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?

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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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Coffee Break – Lo & Sons Travel Tote

Lo & Sons T.T.The other week I was lucky enough to receive two bags from Lo & Sons for review — both the travel tote (“T.T.”) and their overnight/gym bag (the “O.G.”).  I must say, I was really impressed with the design of these bags.  Love the lightweight nylon that they’re made of, as well as the leather straps — but the number of pockets and the intelligence with which they’re laid out is something else.   The T.T. bag, for example, has a laptop pocket, pockets for your technology, outside pockets that are subdivided, a nice long keyfob, and even a sleeve designed to let you attach the tote to your rolling bag — and I loved that it had a bright purple lining, which I think makes it so much easier when I’m digging in my bag. The overnight bag has a similar zippered sleeve (which can be used to attach to a rolling bag or just be used as an outside pocket), as well as a really big outside pocket that is the perfect size for a pair of shoes.  Both are simple and black, too — something my husband will probably appreciate when I inevitably make him carry my bag.  The T.T. is $260, and the O.G. is $295, both available at the Lo & Sons website.

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Please note that all product reviews are subject to the Corporette Review Policy.

The Best Briefcase for Women

Tumi Villa Nivelle Business CaseA few weeks ago, an interesting subject popped up in comments — the briefcase. One commenter advised the readers that in her big city, “not a single woman lawyer I know under the age of 50 carries a purse.”  This led to a small debate between briefcase-carrying women and non-briefcase carrying women.

To my eyes, though, here in NYC it’s rare to see a briefcase. Most women I know carry a large purse (a hobo or some other shoulder bag), and then supplement that with a tote bag when it’s really necessary (sometimes filled with a laptop in a sleeve — never a computer bag).  Those frequently carrying files may switch to a tote/purse combo — but even then it seems like something I saw a lot more of a few years ago, before flash drives, remote log-ins, and other convenient telecommuting tools were invented.  I’ve even written about what your tote bag says about you. [Read more...]

The Hunt: The Lightweight, Professional Tote

Rafe New York - Zue Large Nylon Tote (Black) - Bags and LuggageI have a beloved nylon tote that was my go-to for interviews for a long time. It’s super lightweight, nondescript, and has a simple pocket inside that’s perfect for carrying a few pens and pencils. It is, alas, so “loved” that it’s no longer really a professional thing to take around — the “leather” handles are peeling, there are threads poking out everywhere, and there’s even some sort of big snag on the side.

In case other ladies are looking for a similar tote (either to replace a much-loved version or to buy one for interview season), I thought I’d share my hunt for a new, perfect nylon tote. My old tote dimensions, which I thought were perfect: 15″ wide, by 11.5″ high, by 3″ deep, with an 11″ shoulder drop.

Merona® Croco Work Tote - BlackThis one from Merona has a faux leather look to it, which isn’t usually my thing — but for $29.99 it’s hard to go wrong with it. I like that it includes a lot of interior organization — padded laptop pocket, cell phone pocket, and key ring holder — and I also like that it zips closed. The dimensions are pretty close to my old beloved favorite — 16″ wide, 12″ high, 4.75″ deep. It’s $29.99 at Target. Merona Croco Work Tote – Black
Banana Republic Nylon Buckle ToteThis bag looks a bit bigger than what I normally think of as an interview tote, but it still looks professional, and I like the fact that there’s nothing “faux” about it. The reasonable price — $49.50 — doesn’t hurt either. It’s available in black, khaki and teal at Banana Republic.com. Banana Republic Nylon Buckle Tote
Storksak Gigi Large Diaper BagIs it bad that I don’t care that this one says it’s a diaper bag? It still looks like a great bag to me (and, though I have no experience with them, seems somewhat small for a diaper bag at 11″x14″x6″). Again, not a huge fan of the white-on-black stitching, but so it goes. It’s $198 at Endless Amazon. Storksak Gigi Large Diaper Bag
Latico Candice Slim PorterNow the bags start to get expensive. I like the look of this one a lot, and particularly like the fun interior print. At 12.5″x17″x4″, it’s a bit bigger than my old one, but that can be okay. It’s available at Endless Amazon in black, forest, metallic brown, metallic copper, metallic olive, and “steel” for $219. Latico Candice Slim Porter
Rafe New York - Zue Large Nylon Tote (Black) - Bags and LuggageLOVE this bag. I like the patent trim, the zip pockets on the front, and the “multifunctional” slip pockets on the inside. It’s $219 at Zappos (available in black and red with black trim). (It’s also pictured at the top of the post). Rafe New York – Zue Large Nylon Tote (Black) – Bags and Luggage

Readers, what do you look for in a lightweight but professional tote? Any great finds of late?

The Intern with the $9,000 Handbag

hermes to workWe got an interesting e-mail from reader N:

I am an intern at the equivalent of a BigLaw firm in Singapore. I have a Birkin bag (a small one, 30cm) and am wondering if it is appropriate for me to take it to the office. I’ve heard two conflicting opinions: (1) you should dress what you would like to be, ie, if you want to be a partner one day, dress as such; and (2) dress appropriate to your level in the firm.

We have MANY different opinions on this issue, actually, so we’re going to try to put them in cohesive format.

First: No matter what reader N decides to do, we beg of you — please do not walk around the hall with your handbag unless you are entering or exiting the building.  We have seen women do this carrying multi-thousand dollar bags, and we have seen women do this carrying $50 bags, and it is never a good look. If security is a concern in your office, lock it in your office drawer while you move about the halls.

In general, we don’t have a problem with dressing for the job you want to have — or even with carrying an expensive purse.  But here, where the Birkin bag is known for being an exclusive, highly sought after bag (complete with an only recently debunked “waiting list” myth) that costs more than some cars — and where it has been popularized more by socialites than businesswomen — we’re just a bit hesitant. The fact that you have one of the smaller ones, which will not fit work papers inside it, doesn’t help matters. (We’ve heard the $9,000 figure quoted, but in all honesty we don’t personally know how much they cost, and the Hermes website does not report the fact.) [Read more...]