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.  See, I have the LV Alma bag in black Epi leather. I loved (and still love) the way this thing looks: but if I carry it two days a year it’s a good year. I know I’m going to grow with it, but the problem is that it’s a satchel bag, and I’m a hardcore shoulder-strap kind of gal. Should I ever find myself in a car culture again (e.g., the suburbs) I can’t wait to bust this baby out — but right now, schlepping around NYC and having to carry, by hand, my very full bag, is not in the cards. (And yes, I know it has a messenger-like shoulder strap, but… nope.)

So: in my mind, this is not an insignificant question — whether a woman can change her long-established purse habits habits in order to carry a great bag. And I do think it can be done, but I think you should really assess why you have those habits — and what you will do to change them. For my $.02, I think the woman who carries multiple large bags, no matter how expensive they are, looks worse (more scatterbrained, more indecisive) than the woman who carries one XL bag, even if it’s just nylon.  (Although: I think if you carry one L/XL bag and one S/M bag you can get away with it.)  And if you never carry the expensive bag, you’ll kick yourself repeatedly (trust me here).  Downsizing what you carry may not be a big issue — for example, I’ve gone from having a huge bag full of stuff to basically just a wallet/cellphone/lipgloss kind of existence, moving from diaper bag to clutch to handbag, since my son was born.  Changing from an XL shoulder-strap tote bag to a L hand-carry satchel/tote might be a bigger deal because of lifestyle issues though, as it was/is for me.

My best advice: get a big nylon tote bag that you feel comfortable and professional carrying.  It’ll be lighter, you’ll save your back, and you can put some of the big money into a great wallet or wristlet to go into the big bag (or lots of money into a small/medium purse).  We just covered weekender bags (probably too big for you) as well as interview bags (probably too small for you) so I’d encourage you to look to two other options: either Lo & Sons OG bag (so called for overnight/gym, pictured — it’s a nice, durable bag with TONS of space and lots of organization – my review here; it’s also a perpetual reader favorite) or the Longchamp bag that everyone has (no organization to speak of, but it has a certain cache to it — and, whoa, now available in leather). (Or, of course, you can always donate money to a charity/attend a professional conference and then use that tote bag, which is what most VIP women I know actually do.)  The bonus to not spending a lot on the bag: if it gets worn out or you find you need multiples because you leave them places (e.g., one to leave at the office, one to leave at the house, etc.), you can happily replace the bag or buy multiples.

Or, alternatively, spend a bit of money on a less expensive, smaller bag the size of the Saffiano tote, and see how you like it.

Maybe I’m too negative because of my own experience — readers, what do you think?  Should someone who always carries an XL bag invest money into an M/L bag? Do you agree with me that the lady carrying multiple XL bags (or multiple L bags) looks a bit frazzled? Which are the best Mary Poppins-sized tote bags for the office?



  1. We’ve discussed news lady dress here before. Thought you all might be interested in this WaPo article:


    • I saw a female news anchor on CNN a couple of weeks ago wearing literally a halter top. The entirety of her shoulders and much of her collar bone were bare. I couldn’t believe it.

      • Did anyone catch Good Morning America this morning? The Muppets were co-hosts. The blonde anchor who I believe is filling in for Robin Roberts was wearing a low cut, sleeveless hot pink top. Miss Piggy, who sat next to said anchor at the news desk, was in a houndstooth suit. Yes, Miss Piggy was dressed more professionally than the real anchor. I cringed.

    • Susan (edna_mode_nyc) :

      Oh, I guess that must explain the character Joan Campbell’s wardrobe (on “Covert Affairs.”)

      She’s always in a sleeveless cocktail dress but is a top boss at the CIA. I guess her cover job is that she’s actually a news anchor or morning show host?

    • OK, so I get the point about how all of a sudden sheath dresses were being made and how it’s easier to buy a dress than a suit, blah blah — but why is no one wearing a blazer over them?? This is still unexplained mystery. I do not want to see bare arms in the Northeast in November.

      • Ditto. Sleeveless may be okay in August but in November in the NE? No. What struck me is that on Election Day, I saw more longsleeves/dark colors/blazers on female newscasters than I saw all year long.

  2. I’m afraid changes may have been made to pasting functionality from this site. Can anybody talk me down?

    • Susan (edna_mode_nyc) :

      It’s a pain, but have you tried: copying, then pasting to something like notepad (windows accessories, I think) to kill all the formatting, and then from notepad, pasting to the final destination document?

