Guest Post: Stylish Work Bags

best work bags

2016 Update: Check out our most recent roundup of professional tote bags for women!

Work bags: we’ve talked about bags for summer associatesinterview totessuitcases for overnight business tripsmessenger bags, and how much we end up spending on them all. In today’s guest post, Jean from Extra Petite brings you a roundup of stylish work bags, straight from her own closet. In addition to petite-focused fashion, Jean’s blog features workwear and accessories reviews across various sizes. Jean was kind enough to contribute a great guest post on suiting alterations during my last maternity leave — welcome back, Jean! – Kat.

Hello Corporette readers! I’m stepping in for Kat today to chat about work-appropriate handbags that fit at least a laptop and some documents. I know we each have various needs and preferences on material, structure, and price range, so I’ve pulled a few from my own closet that cover a wide span of options:

First up is my budget pick  the Sole Society reversible “Milan” tote. It comes in black faux leather that reverses to cream, or a navy faux leather that reverses to a canvas navy stripe, and has a detachable pouch for valuables. It’s the largest of the options today and can fit lunch, a laptop, change of shoes, and more. The material is very pliable and the only notable downside to me is exposed stitching seams on one side when inverted.

Retail price: $59.95 (coupons available around the net)

Sold at: Sole Society

See my related post.

Work bag sole society

Another value pick, this Ann Taylor “Gallery” tote is one of my all-time favorite handbags. Several women have asked if it’s Celine or another designer and are surprised to find out it’s not only AT but also faux leather. This season the bag comes in classic black, navy, or this dewy pink “morning fog.” The material has medium structure (stays standing up vs. slouches) and thickness, and the bag features an interior zip pocket and an outer slot pocket.

Retail price: $118 (look out for those frequent 30 to 40% off promos)

Sold at: Ann Taylor in-store and online

See my related post.

Work bag ann taylor

Edging into genuine leather and a higher price range, Mansur Gavriel is known for quality leather bags with minimalistic lines and a colorful surprise. Currently the totes come in a smooth, vegetable-tanned leather with either raw hide or smooth resin-coated color interiors. All totes have a removable zipper pouch which is also lined in a contrasting color. Please note that the shoulder drop of my small tote is a snug fit over winter coats  I’ve heard that they are modifying it to be longer for fall 2014 and adding new leather and color options.

Price: $485 (for small size) and up

Sold at: Net-A-Porter, Bergdorf Goodman, Jenny Kayne, select Theory stores

See my related post.

Work bag mansur gavriel

For those who like print bags (which in my opinion looks nice if you wear a lot of solid colors), Goyard totes feature the brand’s hand-painted chevron coated canvas with matching detachable pouch. It’s the most lightweight and pliable option compared to today’s other varieties, and is also the one I use the most frequently outside of work for running errands. They also make a more structured, boxier tote version which I am showing on the left photo for comparison.

Price: $1150 (for St. Louis PM / small in basic colors) and up

Sold at (in-store or phone orders only): Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Goyard San Francisco

See my related post.

Work bag goyard

At the splurge end of today’s range is the Prada Saffiano tote, which comes in a wide selection of sizes and styles (open top, double zip pockets, with or without detachable shoulder strap, etc.). The one I’m showing is the medium double-zip tote with shoulder strap, which is a very close fit for a 12″-across laptop. I’ve also tried the open top tote style which fits a laptop more easily. My favorite aspects are the structured shape and the Saffiano coated leather, which is a little more scratch/stain/water-resistant than regular leather.

Price: exact style shown is $2,350, but there are numerous smaller or larger options. Look for 10% email signup discounts on Saks or NM’s websites, or tiered gift card promos.

Sold at: Prada and most high-end department stores, including Neiman Marcus.

See my related post.

Work bag prada saffiano

Readers, which are your favorite work bags and totes?  Do you own any of the ones pictured today  and what’s your review?


N.B. PLEASE KEEP YOUR COMMENTS ON TOPIC; threadjacks will be deleted at our sole discretion and convenience. These substantive posts are intended to be a source of community comment on a particular topic, which readers can browse through without having to sift out a lot of unrelated comments. And so, although of course I highly value all comments by my readers, I’m going ask you to please respect some boundaries on substantive posts like this one. Thank you for your understanding!


  1. Great line up of bags but I tend to only go for totes that zip across the top – otherwise I live in fear of things falling out. But I am very tempted by the AT pick…

    • In black, that AT pick is $59.99.

    • Wildkitten :

      Zip across the top is one of my key features in a work tote, yet none of mine do because I always get seduced by how pretty bags are and have momentary amnesia bout the need to zip on top.

