2018 Update: We still like these stylish interview totes below, but do come check out our most recent roundup of the best work bags!
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 totes. Readers, 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?
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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