      • @ELLENWatch — I haven’t made any changes to the site. I wonder if Tynt is going crazy? Email me if you want to help me troubleshoot — I’m at kat at corporette dot com.

        • Thanks for responding, Cat/Katt/kat! I’ll try to deal on my own but will email you if nothing works. Yay!!!

          • here, let me try to turn off Tynt and maybe you can tell me if that works. Are other readers having this problem?

          • Not in a position to do it at the moment, but will try asap and get back to you. I love how emergencies bring peeple together like this.

          • Meg Murry :

            I can’t highlight and then right click ->copy, but highlighting and then doing a ctrl-c works – it gets the text, but not the formatting, and it still does the annoying effect of getting the entire page from the top to cursor, but its better than nothing. I think your devil equivalent might do print screen images instead of copying the actual text, from what I can guess.

          • Yes. I’d rather have actual text so I can highlight, insert links etc. But I know there are stopgap options.

          • Blonde Lawyer :

            Works fine on Chrome.

  3. Idk if you need to carry your laptop constantly, but if you have, I don’t know how you’ve relied on a purse for so long. I’m a consultant though so I’m constantly schlepping my laptop among other things from client to client, so I rely on Lo & Sons Brookline bag. I’m considering buying the OG though. I love my Longchamp tote, however I can never find anything in it. I wish the interior was bright yellow or something.

    I don’t know about higher end totes, but this is the tote I had my eye on before I gave up and started using a lap top bag:

    • Almost There :

      +1 on stupid black-hole Longchamps

    • des-pairing :

      + 1 on Longchamps. I have one called Planetes (all black, thick nylon + leather handles) and it holds EVERYTHING. I keep a wristlet with cards, badges and, till the recent arrival of gigantic work phone, cell phone.

      If you don’t want to change your purse habit, go for a bag like this then amp up your sophistication factor with an amazing watch?

      • +2 on the black Planetes. It does hold everything and it works as an overnight bag too! Yes, you do have organize everything in it, but I do that anyway. It also looks great carried with another Longchamp tote – I have the new burgundy 12″x12″ Victoire tote bag (in siliconized rubber, of all things) and it is to DIE for. I’ve gotten more compliments on this than any other bag I’ve ever carried, and it’s not that expensive (around $200). I’ve got both with me today because I have stuff I need to haul home from work; on the commute in, I put the Victoire bag inside the Planetes bag. Perfect.

    • Does anyone have an opinion as to Lo & Sons O.G. vs. O.M.G. ? The O.M.G. “looks” better at a glance (and like it will fit under the seat in front of you on an airplane), but is it big enough? The O.G. looks like it might be too big for under the airplane seat… your experiences?

      • Hey An, it depends on some of the airlines, but it should fit underneath the seat! Let us know if you have any other question.

      • Jacqueline :

        Look at this morning’s post — there’s a whole thread about exactly this!

      • SF Bay Associate :

        I’m a bit OCD because I got the measurements for some airlines from the interwebs. Note only Southwest’s is from Southwest’s website and each airline’s space will depend on the plane model (Southwest’s planes are all the same model).

        OG: 17 x 15 x 6.5
        OMG: 16 x 13.5 x 6
        Southwest’s smallest coach underseat (window and aisle): 19 x 14 x 8.25
        Southwest’s biggest coach underseat (middle) 19 x 19 x 8.25
        Delta: 20 x 17 x 11
        American: 20 x 17 x 11.75

        And someone here said it fits in JetBlue’s underseat. I got the OG and plan to not pack it to the brim.

    • Alicia on The Good Wife has been carrying the Longchamp Roseau tote lately and it is a really beautiful bag. I actually Googled around to figure out which bag it was, and I was excited it was something so (relatively) affordable! It looks very high-end, at least on TV.

      • I loved her bag in THE GOOD WIFE too, and i was visited Long Champ handbag shop today , but i found Alicia’s bag is bigger than the shop have, i have no idea its a new model or an special adition for the drama … if sb else know whats the number of Alicia’s black handbag in longchamp pls let me know.. finally i brought a blue one but its not big same as her one..

        • I’ve been trying to find the exact Longchamp Tote that Alicia has on The Good Wife and there seems to be various sizes (although only by a few inches) here and there and was told that different stores get slightly different sizes, even the handle drop…which I found odd. Does anyone know the exact bag/size/stylethat she has on the show?