      • greengoddess :

        The first thing I do when looking at a bag is to see how it closes. If a large bag doesn’t have a zip top, I immediately turn away so I don’t get seduced by excessive prettiness or a good price :)

    • Same here, I take public transportation every day. I always keep an eye on my bag but a zipper makes it easier.

  2. Lovely! I just got the Everlane tote – kind of slouchy but the leather is soooo soft. Like an upscale version of everyone’s favorite Longchamp nylon totes.

  3. Oh I love Jean! What a great guest editor for the site!

  4. How do you all care for your good pieces of leather? I splurged on some nice leather work bags and some classic shoes and I want to make sure I’m caring for them in a way that will make them last for a long time!

    And on a sidenote- has anyone ever had any luck fixing flats the make a creaking sound when you walk? I got a pair of pointy toe Manolos in nude patent leather and they make a noisy creaking sound when I walk. I’m trying to figure out if this is just because I haven’t really broken them in yet or if it just isn’t a good cut for my foot. It’s so loud it would be embarrassing to walk down the hallway at work with the sound!

    • +1 on needing to know how to care for nice leather!

      I splurged on an (on sale) Akris tote last year. It’s a gorgeous dark cobalt, and I want to keep it looking that way! So far it lives in its dust cover stuffed with t-shirts to keep its shape.

    • I take my shoes to a cobbler, is there an equivalent for leather bags? I’ve also thought about taking mine back to Nordstrom and seeing if they do a clean/repair for designers that they sell.

      • Wildkitten :

        I take my bags to a cobbler. If you want to mail away these guys are trusted by many brands:

    • S in Chicago :

      For real leather, I’ve used leather wipes or leather cleaning lotion applied with an old white t-shirt (same as treating leather coats or boots). But I’ve never used either on anything other than plain brown leather. Not sure if something colored or with any sort of coating on it would manage as well. I would be more inclined to leave that to a professional. Many shoe repair stores indicate they provide professional leather cleaning.

      • Baconpancakes :

        Yep, make sure to check with your manufacture. I almost oiled my Dooney & Bourke before reading their instructions that you shouldn’t ever use products on that particular kind of leather.

    • I bought the leather care serum from Le Tanneur (French brand), you use that on your bag twice per year using a very soft mitt that is provided. They also have other products for leather care.

  5. SV in House :

    I just saw a cute bag at TJ Maxx for $145 ( Any experience with Pour La Victoire bags?

    • I have one of their totes from a few years ago and was very impressed. Very nice quality! My only gripe with mine is that there are zippers on each end but they don’t actually zip across, only on the sides and then the middle just has a magnetic closure. I didn’t realize it because I was online shopping and it proved very annoying day to day. As long as yours doesn’t have any odd design quirks, I’d say go for it!

  6. I’ve had great luck with the Piazza brand that’s exclusive to ebags. The leather is high quality, the layout & pockets make sense, several are sized right for work, and they aren’t too pricey. Mine is giant capacity-wise but somehow not giant looks-wise. And it has a top zip, which I really prefer with my train-walk commute. They don’t come in fun colors, though. Just black, brown, tan.

  7. TO Lawyer :

    I love love love the Prada bag… I’ve had my eye on one for SO long. should probably start the saving fund now!

    • hoola hoopa :

      The prada one is very literally my ideal bag. I kept circling it in my recent purse search, but I just cannot justify the cost to myself.

  8. How often do you all change bags? I have a work bag, and that is my work bag. I don’t try to coordinate it with my outfit (though I could see how that would be fun, I would inevitably leave something important in the other bag). Just curious.

    • I do the same. To be fair, my work bag is large (an O.G.) because I have to schlep lunch, workout gear, heels, blazer or sweater in the summer, etc. on a long walk, and IMO it’s not practical to have a large rotation of horrendously large bags. I’ll switch to a smaller bag if I know I’ll be leaving the office to go to court, an out-of-office conference or meeting, etc.

      • hoola hoopa :

        This. I’ve gone to bag+clutch wallet. When I run out for lunch, etc, I leave the bag at the office and take just the wallet. It’s great at daycare pickup/drop-off, too, because them I feel comfortable leaving the bulky bag in the car.

        I change my bag about every 10 years :)

    • This is what I do–I don’t change bags either.

    • Woods-comma-Elle :

      Sometimes I change bags, but usually the same work bag goes for a couple of months, then I change for some reason and keep that one for a couple of months etc.

      I bought my first designer work bag this year and though I try to coordinate, I do wear it with stuff it doesn’t go with, because I love love love it!

