean and several other firms, and artesans (with variations due to patented innards) looks much more "casual professional" than camping or student backpacks do, and they don't kill yer back. I'm over 50. I often have to lug around a laptop, art material, etc.

    On the bicycle not so many people are looking at me front-on, and I have been photographed using the bag – it gives a nice dynamic line, better than a rucksack.

    I do have two pretty leather handbags too – a plain medium-sized shoulder bag and a little party bag. But I do use them much less.

  • That chicken-arm with the little bag crooked in it never looked pleasing to me regardless of body type. Fuller busted women in a cross-body bag look trussed. Most women can wear a shoulder bag if it's the right scale.

  • My bag lenths are all different, though the casual styles (messenger bag when I need my laptop along, small everyday tapestry bag) sit close to my hip which is certainly not as flattering for me. My three favorite bags are all structured vintage purses (brown alligator, red lizard, and black calfskin with gold tooling) usually carried in the crook of my elbow, but I'll ocaisionally hike them onto my shoulder for added security. If I'm traveling really light, some days I've also been known to use my oversized red wallet as a clutch! I'm on a tight budget, so buying vintage handbags gives me interesting, beautifully made bags, but I don't get much choice about where they sit!

  • I carry all but three ( 2 clutches, 1 chain bag ) on the crook of my left elbow. For me, that is the natural place for a bag. Maybe I´m trying to camouflage myself with my great exotic bags. Since a bag, shoes and coat is the first impression of me, I like to make a nice first appearance ; ) !

  • Wow. I have never even considered that the way I carry my handbag is adding/detracting to/from my overall appearance. My handbag is a mere practicality for me. Needs to be big enough to fit stuff in, but small enough not to be cumbersome, and I *hate* anything that I need to hold on to to keep it in place. So therefore, it must be worn crossbody, but not long enough that it's bumping into my hips (another annoyance). I hate wearing it behind me because I'm always worried someone will steal from it whilst I'm distracted (which I often am).

  • Interesting, Imogen! Not sure what body shape I am (think it's an H-shape with 32D boobs) but I like my bags to have some structure so that they sit nicely if I put them down – can't bear it when they sort of splodge there! I like to wear them either just under my arm if they have a shoulder strap, or in my hand or in the crook of my elbow. Hate wearing long straps, cross the body or back-pack style. Looks as though I'm going hiking and a gift to pickpockets. 🙂

  • Amen, Iagatta a Montreal! Thanks for the link, I didn't know about these.

    On the note of ergonomics, it shocks me when people count shoes as accessories. I only get shoes from Ecco and other health-minded makers (save for special occasion ones). They are quite pricy … I get only basic colors and wear them on and on and on (my ethical considerations come in, too, I try to reduce the amount of leather I consume as much as possible).

    Tall & slim anon

  • What a great post! In applying this to the bags I carry, I am pleased with my choices, but had never made the connection. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  • Oh my goodness! I never even considered where my bag hit my body as part of my daily dress calculation. After reading this, I need a nap! 🙂 When I wake up I'm sure I'll know what to do!

  • Such a great post! This is something most of us never even think about until we see a pic of ourselves and wonder why our hips (stomach, rear, whatever) looks so much larger. THANK YOU!

  • Having gone to a all girls school, with stirck uniform guidlines which our school bag was part of. If we were left handed we had to carry a school bag on our right arm almost in the bend of our arm at the elbow but was not allowed to carry it in the bend, we was not allowed to carry in front of us or to the side (if you imagine you body have square edges, it had to be on the corner) and if you could hit you bag with you leg then you had to take smaller steps as you was considered to not be walking like a lady and vice versa if you was right handed. I have been out of school for 10 years now and I can't get out of the habit, I carry my bag on my left arm about a hand width out from the elbow. I do have a smaller bag from my daily handbag for when I go out and that is carried in the same manner.

  • So great to have some practical reasons for why we do the things we do – I”m loving this website. Just like to point out tho, that the website for the cute little bag has been closed due to the tsunami. 🙁

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