The Best Work Bags for Interviews, Commutes, Your First Day of Work, and Beyond

best work bagsSure, 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.

What do you think are the best work bags, readers? How does your answer change if you’re looking for a great tote bag for an interview, your first day of work, business travel, and beyond? Who do you think makes for the best tote bags for work, interviews, and beyond? For today’s roundup of the best work bags I’m mostly featuring fun, happy prints and colors, but if you’re looking for a neutral, basic bag we’ve rounded up some great Hall of Famers below as well. As I’ve noted before, I think the best professional tote bags in general may be leather (more polished), a room for a laptop or possibly a legal-size notebook, and have intelligent details like feet, keyfob chains, interior pockets, and more. By contrast, whenever looking for a great tote bag for an interview (especially a day of interviews like with OCI) I’ve appreciated tote bags 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.  Some of the most neutral, timeless options if you’re looking for the best work bags include these, pictured below:best work bags of 2018!


Above are some of the best selling work totes of all time are linked to in our Hall of Fame styles (more below) — here are a few of those, pictured, ranging from $168 to $398: one / two / three // four / five / six

(Curious for older versions of this post? Here they are from 20172016, 2014201320122011, and 2010).

On to some of the best work bags that we’re seeing on the market today:

best work bags - Target“New” Target brand “A New Day” has a ton of super affordable options for tote bags, including a nice basic nylon tote. (I say “new” because a lot of people think the vibe is verrrry similar to previous Target brand Merona, which they’ve now phased out.) I think this laser-cut tote is very pretty, and I like the removable cloth liner for easy washing. It comes in blue, pink, white and black for $29.99 at Target.
best work bags - FossilIf you were a huge fan of the Fossil Sydney shopper that was around for years (and years, and years…) note that the bag Fiona is “updating” the older version. Amazon seems to have the most color options right now, all marked $138-$178 and eligible for Prime Wardrobe (here’s Kate’s review of Amazon Prime Wardrobe if you missed it).
best work bags - Tory BurchTory Burch’s lightweight Ella tote has been a Hall of Famer for years, so I was kind of psyched to see it come in such a fun, Mondrian-esque pattern. Obviously this kind of look is not for everyone (and probably not for anything but creative interviews) but if you feel like your wardrobe is nothing but a sea of black, gray, and light blue, this could be a really fun, easy way to add some personality to your commute while keeping the functionality you love. It’s $198 (in the largest version) at Nordstrom, also available in black, navy, and beige. Note that if you were eyeing Tory Burch’s leather option, that seems to be on its way out — the T
best work bags - Cole HaanI’ve always liked Cole Haan products, with their tote bags being no exception, so it’s very interesting to see so many great Cole Haan work bags on sale at Last Call right now for great prices. The pictured bag is currently $189 (down from $315) and comes in a ton of colors and sizes (including black, beige, and red); this tote with goldtone hardware is also catching my eye, as well as this sportier work tote with a removable drawstring pouch.
best work bags - lodisReaders love the brand LODIS Los Angeles for a reason — their bags are made with working women in mind. Most of their bags offer RFID features, as well as intelligent details like feet, interior pockets, exterior slip pockets for your ID card or whatnot, and all in their durable leather. I mostly think of the brand as doing super neutral colors like black and red, so it’s fun to see the brand expanding to more fun colors like the lavender pictured here. The pictured bag also comes in black, orange, and yellow.
best work totes - Marc JacobsIf you’re looking for a reasonable sort of splurge, note that Marc Jacobs has a number of very popular tote bags right now, including the tote pictured, its slightly larger sister, and the Editor tote.  The happy bright color of this one was calling to me, though, and I like the intersection of form and function with the key ring/pocket on the front of the bag. (The larger version has a more plain front.) The pictured bag is $425.

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Presenting: the BEST work 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 2018!


  1. For me, large canvas tote with firm logo for day to day (I would use an LL Bean boat and tote if the logo-ed version weren’t basically the same) and a longchamp for days when I have to travel, see clients, etc. I keep my laptop in a striped sleeve, so it just gets tossed in with the rest of the papers. I usually do a workbag and a purse unless traveling by plane – I have been in a hot pink nylon Henri Bendel bag last summer and this summer and get tons of compliments on it.

  2. Housecounsel :

    I would love recommendations on the absolute strongest (while also cute and a bit feminine) bags. My office issues me a laptop that, while new, is ridiculously heavy. I have broken the strap on an LV Neverfull and numerous other less expensive totes. I have a pretty McLean that is very strong, but it isn’t very spacious. Help!

    • Tumi.

    • I love TUMI, but if you want pure strength, get a BEAN bag from LLBean. I used one in Law School and I gave it to Rosa, who uses it to carry her kids clotheing and spit-up material. Rosa says her kids can NOT destroy it! YAY!!!!

