le “day bag”

Remember a time when we didn’t feel we had to haul around enough stuff to supply a small army, every day, everywhere? When our purses were smaller than luggage and weighed less than a toddler?

While I do understand that sometimes circumstances just warrant having to tote a lot of stuff around, I’ve been making a concerted effort lately to size down my bags whenever I can. I’ve been pretty successful on weekends, and have a couple of smaller cross-body bags I’ve been using almost exclusively. For workdays, I’m hoping to transition to the “small bag + tote” formula. And for our upcoming trip, I’m planning to use a smaller, lighter cross-body bag for most in-town sightseeing days.

The Fashion Set seems to have received the memo as well. Where a Céline “luggage tote” was the must-have accessory a few seasons ago, the latest shots from recent fashion weeks show that the small Chloé “Drew” bag has achieved total It Bag Domination. (This one has no appeal for me, thanks to that skinny chain strap which I think would be quite uncomfortable once there’s any weight in the bag.)

When I peruse current selections of handbags in person or online, I’m shocked sometimes at just how heavy so many of them are, even smaller bags. Sure, there are fabric bags that weigh substantially less, but I just love the look and feel of a nice leather bag, and the polish it can add to even a casual outfit. Some retailers will list bag weights online, while others do not, but I’ve found the following elements often will affect the weight of a bag:

  • structured bags will often weigh more than softer bags, as the leather needs to be thicker to hold the shape.
  • hardware, especially clips and buckles…more and/or larger hardware adds weight
  • interior organization…the more compartments, pockets, zippers inside the bag, the more it will weigh
  • lining…suede or leather lining will weigh more than cloth

I’ve been researching what I refer to as “day bags,” small-to-medium sized purses that hold the essentials, but not much more. (By essentials, I’m thinking: wallet, cell phone, small tube of hand lotion, lipstick/balm/gloss, keys, a small compact or mirror, a small cloth to clean my glasses, and perhaps even a pair of sunglasses.) Your mileage may vary. Ability to be worn cross-body is a big plus in my book, though you may prefer a shoulder bag or even one that you carry in hand or over the arm.

What size bag do you carry regularly? Has it changed over time?

Here are a few that have caught my eye: (click arrow to scroll through selections)

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  1. April 27, 2015 / 3:58 am

    I’ve been doing the same and thank you for the analysis. I use mostly a classic ‘saddle’ style bag or hobo shape and downsized even my wallet a couple of years ago to basically a cards holder with enough space for coins. Fortunately i don’t carry much like you and this way have no trouble changing bags. I used to carry a lot for work then realised it was a lot healthier for my neck/shoulder and back to break it down to a small bag and tote combination too. It really doesn’t look good to carry too much! But I think some of the new bags are just too tiny, smaller than the evening clutches I use! Fortnuately nothing there to tempt me and I stick to my vintage and classic pieces.

  2. serene
    April 27, 2015 / 4:16 am

    This is so timely! I ordered two leather Tignanello cross body bags from Macy’s this weekend. One in black and one in a richer hue. I’ve grown tired of carrying “luggage” around and having to dig through a large or bucket bag to find something. I’m craving the kind and size of bag where everything fits just so. I’m realizing that I don’t need a kazillion items to go with me everywhere. I don’t need a make up bag, just lipstick (for example). Beautiful bags you highlighted!

  3. April 27, 2015 / 4:29 am

    I’m carrying a bag from Agnes B. – quite prim and ladylike, and it look pretty compact. But my tablet fits in it, or a trade paperback book (the size up from the pocket paperbacks), so I think it’s deceptive. Or else it’s the bag that Hermione carried in the last 2 Harry Potter movies…

  4. Kristen
    April 27, 2015 / 4:30 am

    I, too, at the instruction of my doctor, have had to pare down. I’ve been sporting this for about a month now and LOVE it (hopefully the link will post) -http://m.bloomingdales.com/shop/product/longchamp-shoulder-bag-le-pliage-leather-cuir-small?ID=624205&CategoryID=1003784

  5. plutrell
    April 27, 2015 / 5:20 am

    I love all sizes of bags. I have started taking a cross body bag to events since I became a blogger and need a camera hand. There are so many beautiful bags…it can become an obsession!