  4. Thanks for confirming that the multiple bags/purses etc is a bad look. I carry my laptop/work papers in a nice leather bag, and also carry my (rather large) purse, along with one of those plastic reusable grocery bags filled with my lunch, and have always thought I looked a bit frazzled but was in denial about it!

    I’m thinking a good change would be a smaller wristlet-type purse I can put inside my leather bag?

    • This is what I do. The wristlet works like a wallet in my big bag, but if I’m running out for lunch or a quick errand, I just take the wristlet.

      I’m too nervous to put my lunch in my leather work bag (seems like an invitation for some horrible leaking scenario), so I end up carrying it separately in a washable bag. I agree that fewer bags would look nice though.

      • If you’ve got a large leather tote and a smaller lunch bag, you could put that lunch bag into the leather bag. When I bring lunch, I usually just put it in a grocery store bag that I tie shut – this negates spill potential but I also don’t have to carry anything extra home.

      • Meg Murry :

        If you’re really antsy about a leaking scenario, you could get a “wetbag” to put your lunch in – they are made for dirty diapers, wet clothes or swimwear, but I bet they would contain a lunch spill too, and are probably worth the small investment compared to the cost of a nice leather bag.

        • Thanks AIMS and Meg, I think this would do the trick. I once had a soft drink explode in my backpack in high school and I think that’s the cause of my paranoia. The odds of a lunch explosion are probably pretty low, but this would give me peace of mind :)

    • Take a look at the MZ Wallace bags as well – nylon, gold hardware, red inside to find things, lots of pockets – love mine. But to answer the question – love the prada bag, it’s something you will get use of on days when you don’t need to carry everything around, and getting a m/l bag doesn’t mean you have to get rid of the others!

      • Second MZ Wallace. They wear like iron and come with smaller pouches (like a large coin purse) that you can use to run to lunch.

    • Agreed – I finally came to this conclusion and switched from carrying both a purse and a laptop bag to a simple black leather Coach bag (the Chelsea Jayden carryall, which I found at the factory outlet for under $200). I keep a clutch inside with my lipstick, credit cards, brush, etc., which I bring with me if I go out to run errands or meet a friend. A few times a week I bring a fold-up bag or a disposable bag with a bunch of microwave meals and snacks, but otherwise it’s a relief to have just one bag to worry about (and since I zip up my phone and blackberry deep inside the main bag, I’m less worried about loosing something essential on the metro). On the weekends, I transfer the contents of my “work clutch” into my fun clutches. So, I think that it’s possible to simplify, but agree with Kat that it might be best to start with a smaller investment when changing habits!

    • I don’t love the bag lady look either (and it’s a pain because I commute on buses), but I don’t know what else to do. I carry a bookbag and a purse every day because I go to the gym either before or after work. There is no possible way I could just use one large bag – I am not going to carry a gym bag when I go to lunch, etc. during the day. I suppose I could keep a purse in my office for that, but it sort of seems like a waste of a purse, and there’s no guaranteeing it would go with whatever else I was wearing.

      • I still think a polished purse and one tidy carry-stuff bag, that are clearly distinct (so you’re not carrying two purses or two big totes), is okay. But that’s because for the sake of my back, I need to have my purse separate from my haul-stuff-around bag – if I carry my purse stuff AND my lunch AND papers/books/laptop in one bag, I will end up with a very very VERY sore neck and back in a hurry. (What can I say, I’m old!) So I either have a purse that goes over the shoulder, and a tote bag I carry by the handle, or vice versa. (Personally I love short-handled bags – I just sling them over my wrist/forearm if I need both hands – but that is definitely a personal preference thing.)

  5. Almost There :

    I am *so* tempted to buy an OG. I’m considering it for last semester of law school (where I’ll be working clinic) and then for first job file hauling…. self control slipping….

  6. downstream :

    Good lord why do you carry so much stuff?? I am also an attorney in NYC, I also commute on the subway, and I carry: 1) wallet; 2) keys; 3) cellphone; 4) book/magazine. If it’s a court day and I’m super-prepared, I also have a pen and maybe some work papers. Am I missing something? Am I just woefully underprepared for the impending zombie apocalypse?

    • I typically also have at least a laptop and a stack of documents that I had to take home. Court requires a stack of documents too, typically.

    • Depending on how long your commute is, you may actually need all that stuff. To save time and/or money, bringing along makeup or lunch or whatever can make your life a lot easier.

