Fashion Fridays: The Work Handbag

Welcome back to Fashion Fridays!  Our last installment we looked at cocktail dresses, which I love, and now on to another fun shopping topic:  HANDBAGS!  Do you love purses?  Do you own 30?  Or do you hate them?  Consider them necessary evil to carry the load we have to lug around each day?  Did you swap out your purse this morning?  Or have you carried the same purse for three years?

Whatever the case, your purse does reflect on you, your style, and your professionalism.  Especially if you have a career where you are networking, meeting with clients, selling, connecting, or leading.  I had several friends recently ask me what kind of handbag they should buy for work.  There are so many options out there now it can feel like sensory overload.

So here are a few basic rules for purse shopping, particularly if this is going to be your regular office purse and you have a career where you need to look professional and successful:

  • Avoid purses in fabric or with patterns – fabric doesn’t wear well and it doesn’t look as grown up as leather, and patterns tend to be busy and trendy neither of which translate in a work environment;
  • Neutrals and near neutrals colors are fine, but stay away from the day-glow or pastel trends – there are a lot of pretty options in colors other than black and brown, and I almost always use those as a choice, but unfortunately there are also neon orange and pastel lavender options which are usually inappropriate;
  • Use something with some weight to it, with some structure, to help pull your daily outfits together – the cautionary note on this is to consider your size when you shop because I can likely carry a purse much larger than my 5’1′ friend (the same goes for jewelry);
  • Stay away from overdone add ons – bows, buckles, metal additions, fringe, and the like are no-nos and can result in you not looking as serious or sophisticated; and,
  • Spend a little money if you have it – buy leather, and something well made, because it will show; however this does not mean you have to buy a $500 designer purse because there are lovely options at a lower price point.

Some color is fine, and actually very nice. There are some great colors in deeper sophisticated hues that work professionally like golds and deeper blues.  Plus, greys and camels and golds and deep blues actually coordinate with more outfits than a black or brown purse.  This may be old school, but I hate to carry a black purse when I wear navy or brown, or vice versa, but subdued colors marry well across the color spectrum.

I also check out designers that do work-appropriate purses, Kate Spade, Coach, Marc Jacobs, and see what they are designing; if I can’t afford their handbags, then I can model the style.  My work handbag this year is a camel Kate Spade leather tote that my husband splurged and bought me for my birthday.  But I alternate it with a cool gold-ish handbag I found for $28 at Sam Moon (yes this purse was $28!):

photo (10)

I find it helpful if my purse can hold an iPad or small laptop, but some folks would rather just have a separate case and keep their purse small.  Here are some examples I sent my girlfriends recently that were looking:


Whatever you choose, think about where you work, where you want to work, what you carry, and how you use your purse.  Go shopping after work or during lunch so you can check it out while you’re in a work mindset.  It’s a lot easier to reach for a neon striped beach bag when you’re in flip-flops over the weekend, and then you’re still without a work handbag come Monday.  And don’t forget to e-mail me questions or topics you’d love covered for Fashion Fridays I promise you’ll remain anonymous.


  1. Elizabeth Bray says:

    Just be careful overloading your body with those IPAD and laptops .. it’s easy to do and you think it is not “that heavy” but then your back or hips are sore .. and you to the doc to find out .. you have been standing to compensate for the weight of the bag …. my fav is frankly a 1960’s gucci purchased at a garage sale (OF ALL THINGS) for about $5 .. nobody had looked inside to see the GUCCI stamp!!!!!!!!

  2. I have had such a hard time with my bags – I would buy the cheaper “no frills” type and within a month, they were a mess – so, I stepped up to all leather – some named brands – then I bought my first Louis Vuitton – I’ve been sold ever since … My first back looks as good as my current bag – yes they are expensive – but they are worth the money in my case …

    • I agree the 30 ones don’t last but I can’t afford the couture ones so there’s some good leather options you can get that last with no name.

  3. Debbie Quick says:

    This is some really helpful information. My Mom used to always say, “You get what you pay for”…Leather lasts so much longer, and I have to say I really like the smell of leather in a good handbag! And you’re certainly correct about the color scheme…I like to carry a grey or navy handbag sometimes, and taupe is nice, too! Once I bought 4 quality purses at Burlington Coat Factory, and I still have 2 of them…that was several years ago. I don’t think I spent more than $100 for all 4 bags. Something else I personally look for is to have a good deep pocket on one of the outer sides of the purse. I used to work a graveyard shift at Bank One and liked having an easily accessible place for my keys.
    DQ :)

Share Your Thoughts