  6. April 27, 2015 / 5:42 am

    I use only one or two bags all year: a large Coach that can hold most anything, and a small Coach crossbody for traveling. I like both sizes for what they offer, and it’s lovely to see smaller bags coming back.

  7. April 27, 2015 / 6:15 am

    I use a cross-body, mid-size, light leather bag by M0851. Very little interior organization, but I have a few of their (also light leather) pouches that I take or leave according to the day. My bag can also be carried by short straps, and I try to mix it up. Very conscious of trying to avoid neck, shoulder, arm issues. Love your Polyvore vignette, especially since my next Paris trip is very close now.

  8. April 27, 2015 / 6:22 am

    As above, I suggest the smaller Longchamp bags, either in leather or nylon. Thee are lots of styles. Also, Brahmin bags are supposed to be relatively lightweight.

    You can test out the Longchamp choices on your trip to France.I’m planning to do that myself this year.

  9. Suzette
    April 27, 2015 / 6:35 am

    I bring my lunch to work so sometimes I prefer one single larger bag. But that can be heavy day in day out so I like to change bags both for the look and my shoulder health. I find these purse organizers make it easy to switch.

  10. April 27, 2015 / 6:54 am

    I tend to go for the eclectic. My latest bag is from Campomaggi (http://shop.campomaggi.com/ww/?nid=204,) made in Italy, bought in Lyon, France, but they’re available in USA too. It is a little weighty, but I just love the rustic leather and it’s small enough I can’t overfill it. At home, I often carry a fabric bag, one with some individuality. I am not one to change bags often, though in the evening if going out I take my vintage tooled leather tiny hand bag. Thanks for sharing all the styles! http://www.radicalaging.com

  11. Adele Miller
    April 27, 2015 / 7:00 am

    I love the idea of a smaller bag, but it’s not easy to find one that can still fit my glasses and a camera……ever on the hunt for the “perfect” bag.

  12. dottoressa
    April 27, 2015 / 7:06 am

    Dear UF,you always have beautiful bags and thank you for your analysis.
    I like to wear cross body bags for travel,as well for events,I like to have free hands!. In my most beautifull evening purse I can’t even put my car keys(it’s relict from old times,when car keys were smaller :-))
    I wear now camel Max Mara tote,with way too much things,and only lipstick as a beauty product!. This weight is very unhealthy so I have to accept some advice from SPD(love your blog too,btw) and change my leather wallets for fabric ones ( as I do when I’m on my Adriatic coast holidays ),because these are all realy things I need,my Essentials are like UF’s:/ – compact/ and /- cream but + two pairs of glasses
    mobiles and tablets are heavy
    And,yes I like Longchamp bags for summer,especially new Neo

  13. Ann Hicks
    April 27, 2015 / 7:08 am

    Cross body for me. For travel the essential elements are not too heavy, secure zipper for the main compartment and an outside pocket for map, glasses, metro ticket, etc. that outside pocket is essential so I don’t have to open my main compartment every time I need to check the map!

  14. April 27, 2015 / 7:37 am

    The only bags that interest me have at least two outside pockets for quick access to often-used items. Once you try it, you’ll never go back. Smile.

  15. Nancy Friedman
    April 27, 2015 / 7:55 am

    A vote here for the elegant leather backpack. Last year I found a smallish one in chocolate brown at a consignment store for about $20–no labels or logos, so I haven’t a clue who made it–and it immediately replaced every other bag I own. I love the even distribution of weight and the no-hands freedom. That backpack is looking beat up now, so I just splurged on a Skagen “Medium Aften” backpack in black. It’s a little larger (maybe too large?), and would accommodate a tablet if I used one. Key details: secure compartments on front and back *exterior*. I’ve found that interior organization is unnecessary and even an annoyance–the stuff I toss inside the backpack is pretty big (sunglasses, wallet, camera, small cosmetic bag)..

    • Charlene
      April 27, 2015 / 5:17 pm

      I, too, love leather backpacks with secure exterior pockets. I have one in black and one in red. I did try a crossbody bag this last fall/winter. After altering the strap to fit my short, petite frame, I still felt very clumsey while carrying it. I feel more balanced with a backpack and love having both of my hands free…just in case. I am a retiree and work at keeping fit.