      • anon-oh-no :

        this is basically what i do — use the same bag for a month or two and then rotate, though i have 2 or 3 that are in heavy rotation and are in basic colors so clashing isnt much of an issue.

        i also have a few seasonal work bags that will clash with things, so i usually only use them for a few days at at time.

        i also just purchased a kate spade bag on sale about a month ago and i think it is my favorite work bag ever. i bought the tan color (with yellow trim) but it comes in black too. it is super big without appearing giant; structured without being too stiff; has sufficient pockets; and although it doesnt have a zipper, it does have a magnent closure that is very strong and just closes on its own. i can fit a laptop, legal files, personal stuff and even a lunch. ill post a link below, but i cant say enough good things about this bag.

        • anon-oh-no :

          this is the smaller version — it has a zipper too.


    • Pretty much never. I carry the same bag every day (to work and otherwise). I only change things up if (1) I’m travelling (then I take the larger bag that holds a laptop), (2) I’m going somewhere on the weekends/in the evenings where I just want my small crossbody instead, or (3) formal event requiring fancy bag.

      Also all my bags are black.

    • J Crew Suiting Q :

      I change only for evening outings and weekends; also some juggling for work travel (switch to OG and pack a clutch).

      For me, change = move wallet and phone and lip item and floss from one bag to another.

      I have gone to Team Tiny Bag and it has made my life so much easier. Even when I bring a larger bag, I don’t add more than a tiny bag’s worth of items.

    • I have a black Samsonite work bag which has a laptop sleeve and good number of compartments. I don’t have a long commute and I driver to work. I can carry phone and laptop charger if I am going a day trip to a different office. I am an engineer and work in a very casual setting. So I can absolutely carry a backpack without any suitability concern. So I switch the Samsonite bag to a black/grey Victorinox backpack if it is any longer than a day trip so that I can stuff some luggage in it other than what I carry to work everyday.

    • I stick with one bag for months and months without switching normally. I did get a gorgeous bag as a gift recently though so I’ve been making an effort to switch and use it on nights out and weekends.

    • Baconpancakes :

      I copy Belle at CapHillStyle – I have a couple pouches that I keep everything in, so I grab the two pouches, my wallet, my kindle, and my phone, and that’s everything. Makes it easy to switch purses, so I usually have two purses a week, or one every other week, depending on what I’m wearing.

      • I just started the pouch method recently – don’t know why I didn’t do it earlier! I am a little bummed by the sheer volume of my ‘medical pouch’: 2 epi-pens, inhaler, and benadryl pills just in case. Technically I should have these items with me at all times, but it definitely limits the type of bag I can carry!

        • Anonymous :

          Snowy, I have the same issue! If you don’t mind, would you share which pouch you use for medicines?

      • Wildkitten :

        This is what I do. I never wear more than two different bags in one week, but I throw things in pouches to switch.

      • Wildkitten :

        Oh and I have a weekend bag but don’t carry as much in it, just like wallet, phone, keys.

    • I use nice handbags for work. I change bags pretty regularly – every week or two. I like totes, but I like medium sized purses such as the Rebecca Minkoff Morning After Bag Mini and the Kate Spade Little Minka. I sometimes even bring my Rebecca Minkoff Swing or regular MAC to work. I use the pouch method to transfer stuff between bags.

      I reserve the large conservative-looking totes for business travel and conferences. Although I often bring a regular structured purse to conferences instead.

    • I change my work bag every 10 weeks. When I am going for evenings out or business trips, I rotate 3 clutches.

  9. Great selections! I’ve been planning to get a tote to throw my shoes and lunch bag in and now I’m leaning heavily toward the Sole Society one. I really like all these though.

    • Oh and I’ve been using this one for months and love it. I saw a woman on the subway carrying it and asked her where she got it. I love it because it zips closed and has a great structure. Unfortunately I realized it might be a copy of a Michael Kors style but I didn’t realize that at the time.

      • It’s a copy of the Michael Kors Hamilton Tote. I have a Hamilton Tote. I like it but it gets very heavy.

      • Orangerie :

        And the lock is a copy of the Chloe Paddington line.

      • It actually bugs me enough that it was a copy that I wouldn’t have bought it in the first place. But since I already own it, I’m going to keep using it.

  10. A lot of these look like they won’t close – it would be my nightmare when walking in a busy city to try to guard against pickpockets…

  11. I love love love the “Pippa” because it has compartments that zip and two front pockets (easy to get to my building pass, etc). Definitely wouldn’t hold a laptop, but holds a kindle/ipad easily.

  12. I bought a Lodis bag from Nordstrom Rack about eight years ago that is perfect for days when I have to go to court or deposition. It has held up pretty well, but the handles are admittedly starting to look worn out. One of the best parts about it is that when it’s completely zipped closed, the bag is very sleek and streamlined (it doesn’t have that weird, bulgy exterior pocket that the current versions have). But when I need a little more room, I can unzip it all the way, which opens the sides of the bag all the way to the bottom. The bag has these little flaps that expand when the zipper is open that hold all my stuff in. I can’t find it anywhere anymore; the current versions have that weird contrast stitching, which mine doesn’t have.

