A Bag For All Seasons

Le Parmentier Astorya mini bag in caramel. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

I’ve always been a bit of a handbag nut, and firmly believe in the power of a good bag to elevate a simple outfit.

Having carried many different bags throughout my life, I’ve become much pickier over the years. I want bags that are not only good-looking, but functional, (relatively) lightweight, comfortable to carry, and wearable for most of the year. More than any other color, I’ve found that a tan, light brown, cognac, or saddle colored bag will span seasons, and coordinate well with just about anything.

I love my Loewe bag for those reasons, but yes, it’s pricey. I’ve rounded up some more budget-friendly bags that, while not close copycats, do have some similar features and standout style. A top-handle bag with an optional cross-body strap is the style I find most practical for daily use and travel, so that’s what I’ve focused on here.

At top: this brand (Le Parmentier Paris) is new to me, but I really like their clean, simple designs. The bag shown above also has a long strap for wearing over the shoulder or cross-body.

DeMellier London cognac Berlin bag. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

This is the slightly larger version of the bag I’m wearing here. I’ve been really impressed with the quality of this brand. Shown above in Cognac, and it’s offered in several other colors as well. Carry in hand or as a clutch, or with the adjustable cross-body strap.

OAD Prism convertible satchel in Taupe. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

I first discovered this brand (OAD) last year, and was really impressed with the clean, functional designs, and nice leather. This convertible satchel comes in two sizes. The larger one shown above is Taupe, right up there with tan as far as versatility, but a nice option for those who prefer cooler colors. There’s also a smaller size, offered in several colors.

Botkier Cobble Hill satchel with canvas crossbody strap. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Bang for the buck! This bag comes with two crossbody straps: one canvas and one leather. It has lots of interior organization as well as two exterior pockets. Also available in Chalk, Dark Grey and Wine colors.

If your style leans more casual or minimalist, this simple square bag is a fun choice.

If you’re looking for well-made, durable bags that “punch above their weight” appearance-wise, it’s hard to go wrong with a Brahmin. I like the smoother croc finish on this one, as well as the shape. Nice interior organization too.

Sole Society faux leather satchel bag in Cognac. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Finally, here’s a faux leather option. I have not yet seen this bag in person, but it looks like a nice medium size, with good interior organization. Also available in Black and Oxblood.

Adjustable webbed bag strap in red and navy. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

And one more thought…a thicker webbed canvas strap will often be more comfortable with crossbody bags than a thinner leather one. These canvas straps come in several color combinations and are adjustable.

More Options…

What features do you look for in a bag? Are there any bags you keep coming back to season after season?

Stay in touch.

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  1. January 31, 2019 / 12:51 am

    I have a brown bag that gets year-round use–it’s the same color as my shearling coat and goes great with beige and khaki in summer.
    Two things I insist on for a bag: cross-body strap (to be hands-free, more secure, better for my back and limits the size, which also is good for my back) and a zipper closure. Never again do I want to pick up everything from the floor/ground after my bag tips over. Snaps are not enough.

  2. Jane2
    January 31, 2019 / 5:47 am

    My go-to brand is Radley (UK). The brand has excellent cross-body designs and quality leather. I have a Brahmin but it’s too heavy for me now – I’m a minimalist and try to pack essentials into my phone case.

  3. Janice Quinn
    January 31, 2019 / 5:47 am

    As a daily train commuter to Boston I appreciate a lightweight, crossbody style bag with outside pockets that are readily available but securely hold my mobile phone, eyeglasses, tablet and work badge/train pass. It also has to accommodate lunch, umbrella and a small makeup bag. I usually go with a travel style bag and just found a perfect one from a company called Neat Pack. It’s not the most elegant bag but doesn’t call attention to itself either. I find most leather handbags are too heavy before you fill them!!! When I go out I use a vintage Louis Vuitton small tote!

  4. January 31, 2019 / 7:14 am

    These bags are all gorgeous — elegant, chic, and practical as well!
    Sadly, I’ve been finding recently that even my carefully chosen cross-body bags are exacerbating a tendency to shoulder problems. Even though the weight is more evenly distributed than with a straight shoulder bag, for me the cross-body tends to disrupt gait slightly and to strain the shoulder it rests on. Since I regularly find myself walking 5 to 12 kilometres daily (my retired urban lifestyle) I’ve been trying to manage, just by shifting sides regularly, but I finally broke down and bought what I think of as an elegant leather backpack — although I suppose many will think that’s an oxymoron! It’s a very trim profile, in aniline-dyed calf leather (very light), and I’m already finding it so much more comfortable. Luckily, it’s no larger than my cross-body bags so I won’t be tempted to cart around heavy loads. . .

    • Susan B
      January 31, 2019 / 7:16 am

      I hear ya, and I’ve actually seen several nice looking backpacks recently that have tempted me…

      • Cynthia Bestall
        January 31, 2019 / 6:44 pm

        I can’t do backpacks. I have a gorgeous Bottega Veneta that is pristine sitting in it’s bag in my closet. I just feel weird when I wear them?

    • shira
      January 31, 2019 / 9:00 am

      Any specific recs for elegant lightweight backpacks?