    • April 27, 2015 / 5:31 pm

      I spotted the Longchamps leather back pack at Nordstrom a few weeks ago. Nice, small, compact size and can also be worn over the shoulder. I am considering it….

  16. Patty
    April 27, 2015 / 8:03 am

    When I travel, I take an ancient black crocheted Sac bag that is about the size of my hand, but it holds an AMAZING amount of stuff: sunglasses, phone, small wallet, small brush, lipstick, small compact, small sunscreen. I keep trying to replace it with something more elegant, but I always go back to this bag. My everyday bag is a medium size black leather classic Kate Spade flap bag which is surprising light. A must for me for any bag is a single shoulder strap…if there are two straps, one always falls off my shoulder.

    • Susan
      April 27, 2015 / 11:56 am

      Patty, I have that same ancient crocheted Sac bag. I think I bought it in 1995 before a three week trip to France. It is a great one–light weight and secure for travel!

  17. April 27, 2015 / 8:52 am

    I am the hold out, I guess. I still love my big totes. Travel is another story altogether. I never take my good purses when we travel, but just a fabric cross-body bag which is really light and big enough for passports, tickets etc etc. I have a new little “fanny pack” that my husband bought me for Christmas that will hold my i-pad mini and other day trip essentials. I hate the idea of wearing a pack…ugggh….but at least it’s black and matches my coat. Just call me superficial.

  18. Cher
    April 27, 2015 / 8:54 am

    I”ve never been a big purse fan for me mainly because of neck problems. So the smaller bag trend is great for my choices. I’ve recently discovered Brahmin bags. These bags are awesome in every way. Beautiful colors , a good selection of sizes and a very appealing price!! Check them out. Brahmin.com. Can be found at Nordstroms, Macy’s, Dillards, Belk and online for seeing all the beautiful colors and designs. (No i don’t work for Brahmin…i just love them!) Oh and for travel, i carry a small to medium crossbody that can fit in to my personal item carry on. Love Baggalini for the lightweight fabric and all the handy pockets.

  19. Marie
    April 27, 2015 / 10:13 am

    I’m on Team Small Crossbody Purse+Work Tote. For my crossbody purse, I carry a small Derek Alexander organizer that I really love. It holds the essentials: credit cards, cash, eyeglasses, cell phone, basic makeup items. I had some back problems that have been greatly helped by keeping the purse weight to a minimum, and even while traveling I have needed only the small crossbody for being out and about. The trick is to wear something that has pockets where you can stash your map!

  20. amidprivilege
    April 27, 2015 / 10:18 am

    I separate bags into city and suburb. Not for level of fancy, but for how much time I spend walking vs. in the car. I carry the Bottega Veneta large hobo in the suburbs, super easy to take in and out of the car, and, for its size, very light. No hardware, no internal pockets. Not always easy to find what I’m looking for, but good enough. In the city I carry that Bottega Veneta cross-body you show in your carousel, and it’s perfect. Rather than cross-body and tote, I used a cross-body packed into a backpack strategy. Was great for the 30 minute walking commute.

    If I got a new bag, and wanted beauty, I’d go for the Celine half-moon hobo. If I got a new bag and was being practical, I’d probably just get another one of those BV cross-bodies, in, say, purple:). Yes, that’s actually more practical and apt to get more use than anything else:).

  21. KPL
    April 27, 2015 / 2:24 pm

    Too much internal organization in a bag makes it harder for me to find my stuff – so I just like one pocket for my phone. I don’t change bags, except sometimes to go out in the evening. And like Lisa, I sort of separate it into suburb (which all of LA is) and city, when I travel to NY or wherever, and walk a lot. I would say a handbag is where I splurge the most in my wardrobe as I have no need for anything else on a daily basis other than jeans and tees. A good handbag sort of “ups” the look I think.

  22. Maryann
    April 27, 2015 / 4:23 pm

    I used a large tote for work so that I can fit everything in one bag. I don’t like carrying additonal bags. For travel I am looking for a, preferably leather, cross body bag that will fit my Ipad.

