Handbag Shapes and Styles – How to Choose To Suit You


Handbag Shapes and Styles - How to Choose To Suit YouLength of Handbag Strap

Length of Handbag straps

Strap length will determine how the bag is carried and where the emphasis is placed on your body.

  • If you have a larger tummy you may like to hold a bag in front – thus a short strap is ideal as you can hook it over your arm and wear it in the crook of your elbow.
  • If you prefer to wear a bag over your shoulder, think about how long the strap is.  If it’s long and the bag sits beside your hips, it will make your hips look wider.
  • If the strap is shorter and you wear it over your shoulder, you can tuck it under your arm and it won’t add bulk to your hips.
  • If you prefer to go hands free, wearing it across your body, with the bag at the front, side or behind you will change the way you look.  The bag at the front will add a little to your thigh but not too much.  The bag at the side will add width to your hips.  The bag at the back will add volume to your butt.
  • A cross body strap will also emphasise your bust as it cuts in-between your breasts.

So when considering the length of the strap, think about your body shape, what you are happy to highlight, where you’d rather not add any extra volume, and go from there in deciding on strap length.

Which style to choose

Handbag Styles

Look for a bag that is made for the purpose, for the occasion and activity you are undertaking.

  • A work tote is best left at home when going out in the evening, replace it with a clutch.
  • A backpack is fine for jeans and a t-shirt on the weekend, but doesn’t suit a trip to the office.
  • An everyday bag will have some structure, but also some softness so it’s easy to use and carry to many activities.

What about personality style?

Handbag for your personality style

Personality is really important to consider when choosing a bag. Your bag should be an extension of who you are. As you carry it day after day, it’s wise to find a bag that you really love and expresses something about who you are.  Like all our garments and accessories, who we are will make us appreciate different details and colours.

Do you have a large handbag collection?  Do you change bags regularly, or do you tend to have one (or two) bags that you use all the time?


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  • I am currently on the great handbag hunt. After years of black leather backpacks (due to babies and travelling) I decided to break out. Oh my. The first bag; loved the colour and style but after a week it drove me crazy. Wrong length handle and dome shaped top so zipping with one hand was impossible. Bag two was much better but alas cheap and didn’t last long. So I’m back to bag one, being patient but hunting the perfect bag. I had no idea this search would be such a challenge.

    • Hi Janelle,
      You’re not alone on your journey. After being “mum” for 30 years, I decided to get a handbag I loved and the journey is difficult. We’ve become so accustomed to having a practical bag for everyone else’s needs that its hard to pinpoint what we like. I tried to recall what I had before kids and looked at pics, but didn’t work because my tastes have changed and what I carried before I don’t carry around now. I’m guessing as a mother ‘breaking out’ you still have the odd thing you carry for the kids even if its their mail still being addressed to your place?!
      For the first time in my life, I have 4 handbags and a purse that can be used in either of them, and it drives me crazy! I want one size fits all and one bag that suits everything. The practical mother still rules! Thing is the one size fits all is generally a neutral and its not really breaking free, its still restrained. Who could know that a handbag mission could be SUCH a mission. I’ve done a search on this site and am reading all the links on handbags… there has to be a solution to black/cream for me and that does the job with your style. Goodluck.

  • I like bags that go across my body (or a back-pack) for convenience but also because you can just snatch them out of my hands and run away.

    I like the idea of having many bags, but in the end I mostly stick to one. It matches my hair-colour, is in a good spot between casual and creative, and is casual enough for the weekend yet acceptable for work as well.

    Now and then I dream of a larger bag but then I tell myself it’ll only make me carry more stuff around. I’ve also dreamt of colour bags (teal!), but then I’d have to switch depending on other accessories — too much trouble. Finding good quality fake leather is also hard (Mat & Nat is pretty expensive, Esprit left Canada, etc).

    I agree with you that a bag is really important for women: the look, the pockets, the feel … it’s with us all the time!

  • Hi,

    I’ve read that the shape of the handbag should be the opposite of your body type, so if you’re curvy you should go with a more structured shape. I’m petite and curvy, but when I try on more structured handbags I always feel they look out of place, and I usually go with a hobo style bag. But since I’m reading everywhere that it should be the opposite, I’m wondering if I’m missing something.

    Thanks so much!

    • Everywhere else is wrong! That’s old school and advice that should be ignored. Magazines often peddle that old stuff as fashion journalists are not trained in image or the science of style. We’ve discovered that when you harmonize it looks best. So curvy people, curvy accessories. Straight people,straight accessories.

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