The Complete Handbag Wardrobe

complete handbag wardrobe capsule collection

I had the idea to write this post while standing in the room that perhaps sparks my best creativity: a client’s walk-in closet.

Surrounded by clothes, bags and shoes galore, I realized that as I stylist I preach a lot about what constitutes a functional wardrobe. You know, all those classic and timeless goodies we should all own? However, one aspect of a well-balanced wardrobe that’s often not given its due credit is the handbag.

Whether luxury designer or NYC street vendor created, there really is no substitute for a great handbag. It’s a piece that’s perhaps the most utilized item in your closet. It’s also a potential collectors item with some women passing down handbags from generation to generation. Did you know that it was recently determined that a designer Chanel handbag is technically a better long term investment than some stock equity? Crazy.

…but I digress.

Just like I advise my clients to take stock of their clothing wardrobe, I also think that it’s important for a woman to have a complete handbag wardrobe. This complete handbag wardrobe should consist of these 6 essentials and a few optional “extras” we’ll get to momentarily!

Read up on all of my recommended bag styles and shop my top picks below:

1. Everyday Bag

This everyday bag is possibly the bag that you’ll be using the most. It’s that hold-everything, yet not-weigh-you-down accessory that’s as functional as it is stylish. This bag should be large enough to fit your keys, phone, wallet, sunglasses, makeup, etc. comfortably. I would recommend investing a bit more in this bag, as you’ll want a quality product that will still look good after hundreds of wears. Stick to natural materials — specifically, leather for a longer lasting accessory. I would also recommend shying away from whites, brights or trendy colors and instead settle on a dark neutral (black, grey, brown, camel, taupe) that will only look better with age.

Personally, my everyday bag MUST have a cross-body or shoulder strap. When I’m running around I prefer to be hands free as much as possible.

Shop The Look:

2. Small Work Satchel

This multi-seasonal bag must be large enough to carry all of your work necessities (minus the laptop). Not only should it look professional and sharp, but it should also transition seamlessly to any afterwork activities. Again, leather is my material of choice. Since you’ll want to be organized for the office, try to find a bag with multiple compartments so that you can easily grab exactly what you’re looking for without dumping out the entire bag’s contents.

Shop The Look:

3. Work Tote

If you’re constantly dragging a laptop with you, I can’t recommend a well-crafted structured tote enough. You’re going to want something that will hold it’s shape, keep your valuable laptop secure and still look good! I strongly suggest you select a large tote that is LIGHT. You don’t want heavy leather or hardware weighing you down — and that’s BEFORE you actually fill it with all of your stuff!

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4. Casual Tote

Out of your entire bag wardrobe, this is the most casual option. This is going to be the bag you bring along to the farmer’s market, the one you throw down on the grass at a playground or outdoor concert and/or fill to the max with your kids’ stuff. It should be soft sided, roomy and easy to clean.

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5. Going Out Bag

For dressier occasions I like to have a smaller bag with a bigger dose of personality. While clutches are nice, I prefer a shoulder or cross body strap for comfort (and a free hand to hold my cocktail!). This is where your whimsy and love for color/print can shine! Black or metallic are probably the most practical choices, but there is no better way to make an evening look stand out than with a bright eye-catching bag! Just ensure that the bag is large enough to fit your night-out essentials: keys, wallet/ID, phone and a lipstick.

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6. Evening Bag

This bag is definitely not as frequently worn as the others, but it should be equally as special. It’s going to be the finishing touch to your most formal looks so you want it to look chic, sophisticated and timeless. Your evening bag should be your smallest in your collection, fitting only the bare essentials.

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Now, as for those “extras” I mentioned…

•  Straw Bag

A straw or basket bag is just what the doctor ordered this summer! This lightened up bag is the ideal summer-ready accessory. This is a good swap for the “going out bag” or the “casual tote” depending on the size and style you select!

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•  Beach Bag

A good beach bag can last you multiple summer seasons! You’ll want to look for a lightweight and comfortable tote style bag that can fit all of your important beach necessities like a towel, snacks, a favorite book and sunscreen.

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•  Travel Bag

When a carry-on rolling bag is simply too much, a good quality travel duffel can come to the rescue. Look for a lightweight bag with multiple compartments to keep your things organized and as wrinkle free as possible. You’ll also want a shoulder strap for easy carrying through airports, train stations and parking lots.

Shop The Look:

What kind of bags do you have in YOUR collection? Which ones can you not live without?

complete handbag wardrobe

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