  23. April 27, 2015 / 5:34 pm

    So interesting to read all the comments and the many, various opinions. Am I the only one who just will not spend $400-$800 for a bag? I wouldn’t even consider it, ever. The most I’ve ever spent was last summer on a Kate Spade cross body bag for $240. And, I have to say, it’s my favorite bag! For travel I do think a cross body is the way to go, and much safer. Back packs are too cumbersome and so difficult to get at.

    • Epiphyta
      April 28, 2015 / 1:57 pm

      No, it’s not just you! At the moment I alternate between a Coach Legacy Crescent and a Kavu canvas cross body bag, with an Ellington canvas satchel in reserve, and didn’t pay more than $80 for any of them.

  24. April 27, 2015 / 6:26 pm

    I have a tote for work which holds my tiny crossbody bag, my lunch and an umbrella, along with a few little things. When I travel it’s a slightly larger crossbody bag that hold my glasses, a lipstick, camera and phone, cash and cards. I want my hands free and I don’t like the pain in my shoulder from carrying a large bag. I can’t imagine hauling a big bag around all day! I second the Tignanello bags – they’re sturdy and functional, not too flashy – great for a trip.

  25. Jane2
    April 27, 2015 / 7:18 pm

    After seeing Elly Miller carry one on Broadchurch, my go-to bag is a Radley of London cross body…I have four, two medium and two larger. I recently survived for 3 weeks in the UK with one…it held enough yet laid relatively flat. And because of the design, everything was secure.

  26. Delaine
    April 27, 2015 / 7:41 pm

    I have that BV pillow bag, and it’s my go to weekend bag. Very lightweight and holds more than you think!

    • une lectrice d'un certain age
      April 27, 2015 / 9:06 pm

      Definitely a backpack, but I prefer the polished leather styles with nice hardware that convert to a shoulder bag at one small tug of the handles. Found them first in Rome and Paris in very fashionable colors. Bought 4 in Florence. Amazon. UK sells them now, and shipping to the US is not too bad, given the quality.

      Will never go back to a shoulder or crossbody bag. Too hard on my shoulders and somehow they always look ungainly.

      Everything fits, but nothing huge. Tablet, phone, pen, wallet. A few sundries.
      That works well for me.

      • Thea
        April 28, 2015 / 9:08 pm

        what is the brand name of these lovely bags that go from back pack to shoulder bag, please?

        • Une lectrice d'un certain âge
          April 28, 2015 / 10:53 pm

          Don’t know if a link is allowed?

          Amazon.uk lists them under Primo Sacchi. They have a UK website also. Mine are called the Carlotta, a small convertible backpack. My favorite is a wonderful green one with medium brown handles. Not pricey and goes with neutrals so well for a little color. I imagine I will use it until it falls apart at the seams. They are made in Florence.

          Love finding all these new bag ideas.

  27. April 27, 2015 / 11:53 pm

    I have definitely gone over to the small cross body bag + tote if necessary. I find the combination works much better. I have just bought a small bucket cross body (nice and light) for the summer.

  28. Juli
    April 28, 2015 / 4:26 am

    Large handbags have never really worked for me; at 5’2″ I’ve always felt they were out of proportion for my size. This year the variety is amazing for the styles I prefer (clutch, cross body, etc.). I was delighted to see that one of your selections is Rebecca Minkoff’s “Quilted Affair”. Mine just arrived this week! I ordered the black one, and it’s just perfect! No adornment other than the chain strap, and it’s surprisingly roomy for a small bag. Plus, I can dress it up or down, depending on the outfit. Thanks so much for sharing these lovely, more diminutive bags!

  29. SewingLibrarian
    April 28, 2015 / 5:51 am

    I’ve used bags from Roche Handbags, a small company in Northern California, for years. They come in many sizes, are well made, and aren’t too heavy. No logos and minimal hardware. And while not cheap, they are certainly more reasonably priced than designer handbags.

