How to Lighten Your Load

how to lighten your loadIf you’re carrying a million bags, how do you look professional?  How can you lighten your load and reduce the number of bags you’re carrying? Reader R wonders…

I work in a large corporate environment and recently had a daughter. I’m back at work, but I feel like a bag lady. I’m only 5’3″ and have to carry in my laptop, purse, pump, lunch, and coffee. (Not brave enough to add my gym bag to the mix, although I’d like to.) I feel like the bags overwhelm my frame and generally make me look smaller, younger, and unprofessional. How do others juggle all this STUFF?

Congratulations on your daughter, R!  Great question — I can see how this is a problem for new mothers, but also for other people carrying too much stuff.  We’ve talked about what your tote bag says about you, as well as how to save your back while commuting, but we haven’t really talked about a) how to lighten your load, and b) how to balance your load (particularly if you’re petite) so it looks more managed.

From my perspective, most of reader R needs to do is to reduce the amount of stuff she carries.  Some tips: [Read more...]

The Hunt: Interview Tote Bags

The Best Tote Bags for InterviewingSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

It’s been a while since we did a roundup on interview tote bags, so I thought we’d do one now (see our 2012, 2011, and 2010 roundups here). I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: in my mind the perfect interview tote has structure (that it keeps if you set it down), is a muted color like black, and doesn’t have a ton of logos or other bling on it. In terms of size, I think it should be big enough to fit a file folder as well as whatever else you would normally carry in your purse, but not so big that you could fit a beach blanket or groceries in there.  In the past I’ve always preferred nylon to leather (much lighter weight) but I think readers have finally convinced me that the weight doesn’t matter that much.  (What do you think, guys?)  We’ve included some of the classics in previous roundups (such as the Kate Spade Maryanne line, most MZ Wallace bags, nylon Tory Burch totes, and Lo & Sons totes) so I’ll only include the newer ones in today’s roundup. Readers, what are the top qualities you look for in an interview tote? Have you made any great purchases recently? [Read more...]

When Can You Buy an Expensive Handbag?

when-can-you-buy-an-expensive-handbagWe’ve talked about how a $9,000 handbag might be a bit much for an intern — but Reader E wonders when in your career women can buy expensive briefcases and work totes.  How soon is too soon?

I was wondering if you could do a post about expensive handbags for work. Kind of like the Hermes post, but a little bit of a different situation. I’m graduating law school this spring and will be working in a large law firm in the Fall. I want to purchase the Celine mini luggage bag with money I made as a summer associate, but I’m wondering if it’s inappropriate, since the bag costs around $2700. I’d get it in the plain black color. I don’t think it’s nearly as recognizable as the Birkin you discussed (I doubt most people know what it is), but it IS an expensive purchase for someone just starting their career. What do you think for a new associate? The only logo is a small imprint of Celine Paris on the front of the bag.

Great question.  To review: back in 2010, a reader wrote in to ask whether she could carry her Hermes Birkin bag around her law internship.  Considering she was still in school (and didn’t have the job yet), a Birkin bag — which generally costs about the price of a small car — seemed a bit much.  Specifically, back then I worried that the message the intern was sending was that she was rich, and not working for the money.  Since that email, I’ve come up with a rule of thumb:  if you haven’t made enough in paychecks to both pay your rent and buy the bag, you probably shouldn’t bring the bag to work.  So Reader E — who’s already made the money — would be well within my little rule of thumb.  (Pictured:  Celine – Luggage.  N.B.: Overstock has a few Celine Luggage bags on sale for as low as $1960.)

But I think there are other important differences between Reader E and the Birkin-toting intern: [Read more...]

The Bag Lady Reconsiders…

Prada Saffiano Lux Large Top Handle BagWhich are the great, professional, useful totes? If you always carry around a ton of stuff, should you downsize to look more professional? Reader A is about to make her first “really expensive purse purchase” and needs advice…

I would love to get your advice on my first really expensive purse purchase. I currently use a big leather tote day-to-day that can fit my whole world, and as an attorney and a New Yorker, I carry around a lot of stuff. Binders, umbrellas, water, heels, hair and makeup, food, pens, nail file, gloss, fan, gloves — EVERYTHING fits into my trusty Mary Poppins bag. That said…I’m ready to upgrade to something more sophisticated. I hate walking into a meeting or conference and having my purse either brimming with crap or slumping over in a sad black puddle (it used to stand). I have my eye on a Prada Saffiano tote, which fits can fit a slim computer or a small number of papers but is definitely not a carry-all. Will I regret downgrading to a smaller bag for my day to day use? I’m so accustomed to being a bag lady that I am scared to make an expensive commitment to something so much smaller. But it is much prettier, much smarter, and far more put together.

