The Hunt: Stylish Interview Totes

stylish interview totes 1752017 Update: We still like these stylish interview totes below, but do come check out our most recent roundup of the best tote bags for work!

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?


stylish interview totesStylish Interview Totes Pictured Above:

  1. I found two nice options in the under $50 category: this fun trapezoidal bag from Limited (pictured) and this perforated tote from Zara, now $40 (was $80). Both have straps that are too short for your shoulders, which can be a problem if you’re juggling numerous things (such as a cup of water, your coat, and paperwork), but they’re both really nice looking and very affordable. I like that both have zippered tops and will stand up by themselves, and I love that the Limited bag has a customer rating of 4.9. The Limited bag is $80, but with today’s 40%-off code (SAVE40) it comes to $48. Large Trapezoid Tote
  2. Banana Republic actually has a ton of great options in this price range; one of my favorites is the Emily Tote, pictured. It’s also available in dark brown and burgundy, and I like the leather, the zipper on top, the interior organization, the 8″ handle drop, and the unusually wide 7.75″ base. It’s available exclusively online for $198, but with today’s 40%-off code (BIGTIME) it comes down to $118. (Other great options: the Larkin Tote and the Amalfi Tote, and if you’re on a budget it looks like the Kenzie bag might be a great option for a simple nylon bag with a bit of structure.) Emily Tote
  3. I was a bit on the fence about this bag (I wished it had more structure on the sides) until I watched the video on Zappos — it has feet! credit card slots on the interior wall! a pocket at the top! and glowing reviews everywhere it’s sold in its many colors. (Zappos offers 15!, and you can find numerous fun colors over at 6pm as low as $85.) Note that the Fossil Sydney Shopper is only 12.5″ wide; if you want bigger the 19″ Sydney Tote may be for you, or the 15″ Sydney Work Bag (which is a more traditional-looking briefcase). The Sydney Shopper, pictured, is $168 at Zappos. Sydney Shopper
  4. The Hobo brand has tons of midrange options for leather; but this Annalisa bag is speaking to me because of the red accents, interior organization (with bright red lining), feet, and that sleek exterior pocket. It has a 5-star rating at Zappos, and is $248. Annalisa
  5. I’ve featured this Saffiano leather line numerous times on the blog before, but amazingly I haven’t included it in our yearly interview bag roundup. If you want a leather bag for your interview bag (as opposed to a lighter nylon), this highly-recommended bag from MICHAEL Michael Kors is a winner. It comes in numerous colors at Nordstrom, and there are even special versions of it at the Apple Store. It’s $278 at Nordstrom. Jet Set Large Travel Tote
  6. Kate Spade totes almost always make our list, and for good reason — they’re intelligently designed with quality leather. This pebbled leather version looks lovely, and at 15″W x 10.5″H x 6″D looks big enough to hold everything you might need on an interview (and then some). It’s $428 at Nordstrom. (See also: the Kate Spade Saturday A satchel, available for a much more affordable $250.) “Grove Court – Lainey” Leather Tote

Like this feature? Check out other recent installments!



    I use the Chelsea bag in Black as my work bag when I need to carry papers/a portfolio/a laptop (I have a Mac – larger ones wouldn’t fit). It is fantastic. The handles are super sturdy because it is designed for heavy camera equipment.

  2. Contracts :

    I got the Ann Taylor pebbled signature tote in black on sale in store for 50% off of $35. True story. I don’t normally carry black bags, but it seemed like a good thing to have, just in case. It’s not real leather, but it’s sturdy. Lesson: go in store, if possible, when there are big sales. Things will be cheaper in store than online.

  3. Stephanie :

    The #5 bag by Michael Kors also handily fits legal size files — I use this bag every day, even on days I’m in court.

  4. I purchased a Le Sportsac Everygirl tote based on the recommendation of this blog, and LOVE it. Although it may not be dressy enough for interview purposes, it IS available in black (mine is Blackberry Nouveau) and it fully zips. I can put a laptop in there and some file folders, or my gym clothes and lunch. If I have an extra big load, the zipper part kind of pops up to make the bag bigger. It’s also super comfy to carry.

  5. Veronica Mars :

    I have and LOVE the Longchamp Roseau bag. They retail for something ridiculous, but I see them all the time on eBay for $40-$150 depending on condition (mine was $55 shipped and in excellent shape). It comes in tan, brown and black. There’s also a few different handle styles (short, long or what looks like an xl in some older styles). It’s a really beautiful bag–lots of interior pockets for organization.

  6. I don’t agree that an interview bag has to be black. I do love this Lodis bag because it has hints of red:

    • Killer Kitten Heels :

      MZWallace has the same type of red trim (and MZWallace bags are AMAZING and I am obsessed with mine and carry it daily, so I’d highly recommend).

