The Everyday Guide: Why Handbags Don’t Work For Us


In my mind — form must always follow function.

This axiom applies even when we are discussing fashion accessories.

I’ve spent most of my working life searching for the handbag  which does not reduce me to a puddle, when searching for something. (Daily life can become so much more challenging when your essential items are in disarray. Travel only emphasizes the problem.) I can only imagine what the person behind me in line must be plotting, as I sift through the ocean that is the interior of my handbag.

Know this — I am cursing my handbag misfortune.

Personal complaints aside, designer handbag sales have dropped precipitously over the years. It is deserved. As discussed in this article, one reason may be all too obvious — the bags being made just don’t meet the needs of the women who actually choose to carry them. Pretty handbags simply need to have more substance, than being emblazoned with a chic designer’s name.

I’m long over it. They need to do their share of the work. They need to earn their keep. They need to earn our trust,

I have loved and lost quite a few great bags to prolonged wear and tear, which always leaves me with another search for my next “holy grail” bag. This one — which I owned in black, will live in my heart forever — as you could view everything that lived inside at one time. (No digging required.) The straps had ample drop to allow me to sling the bag over my shoulder. (So many of you clicked on the photo, that I’ve identified an updated version here.)

A lost love.


Feeling organized, professional and in control definitely extends to my accessories. Handbags need to really work for their owners. I had a friend who described her handbag search as a grueling “interview process”. I get that. I really do. It’s real.

I posed the “perfect handbag” question to YouTube lifestyle vlogger, Marnie Goldberg. (Find her down-to-earth advice here.)  She shared this, “I think the key is a few pockets — a somewhat structured shape but not too many pockets or you’ll forget where you put everything. It’s hard to say there’s one perfect bag. Everyone has individual preferences.”

Structure, yes! You hit the nail right on the head! I also agree, that each of us has a handbag “soul mate” out there. But like any soul mate, they are not hanging out on the corner for you to discover them. Searching is necessary.

Below you’ll find a few handbags worth considering. They all have what it takes:

  • Proper handle drop  for shoulder or back slinging.
  • A light or bright lining to avoid “cavernous pit” digging.
  • Compartments/pockets for small items. (A divided interior works best, if you can find it.)
  • Enough structure (so the purse isn’t too slouchy) for easy “browsing”.

BTW, you should consider a Purse Organizer, if you already have a handbag you love. Find a highly recommended organizer here.

Here are a few suggestions.

What I currently carry:
No regrets, with Tory Burch’s 2019, McGraw Triple Compartment Tote in black pebbled leather. 
I’m all about the compartments and they truly function like file drawers. The leather is thick & tough, so no babying this one.
Minor complaint: The lining is black, so small essential items could hide if not in a pocket.
Another complaint: A bit pricey, although it will last years. (I never hesitate buying a good bag second-hand.)

Find an updated version here.


Backpack lovers:
If you love sleek city style consider Nikleon’s Sao leather/suede backpack.
This young company’s family has had a leather goods business for decades in Greece.
Find the Sao here, along with other beautiful options here.

Nikleon’s Sao Backpack

Love a cross body?
This cross body bag from Everlane has a bit of moxie (and yes, compartments galore): The Italian Leather Mini Studio Bag.
Find it here:

Everlane’s Italian Mini Studio Bag

Here’s hoping you find the handbag of your dreams.

Do you own a handbag that really works for you? Please share what you love in comments.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from running a company — to the perfect fragrance. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.

9 thoughts on “The Everyday Guide: Why Handbags Don’t Work For Us”

  1. After years of “the interview process,” I have settled in a Tumi wallet. It is fashionable, yet organizes my credit cards, cash, phone and lip balm. All I need in one spot.


  2. Henri Bendel (NYC) makes a wonderful backpack that is professional looking (I.e., a little fancy), has structure, and is very comfortable. It’s called the Jetsetter — highly recommend!


  3. Personally, I find that the answer is to go vintage. If you want a bag that combines class, quality, practical structure and real impact, look for a good vintage piece. Great un-branded vintage handbags offer several advantages: excellent quality, affordable price and a real statement as it’s very unlikely someone else has one like yours.
    I’ve got several wonderful examples; can’t figure out how to attach pictures here…


  4. I have carried different variations of this bag for the past 10 years:

    It is lovely to look at – I am asked where I got it all the time, especially when I’m on the subway – and practical, durable, and eminently useful. It is big enough to carry my iPad mini or my Kindle, pockets on each outer side hold my cell phone(s), a back pocket holds my LIRR pass and my MetroCard and my parking garage ticket. A front zippered pocket holds my (meager) makeup and other essentials of life. Inside there are 2 large pockets – one with a zipper and one without, for easy access. The middle section is large but not so big that I lose things. And there is a tether so my key ring is always easily available. And if it gets dirty, I take everything out and throw it in the washing machine. It comes out looking new again.


  5. I’m still looking for the perfect handbag. Love totes but some are way too big. Now with my part-time business I am always carrying “my stuff” around with me for customers. I’m thankful my DIL shares my love of bags and we are trying each other’s out…maybe one day I will settle on one. Although last year bought me a Coach and still love it….


  6. I share your quest for the perfect professional bag. Not only does it have to look sleek, but it must be large enough for my iPad, it must have outer pockets to hold my phone and keys (no digging in the interior for them!) Bonus points for additional outer pockets for sunglasses and business cards. I actually have found a few of these babies over the years. My current bag is NOT a designer bag but produced by Urban Expressions. It’s a red barrel bag with two small side pockets, two larger pockets – front and back and no less than 4 interior pockets. LOVE.


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