Minimalist Accessorizing for Maximum Impact – Day Bags

Once I started gathering material for the topic of accessorizing minimalist ensembles, I quickly realized that I’d need multiple posts to adequately cover the territory.  Let’s start with bags, as the Bag Moment seems to be with us still.

A general note about working minimalist looks: while one certainly can use streamlined clothing as a backdrop for show-stopping accessories, the overall look ceases to be minimalist if the accents are excessively frou-frou, Boho or blingy, or if styles are mixed.  If a more eclectic look is for you, then go for it and enjoy; here I’ll be focusing more on pared down pieces that play well with others to create overall minimalist ensembles.

Functionality is an important component of minimalist style.  While one or two striking details will add visual interest (a zipper pull in an interesting shape, a pleat that forms an outside pocket) too many superfluous details that don’t add function to a bag will dilute the effect.  And without a lot of distractions, you want to be sure that the leather or fabric and construction details (stitching, hardware) are of very good quality.  Many of the bags I’ve shown here are on the higher end price wise, but they’re also pieces that won’t look dated in a few seasons, and should wear well and be good investments for the long term.

I’m happy to see that crossbody bags are more available than ever, as they are better for our necks and backs, and practical when travelling or out and about wrangling kids, dogs and/or bags of groceries.  

Marc by Marc Jacobs “Natasha” bag, $330.  Even if grey weren’t one of fall’s hot neutrals, I’d be tempted by this bag.  Grey is seasonless and coordinates with just about any other color. I’m not crazy about the logo plate, but it’s not a deal breaker. The leather on this one is smooshy and nice.

Marc Jacobs “Paradise Leigh” crossbody bag, $895.  I saw this bag up close over the weekend and the picture truly doesn’t do it justice.  The leather is soft and supple, and the bag itself a bit slouchier than it appears in this picture.  The gold studs around the bottom nod to current trends without being overwhelming.  Form and function co-habit harmoniously.

In the same line of bags, the Rio satchel is a perfect size for work (though probably too small for most laptops) and is available online in other colors too at Bloomingdales and Barneys.

Marc Jacobs “Paradise Rio” satchel, $995.  I have to give crazy greased-up Marc props about one thing here.  While most other designers have continued to bump up the prices on their It Bags year after year, MJ has kept prices in the same range (or even the same for his classic bags like the Blake) for several years now.
During the 1990’s round of fashion minimalism I frequently coveted pieces by Prada (bowling bag, anyone?). Though never totally abandoning the simpler styles while delving into gauffre, fringes and lots of ornamentation in the last few years, the line seems to have returned to its design roots this season, offering a flock of gorgeous bags with a minimalist spirit.
This tote ($1960 from showcases simple but striking details, and yes, a crossbody strap.
Tory Burch “Mini” Norah Satchel, $450.  At 16″ long, I’m not sure how “mini” this is!  I’ve not often been a fan of Tory Burch styles, but I love the clean lines and structure on this bag, and the absence of the ubiquitous obtrusive double “T” logo.  (The logo is there on the lock, but it’s small and subtle.) I’m not sure if the shoulder strap is long enough to wear crossbody.
While I find many Chanel bags just a bit too fussy or overbearing for a truly minimalist look, a 2.55 or classic flap in leather can add an uptown touch.  Black is the standard and a can’t-go-wrong choice, but why not consider grey or brown?  Chanel flap bags, even the larger sizes, go from day to evening easily, adding to their functionality.
Yes, they’re pricey.  A less heart-stopping alternative, again from Marc Jacobs:
From Uptown to Downtown: the Balenciaga “Arena” or motorcycle style bags have been faked like crazy and declared “so over” by the Bag Snob ladies, but I still love how they look whenever I see one adorning the arm of a cool and stylish woman.
Even with the tassel zipper pulls and the hardware details,this aesthetic is still clean and edgy enough to work as an interesting accent for minimalist ensembles. I find the “City” to be one of the more practical styles, $1445 from Barney’s.  Black is gorgeous, but Balenciaga offers several other colors each season, for those who go for the pop of color.
J.Crew has some really great looking bags this fall.
The “Brompton” bag is on board with the crossbody option.  I particularly like the espresso color.  $278 from J.Crew.
A favorite bag in my own collection that fits right into the minimalist groove is the Yves Saint Laurent Muse bag.
$1450 from Saks.  I’m nuts for this dark chocolate color, and wear it with everything, including black.  I consider the Muse a new classic.
Of course I could go on for days, but will wrap up with a new YSL bag that is beautiful, functional, and also has serious potential to Become a Classic.
Yves Saint Laurent “Chyc” shoulder bag, $1650.  This bag is available in a few different leathers and colors, and I’ve yet to see one I didn’t like. But this saddle brown above and the black patent leather both knock it out of the park. 
Do you have a favorite bag to wear with your more streamlined outfits?  Do you prefer bags in a neutral color, or do you go for color?
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  1. September 7, 2010 / 1:21 pm

    Love the details on the Balenciaga and shape of the Muse. The others are a little too generic for me, I’m afraid.

  2. September 7, 2010 / 3:09 pm

    I like the black Marc Jacobs but who’d a thought we’d ever see Marc knocking off Alexander Wang?!?

  3. September 7, 2010 / 5:44 pm

    Wendy B – somehow I knew you’d say that!

    Sal – you too! 😉

    sisty – that’s what I like about the Chyc as well!

    LPC – OK, I’ll admit I haven’t seen the similar AW bag, and am not really familiar with the styles. Hardly anyone around here carries his stuff.

    metscan – you have six fabulous bags! I think if I were starting a collection or upgrading I’d pick one or two of these as my six.