      • just a lurker :

        I carry all that stuff and I much prefer a backpack. I regret spending so much money on fancy bags and totes because they are really uncomfortable when walking to and from the bus, and if I have to stand during the ride, it’s just miserable.

      • This is true, but I find that you can usually leave a lot of it at the office. One of the best things I have done to make my life easier is invest in a few things I would be tempted to carry around to just keep in my desk. So, e.g., I have an extra umbrella, a spare pair of stockings, a hairbrush, nail polish, extra shoes, advil, etc., at work, so that if, let’s say, it “might rain” later, I don’t actually have to carry the umbrella around. Obviously, this is more difficult on days you have to be out and about, but I still think there is a substantial amount of condensing you could do if you just leave some stuff at work. This is a good way to cut down on clutter at home, too.
        My other trick is to take all those small things that I carry around “just in case” (like the nail file, kleenex, etc.)and corral them into little pouches so that they’re not just bouncing around. The Container Store has great colorful mesh ones that make it really easy to see what’s what for $3-6.

    • I work at a university and walk to work and I carry in my purse: 1) wallet 2) keys 3) cellphone 4) cosmetic bag full of incidentals (ibuprofen, lip gloss, allergy pills, etc) 5) plastic envelope for receipts and other documents 6) business card case. These all fit very easily in a medium-sized purse but I also carry a medium Longchamp bag with: 1) iPad 2) lunch 3)work shoes 4) umbrella. I know there are varying degrees of love for the Longchamp but I love it because the top zips and it’s waterproof. I’ve also carried a 6-pack of sparkling water and some cans of soup with everything else and felt secure in putting that much weight in the bag. I’m firmly in the two-bag camp because my back/shoulder starts to hurt if I cram everything into my big bags or I’m constantly fiddling with the shoulder straps.

      Bottom line, if you love a bag, you should buy it because you’ll use it. If you kinda like a bag and think it will work well for your purposes, I don’t think you’ll use it. Also, if you get a big bag but don’t really need all that stuff, you’ll find a way to fill it. At least that’s what I do.

    • Midwest Transplant :

      I’m a consultant, so every day I have to carry my laptop and shoes back and forth from the client site. (Refuse to commute in heels.) I like to bring my lunch a few days a week, so the bag needs to be pretty large. I’m currently on the hunt for something lighter, probably nylon, then my giant leather bag, but also looks professional when I arrive for client meetings.

      Really appreciating the suggestions so far.

    • anon in-house :

      I workout straight after work so I need a change of clothes with me, also my kindle, wallet, water bottle, gloves/hat/scarf if weather is cold, etc. On top of that, sometimes I carry a yoga mat because certain studios make you pay to rent their ragged mat. Bag lady for life I am.

  7. I think Kat’s right about it being very hard to change your purse habits. I’m a big purse kind of girl and every small bag I’ve ever bought goes essentially unused. Le sigh.

    • Downsizing to a smaller bag requires constant discipline, like a 12-step program. I’ve been big-bag sober for a few years, after a decade of falling off the wagon. It’s just soooo tempting to grab that gorgeous giant bag and shove it full of everything you might need to hike across Siberia, and oh, the peer pressure…

      Srsly tho, Kat is right: To change, you must know why got hooked on big bags in the first place. But you also must be really motivated to give them up. To stay on the wagon, I must constantly remind myself of the back pain, and my mortification at asking for a bigger booth at a restaurant just so there’s enough room for my bag.

      You will also need new habits to compensate for the hole the big bag was filling in your life. My coping strategies are:
      (1) stocking my desk with cosmetics, vitamins, toothbrush, sweater, umbrella, emergency shoes, bottled water, granola bars, nuts, peanut butter, wet wipes, etc;
      (2) digitizing all my work files, and using a Dropbox account to sync with home & laptop;
      (3) Getting a small, foldable totebag that I am allowed to use only to ferry other miscellanea from work to home and back.

      • Miss Cellaneous :

        I just laughed aloud while alone in my apartment.

        Now I’m going to raid my pantry and bathroom to start my “coping” stockpile. Then maybe I’ll feel secure enough to walk around without my survival gear.

  8. eastbaybanker :

    I’m looking to make a first time ever splurge bag purchase ($1k) and have the exact same problem! The LV Neverful holds everything but I don’t like the logo look. The Philip Lim 31 hour bag is giant and would hold everything, but I would like something with more structure and a shoulder strap.

