The Best Tote Bags for Work, Interviews and More

The Best Tote Bags for Work - 2017 Roundup!Sure, we all know what wardrobe essentials for work 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.

Here’s today’s question, readers: what do you think makes for the best tote bags for work, interviews, and beyond? I’ve argued in the past that the best tote bags for interviews are nylon (lightweight) but structured (non-floppy, stand up by themselves on the floor), large enough for a folder (for copies of your resume), and are mostly a solid color without brash logos. In contrast, I’ve argued that the best professional tote bags in general may be leather (they often look more polished), be a laptop bag (or have a removable laptop sleeve), and have a ton more organization as needed for your daily schlep.

Ladies, do you have different tote bags for interviews and tote bags for work? Do you tend to collect tote bags in general? (I know I’ve got about 10 of them in my closet…) Which ones do you carry the most (and/or love the most)? In general, what qualities do you think makes the best tote bags for work?

Pictured at top, clockwise from top left: one / two / three / four .

If I were shopping today for a tote bag for work, these would be the bags and stores that I’d consider first:

(Curious for older versions of this post? Here they are from 2016, 2014201320122011, and 2010).

Best-Selling Tote Bags for Work

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 to $298: one / two / three // four / five / six

Featured Tote Bags for Work

Best-selling, classic styles are great, but sometimes you want to know what else is on the market today for the freshest look or the best discount.  So: here are a few bags we’re liking today:   

best tote bags for work: MeronaTarget has a ton of cute options right now — and what you may find lacking in quality should be made up for by affordability. This Merona bag isn’t the highest rated or the most affordable, but I like it the best — the zipper on the front looks sleek and cool, and in general it looks like a nice, compact tote bag. It’s $39.99, available in black and gray. Tote Handbag – Merona™
best tote bags for work - AmazonI always find it interesting to see which items are top sellers at Amazon — with their huge inventory it can take some effort to find a winner! This vintage genuine leather bag is only $54, comes in eight colors (including navy, tan, and a particularly nice gray) and has 234 positive customer reviews (4.5+ star rating). It is eligible for Prime shipping. S-ZONE Women’s Vintage Genuine Leather Tote Shoulder Bag Handbag Upgraded Version
best tote bags for work: TJ MaxxI still say that discount stores like TJ Maxx can have some real finds for classic accessories like tote bags for work — this leather tote is on sale for $99 down from $170 and looks like a good bet. (I think this designer bag is hilarious and adorable, and even though it’s still $800, it’s down from $1200, so it’s still a great bet!) Pictured: Tote Bag.
Best Tote Bags for Work: Banana RepublicOne of the really weird things about doing this roundup is that of our usual suspects like J.Crew, Ann Taylor, even Talbots, so many of them hardly had any good tote bags for work. Banana Republic delivered, though, with this nice structured leather tote bag — it’s $148 in black and navy, but the mushroom is marked down to $88 (on top of the deal Banana has today, where you can take 40% off a purchase of $200+ — lots of cute suits and dresses for work if you’re looking, ladies!).  Portfolio Structured Leather Tote
best tote bags for work - FurlaI’ve loved so many of my Furla bags in the past — and they so often are on such great discount — that I always look for one good example to include in these roundups. This solid leather tote has a nice chain detail, has a solid structure, and is a great basic. Saks Off Fifth has a great selection right now in general; this one is marked to $219, down from $448. (It looks small here but it’s 15″ W X 12″ H X 5″ D.) Maggie Solid Leather Tote
Of course, the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is going on, and there are a ton of great options for black work totes in the sale — including everything pictured below, ranging in price from $39-$284 (prices will go back up to $59-$428 after the sale ends). (See all of our picks for work here!)

Pictured below: one / two / three / four

The Best Tote Bags for Work from the 2017 Nordstrom Anniversary Sale


How about you, ladies — what do you think are the best tote bags for work? Do you go for crazier colors, lighter weight fabrics like nylon, or just a different sized bag in general?

Like this feature? Check out other recent installments!

the best tote bags for work 2017 - our favorites!

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Social media picture credit: Shutterstock / Superlime.

Presenting: the BEST tote bags for work, interviews, and more! Whether you're looking for a great tote to hold your resume for interviews, to lug your stuff to the office on your commute, or to slide over your rolling bag for your next business trip, we rounded up our favorite tote bags for work -- the classics, the best-sellers, and the trendy ones of 2017!