  4. September 7, 2010 / 8:28 pm

    I’m thrilled that minimalist bags are back. I’m tired of the over decorated it bags. Of course I love the Muse, but the J.Crew bag is not at all bad.

  5. September 7, 2010 / 9:11 pm

    The black bag I posted on my blog today is my favorite for minimalist clothes (and almost all the rest of them, too, at least for work). I have a big, plain, black Coach tote that I also love, but I tend to overload it and then my back suffers. My other bags tend to get out less.

    Funnily enough, since most of the bags here have gold-colored hardware, they don’t do that much for me — all my jewelry is sterling, and I’m slightly obsessive about not clashing.

  6. Sal
    September 7, 2010 / 2:24 pm

    Wendy stole my comment.

  7. September 7, 2010 / 9:26 pm

    I hate to say this here, but I think cross body bags say “old lady” quite audibly. Maybe that’s only my opinion and no ones else’s.

    These bags are nice but I didn’t see one that makes my heart sing. Did you look at any of Cole Haan’s bags?

    I agree with others that fussy bags are not great either.

  8. sisty
    September 7, 2010 / 2:56 pm

    Love the Muse and the Chyc bag, which reminds me of the Hermes Constance bag, which I also love. The Y is not instantly recognizable as a logo.

  9. September 7, 2010 / 11:28 pm

    I love a cross body bag, but find it needs a thicker strap to be comfortable, so the ones I wear are more likely to be a banana shape that fits more easily to the body and has a wider strap.

    Love the look of the Prada, just wouldn’t wear it across my body!

  10. metscan
    September 7, 2010 / 4:47 pm

    Thank you for collecting all these bags for us to see. The gray Chanel would be my choice, but I can live without it. Odd, but true- I am now content with my 6 bags.

  11. Carol
    September 7, 2010 / 11:57 pm

    This is not on point to your current post, but I just returned from my first trip with my new Eagle Creek 22-inch wheeled bag. I used a couple of the packing cubes and one envelope for a 4-day trip. Love, love, love this luggage! Thank you so much for your recommendation.

  12. September 8, 2010 / 12:30 am

    I just bought a new M0851 Functional bag which is very practical, very clean-looking, cross-body-option, and a delicious yet conservative brown. But now I want something more “city” and all these bags would make me happy. Still, I’m in a place now where I want to consolidate and enjoy what I have before adding, so I’ll enjoy vicariously through your posts instead.

  13. September 8, 2010 / 1:38 am

    Belle de Ville – the Muse is one of my favorite bags and gets a lot of “arm time.” I’ve really been impressed with J.Crew’s bags lately, especially at that price point.

    Rubiatonta – I do like the bag you posted. It’s funny, I hadn’t noticed about the hardware but you’re right. For the longest time, everything had silver hardware. I guess we’re having a Gold Moment in the cycle…

    Susan – I think it really depends on the styling on the cross body bag. Some are very cool, as evidenced by the link you posted. There are a couple of Cole Haan bags I really like, and am going to feature in a later post.

  14. September 8, 2010 / 1:43 am

    Tiffany – oh, that PS1 bag is fabulous! I’ve been coveting that one myself. Mulberry has some similar styles too for just a bit less.

    Imogen – it’s true, the heavier the bag, the thicker the strap needs to be. I have a Miu Miu bag that has a thinner strap, but it works because the bag is smaller and I can’t load it up as much.

    Carol – I’m SO GLAD to hear that! I’m still loving my Eagle Creek luggage and over the summer bought the 22″ Tarmac for shorter trips.

    materfamilias – I still love the m0851 bags and wanted to feature one in this post, but they way they set up their website makes it very hard to get decent screen captures and direct links. I hope you’ll post the one you bought, would love to see it!

  15. Tiffany
    September 7, 2010 / 10:01 pm

    Oh, I love the last two. But what I really really want is the Proenza Schoula satchel …

  16. arnesm
    September 8, 2010 / 5:24 am

    I have noticed cross body bags on older women and think it adds a touch of youthfulness to their look. On the other hand, a traditional handbag often looks current on a younger woman and a bit dated on an older woman.

  17. Carolyn
    September 8, 2010 / 3:23 am

    The time and care you put to your posting is incredible. I so enjoy reading all. Thanks

  18. September 8, 2010 / 10:48 am

    Loved your post! Being a handbag fanatic I was drooling over some of those bags. I agree, I’m glad to see some nicer cross body bags. After a satchel, this is my favorite style for being out and about.

  19. September 8, 2010 / 1:09 pm

    For me cross body only works on small busted people, it looks a bit akward on me, so as yet I don’t own one though I need one. Do you have suggestions for the lower end of the dollar spectrum. I am not at a place where I can comfortably drop a thousand or more on a bag, no matter the wear/$ ratio.Can you help budget minded folks?

  20. September 8, 2010 / 1:13 pm

    Though I adore the Prada, the J. Crew is more in line with my budget and that little moral nag in my head about how much to spend on a bag. There is a dark side to minimalism, which leads to the “too generic” look, but if the clothes have subtle detail, the quiet bag will not compete.

  21. September 8, 2010 / 1:33 pm

    Carolyn – thanks so much! I’m glad you enjoy.

    arnesm – I agree!

    Lulu – thanks! There are a LOT of crossbody options out there right now (at all price points) so if you like that style, it’s a good time to shop.

    wisdom goddess born – I’m planning a post next week on great (though not necessarily minimalist) bags at lower price points.

    Duchesse – that’s true too. One has to balance the details between the clothing and accessories. I think this look works best when there are one or two interesting details to act as a focal point.

  22. Rowshy
    October 8, 2013 / 7:46 pm

    Hi dont you sell your brompton bag, i can not find this style:(

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