    I need a gigantic bag because I commute with a packed lunch the size of a small shopping bag (I eat a lot of fruit and veggies and they take up a lot of space), a pair of heels to change into (I don’t like leaving them all at my office like many readers), a large wallet, phone, and keys. My everyday bag is a large Ann Klein leather tote. It’s not glamorous but it holds everything.

    • If you like the LV neverful, MK has a very good discreet version (without the logo pattern).

      • Ditto! (I have both. Neverful for life! But my sis gifted me the MK with laptop sleeve for when I need something without logo)

  9. Senior Attorney :

    Travel/shopping threadjack: Anybody ever spent any time in Hiroshima, Japan? Mr. K and I are leaving on our Big Trip in less than a week (squee!!!) and it will include a quick stop to visit my son, the Marine, who is stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni. We will be staying at the Sheraton in Hiroshima, about an hour’s train ride from Iwakuni.

    We already have a private guide set up for the Peace Park (half day) and Iwakuni Castle/Miyajima Island (full day). So the shopping will be kind of an afterthought but I do hate to leave Japan without a little retail therapy! Any ideas about where to shop and/or what to buy? And beyond that, any suggestions about where to eat or what to do in Hiroshima or Iwakuni? We will be taking the Marine and his buddies to dinner in Iwakuni so suggestions re: that are especially welcome!

    Thanks for any input the Hive can provide!

    • Susan (edna_mode_nyc) :

      Go to Matsumoto Kiyoshi.

      It’s a chain beauty/cosmetics supply store. Great Japanese cosmetics. Great quality stuff and nice salestaff.

    • Susan (edna_mode_nyc) :

      One more shopping suggestion — Parco is a huge mall near Peace Park. Not sure if you are OK with malls, but this is a nice one. And of course, it’s crowded but people move in a very orderly way there.

      I saw a TV program that tested how situationally aware “walkers” were in various countries, and Japan scored very high– people are aware of the space around them and don’t collide or walk into others very often, even though the experimenters purposely tried to walk into people or stop-short to cause collisions. :-)

      • Senior Attorney :

        Thanks so much, Susan! Japanese cosmetics sounds super fun!! And I am def. okay with malls!

        Super interesting about space-awareness! I pride myself on my own space awareness so we’ll see how I stack up against the Japanese! I really don’t want to be a big ol’ lumbering American!

    • Uniqlo! It’s great for basics. I second the PARCO recommendation for more fashionable picks. Also, a stop in Tokyu Hands is always fun (kind of like Target).

      Hiroshima is famous for their okonomiyaki (egg pancake with delicious stuff in it) and maple-flavored manju (bean cakes)- usually given as souvenirs. It also has great grilled oysters- get some at the little stands for a snack.

    • Second Tokyu Hands. Also, Loft and Don Quijote are great “everything stores” where you can pick up some cool local stuff for yourself or others (Loft and Tokyu Hands also have beauty products). Go to any of the big department stores and head down to their basement food halls – amazing stuff to eat right away or to buy and take back to the States.

      I have to respectfully disagree with the spatial awareness comment. I am constantly getting whacked into on my commute!

    • Since this is a bag thread, I’ll jump in with a recommendation for Porter bags from Japan, huge range, super high quality, super functional and depending on which model you go for, super light-weight. These bags are ubiquitous in Japan – every second salariman in trains and airports seems to have one.

      I like the range whose fabric resembles flight jackets (padded and glossy on the outside, bright orange on the inside, very handy if you tend to lose things inside your bag) and have a little sling bag for holidays, a tote for laptop and work stuff, and a carry-on bag for short-haul trips. The 3rd one is nearly a decade old and still looks and works fine. I got the other 2 when I realised that I had encountered the bag of my life and was ready to commit to matchy-matchy all the way.

      Tokyu Hands and the department stores should carry them and pricing is highly standardised, so don’t worry about shopping around. I think the carry-on models go for 15,000 – 25,000 yen depending on how elaborately they are fitted out on the inside.

      Very cool that your boy is a Marine. You must be very proud of him.

  10. Hmm, I too have my Bayswater sit in my closet while my LV Neverfull is always full (perfect for papers/wallet/keys/phones/umbrella/lunch wrapped in plastic then put into washable Built bag).

    But it’s nice to bust out the Bayswater when I know I’ll be seeing clients/going to court. But when I *end * up going without notice, I don’t feel too bad about my Neverful.

    Just my two cents. I would love to hear thoughts though, as I too am contemplating big bag purchase.

