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Your Essential Handbag Guide

Handbags are a wardrobe essential that come in a variety of styles ranging from duffel bags to satchels.

A purse, also known as a handbag, is a bag that is used to transport money, wallets, phones, and other daily necessities. Purses frequently have a long strap or handle that can be worn over your shoulder or held in your hand. Handbags can be used to transport personal belongings or to make a fashion statement. Some purses have interior or exterior compartments that zip or button to keep items like lip balm, keys, or money secure.

Previously, the term "purse" only referred to small bags designed to carry cash, but it is now frequently used interchangeably with "handbag," which typically refers to larger bags designed to carry everyday items. Purses come in a variety of materials and styles, such as satchels, messenger bags, casual backpacks, belt bags, and tote bags.

A backpack purse is a small bag that has two shoulder straps. The backpack purse, while smaller than a standard backpack, still harkens back to the traditional school bag, giving it a younger and more casual look—great for everyday wear but too informal for business casual or semi-formal dress codes.

A barrel bag is a cylindrical bag with two short straps for carrying and sometimes a shoulder strap for carrying over the shoulder. The barrel bag, which is slightly more structured than a duffel bag, provides a little more formality when travelling but is not casual enough to be used as an everyday bag.

Basket bag: A basket bag is an enclosed shape made of thin pieces of wood or wicker woven together, usually with a knob or latch to open and close the top and a short handle or two. Basket bags are a playful addition to a dressy casual outfit (such as a sundress or jumper) for daytime events such as picnics or brunch.

A belt bag is a hands-free purse that wraps around your waist and snaps shut with a buckle. Belt bags are more structured, versatile, and formal than the ultra-casual fanny pack. They can be a fun, casual way to carry essentials while out and about during the day. Wrap the belt bag around a dress or other dressy casual attire for a night out with friends in the evening (or a date). This bag style is not suitable for business casual attire because it cannot accommodate work essentials such as laptops.

Bucket bag: A bucket bag, so named because of its bucket shape, has a drawstring closure at the top and is ideal for carrying a variety of items. Bucket bags look best with casual, smart casual, or business casual attire.

Crossbody bag One of the most popular and versatile handbags is the crossbody purse. The bag has a long shoulder strap that can be worn over your shoulder or across your body (hence its name). Crossbody bags come in a variety of styles, including the saddlebag (a horseshoe-shaped bag with a flap cover) and bucket bag. Crossbody bags look great with casual, dressy casual, and business casual clothing. This bag style is inappropriate for formal events and occasions.

Clutch: A clutch is a small, thin bag without a handle that is carried by the wearer. A clutch bag is the go-to purse for formal occasions ranging from cocktail to black tie to white tie and is available in a variety of styles (including the classic envelope clutch). Larger clutches can also hold laptops, making them an excellent choice for a work laptop bag.

Doctor's bag: A modern doctor's bag is named after a large, rectangular bag that doctors used to carry medical supplies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Because this bag is all about function, it is typically large and durable, with a flat bottom. Doctor's bags, like barrel bags and duffel bags, serve similar functions, providing ample space for clothing and travel essentials or overnight stays with a touch more formality than a duffel bag for these occasions.

Drawstring bag: A drawstring bag is a type of casual bag made of nylon or cloth that has a drawstring closure at the top, an unstructured interior, and straps that can be worn over your shoulders. These bags are ideal for running errands and everyday use.

A duffel bag (also spelled duffle bag) is a large, unstructured bag that is ideal for travel or overnight stays. It typically has two top handles and one long strap that allows it to be worn as a shoulder bag. This bag is typically made of canvas for durability and is a more casual option for people travelling for pleasure rather than business or a formal event.

A messenger bag is a rectangular bag with a flap that fastens over the top and a long shoulder strap for carrying over one shoulder or across the body. This bag was originally designed for couriers to transport bulky goods, but it has since become a staple accessory in casual wear. Messenger bags are ideal for business casual situations (to carry laptops and work essentials).

Satchel: A satchel is a messenger bag's close cousin, with a long shoulder strap and a flap that fastens over the top. A satchel, on the other hand, is typically thinner and less structured than a traditional messenger bag. Satchels are a popular choice for errands and business casual wear.

Slouchy bag: A slouchy bag (also known as a hobo bag) is an unstructured, open bag with two carrying handles. Slouchy bags are frequently available in large sizes to accommodate a wide range of items. These large bags are ideal for casual use (especially as a beach bag, as they can often fit towels) or business casual use; they are typically too large and unstructured for evenings out or formal business attire.

Tote bag: A tote bag has a similar shape to a slouchy bag but is usually made of a thinner canvas or cloth material. Totes are a casual bag that is commonly used for shopping and errands.

Wristlet. A wristlet looks similar to a clutch in that it is a small, thin, rectangular purse that can only carry a small wallet, a phone, or a few credit cards. A wristlet, on the other hand, comes with a wrist strap that allows the wearer to keep the wristlet attached to their arm even when not holding it like a clutch. Wristlets are perfect for date nights and black- or white-tie events.