Les Essentiels: The Tan Bag

The Versatile Tan Bag

On my trips to Paris, I’ve noticed that even though les Parisiennes love their black and navy outfits, they often lighten up the overall look with tan, taupe, or saddle colored bags. I made a mental note, and over time have added a few lighter bags to my wardrobe. Lately, I find I’m using a cognac or tan bag most often. They work with almost everything in my wardrobe, and add a dose of classic chic. I’ve come to consider them a wardrobe essential. The thing about lighter colored bags, though, is that leather quality matters. That doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune, but lower quality materials will often give themselves away more readily with a lighter bag. Pebbled or textured leathers will generally show wear less quickly than smooth leathers.

Above: this tan bag is on the spendy side, but the style and leather are gorgeous.

This casual bag is very reasonably priced. 

If I didn’t already have this bag in “Pecan,” the “Toasted Almond” color would be in my shopping cart right now       Saddle leather top handle satchel. Details at une femme d'un certain age.This structured, smooth leather bag is polished without being fussy.

Vachetta leather is meant to look better as it breaks in. Creases, distressing and a “patina” that develops over time are all desirable for those who love this more natural looking leather.

A.P.C. is a French brand known for their great quality basics. This bag is a chic option.

Here’s a classic slouchy shoulder satchel in tan pebbled leather.

Longchamp le pliage nylon bag. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

You don’t have to opt for leather, of course. Here’s a classic Le Pliage nylon bag in a nice tan color.

What color bags do you wear most often?

Stay in touch.

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  1. lucy in the sky
    January 30, 2018 / 5:18 am

    I have a cognac one, kindda bowling, that I love and use a lot. Now I am wearing a light tan one, made of canvas (with a Brazilian Logo – look up for http://victorhugo-usa.com/ and see the purses, they are great in look and quality) and looking for a golden one , not shiny, that I also believe is very neutral and charming as well. 🙂

  2. Meg
    January 30, 2018 / 5:52 am

    I do love that last le Pliage bag in the pale tan. I do have a question for you and the rest of your readers- my daughter has this very bag in that very color and it’s become smudgy looking. Any one have a hint on how to clean these nylon bags?

    • Susan Y.
      January 30, 2018 / 6:03 am

      Good morning Meg! I have this same bag in the khaki green color. Just recently I had an oil spill onto the bag and simply used a mild soap and water with a rag and wipes the area down – oil stain gone. I think they are pretty hearty so some soap and water on a rag – not soaked – should help to brighten the bag.

    • Kathy
      January 30, 2018 / 6:18 am

      I have actually put a few of my Le Pliage bags in the washing machine. The handles darkened a bit. I would try a sponge and soap first. They are pretty durable.

    • Pat
      January 30, 2018 / 4:43 pm

      Baby wipes work well on the Le Pliage nylon bags.

    • Vicki
      February 11, 2019 / 11:57 pm

      I also have the same coloured Le Pliage. The care card for my bag feads:-
      To maintain your product, apply with a soft brush Longchamp colourless cream regularly to leather areas.
      To remove dirt, clean the whole lining using a cloth or a soft brush, with water and neutral soap (avoid water spilling over leather parts when cleaning). Hope this is of some help.

  3. Kathy
    January 30, 2018 / 6:15 am

    A few years back, when I was gainfully employed, and my husband had a global position that took us around the world, I saw a bag in the Louis Vuitton store in Istanbul. I think angels started to sing in my head. This bag is practically vulgar. It’s one of the multicolored patterns with a white background. It has lots of brass studs, which caught my eye. It is too big for someone of my 5’1″ stature. I had to have it. At the time, I lived in New England, and only used it a month or so a year. But, now, that I live in Florida, I use it year round. It’s like a piece of luggage. I can carry a wallet, umbrella, sunglasses and a scarf without a problem. The colors “match” the bright colors of my warm climate wardrobe and the pattern probably conflicts with everything patterned I wear. I don’t care. I love this bag and it’s finally earning its keep.

    • Darling Lily
      January 30, 2018 / 7:50 am

      Everyone needs an item ( or two!) like that…. it makes you crazy-happy for some reason, vulgar though you know it may be.

      You smile every time you wear it? Perfection!

      • Val
        January 30, 2018 / 9:18 am

        We need to see a picture of that beautiful yet vulgar bag, Kathy!

    • Susan B
      January 30, 2018 / 9:22 am

      I’ve found I’ve rarely gone wrong with those items that make my heart sing, even if they aren’t “good on paper.” Glad you’re able to enjoy and use a favorite piece. And as Diana Vreeland said, “A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste––it’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s physical.” 😉

  4. Cindy Stevenson
    January 30, 2018 / 6:48 am

    I mostly use black bags with brights or colours for certain outfits, but this post was timely as I’m itching for something a bit lighter that can carry me through the summer months as well. I agree a good tan or taupe bag is a basic.