    • I just realized we might be purse twins. Down to the built bag tossed into the neverful, except I lost mine about a year ago. My Bayswater also sits in the closet unless I know I’m going to court/networking or what not.

      Are you contemplating a YSL bag, because then we totally ARE purse twins.

  11. I have the LV Alma too, and I feel the exact same way about it. And I *do* live in the suburbs! Poor bag sits in my closet.

  12. i am actually asking for the tom binh western flyer bag in black for my study/work/travel existence. i figure i can pull out the backpack straps when commuting and use the shoulder strap or handles otherwise, plus it can be my carryon bag. anyone have any thoughts? i was hesitant to make the switch to nylon after years of leather but i figure that it should be pretty inoffensive in black . . .

  13. My husband’s nickname for my purse is “The Vortex.” I can never find anything in there–it just gets sucked in forever.

    • This is what happens to ME with my LIT BAG!

      Fortunately my LIT BAG is built with alot of space in it (it’s more like a cardbord BOX) and one time I left a bannanna in it and it was 100% black before I even realised that there was a bannanna in there! At the time, I was dateing Alan, and he was alway’s hungry, so when he started looking thru my bag for DORITO’S, he managed to sniff it out and eat it! Yay for him, b/c the LIT BAG was begining to smell funny.

      Now I carry my LIT BAG but put FOOD in a plastic bag so that it will NOT get my case’s all wet. FOOEY!

    • SF Bay Associate :

      I used to watch The Closer. DH walked by when Brenda was digging in her black hole tote for something and looked at me, then looked at my bag, then looked at me again, and walked out of the room laughing. Busted!

  14. Absolutely agree – it is very hard to change purse habits.

    As an example, I used to have a department store large purse with front pockets where I habitually stored my keys, work ID card and lip balm. That purse became so run down that random family members started telling me to get a new one. So, I got a new black purse, except it doesn’t have that outside front pocket where I can store my essentials. I thought I would train myself to store it in the now smaller inside pocket, but no success. Six months out and I still miss that bag, and get annoyed at the one I have all the time.

    • TO Lawyer :

      Agree with this. I love my Pippa because it has outside pockets… I found a new bag I love but I’m trying to convince myself not to buy it because while the Pippa occasionally bores me, it is SO functional.

  15. I was just thinking the other day that I almost don’t even need a purse now that its coat weather. I have wallet (small) id, two phones, umbrella and a chapstick. I keep shoes and all make up at work. I just got a blue tote at talbots that I really like. It is really skinny but I think it’ll work for me

  16. I think the key thing is getting a bag with handles that will go over your shoulder. There are some versions of the Prada Saffiano that have long enough handles, though I don’t see them on the saks site. Try to go look in person.

    Three other options, though they might not be big enough:
    -YSL muse bag. Lots of colors, may also come in an XL size.
    -Marc Jacobs Rio satchel, comes in a few colors
    -Marc Jacobs Palais Royale, I’ve only seen black, but it’s a great classic bag

    Also, I don’t love them, but the Goyard open top totes are really popular.

  17. If you carry a laptop regularly, use a bag designed for that purpose, with padding and straps to hold it still. If your laptop is damaged the fallout goes way beyond the expense of replacing it. There are bags that meet those specifications and are also designed to replace a purse, but all that stuff together can be really heavy. Does it really look more professional to look like you are struggling? There is nothing wrong with carrying a handbag and a briefcase/laptop bag. As for the expensive handbag, it’s never been clear to me why Prada bags are as expensive as they are. There are many brands that offer beautiful designs at the same level of quality for much lower prices and without the logo. Dome satchels are everywhere these days. Remember, it’s not really an investment. It’s not going to increase in value (unless it’s one of the rare Birkins).

    • Amen on the “investment” comment. To each her own, but I don’t think you’re really “investing” in a bag. This is especially true for me because my tastes/needs change and I’m not going to want to stick to one bag for the next twenty years–even if it did cost a fortune.

    • yes, yes, to the handbag and briefcase/laptop bag! also to the investment stuff – not that I object if anyone else spends the money, I’ve just never spent more than about $110 on a handbag. I’d rather have a bunch of pretty bags that I’m not going to freak out about getting damaged/dirty/worn than spend that much on one – but again, that’s just my preference.

    • I’d like to recommend Timbuk2 bags, which have gone way beyond their messenger beginnings. They’re almost all designed to carry a laptop safely as well as function as a comfortable (and waterproof) purse. I didn’t even get a huge one, but I adore mine, it’s incredibly functional and looks cool in a black techno way. Granted, I’m a geek and not a lawyer :-), but this is way better than a Longchamp.

