Handbags are a fundamental accessory that are used to store items while you’re on the go. Many women (and some men) own an assortment of different handbags to fulfill different needs, as well as to coordinate with different outfits. Handbags vary in size and style; while some options are made purely with fashion in mind, others are utilitarian and designed to be as functional as possible.
We all need certain items on our person while we’re out of the house, such as cash, bank cards, ID, keys, and a cell phone. Other items, like chapstick, lotion, a planner, a book, a phone charger, snacks, etc., aren’t as important to have at all times, but are still nice to bring along with you. Handbags offer more space than a simple wallet so that you can carry the items that you need, along with a handful of belongings that are convenient to have at the ready.
When you’re out and about, handbags conveniently provide space for you to store your essentials. Luckily, whatever your needs and priorities, there are plenty of handbag options to fit your lifestyle. Here, we’ve gathered a collection of the main handbag types, along with the defining features of each. Each bag option is unique and can provide value to your lifestyle.
One of the most basic handbag varieties, tote bags are made to hold a high volume of items and have a casual style. Tote bags are commonly used on extended outings, such as a trip to the beach or the park, because of the large amount of space that they provide. This type of bag is also unisex, so both men and women can make use of a tote bag on an everyday basis.
The origin of the tote bag dates back to the 1940s. L.L. Bean, a store specializing in outdoor gear and apparel, is credited with introducing the first-ever tote bag. First called an “ice bag”, the tote was constructed of sturdy canvas and had a quite basic structure. Design elements were tacked on over the years, with tote bags being introduced in varying colors and with stylish trims.
The earliest tote bags didn’t have a closure at the top. While many tote bags today are still without a closure, some now include snaps or zippers. Tote bags with closure systems are more practical for travel, while styles that are open at the top make it easy to access your belongings. Additionally, tote bags that can be securely closed are more expensive than those without closure.
Main Features of Tote Bags
- While the earliest version of a tote bag was constructed from canvas, modern tote bags can be made from any number of materials. Canvas is still a popular option, but you can also find tote bags made from cotton, nylon, jute, polyester, and even leather.
- One aspect of tote bags that sets them apart from similar bag styles is the length of the strap. Tote bag straps are shorter than that of a satchel but longer than that of a hobo bag. So, you may choose to either carry a tote bag by hand or over your shoulder.
- Tote bags are often used by students, teachers, and professionals as book bags. Tote bags make great book bags because of the large amount of storage space in the main compartment. Plus, due to their size, most tote bags can handle a relatively high amount of weight.
- Tote bags are one of the most simplistic handbag designs because they generally have few interior and exterior pockets if any.
- Tote bags are a common choice of reusable shopping bags. To be kind to the environment, we should all try to use reusable bags, as opposed to paper or plastic bags, as much as possible. Tote bags are a great option because they offer plenty of room to store several items, and they’re easy to carry.
Clutches are a handbag type defined by a lack of straps or handles. As the name suggests, this type of bag is simply clutched in one hand. As a result, clutches are one of the smallest types of purse and function similarly to a wallet. Women often wear clutches with evening wear when attending dressy occasions; this is because the design of a clutch is more elegant and sophisticated than that of large, bulky handbags.
Clutches are one of the earliest handbag types, with evidence of their use found in art from past centuries. A clutch dating back 700 years is likely one of the first clutches ever used; it features a brass structure with decorative court scenes depicted in silver and gold. In the 18th century came the birth of the reticule, which is virtually identical in design to clutches seen today, just with the addition of a chain or thin strap.
Main Features of Clutches
- The shape of a clutch is often compared to that of an envelope. Clutches with triangular flap closures may even be referred to as “envelope bags”.
- Clutch designs may either feature a flap across the front or a closure at the top of the bag. While a flap can be secured by a snap or buckle, a top closure may feature a zipper or snap.
- Clutches are most commonly used during formal occasions. This type of handbag effectively accompanies evening wear and is often designed with elegance in mind, with sequins, beading, and metallic accents included in the design.
- Clutches are small and only provide enough space to carry essentials. For example, you may be able to find your phone, keys, bank cards, cash, and a lipstick in your clutch.