    Anyway, I’d still recommend Lodis because my bag has held up really well.

    • Interesting — I’ve had the opposite experience with Lodis. I got a beautiful red leather Lodis bag for my law school graduation, and within a few months, the black leather trimming on the zipper tabs began peeling off and wouldn’t stop. The lining on the inside also snagged and ripped on who-knows-what, and then one day the leather loop that latches on to the cross-body strap broke apart. Lodis replaced the bag immediately and without hassle, but the second version of this bag is starting to show the same problems: the black leather edges on the tabs are falling off, along with the black trim on the bottom of the bag, and the lining on the inside has ripped open again. I’ve had this bag (or these two bags) for just over a year, and although I love the Lodis designs, I don’t think I’d spend my own money on one of their bags in the future because of the problems with this one.

    • Eleacouise :

      If you like the Lodis look, check out Jack George’s website. He started out as a designer at Coach and his designs are very Lodis-like.

  13. I love my non-ziptop bags for work (hello my neverfull!) but recently purchased the Coach tote that is basically a leather longchamp with a crossbody strap. Currently on sale (less than $200 with NYC tax). I don’t worry about pickpockets during the communte, but i do worry about pickpockets and losing things while out taking photos.

  14. Nice lineup. I like the Michael Kors Sophie tote. The Jet Set Tote is nice too. Both are reasonably priced.

  15. I am a big fan of the CWonder tote….they fit a 12 inch laptop, heels, and other essentials! I have a few fun colorful versions!

  16. Anonymous :

    I couldnt find it on Coach’s website anymore, but last year I got a great bag on a 25% off sale at Macys. It zips up. It has a laptop pocket, a tablet pocket, two phone pockets and a zipped pocket. I have it in Coral and wear it year round – I get stopped all the time with people asking about it. It holds shoes, files, laptop and lunch no problem. On weekends, I dump out the work stuff and fill it with diapers /change of kid’s clothes and am good to go!

  17. Anonymous :

    I adore Jean and her blog and seriously bought the AT bag in foggy morning a week ago because I saw it on her blog. I haven’t carried a laptop in it yet but I love it.

  18. Lorelai Gilmore :

    Can anyone report back on Sole Society? I’d never heard of them until maybe six months ago, and now I see recommendations everywhere. Any thoughts on quality?

  19. For those of you on a budget, I just got the minicci Elena Tote from Payless for basically $4.50 – not kidding – as my “get one 50% off” item” with birthday 25% off! It is on sale right now for $12, but if you buy another item, some stores might still be doing BOGO 50% off.

    I got it in Blue. There are some fabulous colors and it’s really spacious (my 11″ work laptop fits inside with room for wallet, small book, and planner), and comes with a zippered pocket inside and two internal pockets (for your cell, pens, etc.).

    If it also happens to be your birthday month and you get your 25% off coupon, you can use that too in addition to current sale going on. Link to come…


      • Moderate Pricing :

        Just got a gorgeous brick-red double-handled Fossil bag that perfectly fits my MacBook Air, cosmetic bag, and a wallet big enough to be a satellite clutch at a resale store (don’t know the original price but I think Fossil leather tends to come in just under $100 or a bit above when not on sale). It’s probably a briefcase/purse hybrid but it fits my needs and looks sleek. I recommend the Fossil brand.

  20. UK people – I picked up the Linea Adia bag (link to follow) in the House of Fraser sale. My 14 inch Sony Vaio fits perfectly in one of the zipped sections, and the space between the two is big enough for my (quite slim) lunchbox.

  21. Anonymous :

    Love MZ Wallace bags. Nylon = light, practical pockets, very stylish. Not cheap but they wear really well

  22. Anonymous :

    Sold on line, in their NYC stores and at Nordstrom.

  23. Anonymous :

    Hi everyone! I am about to design a business collection of ecofriendly leather bags for the business woman. In my designing process I like to include your views and experiences by asking the following four questions:

    1) What do you normally carry in your bag or briefcase when going for work?
    2) Do you ever feel that your current bag or briefcase does not meet your requirements for doing your job? If yes, in which way?
    3) How does your current bag or briefcase support your business functional accomplishments?
    4) What should a bag or a briefcase aesthetically take into consideration to enhance your projection of being a professional?

    I would be very grateful for your help.

  24. All bags are looking cool, I like the blue colour bag it’s design is looking awesome. I just like to buy fashionable bags from many online stores. After recommended from one of my friend, I order a shoulder bag from A1 Fashion Goods online shopping store and it’s suits me nice.

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