  1. Since this came up yesterday, and I’m pretty sure enough of us travel for work, I feel like there should be a whole section devoted to bags like this that will fit over your pull handle for your suitcase. Ya know, like this:

    • Anonymous :

      I was just going to ask about this exact thing.

    • Yes, please! I asked about this recently and was told to just look on Amazon, which was not at all helpful.

    • I don’t know how accurate it is, but you can search “totes with luggage sleeve” on Amazon and a ton pop up.

    • Great point — I just added a category. :)

      • Vera Bradley link goes to Lo and Sons. And thanks for adding a category. Although I don’t understand why these tend to by nylon/vinyl looking. I feel like men get nice stuff and we get purses or this. *SIGH*

    • Best tote w/sleeve? :

      I have the OMG and love the luggage sleeve and stuffability of it, but it just does not look polished for client meetings (or any meetings…). So I was convinced to purchase the Lo & Sons Seville (after reading many sponsored blog posts, which accomplished their purpose!), which looks much better and I think is the most attractive & professional option of the other totes with sleeves (Tumi – looks rectangular and boxy like my Dagne Dover which is fine for everyday, but does not have a luggage sleeve; the other nylon bags are too casual for me). The Seville requires switching out the nylon shell when actually traveling (and packing the leather shell), but that’s ok because then I can not worry about dragging it through the airport/train/car and shoving it under seats. It’s less stuffable than the L&S, but should be a preferable compromise because I really felt underdressed showing up to client meetings with the OMG, and I need a bag that can hold my laptop.

  2. I ordered one of the S-zone totes in a different style (north/south). I ended up returning it because it didn’t fit my laptop, but I was decently impressed with the quality of the leather.

  3. Breezyred :

    I can’t speak highly enough of my Daame Laptop Tote ( It doesn’t stand up straight on its own mostly (which is the only real bummer), but has held up very well compared to previous bags, is made of super soft leather, and is made in the USA. I’ve received more compliments on this bag than can be expected from a bag that looks generally plain on the outside. I might add that this is one of the smallest laptop bags I could find when I originally bought it; the size does not overwhelm my petite frame at all.

  4. Anon Engineer :

    Anyone have suggestions of a good backpack to hold a laptop and files, preferably one that looks somewhat chic (or at least not too grungy) but also neutral enough to blend in at an engineering company where everyone has a masculine-looking black backpack? A unicorn request, I know.

    • Shopaholic :


    • Another Engineer :

      Check out Timbuk2. I use a women’s backpack from them in tweedy navy/purple and LOVE it–super functional and well made. It’s even been used in lieu of a diaper bag for my 2YO’s entire life during nonwork hours. Sadly, it’s from ~3 years ago and they no longer make it (the Madrone). A quick look on Timbuk2’s site show some potential contenders (laptop sleeve and professional fabrics).

      A coworker has the Everlane modern backpack and IMO it’s style over substance– the drawstring + two snaps to close it would drive me nuts. Their Commuter Backpack looks promising for you though!

      Also check out Hershel backpacks.

  5. Sort of related, I think I need five of these:

  6. Right now I am using a Coach reversible tote and it was not worth the $$. I normally don’t mind coated canvas bags but the corners on mine are worn (both sides) and I barely had this bag for a year now and I switch out bags often.

    • I love Coach YAY!!, but I am NOT familiar with any reversable tote. If it is high quality, it should NOT be turned inside out. I think we should NOT bring big tote’s to interviews. You do NOT need to carry anything that big, and having something big means HEAVY, and no one wants to schlep to many things with them. FOOEY.

  7. Wenger 601077 EVA 13″ Womens Expandable Laptop Bag.

    Hands down this is the best laptop tote I’ve ever had. It expands for days when I have file plus laptop and has a removable laptop sleeve.

  8. I just bought the coach borough bag in what I think is British tan. It holds my ThinkPad in one side, and all my purse stuff in the other. It was in coach’s half price summer sale. So far I am quite pleased.

    • I just bought a Land’s End leather tote recommended by another poster and so far really like it.

  9. Miss Jackson :

    I don’t disagree that leather bags look the best. But honestly I’ve purchased a number of high quality leather totes and I end up going back to my nylon expandable longchamp bags every time. I carry a lot of stuff daily and find it hard to beat the lightweight and durable nylon.

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