Handbags – I think they were my first fashion love (and gosh if I had any design skill, I’d love to be a handbag designer). Before shoes, for me, it was a handbag obsession which started in my university years.
I have quite a collection of handbags and love to change up my bags with different outfits. And I’ve had some hits and misses over the years as I’ve purchased different bags. So I thought I’d share with you some of my tips on what makes a great handbag that is both practical and beautiful.
1. Make Sure it’s Comfortable to Carry
Yes, a handbag, just like your clothing has to have a comfort level that you’re happy with. Many years ago Gucci had a massive sale in Melbourne (they’d never do it now as it “dilutes” the brand) and I picked up a handbag. The thing I noticed was just how comfortably it sat on my shoulder without sliding off, and fit under my arm. I remember thinking “no wonder people normally pay so much for this kind of good design”.
So try on a handbag, and notice does it push your arm out in an uncomfortable way? Does it slide off your shoulder too easily? Do you have to carry it by the handles which is not your style?
We can love the look of a handbag, but if it doesn’t have the right kind of comfort for carrying around (and you will be carrying it around a lot and sometimes for long periods), then you’ll start to resent it pretty quickly.
2. Make Sure it’s Not Too Heavy
I love leather bags as if they get scratched (which they will) they can be improved, unlike all the faux leather handbags. This means my investment will last much longer as just like a good pair of leather shoes, I can polish my leather handbag. That said, sometimes some leather handbags can be very heavy when they are empty, which means as soon as I tip my kitchen sink into the bag, I’ll be carrying 45kg of weight on my shoulder. Not good for my back (or mood).
So test out the bag and notice just how heavy it is. Sometimes that extra metal detail can also weigh down a bag – it looks great but it’s impractically heavy.
3. The Right Pockets for You
Is it just an empty void inside or does it have some pockets? If it has pockets, what kind and how many?
What you like will be personal to you. I’ve discovered for me I don’t like a central divider pocket, but I do like a pocket I can pop a pen or two, a glasses cleaning cloth and some other small pieces. I like a pocket I can store my phone in, and I really like a pocket on the outside that zips up that I can pop my car keys in. This Zohara bag is perfect – it has pockets both inside and on the outside of the bag, front and back!
In a smaller clutch or evening bag, I love lots of card pockets, as I don’t want to cart around my regular wallet, but it’s good to be able to take along a credit card and a few other bits and pieces (like my drivers licence in the olden days when I was “carded” as I looked too young to buy a glass of wine!). My Bellorita fish clutch featured in this post has lots of lovely spots for cards and a nice zip up section too.
I do like a zip pocket too in an evening purse – as that’s where I”m likely to want to put some money as well.
Plus there must be enough space for lipstick, reading glasses, phone and keys as well. Nothing worse than an evening purse that you can’t fit your essentials inside.
4. Zip it Up
I like a handbag that can be fully zipped or closed up so that if I’m travelling and it falls over, nothing falls out. Particularly with totes and larger bags, having a zip closure is something that makes a difference for those times when you need to be able to properly close your bags to keep your contents safe.
This bag from Zoharais in a fabulous teal (a favourite and very versatile colour) and made from good quality leather. I bought it on my recent trip to the UK and have discovered that it’s a brand from Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast (which I also visited while I was there) and I do to collect a little something local on my travels.
5. Make it Beautiful
And then there is the design. I’ve got to love it aesthetically as well. I’m a believer in form plus function – not one over the other.
Colour is one way – and so I have a collection of bags in different colours.
A handbag can be fairly plain in design if it’s in a fabulous colour – colour is the hero.
But if you’re going for a black handbag, then it needs to have some extra design details to make it more aesthetically pleasing. Black and plain = dull and boring and not stylish.
Design details (like on this bag gifted to me from Bellorita) make a potentially boring black clutch a work of art and conversation starter instead. If your outfit is basic, make your bag the hero.
6. Make it Versatile
There may be bags for specific purposes (such as an evening bag), but for your everyday bag, if you tend to be someone who has just one bag that you wear with everything – to everywhere – every day – it needs to be versatile in its design.
- It needs to be dressy enough to relate to your work attire.
- It needs to be soft enough to relate to your casual outfits.
- It needs to go with your colour palette – so that it doesn’t clash with your outfit.
How to choose a bag that goes with all your outfits? Start with the colour being a reflection of your hair colour. This is a signature colour you never take off. You’re always wearing your hair, which is why hair colour is such a great colour for handbags, shoes, coats and belts – as these are the elements of outfits that “go over” lots of other garments.
Alternatively, my second choice is to reflect your eye colour – another signature colour – as again, unless you have a range of glass eyes in different colours, that part of you doesn’t change from day-to-day.
More Tips on Choosing Handbags
3 Easy Steps to Choosing the Right Handbag – Casual or Formal
Linking up withVisible Monday,Style with a Smile,Not Dressed as Lamb, Ageless Style
Funny that you and Brenda Kinsel both wrote about the fish clutch in the same week! It is stunning.
I love things that are aesthetically pleasing to me. I also tend to go for quality since I’ve had so many bags where the handles fell off, the zipper broke, or the fabric lining tore up. I don’t care for flaps or mind if it has no closure. My current bag is a Love 41 Simple Tote in Dark Coffee Brown. Dark Brown matches both my hair and my eyes although my hair has reddish highlights which only appear in bright light and my eyes have golden highlights. I love that the straps have two rivets for extra strength as that’s any are prone to wearing down. It’s full grain leather but unlined and little hardware to make it lighter. It doesn’t have an internal pockets. That’s fine with me. I’m the type to carry little pouches to hold what falls to the bottom of my bag and everything else has a dedicated case. I usually carry a full size binder (I use it to hold all my notes and I needed something expandable because I kept filling out the journal type ones). I carry two cases. One has flat things like cards, pictures, and mini composition books) and the other has bulky things (beauty utensils, my keys, and writing utensils; thinking about getting a trio of bags to separate those further) . I have a case which hold my Nintendo 2DS, all my games, and it’s accessories. I need to get a case for my tablet and e-reader to prevent them from getting further scratches. I don’t own a cell phone. I also carry hard cases for my regular glasses and my sunglasses. I also tend to favor large bags to coordinate with my large bust (34H). Smaller bags look childish one me and never fit everything I carry. I also like unique looking bags. I never see anyone carrying the same bag as me.
There are good points in your article, Imogen. Thank you for sharing
i love your zohara bag, can you tell me the name of it, i cant seem to find it on their website. many thanks.
Hi Linda – mine is from last seasons stock – if you contact them you may find they have some around still!
You mention that leather bags can be polished. With what? If I use shoe polish, it rubs off horribly on my clothes.
I use a clear polish or use a leather paint or dye if it’s coloured and gotten really scratched – it’s all about buffing and buffing til nothing comes off anymore
If you love handbags, especially vintage ones, like I do, you’ll love the Handbag museum in Amsterdam. I was there a couple of years ago and it traces the history of the handbag over about 500 years. It’s slightly off the beaten tourist track, and no worse for that and it is one of my favourite memories from my time there. I dearly wanted a tulip bag but found the colours too bright for me!
I am curious as to what to do if you have different eye colour in both your eyes. Example, my right eye is split top half blue and bottom dark brown and my left eye is aqua green. Please help
Use them all! Maybe a multicoloured handbag for you