  18. Sigh, but I love that Alma. So classic.

  19. When I took the subway, I was all monogrammed LLBean messenger bag with convertible backpack straps and a waterproof compartment for gym clothes (the current messenger bag doesn’t have the backpack straps, a must for me if I’m on travel with the heavy and aging laptop).

    Now, I drive to work and have added a lovely little edgy leather purse in my favorite color and only carry two bags when going to/from the car. I thought about upgrading the LLBean bag to something swanky or at least leather, but the extra weight of leather and losing the awesome compartments / functionality was a dealbreaker. It’s black and has a tidy, expedient vibe to it. I have clients who work in my building and do not want a noticeably expensive bag.

  20. Blonde Lawyer :

    I often wonder why women *need* purses and men don’t. I’m a purse girl and am baffled that men don’t carry an equivalent. The contents of my purse are mostly gender neutral but for the occasional feminine hygiene product. The rest of the month I have wallet, keys, iphone, snacks, medicine, business cards, hand lotion, chapstick, eyeglasses (if I’m wearing contacts), sunglasses when necessary, pen, business cards, eye drops. (I just checked my purse.) Everyone one of those items should be a gender neutral need. Maybe if we wore baggier clothes with deeper pockets we could do away with purses? From this list, I can say my husband almost always has his wallet, keys, iphone, business cards and chapstick on him. He does not need mid-day medication or wear glasses or contacts. He never has a pen when he needs one.

    • My male coworkers all carry a messenger bag, backpack, gym bag or briefcase to work, whether they’re single, married, drive to work or take the train. All of them. Throughout the day they don’t need to hang on to their bags but when leaving the building, their bag goes with them.

    • Men have pockets! :)

      And even if I had pockets on the back of my pants, I would not want the lump of my wallet and swipe card for work and lumpy keys there. And I often don’t have an exposed waistband into which to clip my blackberry. Husband also seems to have pockets and interior pockets in his blazers. And the feminine products — oy!

      So, I am on Team Small Purse. [And larger bag for Work Stuff and Gym Stuff, but only as needed.]

      Also am on Team Wristlet Inside the Diaper Bag on weekends.

    • 90% of the men on the metro in DC have some sort of bag. I see backpacks and messenger bags. I see less in the winter, but in the summer they all have them.

    • Meg Murry :

      One of my male friends commented that his messenger bag crossed the line from “bag I carry files & my lunch in” to “man purse” when he started putting things in it that “might be handy” rather than just the things he absolutely needed everyday, and it was an even bigger flag when he started grabbing it on weekends too. I agree that when a bag crosses over and contains lipstick/chapstick, tissues, asprin and other “just in case” items, it’s crossed into purse territory, male or female.

  21. I bought the largest Saffiano tote in red ostrich almost 2 years ago and I adore it. It was definitely an investment, but I carry it almost every day (unless I’m in trial – then a plain black purse with no identifiable brand). I’ll put my ipad, files, etc. in it, but I usually just carry my laptop bag (the small Lo & Sons laptop bag (the Savoy).

  22. In the Pink :

    I use a one purse habit … regardless of the season. For 2 years now, it’s been the horizontal Seat Belt Bag. Nothing defeats it. Has feet, zippered top, key ring (which I attached a small caribiner too for quick access), slash/phone pockets, and really has weathered it all. Including travel. People comment; maybe it’s the shine of the material or the attached same-belt flower (velcro).

    But want to change to a new briefcase. Stalling I am. I need to carry letter size file folders that are often 2-3″ full of papers. Daily. My laptop is 15″. While it rarely goes in the briefcase, I know that if it fits, the daily files will fit.

    Would love a zippered closure and feet.
    Need a 1 or 2 shoulder strap model.
    Handles for other ways to carry/support it a bonus.

    Do I ask too much?

    Have searched on e bags, but hesitant because of return/exchanges. Thoughts?

    • eastbaybanker :

      Just as an FYI, ebags is super nice about returns. I bought a carry on bag from them and it arrived with a defective zipper. They apologized and overnighted me a new bag at no charge so I would get it in time for my trip.

      • I also like their designs, which are usually culled from customer’s comments about what they’d like to see in other brands :-). I didn’t think their quality was adequate when I got a couple bags from them though. But I haven’t tried them again in over 5 years, that may have changed?

