The Hunt: Professional Tote Bags

professional tote bagsSure, 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.

We haven’t done a Hunt for professional tote bags in FOREVER, so I thought we’d do one now.  With OCI/EIW coming up we should discuss what makes a great interview tote, which I’ve always seen as a pretty major subset of professional tote bags. A great interview tote should:

  • be large enough to hold a folder that contains the absolute latest version of your resume
  • have structure to it — if you put it on the floor it will stand up or at least lean (so — while I love me my Planetes Longchamp bag, I wouldn’t interview with it — it’s also for this reason that most of these bags are east/west bags rather than north/south bags)
  • be mostly solid and lacking logos all over it (so in my book most Neverfulls, Goyard, and MCM bags are out — but a Neverfull in an Epi leather is a different issue)
  • have enough organization that you can ditch your purse and just carry the tote bag (or, put another way, it becomes your purse)
  • not be primarily as a laptop tote — unless you anticipate needing your laptop during the interview, you don’t need the weight and the added stress of keeping tabs on your bag (but see our laptop tote roundup if you’re looking for one)

I once joked that if you’re just looking for something to shuttle papers to and from the office, most of the rainmakers I knew carried boat bags, or at least the tote bags one gets for donating X dollars to charity or attending a conference, suggesting it was all part of “what your tote bag says about you.” Now I think it’s just because those suckers add up over the years and they’re perfect for sticking in your office closet! (Although I will note – an LL Bean rep recently told me that this bag can hold up to 500 pounds because it was designed for carrying ice blocks through the winter. Ice blocks, huge binders, whatever, right?)

So ladies, let’s discuss — do you carry a tote bag as your regular purse, or only if you’re interviewing or otherwise carrying a folder? What do you look for in a professional tote bag? Do you prefer hand-held briefcase/satchel styles, north/west styles, east/west styles? Leather, nylon, or coated canvas? Have you bought any great ones lately, or do you still carry any older ones?

First, a roundup of some general categories:

Best-Selling Work Totes

Some of the best selling work totes of all time are linked to in our Hall of Fame styles mentioned above — here are a few of those, pictured, ranging from $168-$298: 1 / 2 / 3 // 4 / 5 / 6

Featured Work Totes

Best-selling, classic styles are great, but sometimes you want to know what else is on the market today.  So: six bags we’re liking today:

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The Hunt: Black Pumps

comfortable black pumpsSure, we all know professional women are supposed to have a pair of comfortable black pumps 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.

Wow – I don’t think we’ve done a Hunt on basic black pumps in a LONG, long while.  Which are your favorite black pumps right now, ladies? Do you prefer a more modern style like the popular Vince heels or Steve Madden heels featured below — or are you classic all the way, like one of our more traditional Hall of Famers? Do you personally prefer pointier toes or more almond toes (there are a ton of both on the market right now!) If you were looking for a new pump for an interview outfit, what would you buy? It’s great to see so many options in low heels, high heels, and strappy pumps.

Update: Check out some work outfit ideas involving some of the pumps you see featured here!

(Curious for our previous roundups of black pumps? In addition to the several specific shoes mentioned in our Guide to Comfortable Heels, we also did a 2013 guide to interview pumps and to low heels, a 2012 guide to black pumps under $250, 2008 guide to basic black pumps.

Classic Black Pumps for Work

classic comfortable black pumps

From our Hall of Fame category above! Pictured: 1 / 2 / 3 // 4 / 5 / 6

Six Trendy Black Pumps

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The Hunt: Lightweight Summer Blazers

summer blazers for womenSure, 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.

As temperatures start to climb, that blazer starts to look less and less attractive — constricting! hot! layers! oh my! And of course, if you CAN get away with it at your workplace or job, you ditch the blazer for a sleeved sheath dress, only keep it in your office as a topper for air conditioning, or find other professional things to wear. But for those of you who want to wear blazers in hotter temperatures (at conferences, cocktail parties, and other networking events that may be indoors or outdoors), I thought we’d round up some summer blazers in linen, cotton, and other lightweight fabrics — we looked at lightweight blazers last year, but it’s time for an update.  (Update: check out three work outfit ideas for summer blazers.)

*If you are interested in plus-size workwear, please sign up for CorporettePlus, our newsletter! We promise not to blast your email more than once a week. (Right now it’s more like once a month.) In keeping with our Privacy Policy, we’ll never sell your email address.

(Here’s our 2014 roundup of linen blazers, our 2013 roundup of white blazers, and our 2012 roundup of summertime blazers.)

First, some of the Hall of Famers we mention above — these are the best selling styles that have been around for years and years:

summer blazers

Pictured: Navy blazer / white blazer / pink blazer / black blazer / navy blazer
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The Hunt: Nude Flats

nude flatsSure, 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.

Almost since this blog was born, we’ve done roundups of nude-for-you heels — beige heels, brown heels, pink heels and more. But I don’t think we’ve ever done a roundup of nude flats — so I thought we’d do one today. Ladies, do you wear nude-for-you flats as often as you wear nude-for-you heels? Which outfits are your favorite to pair with nude-for-you flats? Any favorite brands of flats, either for comfort or the perfect match to your skin?  

Update: Check out three work outfit ideas with nude flats

(Psst: check out our recent roundup of comfortable ballet flats, and of course our recently updated guide to comfortable heels.)

First up, some of our “Workwear Hall of Fame” styles — these are the best sellers and classics that have been around for years:

nude flats - classic styles

Pictured: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 

 

Before we get into today’s recommendations, some specialty categories:

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The Hunt: Stylish Pencil Skirts

stylish pencil skirts for workSure, 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.

Ladies, here’s something we haven’t talked about in far too long: which are the most stylish pencil skirts for work? I’ve heard the J.Crew No. 2 pencil skirt is on the upswing (reviewers note it’s more similar to older versions of the skirt), and the old reader favorite, Halogen’s pencil skirt, is still getting positive reviews even after the design change — but otherwise it seems very much to be an open field right now.  Do you prefer pencil skirts in solid neutrals or suiting fabrics — or do you find colorful pencil skirts to be an easy way to inject fun to your working wardrobe?  Do you prefer midi skirts or A-line skirts these days? Which are your favorites?

We’ve rounded up some of our favorites on the market right now — and ooh boy are there some good sales. First, some specialty groups:

Curious for our last discussion on the best pencil skirts? Check it out here.

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The Hunt: Comfortable Ballet Flats

comfortable ballet flats for work roundupSure, 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.

We’ve talked a lot about flats over the years, but I don’t think we’ve ever done a major roundup of the most comfortable ballet flats for work.  So ladies, let’s hear it — which are your favorites? What are your favorite ways to break in a new pair of flats, or make them more comfortable for your feet? (As someone with narrow heels I’m always adding these heel pads.) Although rounded toes have come really far for work, I still think the best flat for work is one that has a bit of a point to it, in a durable leather, preferably with a rubber sole or rubber heel for comfort and grip. I know some people hate the look of patent leather flats, but I don’t mind them, particularly in a tumbled patent leather (like the Calvin Klein flat pictured below) or a color other than black, like a nice gray. We’ve rounded up some of the best-selling, highest rated styles below — which brands and styles are your favorite?

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