2017 Update: We still stand by some of this advice on how to weatherproof your work tote, but I just saw a much better solution: a $20 handbag raincoat.
Is it possible to find a weatherproof work tote — a stylish, quality bag for work that won’t be ruined by bad weather? How can you protect your bag from the elements? Reader C wonders…
Kat, I’d like to upgrade my work tote bag to something special but I worry about caring for it when commuting in rain and snow. The best thing about my 20 year old vinyl tote is that it’s indestructible, but it’s also pretty shabby. I’d like something classy but worry about the weather ruining it. Thanks for your advice.
We’ve talked about upgrading to a Prada bag (and upgrading your bag in general), what your tote bag says about you, how to lighten your load, the best bags for commuting (and the best bags for interviewing!) — but we haven’t really talked about a weatherproof work tote. I’m curious to hear what readers say.
For my $.02, I honestly haven’t worried too much about what weather will do to my bags. I have one haircalf bag that I probably did weatherproof, if memory serves, but the rest of my bags are leather or coated canvas. I wouldn’t put them down in slush — and if I knew that the weather was going to be particularly lousy I’d probably switch to a different bag — but I’d be surprised if they didn’t hold up if a bit of rain or snow got on them. If I truly got stuck in a freak rainstorm, I would try to put the bag into a plastic bag, or put it on my shoulder first and THEN put my coat on. Or, you know, do the coat-over-shoulders thing that celebrities do all the time (pictured, courtesy of PopSugar‘s roundup.) Another option: wear a ruana or scarf so you can drape it (or, hey, your coat) over the bag.
That said: I did ruin a bag once, and it still makes me sad. I’d long admired the brand’s lightweight, chic tote bags — in saturated, fun colors of snakeskin and leather. I wore it to a pregnancy-related appointment, which meant I had a bottle of water in there — and somehow I left the bottle of water slightly open. It dumped all over the inside of the bag, and now I have a huge watermark around the base of the bag, virtually ruining it. (It’s like that horror movie: the call is coming from INSIDE the house.)
So the lesson here: tighten the caps on your water bottles — but don’t worry too much about snow and rain.
Ladies, what do you think — do you do anything special to protect your bags and totes from inclement weather? Have you found a great weatherproof work tote?
Killer Kitten Heels
Oh look, it’s time for me to shamelessly plug MZWallace again! (I’m not a paid shill, I swear, I just really, really love my bag.)
In all seriousness, I’m obsessed with my MZWallace Kate tote – it has been through every kind of weather imaginable (and through two of the worst winters in recent memory) and I STILL get compliments at least a few times a month on my “new bag” when I carry it. It’s formal enough for meetings/court/etc., but also reasonably comfortable to carry on a daily basis, and it has held up remarkably well over time. If I could afford to replace every bag I own with one of these, I absolutely would.
Your shameless plugging got me to bite the bullet and finally buy the MZ Wallace Kate bag last month. I love it SOOOOOOO much.
I have a similar Kate Spade Outlet bag from 2-3 years ago – the nylon is so easy to clean, the bag is not too heavy like my other leather bags, and the shoulder and cross-body strap are awesome. If I didn’t already have a look-a-like already, I’d totally buy the MS Wallace.
I like the Lo and Sons bags and they hold up well to wet weather (the water beads up on the outside and I didn’t treat the bag with anything). I’ve also been pleased with the nylon Tumi bags I have.
I don’t see anything wrong with plain leather getting some raindrops on it once in awhile – if my bag gets wet while commuting, I use some of my extra napkins (please tell me I’m not the only one who has a bit of a snowdrift of them – somehow I always carry one too many back from grabbing lunch!) to dab it off upon arrival.
S in Chicago
Tumi coated canvas. Stuff wears like iron, deflects water, and doesn’t look like canvas in any way shape or form.
They make bags of all styles out of this magical stuff. Here’s an example:
Agree on Tumi. Have this style http://www.tumi.com/na/p/q-tote%c2%ae-0494786FOS?subcat=true and it is amazing! Can even fit binders. Perfect for court and depositions.
Is the handle drop long enough that you can fit it over your shoulder? It’s lovely!
You can fit the bag I posted over the shoulder no problem.
I have a similar version of that black Tumi bag in the coated canvas (with rolled leather handles and at the corners/feet), and it is indestructible. I love it so much. I don’t think they make my bag anymore, but it was a black tote with double handles and probably a 12′ drop, so I can fit it over my shoulder with a coat on.
I think saffiano leather bags are ‘safer’ to take out in the rain as opposed to traditional leather bags (especially really soft leather in light colors). I have bags of each type and water just kind of beads on the saffiano and gets absorbed into the softer leather, sometimes causing a temporary discoloration.
Agreed on the saffiano, and another option is the LV coated canvas.
I have a Lodis leather tote that I’ve carried for 5+ years commuting in Seattle (lots of rain) and it still looks brand new. I didn’t do anything for it except to dry raindrops off when arriving at destination.