      • January 31, 2019 / 11:47 am

        Personally, I love my new M0851 Featherlight Backpack, their BP 16. Their less expensive, smaller Optical Backpack (BP 99) also worth considering, although I prefer the lighter Aniline calf leather…

        • Ellie
          February 1, 2019 / 7:39 am

          I’ve been very happy with my new Knomo London backpack as a work/travel bag. The “Beau…” models have great lines, but I got a Clifford to fit my lunch. The satin nylon fabric is super sleek, but they come in leather, too.

          • February 15, 2019 / 7:55 am

            I love heavyweight nylons/microfibers, because leather is too heavy for me. Knomo is great; so is the microfibre backpack by Groom Paris.

  5. Toni
    January 31, 2019 / 7:16 am

    As a commuter in NYC we walk a lot. This isn’t a car culture. Hence bags and shoes are highly functional. I opt for the lightest, chicest bags: Jack Gommes. It’s French and not inexpensive, but I haven’t found anything comparable.

  6. Lee
    January 31, 2019 / 7:41 am

    Oh, how I wish that the descriptions of these wonderful bags included their weight. Even some leather cross bodies are very heavy with wallet, glasses, phone and little else.

    • Elizabeth
      January 31, 2019 / 9:16 am

      I know, right?!? Some do, but you really have to search in the details – for example, the Le Parmentier bag has a “details” button you can click that reveals it weighs 320 g (a bit less than a pound). I’ve realized I don’t have a good grasp of what that translates to in how heavy it feels – making a mental note to weigh one or two of my comfortable light bags for comparison.

      • Lee
        January 31, 2019 / 11:44 am

        I agree Elizabeth. How heavy does one pound feel on my shoulder? I think I am going to weigh the wallet, etc that I want to put in my bag. I see women carrying these minute cross body bags and I’m In awe.

        • Duchesse
          February 15, 2019 / 7:58 am

          Absolutely, weight is important. If you wonder how much a pound weights, put a pound of oatmeal or whatever in a plastic carry bag and walk around for awhile, but don’t forget you never carry your bag empty. Things like keys and glasses are surprisingly heavy.

  7. Lyn
    January 31, 2019 / 9:00 am

    One more requirement: the bag has to be able to stand up. I love the look of the bag in your picture, especially the color, but that rounded bottom takes it out of consideration.

  8. Elizabeth
    January 31, 2019 / 9:07 am

    Ooooh, that Le Parmentier bag is lovely, and I see it comes in “Nude” – a nice warm neutral alternative to tan, if you’re not doing a brown or brown-compatible palette.

    By the way, Susan, that first Le Parmentier link goes to a different bag, although the “More Options” link works.

    • Susan B
      January 31, 2019 / 9:15 am

      Thanks for letting me know, I’ll fix it.

  9. Susan
    January 31, 2019 / 11:47 am

    On your advice, I purchased a Lo & Sons Pearl bag on sale prior to my trip to England and France last year (fyi, the black and some other colors are still on sale). I loved it so much for the trip, that I am still using it as my everyday bag. Thank you for this wonderful recommendation!

  10. Ann in Missouri
    January 31, 2019 / 4:47 pm

    Gorgeous bags! I also love the Parmentier. And, of course, at least one is far beyond my budget. But it’s still great to look at it. Thanks. And a serious thank you for the link to those bag straps. Those are a fabulous resource.

    I agree with you about the brownish colors being such versatile purse colors. I also agree with another commenter that a backpack for someone who walks a lot (as I’m doing this winter down in New Orleans — come on down, y’all!) is a real solution to the lopsided gait interruption issue. I also find myself switching sides on long treks when I’m wearing a crossover bag, even a small one. As a yoga girl, I’ve become more aware of the imbalances things like that can cause throughout the body. As I age I’m becoming a bit more aware and maybe even a little smarter about how my body responds to repetitive motions.

    Bottom line — good post. It validates some of my own recent observations. Appreciate that.

  11. Ellie
    February 1, 2019 / 7:44 am

    A related question, from a fellow handbag nut, for Susan and others: What do you do with bags you’re no longer using?

    • Susan B
      February 1, 2019 / 7:46 am

      It depends on the bag. If it’s one that I can consign, I’ll do that. Otherwise I tend to donate to a charitable thrift store or give to friends.

  12. TeenVini
    February 7, 2019 / 5:57 pm

    Have you guys order from Forzieri is there any duty free because it ship from other country. The Le Parmentier is very cute.

    • Susan B
      February 7, 2019 / 6:03 pm

      Hi TeenVini, according to their website, they pay all customs duties, so there should be no additional duties or fees.

      • TeenVini
        February 8, 2019 / 1:05 pm

        Sweet! I will get the bag then. It’s soooo cute!!! I just discover this brand you too and by you actually. Treat your self.

      • Duchesse
        February 15, 2019 / 8:03 am

        You pay duties, it’s in the price that is calculated at checkout. This is the same process US vendors like LL Bean and J. Crew use; the duty is paid up front when you purchase, not collected by the courier company when they deliver. Be aware the courier will likely also add on “handling fees” on the delivery end anyway. This is less than duty but it is what they charge to clear your package through customs.

        The only way to avoid paying customs duty is to fly there and buy it and when exiting the country, use your duty-free allowance.

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