- Extra-small clutches may be used as a wallet. This gives you the option to store the clutch inside of another type of bag with a shoulder strap so that you can keep your hands free, if needed.
Crossbody bags are a practical solution to the need for hands-free storage while you’re out on the town. Eliminating the hold the handles of a bag, (or the bag itself, in the case of a clutch), cross-body bags feature a strap that’s secured diagonally across your chest. This strap enables you to bring the bag along with you without having to use your hands. The design is highly convenient for use while shopping, traveling, or simply commuting to work.
The classic fanny pack is a type of crossbody bag that was hugely popular in the 80s and 90s. Fanny packs are small bags with at least one zippered pocket, secured to the body by a strap that wraps around the hips. Fanny packs provide enough space to hold the essentials, including your phone, wallet, and possibly a pair of sunglasses. While the fanny pack was considered out-of-fashion after its popularity in the 80s and 90s, this bag is slowly becoming prominent once more as a practical crossbody bag.
Main Features of Crossbody Bags
- Crossbody bags are used by men and women alike. Options intended for men are generally more simple in design, often featuring solid, neutral colors free of embellishment.
- Crossbody bags most commonly have zippered closures. Due to the fact that this type of bag is simply hanging on your body and may settle on your back, it’s important for it to have a secure closure in order to keep your belongings safe.
- Crossbody bags can be slung with the main compartment positioned either cross the front of the body or the back of the body. Keeping the bag at your front makes your belongings easily accessible and keeps them within sight (a plus if you’re concerned about pick-pocketers). Wearing the bag on your back, on the other hand, keeps it out of your way so that you can walk, sit, and move comfortably.
- Crossbody bags made great bags for travelling because you can bring one along with you while keeping your hands free. With your hands free, you can carry other bags, take out cards or cash from your wallet, or carry a drink with ease.
A hobo bag is a shoulder bag that’s a great choice for women looking to carry many items in their purse. Hobo bags have a curved, crescent-like shape and a relatively short strap, meaning that the bag will be carried roughly at rib level. Additionally, hobo bags usually have a snap or zipper closure.
Hobo bags have one main compartment, with some designs featuring small inner pockets to further organize your belongings. The inner pockets may or may not have zipper closures and are ideal for storing small items like pens, mints, lipstick, etc.
Hobo bags have a slouchy shape because they’re made from relatively soft, bendable materials like leather, suede, or polyester. In contrast to cutches, backpacks, and other bag types, hobo bags won’t hold their form when set down. This is a unique stylistic element that sets a hobo bag apart from other handbag options.
Main Features of Hobo Bags
- Hobo bags are generally large compared to other purse types, but medium-sized hobo bags exist as well. A hobo bag will most commonly have enough space to carry a wallet, keys, makeup basics, sunglasses, and even a book or planner. Due to the amount of storage space that they provide, hobo bags are a common choice of everyday bag for women.
- Hobo bags rarely have exterior pockets. But, many hobo bags do have at least one interior pocket, often with a zippered closure. You can use this pocket to store small, important items such as your phone, bank card, ID card, or cash.
- Hobo bags are widely considered to be everyday bags, not evening bags. This is because the slouch style is more casual than elegant.
The satchel is a highly useful type of bag that’s defined by a long shoulder strap. The front of a satchel generally has a large flap, often shut securely using a snap or buckle. This type of bag is utilized by both men and women for everyday use. Satchels can even make great work bags, carrying your essentials to and from the office.
The most common variety of satchel is the leather satchel. This classic bag design is both functional and stylish. Leather is the material of choice for satchels because it’s durable, neutral, and attractive. Plus, leather isn’t gender-specific, making satchels a popular unisex handbag option.
Satchels date back to the 17th century. At that time, it became a widely appreciated style accessory and a means of carrying things. Satchels are often associated with school bags because of their history of being used by schoolboys in England. The leather satchel was also used by the title character in the Indiana Jones movies, making it a popular accessory among men.
Main Features of Satchels
- Some satchel designs feature a large pocket on the opposite side of the bag as the flap. This pocket is a good place to store folders, papers, and even a laptop or tablet if the satchel is designed to support weighty items.
- Satchels are in part defined by a long strap that’s worn over the shoulder. This strap can either be hung on your shoulder, so that the bag falls directly underneath the strap, or diagonally across your body. By wearing the strap diagonally, it may be less likely to slip off your shoulder when you walk and move.