    • emcsquared :

      Also check zappos – they have a big selection of bags and easy returns. Maybe not the super high-end designer-y bags though. I’m a simple girl.

  23. I am an attorney, and I debate about the usefulness of a giant, expensive bag that holds everything. I actually like having two separate bags – a purse and a laptop/work bag. The main reason: I often go out for work lunches/dinners/happy hours. I like to have a stylish bag to take with me that is not mammoth so I can carry my keyfob, wallet, phone, and flats without taking out someone when I attempt to turn around. Our firm gives us nice, simple black Timbuk2 messenger laptop bags with a ton of compartments, penholders, pouches, etc. that easily fits all my work things, aside from massive binders I sometimes have to carry around.

  24. Are the Lo and Sons bags high quality and durable? I am really hard on my accessories (this bag may get 15lbs of stuff inside it and be thrown around everywhere) and I would rather pay more for a bag I don’t have to worry about.

    • I’ve been searching high and low for a solid crossbody that’ll hold a laptop and other the other crap I schlep. I’ve had backpacks, totes, and Tumis, and Timbuk2 bags. The Timbuk2 bag I have is just way too big and the Tumi bag was so heavy and uncomfortable, I returned it. Timbuk2 is great but I want something more chic and professional. That being said, I’ve been using a Jansport for the past year…

      So I just got the Lo & Sons OG in the mail. For $300, I am NOT impressed. The nylon quality seems cheap and the hardware looks like it’ll break eventually. The compartments are great and so is the space, but the external look and the overall quality looks shabby. Reminds me of a $25 bag at Ross, honestly. I’m going to return it. Maybe I’ve been looking at too many high-end nylon and leather bags these days.

  25. I’m a litigator and spent 2 years looking for an affordable, professional, lightweight, sturdy and polished every-day tote at least 17 inches wide for legal files. Large logos and brand names are distracting and frowned upon in the courtroom. I finally found the perfect tote and bought two. It is the Cynthia Rowley Saffiano leather tote in black.

    • And I should add that I keep a basic black clutch at my desk or in my car for lunches and post work events.

  26. Anon in Midwest :

    Just thought I’d mention that Lo & Sons have a holiday sale going on – 30% off everything through 1/1/13 – use discount code HOLIDAYS2012. That, plus free shipping, just pushed me off the fence to order a OM bag.

  27. I got this bag in black (the medium arno Brahmin) and have been very, very happy with it. Not enormous (which I like) but can still fit all my regular stuff plus work files. And even a pair of flats on a few occasions. The have other shapes (taller, more square, etc) but this one was best if you are regularly carrying small binders or folders of papers. I wasn’t that familiar with the brand, but it is a good price point and nice quality.

  28. So surprised to hear that the conference/free tote is used by higher ups. It makes me feel better about the canvas tote I carry around with extra shoes/lunch on those days where everything won’t fit in my purse. I do feel like a bag lady, but I’m on public transit all day and I don’t want to be without the essentials. I love my wallet, but am realizing via these threads that I do need to switch to a wristlet for those quick Starbucks/lunch trips. I have completely stopped carrying a water bottle around though. WAY too many accidents. Now I just leave mine at work along with my reading glasses, an extra pair of headphones, umbrella, and plain black pumps.

  29. i just bought the pashli bag in black…i have my 15 inch lap top in it. i’ve looked and looked for a tote and came to conclude the pashli is sturdy, fashionable without the big logos, and classy. it is big on someone petite like me, but still, i’ve found it to be the best overall…in terms of price and look.

  30. so, Question! to the folks commuting and walking around all day with heavy totes full of stuff – how do your shoulders and back not kill you? i’m out in the field a lot for work, but still have to look put together, and at the end of the day i’ve actually had tension headaches despite shifting straps from one shoulder to the other, slinging the thing messenger-bag style, etc.

  31. Thanks for your advice Kat and Commentariat. Funny enough, I purchased a Lo & Sons OMG bag shortly after asking my question and it arrived the same day you posted this! I’m going to road test the OMG and a smaller purse to see if I can make a commitment to a simpler life.

    Thanks again – A.

  32. I really like the Baggalini Expandable Tote:

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  35. sheila Chunis :

    I bought the OG from LO&sons and love it. It is durable and holds so much. I just bought the weekender for fun. It is the most professional bag I have seen in a long time. I looked a long time. I am 64 and a mental health counselor and travel to job sites by car.

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