I don’t know if I’m the only pen person who is also a bagaholic or not but I am always on the hunt for “the perfect bag?” The perfect bag, like the perfect notebook or the perfect ink or pen seems ever-elusive and different for every person and every occasion.
When not not behind The Desk, I have an office job and I need to carry work-related items like papers, occasionally my laptop, notebooks, pens, maybe lunch, etc. back and forth. We have a casual office and I have a creative job so my requirements aren’t super stringent and I would like something well-made and durable. I’ve been schlepping things in a reusable grocery bag is not the most aesthetically appealing option, nor is it particularly durable.
Many folks wax poetic about the best bag for their purposes and land on a backpack, often large volume. Being a girl of petite frame, a large backpack often too large and, how do I put this without sounding shallow, not stylish enough for my overall goals. Is the “stylish” part specific to me or do other people struggle with finding bags that do “all the things” and don’t look heinous?
Previously, I’ve went through the requisite messenger bag phase but I think a tote is probably the best option for me now. I don’t commute by train or bus so I don’t need to secure valuables beyond the walk between the parking area and the office and any places I might stop along the way. However, I do want to be able to zip or close it to avoid potential inclement weather.
So, I’ve been on the hunt for a tote or tote-of-sorts to carry stuff back and forth to work. Did I mention the part about aesthetically appealing? So, I thought I’d share some of me research here. Maybe someone else has been looking for a hold-all too.
First, the posh bag options. These are the higher priced bags that are classic looking but good quality.
The Longchamp Le Pliage is available in eight different colors and can be folded up and tucked into another bag as a back-up in other situations. The large size is probably best for major hauls but the medium ($115) would hold a small laptop and miscellaneous work detritus. The small size ($95) would look more like a day handbag. I worry the nylon might not be durable long-term and that it will be a bit floppy. However, if it’s good enough for Kate Middleton, it’s probably good enough from me.
Coach Charlie Carryall 40 ($225-$425)
I have been a fan of Coach for a long time. I have carried a large handbag for over eight years and love it with an unhealthy affection. While they are not considered a “luxury brand” like Chanel, Hérmes or Louis Vuitton, I have found that many of their flagship products have been durable and well-constructed. I stay away from the outlet store products knowing they are often produced specifically for the outlets and therefore use lower quality materials and techniques. If I do purchase outlet merchandise, I do it warily. That said, the Charlie Carryall looks solid and durable. There is a zip center pocket but doesn’t zip closed completely.
This Kate Spade tote has all the details I like in a bag: clean lines, classic styling, and a little bling. Thankfully, the lining is a light blush pink or this bag would be a black hole. Delightfully, if I make a decision soon, the Kate Spade bag is on sale right now.
These bags have a more deconstructed, modern sensibility.
Peg & Awl Waxed Canvas Tote ($250)
There is a lot to love about the Peg & Awl Waxed Canvas Tote. It’s got a classic-yet-modern look. It’s made out of durable materials and it is HUGE. These are also some of the downsides for me. The bag is a bit too big for day-to-day use and while I love the aesthetic of the leather closure strap, I tend to have trouble actually latching it so it ends up flapping around most of the time. (If you can’t tell, I already own this one, in black.) I have ended up using it more often for travel as a carry-on bag or a weekender tote. It will last forever but it’s not my office bag.
Fjällraven Totepack No. 1 ($110)
I have an earlier iteration of the Totepack No. 1 by Fjallraven and its a great tote that also doubles as a backpack in a pinch. It even has grab handles which helps shorter folks like myself be able to hand carry the bag rather than throw it over the shoulder on every occasion. It is particularly slim line and deep. Because of the depth, I have a tendency to lose things in the bottom. So while I love the bag overall and I love its convertible-ness, it’s slimness can work against it in becoming the black hole of totes. It’s canvas so to make it truly water resistant, it would need to be waxed but otherwise its fairly secure for everyday travel and commuting. This bag is 90% what I want. The blackhole issue and dialing up weather resistance and looks would make it THE BAG. Maybe switching to the Totepack No. 4 Wide would solve my problems?
Madewell Abroad Tote ($198)
Many people lust after the Madewell Transport Tote but the new Abroad Tote with it’s zip top holds more appeal to me. The finished edges, interior pocket and wider design seem more suited to a work tote.
Since not everyone wants to spend hundreds on a bag, I also researched options that are easier on the budget.
SOLE/SOCIETY Lilyn Tote ($52.99)
The Sole/Society Lilyn Tote definitely takes its cues from the simple looks of Madewell but in a budget-friendly polyurethane material. (Once on Amazon, there are literally hundreds of other simple, budget-friendly totes. It’s a rabbit hole. You’ve been warned.)
Kipling Skyler Tote ($49.99)
I always like Kipling bags. They are durable, fairly weather resistant and a great vegan option for those who request that.. If they are shiny metallic, so much the better. I found this particular tote on the TJMaxx site but there are often great options available directly at Kipling. The Art line of bags has some poissbilities… with its zippable corners so it could double as a day bag or tote?
Nine West Caden Tote ($79.99)
The Caden Tote from Nine West features a zip top closure and the classic looks of the Coach bag mentioned earlier. The little charm adds just enough bling. The bag is made of polyurethane which keeps the price down. While it won’t be as long-lasting as leather, no animal was harmed to make it which is a plus. The color is bright and fresh which is fun. Unfortunately, if you prefer a more subtle color, this design isn’t offered in any other palette. Nine West does have other tote options.
Many of the higher end brands listed earlier have sold totes for years. As a result, there is a thriving resale market online and in local consignment shops. Ebay, Poshmark and other secondhand marketplaces are a great option for getting some of these bags secondhand. This is actually why some of the pricier bags are a better investment. They wear better and last longer. But be warned, many of these popular brands are often counterfeited so careful. If prices on new goods seem too good to be true, they probably are.
Given all these options, which bag would you choose?
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