- A satchel’s long strap is worn over the shoulder and doesn’t have to be held in your hand. So, a satchel is a great hands-free bag option, ideal for days in which you need to carry an umbrella, shopping bags, suitcases, etc.
Backpacks are a widely popular type of bag for many different types of people. From adults to kids going to school, backpacks are functional and comfortable. Since you carry a backpack on your back, as opposed to on your shoulder or by hand, it’s less likely to cause back pain, shoulder pain, or poor posture than other types of bags.
The invention of the zippered backpack dates back to 1938. It was created by the brand Gerry Outdoors and was designed for use during outdoor activities, like camping and hiking. Around that time, kids commonly used satchels as school bags, or even carried their books by hand. The use of backpacks as school bags didn’t truly begin until 1967, when Gerry Outdoors put the first modern backpack made of nylon on the market. From there, the brand JanSport began to sell their version of the lightweight backpack, and the trend caught on. The backpack presented another option of daypack from the satchel that could be carried entirely on the back, not just on one shoulder.
Backpacks vary in size and style. While some backpacks are quite small and can only carry a handful of items, others are designed to carry several books, a laptop, notebooks, and other large items. The size of backpack that’s right for you depends entirely on your needs. While students typically need a large backpack, you can use a small backpack in the same way that you would use a purse.
Main Features of Backpacks
- Large backpacks often have padded shoulder straps. The padded straps relieve pressure on the shoulders that can result from the weight of a heavy backpacks. Additionally, the padding keeps the straps from digging into the skin, which can happen when a backpack is holding a significant amount of weight.
- Backpacks may also be called knapsacks or rucksacks. These names were commonly used to describe backpack-like bags before the invention of the first true backpack.
- Recently, “fashion backpacks” have risen in prominence. This is a type of small backpack that’s designed to be attractive and hold a similar number of items as a small purse. Women may choose this type of backpack for day-to-day use and they go to the office, run errands, and go to social events.
- Backpacks usually have one large compartment and one small-to-medium-sized compartment. The smaller compartment is separate and can be accessed from the outside. The smaller compartment is a convenient mode for storing important items like your phone, keys, and wallet.
- Interior pockets are another common feature of backpacks. Backpacks designed for students often have compartments especially for pens and pencils. Other backpacks have separators in the main compartment so that you can organize papers, books, folders, notebooks, and even a laptop.
The bucket bag is a stylish handbag types that’s been around for decades. Initially created to function as a carrier for champagne bottles, the bucket bag has evolved into a staple accessory in many women’s wardrobe.
Bucket bags are characterized by an oval-shaped base, long strap, and drawstring closure. The circular base enables this handbag type to stand upright and hold its shape without falling. The drawstring closure secures your belongings inside of the bag. Some bucket bags also feature a snap closure for added security.
The bucket bag was invented by Gaston-Louis Vuitton in 1932 to safely carry champagne, as mentioned previously. The bag had a drawstring closure and could securely carry five bottles, without rattling or risking damage. This design was called the Noé, and it’s still sold to this day. Now, it comes in various sizes and includes modern features to set it apart from the first 1930s model.
Main Features of Bucket Bags
- Bucket bags most commonly have a long strap. This strap can be slung over one shoulder or worn diagonally across the body.
- Bucket bags can be used to carry relatively heavy items, such as bottles, books, and gadgets like a tablet because of the support that the hard base provides.
- Drawstring closures, the most common top closure found on bucket bags, aren’t as secure as zippers or buckles. Certain drawstring materials, (especially smooth materials like leather), tend to slip open on their own. Make sure that the drawstring of your bucket bag can be closed securely before making a purchase.
- Some bucket bags, mainly high-end bucket bags, feature small metal balls or feet on the bottom. When you set the bag down, it will rest on the feet, not on the base material itself. This helps to maintain the quality of the material and keeps the bottom of the bag from getting scratched or dirty.
Lisa has a Bachelor’s of Science in Communication Arts. She is an experienced blogger who enjoys researching interesting facts, ideas, products, and other compelling concepts. In addition to writing, she likes photography and Photoshop.