First: congrats on making your first really expensive purse purchase — it looks like there are a number of Saffiano totes available, but just for fun, let’s say you’re talking about the Prada Saffiano Lux Large Top Handle Bag, available at Saks for $2150. My own first expensive purse purchase did not go so well, and I hate to say it but I see similarities between your pending purchase and my purchase. [Read more...]

The Hunt: The Perfect Interview Bag

Mosey - Working Girl (Jet Black)Sure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

This is how I see the perfect interview bag: it’s big enough to fit your folder, a notepad, and everything you would normally carry in your purse, as well as maybe a bottle of water. It’s large, but not so large that the interviewer fears you’re hoping to crash on the couch in the lounge. I always like a black bag (sure, even with a navy suit), and for me, nylon is perfect because it doesn’t get as heavy as a leather bag, and nylon is very easy to clean. (Another bonus: if you accidentally swing around too fast in the elevator, the bag won’t turn lethal.) Oh, and it has to hold its shape by itself (so to me, not a Pliage bag, although those are great for other things). If this sounds familiar, forgive me — I think I go on the hunt every August for the perfect tote bag, and it always amazes me how hard it is to find these suckers online. I think I’ve rounded up some good ones for today’s Hunt, though — check ‘em out below. Readers, what is your ideal bag for interviewing? Have you found any good ones lately?

[Read more...]

The Hunt: Black Tote Bags

kate spade new york Nylon Maryanne ToteiconSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

I feel like a good black tote bag is something every professional woman needs — particularly if you’re gearing up for interviews.  They’re large enough for a folder with your resume, as well as some reading or work (should you find yourself waiting or with some free time), and they’re also great for stashing all of the items you generally carry in your purse.  Readers, have you recently purchased any great black tote bags?  Do you have a classic that you’ve been using for years?

London Fog "Miranda" Tote & Clutch SetI’m not generally a fan of faux leather, but it’s hard to beat the price for this one (at least as far as online sales go): it was $135, now marked to $70. London Fog is a respected name, and I like that it comes with a clutch. It’s 16.25″ at the widest point, 11.5″ high and 5.75″ deep — plenty of space. It was $135, now marked to $69.99 at SmartBargains.com. London Fog “Miranda” Tote & Clutch Set
$220 seems like a lot for a nylon bag, but I actually prefer nylon for tote bags because I think it wears better and is lighter weight. This is just a basic black bag, but I like the internal pockets (including one for your ipad and cell phone), and there are removable and repositionable interior dividers. I like it in black for work, but there are a number of fun colors marked 30% off which might be better for a general purpose “tote bag.” The black is $220 at Mandarina Duck. Mandarina Duck Unexpected Shopper
Tumi is another brand I know and like, particularly for business bags for men and women. I like the leather and nylon combination of this one, as well as the little details like the feet on the bag and the interior pockets. It’s $345 at Amazon. Tumi Voyageur Derby Business Tote
kate spade new york Nylon Maryanne Tote
iconI’m actually most excited about this bag — it seems like ages since Kate Spade had a good nylon tote out. I like the hardware for a bit of interest, as well as the feet, interior pockets, and fun lining. It’s $395 at Bloomingdale’s. kate spade new york Nylon Maryanne Tote
Longchamp Roseau Patent East West ToteI like the durability of patent leather for something like a tote bag — it’s easy to clean and can generally take a lot of use. This East/West tote is simple and basic — I like the slim shoulder straps as well as the toggle closure. It’s $475 at Bloomingdale’s. Longchamp Roseau Patent East West Tote
Fendi black 'Roman' leather 'Selleria' medium tote Hello, lovah. This Fendi bag has me drooling — the pebbled leather! the contrast stitching! the three interior compartments! It’s even on sale at Bluefly: was $2250, now marked to $1620 (including an extra 10% off). Lovely. Fendi black ‘Roman’ leather ‘Selleria’ medium tote

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