    • I have that Lodis Audrey bag and it is over eight years old. I’ve carried it off and on while commuting to/from work for a couple years but have now switched so that it is just for interviews. It looks almost brand new. Love it!

  7. Just FYI: the banana republic bags are not 40% off, as BR Picks are (as usual) excluded from the sale. Sigh.

  8. I bought a Lo & Sons bag after seeing it on Corporette and am completely in love with it! It looks fantastic and, when I open it, it looks practically empty because everything is tucked into its own little compartment. I got the one that is more horizontally aligned than vertical, which looks a little more formal to me.

    • Cady Herron :

      I have the LV Epi Madeleine in black, and I love it.

      • Red Beagle :

        I got a rather amazing Fossil leather bag in a resale store (looks like new) that easily fits my MacBook Air, a portfolio with papers, and anything else you might need for interviewing. It looks something like the one I will link to in the next post.

        • Red Beagle :

  9. About the Michael Kors Saffiano, any owners out there? I’m considering purchasing this bag for its versatility (should fit all things needed in a regular week), but I’m not sure if the quality corresponds to the price. Anyone with a MK for over a year? Does it still look good? Thanks, K.

    • Amelia Earhart :

      I have the MacBook Pro version of the MK Jet Set tote, I used it every day for over a year and it looks brand new. I’m not exactly gentle with my bags and I carry a ton of crap, so I was impressed. I only switched because I was getting a little bored with it.

    • In-House Europe :

      I just got the MK in beige with the laptop bit in the middle and I LURVE it – I was going to get on here to recommend it anyway. It is the perfect size – my non-small and cute laptop still fits in the laptop portion (albeit unzipped) and there is room for everything. Only quibble I have is that it doesn’t have feet (is that what they are called? The little metal bits on the bottom of the bag?) but I’m hoping that the leather holds up regardless. Am now off to Google Saffiano leather…

      • Thanks! I guess the studded bottom shouldn’t be an issue if you keep it far from rough surfaces, right?

  10. I have a Coach Saffiano leather bag and am in love with it. It’s sturdy enough for every day, easy to keep clean, and in that perfect not too big/not too small range. I can stash documents and my planner in it without looking overstuffed.

    It also has the detachable long strap, so I can use it as a tote for interviews/more formal work events, and make it work for more casual events when I might want to make a cross-body out of it. (I have a small child, so having two hands free has it’s own appeal.)

  11. Cream Tea :

    The Radley bags are beautiful, well made, classic pieces. I bought mine a few years ago, just a basic black leather tote, but it had changed my life (no exaggeration!). They are on the expensive side of affordable, and well worth the extra money over something cheaper.

  12. A friend recently mentioned this site to me, and it’s great! I was wondering if anyone has any thoughts on the Tumi Q-Totes in the Sinclair and Voyageur series (links below). I’m not looking for an interview tote (now 5 years on the job, no plans to change jobs, and good job security) but for an everyday bag that can accommodate papers, files, lunch, purse-y things (like makeup bag, hairbrush, phone, pens, etc), and so forth. I will be doing some commuting by car and some by public transport, so am looking for something that can handle both. As the username indicates, I’m a federal employee in DC.

    I’m leaning toward the Q-Tote in the Sinclair series since it will hold its shape better when I set it down better than the nylon Voyageur series, but am open to other thoughts.

    Sinclair series:

    Voyageur series:

  13. Radley bags are brilliant, I agree. They look smart, soft, well designed. Great handles and a few pockets. Got mine at the airport in London in a hurry and was on sale so still have it after 2 years wearing it. Glad I did.

  14. Elizabeth :

    I absolutely love the Christi Lang handbag I purchased last month while in San Antonio. It has a place for EVERYTHING from iPads to phones to a legal pad and everything you could ever need. It has a key magnet, so keys get magnetized to the side of the purse when tossed into the bag… I don’t ever have to dig for my keys when walking to my car late at night. The bags are imported from Italy, so they are beautiful as well as functional. Her bags are just now hitting the market… I think her website is . Love, love, love her handbag!

    • Christi Lang :

      This is Christi Lang. (I discovered your post after asking an online customer, how she discovered the bag. She told me she read about it in a blog. ) Thank you for your kind report on my handbag. I am so glad that you love it! I designed this bag because I could never find anything in my “black hole” handbag. Typically, I am an organized person, however, my bag was a disaster area. This bag serves as the ultimate organizational tool to keep everything in place. My customers tell me that it is calming to be able to find everything, and as every busy woman knows, calmness is a good thing! (Italian leather is a good thing as well!!)

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