I don’t own this, but they don’t call it All-Weather Leather for nothing. (I do have several vintage AWL shoulder bags bought on ebay, OK, I’m a bit obsessed).
I own this, with pockets, and it’s AMAZING. My walking commute is 1.3 miles, so I’m out in weather every day. It was covered in dark wet spots from the slushy snow this morning in DC, and now it looks perfect: http://www.dooney.com/pebble-grain-satchel/R968.html?dwvar_R968_color=AWCFPATN&cgid=dooney-collections-pebblegrainleather#start=9&cgid=dooney-collections-pebblegrainleather
I use Apple Brand Garde water/stain repellent on my leather bags: http://www.amazon.com/Apple-Brand-Garde-Stain-Repellent/dp/B007ZBOQIY
you really should protect your leather handbags and not just count on having a plastic bag/coat/jacket or whatever with you.
Yay! I agree with Kelsey that is good to put stain / water repelent on your LEATHER bag’s. I have LONG been a big advoceate of useing MINK OIL my leather bag’s as well as my leather shoe’s and my leather BOOT’s. When you use MINK OIL, the leather is made SOFTER, and it is preserved better.
The ONLY thing to know is that MINK OIL can darken the leather a littel bit, so if you have a light creme or tan leather, it can get darker. Sometimes this is FINE, but NOT if you need to have a creme colored shoe to match your light creme colored suit. I had a pair of shoe’s darkened so I had to get another pair to match my creme colored suit. FOOEY!
The other thing peeople do NOT know about is SADDEL SOAP. This CLEANS leather, but you still need MINK OIL to preserve the leather. When I was in DC, I used SADDEL SOAP to clean my FRY Boots when they got muddy, and then MINK OIL afterward’s. The big thing to remember is that neither MINK OIL NOR SADDEL SOAP will fix boot’s that get caked in horse poopie, which there is alot of on the TOE PATH on the POTOMAC RIVER, b/c there are some horses that use the TOE PATH near DC. FOOEY!
I have the OG from Lo & Sons and it has held up despite a Minnesota snowstorm and so much abuse.
My regular purse is a pebbled leather Dooney. After 2 years of abuse and rain, I still get complements on it. I will likely get another Dooney in a few years.
I have taken my Le Pliage bag through rain, snow, and sand. It looks amazing. The knock-off I bought before I knew these bags were a thing fell apart within 6 months. The quality of the Le Pliage bag is worth the high price tag when it comes to weather resistance.
I bought one of the coated canvas bags from Lands End that Kat featured here a few months back. Had it monogrammed and everything. I get lots of complements on it and everything just wipes right off.
Hi there! I recently moved to Belgium and it rains non-stop here during the winter. I bought the Lo and Sons Brookline bag and it works perfectly. It has withstood four months of every day drizzle and rain and it looks cute to boot!
Since I’m on a budget, I have been carrying a polyurethane tote that zips shut in rainy weather. I *hate* regular vinyl, but I’ve made my peace with polyurethane (though it does require some upkeep). Kate Spade makes some nice formal bags; Olivia + Joy have some more casual ones.
Update: the PU bag is toast. The piping on the handles started cracking, and then the PU itself just seemed to start wearing out or disintegrating. Not sure how cost effective that experiment really was!
It would be great to see a topic on reasonably fashionable wheely bags. I know, I know, you can say “I would never use a wheely bag.” I used to be one of the those people. Until I started having to lug around prep binders and depo exhibits….
Doesn’t necessarily have to be a daily thing, but something good for taking to court/depos/client meetings…
I just returned from a Tuesday client function in NY. The weather was absolutely horrific – an inch or two of slush on the ground, topped by torrential rain. As I described it, it wasn’t that there were puddles at the intersections, there were ponds. But I digress.
Since I was going straight from the the meeting in our offices to a dinner and then to my hotel, I had to carry my work tote and my purse with me. I had my Lo & Sons OG and a Kate Spade “Cobble Hill” bag made from what they call “pebbled” cowhide. Whatever it is, is did beautifully that night. And in fact, it has done amazingly well through about 3-4 years of travel and being shoved into other bags for air travel. It shows absolutely no sign of any wear.
In general, I’d recommend this kind of pebbled leather, or as others have said, a saffiano leather.
I have spent quite a bit of time looking for a waterproof work bag that can hold a laptop and has a thick strong long strap so it can be worn crossbody. My commute includes about 3 miles of walking everyday so wearing it on the shoulder is not comfortable. After month of research, I have found that diaper bags are the only good option. they are big enough to hold my laptop with some additional space for random junk i have to lug to the office. I ended up getting this Marc Jacobs bag
I have a weather resistant bag I picked up at the MK outlet – I love it! It has done a great job, and it is nice to not worry about it when getting stuck in a random rainstorm.