    • Knomo Grosvenor laptop tote. I’ve had mine for almost two years and bring my laptop to and from work almost every day. It’s practical but still feminine. Got a compliment on it today :)

  3. jumpingjack :

    I wish there were more work bags with a small exterior slip pocket for transit passes. B Makowsky used to put one on every bag but they stopped making bags a few years ago. The Lodis bag above is one of the first I’ve seen from another brand. I’m sure lots of urban commuters appreciate an easily accessible small pocket for transit cards.

    I also like a large interior zippered compartment for my wallet – it feels much more secure than having it loose in the bag.

  4. I got the structured tote from cuyana this spring and I am loving it. The leather is so beautiful. If I had a public transit commute I would have bought the zippered version but this one is great for my car commute. Easily holds my laptop, files, a book, wallet and all my various personal pouches, and I can stuff a sweater or wrap in there and still have room to spare.

    • S in Chicago :

      The strap length wasn’t good for me (I think that’s the one I tried–it was suede). Was too short to be comfy with a puffy jacket. (I have big arms.) But just here to recommend Cuyana’s large backpack. I get so many compliments every time I carry it. It’s super comfortable and a good tumbled leather that should hold up well. First backpack I’ve had where I feel like a grownup. (Although my Tumi coated canvas isn’t bad and will outlive us all–just not as stylish). I also tried backpacks from Senreve and Mansur Gavriel in my search and both felt like cheap plastic (the Mansur was pebbled not the regular leather because I knew that would scratch up in a heart beat from the purse I have).

      • I also have the large cuyana backpack and love it – just took it with me for two weeks in Europe! But I cant figure out the closure-especially when it’s full- can you tell me how you close it securely? I’ve been doing a strange loop/tie thing, but still feel like if my wallet’s right on top, I might be vulnerable to pickpocketers. I can stick my wallet further down, but then I’d have to fish it out from other stuff when I need it- what’s your solution?

    • Do you find the straps comfortable? I walk to and from work and am looking at that same bag. I love the leather as well!

      • Yes! I am super fussy about strap length and have rejected many bags for just slightly too short strap length. But this one is great. I can get it up on my shoulder with the same hand as the shoulder – I hate it when the straps are just small enough that I have to use the opposite hand.

        To S – are you sure it was Cuyana? I haven’t seen them offering suede, and the straps on this one are really generous

        • S in Chicago :

          This is the one where I didn’t like the strap length (but gorgeous and perfect otherwise!).

          And this is the large backpack that I adore:

          I am a huge Cuyana fan. I also purchased the work satchel in quartz (a dusty pink) and it is my all-time favorite bag for “dressier” work meetings. The pockets are just super useful and everything has a place. So far hasn’t pickedup any scrapes.

          Even though it’s expensive, the quality of leather for the price just can’t be beat.

          • Ugh, I so want that satchel. Does it fit a laptop? Maybe tell me no….

          • Also i just ordered the heart shaped cosmetic case. This post was way too enabling for me! :)

          • I have the work satchel in black. It fits my laptops (I have a Lenovo ThinkPad for work and a MacBook Air for personal), though of course not at the same time. I also have a Dagne and I find that a little easier to get the laptop in and out of–the Cuyana takes more finagling. But I do find it a more “impressive” and bag for those more formal work situations.

          • I love the look of the Knomo work satchel. I wish it zipped across the entire top, but it’s so structured otherwise that perhaps that’s not such a big deal. Quite the splurge, but gorgeous.

  5. My Knomo has an exterior slip pocket and another within the seams at the top.

    I have a nylon one, the Kensington (I think)

  6. I have the Fossil Fiona and am looking to replace it. It’s a nice bag, but I got the brown version and realized the color just doesn’t work great for interviews, plus the bag is less structured than I’d like so it tends to slouch and flop a bit, and I was wanting a bag with a laptop sleeve. I do love the pockets on the Fiona – it’s got 2 small slip pockets on the front that I use for my phone and keys (great for my FOB at work), the zippered front pocket is perfect for lip products and the back slip pocket I use a lot as well.

    I just got the Knomo Maddox 15″ laptop tote to replace the Fiona and am debating on keeping it. It’s gorgeous, but I’m a bit concerned color will transfer from my jeans since I got the “concrete” color and it’s also quite a large bag for my 5’3″ frame. I haven’t found anything smaller that’s quite what I want though.

  7. Can you do a review of the best bags to hold paperwork securely? I want something beautifully structured to be able to carry paperwork back and forth without it getting messed up.

  8. I got a Lo & Sons Seville a few months ago … and I am still deeply obsessed.

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