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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: Interview Totes

stylish interview totes 1752016 Update: Check out our most recent roundup of professional tote bags for women!

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.

A stylish interview tote is something that every woman needs — yet it can often be a hassle to find the perfect thing (at a price you like).  For my money, a good interview tote:

  • is black (and can be worn with any color, including navy)
  • has structure to it and will stand up by itself if you set it down
  • is big enough to hold at least a folder with your resume, as well as a small bag of makeup and a bottle of water
  • has interior organization (pockets and the like) so you can find what you need, quickly and easily, without digging

In an ideal world, a good interview top would also zipper on top (so it’s secure and won’t accidentally spill out), and would be able to be carried by a shoulder strap so your hands can be free.  We’ve gone on the hunt for these before (see our 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010 roundups here); also, guest poster Jean from Extra Petite recently shared her favorite tote bags with us.  Some of the classics that we’ve included in previous roundups (and are still available) are Rebecca Minkoff MAB totes, the Kate Spade Maryanne line, most MZ Wallace bags, nylon Tory Burch totes, and Lo & Sons totesReaders, what qualities do you look for in an interview tote bag?  Are there any classics that we’re forgetting?  Have you made any recent purchases of a great tote bag?

 

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Guest Post: Stylish Work Bags

best work bags

2016 Update: Check out our most recent roundup of professional tote bags for women!

Work bags: we’ve talked about bags for summer associatesinterview totessuitcases for overnight business tripsmessenger bags, and how much we end up spending on them all. In today’s guest post, Jean from Extra Petite brings you a roundup of stylish work bags, straight from her own closet. In addition to petite-focused fashion, Jean’s blog features workwear and accessories reviews across various sizes. Jean was kind enough to contribute a great guest post on suiting alterations during my last maternity leave — welcome back, Jean! – Kat.

Hello Corporette readers! I’m stepping in for Kat today to chat about work-appropriate handbags that fit at least a laptop and some documents. I know we each have various needs and preferences on material, structure, and price range, so I’ve pulled a few from my own closet that cover a wide span of options:

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The Hunt: Interview Tote Bags

The Best Tote Bags for Interviewing

2016 Update: Check out our most recent roundup of professional tote bags for women!

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.

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…]

The Bag Lady Reconsiders…

Prada Saffiano Lux Large Top Handle Bag

2016 Update: Links have been updated below — please also check out our most recent roundup of professional tote bags for women!

Which 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)

2016 Update: Check out our most recent roundup of professional tote bags for women!

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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