  30. Charlotte
    April 28, 2015 / 9:01 pm

    I just love the ‘paris look’ so smart and fresh! That’s really all you need in your wardrobe isn’t it, and then just substitute more formal black pants and tops for work or evenings. Its really a lovely look.
    Yes, I like the small bag trend too….but arn’t large bags meant to make you look smaller, I thought that was the trick.

  31. April 29, 2015 / 12:33 am

    I’m glad there is not a special crimes unit for infractions against bags because, yes, I am very guilty – I get so frustrated. I require organization. I require something light. I completely sympathize with your desire for these things, including your annoyance at a skinny strap if there is weight in a bag. And don’t get me started on carrying a bag AND umbrella in the rain. A cross-body strap is necessary. I like your idea of two bags.

    • une femme
      April 29, 2015 / 5:32 am

      Melanie, I can almost hear the Law & Order voiceover now, “…Some bags are especially heinous…these are the people of the Special Bag Crimes unit…” 😀

  32. April 29, 2015 / 11:51 am

    Although I adore the look of bags my body doesn’t like to carry them. I have fibromyalgia and anything that is heavy on my shoulders or by my neck for any length of time really bothers me, to the extent that I get nauseous. So for travelling I will always carry a cross body bag that is light leather with a wide strap and not much inside. For day to day I like even smaller bags just for my phone, lipstick and keys. Having the illness forces me to travel light. When I wear jeans or a jacket with pockets I will go without a handbag. It is much easier on me. That hasn’t stopped me from collecting some wonderful vintage framed bags over the years which are perfect when I don’t need to be carrying it around all day.


  33. kerkie
    April 29, 2015 / 12:46 pm

    I absolutely love the trench, but the bity link does not work. Who makes the trench in the picture?

    • une femme
      April 29, 2015 / 2:55 pm

      Hi kerkie, so sorry about that. I’ll fix the link tonight. The trench is from Isabel Marant, here: http://bit.ly/1OVgGiF

  34. Catherine
    April 30, 2015 / 2:14 pm

    I’ve been a double-bagger for years. I carry a larger tote (right now, the Fossil Sydney in a lovely dark cordavan color) and inside, I stash a mini Brahmin in black. It’s worked very well for work/walking to lunch/back to work/out for drinks and dinner this year. I’m looking for a summer duo that works as well as this combo has for fall and winter.

  35. Nicole
    April 30, 2015 / 2:45 pm

    I’ve just switched from my larger winter bag to a fabric Michael Kors medium tote in fuchsia (it felt right with all the buds of popping color). My shoulder breathed a sigh of relief! I will use my heavier, leather Michael Kors “Jet Set” tote this summer and I am mentally lightening it up now so that when I get back to it, it won’t be so heavy to use every day. I managed to accumulate a few cross-body, first just two mini ones holding essentials (money and chap stick) for a quick meet for drinks with friends. Now I have two more in a medium size. I am enjoying the freedom of a cross body for more of my adventure/road trip activities that hold a little more, including my little camera. One more thing, on the love of larger bags, I think it’s partly the illusion we fall in love with – how those big bags make us look smaller. How many Pinterest pictures have I seen like this, though every one of the models holding them are tiny things to begin with! So naturally I want one of those. 😉

    • Nicole
      April 30, 2015 / 6:07 pm

      Well, after seeing all my chatter about my bags I guess I can rest on my laurels for a while. What can I say, I love purses!

  36. May 6, 2015 / 10:41 am

    I am a former luggage carrier (in the form of a LV Neverfull in the Medium size). Now, I am carrying a Philip Lim Pashli in cloud (pale blue in the medium size) and it even seems a bit large. So I am experimenting with cross bodies. It’s been a challenge to pair down my “what if’s” from my daily bag, but I am enjoying the freedom when I am brave enough to venture out not looking like I am boarding a plane! I love your blog.



  37. Christy
    May 10, 2015 / 7:02 am

    I recently upsized my daily purse after using a small purse for about a decade. One reason is that here in Seattle they now charge for bags at the grocery store and it’s often more convenient to carry items I pick up around town (food, dog treats, toiletries, even clothes) in my purse rather than to have a second bag to lug around. I don’t carry that much in it as a purse so it is never that heavy, though the purse is bulky. I still have my lovely small bag. I use it when I bike to work and when I travel.

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