  5. January 30, 2018 / 7:40 am

    If, like me with my silver hair and blue eyes, one wears cool colors, a grey or silver bag would be more harmonious and versatile in the way you describe.

    • Katie
      January 30, 2018 / 9:06 pm

      for similar reasons, I am not a tan fan. my Rag and Bone pilot satchel in soft gray is a springtime favorite.

  6. Ann
    January 30, 2018 / 7:47 am

    I have a soft leather bone colored bag from Coach that became stained with blue/grey from rubbing against denim. It seems to be unremoveable. Careful if you wear denim a lot. I also have a cognac bag, with a firmer finish that has been fine.

  7. amidprivilege
    January 30, 2018 / 8:15 am

    That Cuyana bag is a great proxy for the Celine box bag which costs ~ ten times as much. Also I like that they have a separate cross body strap. I agree, when/if I replace my blue BV hobo, I’m thinking cognac for versatility and for automatic contrast with denim.

  8. Dy
    January 30, 2018 / 8:43 am

    With gray hair and olive coloring, black and gray are my go to bags. How could I incorporate tan, other than in the summer with white or beige?

    • Susan B
      January 30, 2018 / 9:19 am

      My suggestion would be to stick to the more taupe-y shades, which run cool and could be worn with any other color.

      • Duchesse
        February 1, 2018 / 3:53 pm

        I have grey hair but will carry a caramel bag, because it’s not next to my face, with the navy, black and charcoal that form my usual wardrobe.

  9. Kim
    January 30, 2018 / 10:18 am

    While I adore the bags you’ve shown, when it comes to buying one, I always gravitate towards color. I’m currently carrying a berry-colored Dooney, have a teal MK and a couple of multi-colored Patricia Nash bags. The one mid-range brown I own (Botkier) gets neglected in the closet. My clutches are red and cheetah. I live in FL, maybe that’s why?

  10. Kelly
    January 30, 2018 / 11:42 am

    I have a chocolate bag I got from The Umbrella Collective (learned about it from Grechen – slowre had a tote but I wanted more of a hobo..) I got the Day Bag in Chocolate and I adore it! Would love the handles to be a smidge longer so I could use as a shoulder bag with the short straps, but the long strap is adjustable to crossbody or shoulder. Right now, I’m using a dark green leather bag. I like bright red in the spring, turquoise in the summer. I used to use black all the time but since so much of my clothing is black – my bags tend not to be. I also don’t go too light (no camel for me) as it gets too dirty too quickly. Guess I’m just a messy girl 😉

  11. Debra
    January 30, 2018 / 2:19 pm

    Susan, for those of us who choose to not wear leather, it would be great if you could mention some options for vegan accessories. Matt and Nat has some lovely bags, along with some other options, some manufactured in Italy.

    • Susan B
      January 30, 2018 / 2:30 pm

      Hi Debra, I haven’t seen those bags in person, but will keep an eye out for them. Thanks!

  12. TURNER
    January 30, 2018 / 11:51 pm

    I only wear cool colors and for the past two months I’ve mainly been carrying a (very cool-toned) taupe leather bag. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much I like the color. Now I’d like to pick up some shoes or boots in a similar shade.

  13. Jan Craik
    January 31, 2018 / 12:16 am

    Hi Susan, I echo Debra’s request for some non leather options. I can personally vouch for Matt and Nat. I have a work tote of theirs and it’s fabulous. Even better, the lining fabric, whilst not luxurious, is made from recycled plastic bottles! They have some beautifully architectural designs in gorgeous colours, and at a reasonable price point too, My own style issue, possibly a rut?, is trying to break out of the head to toe all black look. I love seeing other stylish women wearing a smidge of colour, but find it difficult to do myself.

  14. Patrish
    January 31, 2018 / 5:16 am

    I have a very old white Pliage bag. Not cream but optic white. It was very dirty because it showed every bit of dirt and grime it came in contact with.
    I took Ivory Liquid and put about a T in a small bowl and mixed it with water. I used a small brush with plastic bristles like something you would scrub dishes or glasses with and held a towel under the area and scrubbed away. Ran the scrubbed bits of the bag under running tap water. Stuffed the bag with clean towels and hung it over a plastic hanger and out of the sun to dry. (enclosed porch or shower would do) The leather bits never got wet and the fabric of the bag turned out like new. I could hardly believe it myself!

  15. February 3, 2018 / 5:32 pm

    After reading this post, I realized that I do not have a tan bag. I began a search for a tan bag keeping in mind quality and budget. A few years ago,I fell in love with a tan bag in Neiman Marcus. It was way, way beyond my price point, but I remembered it. Inspired, I went to the RealReal and then searched their sales with key words…tan handbag. I was astonished to find the very bag I saw at Neiman Marcus…they actually had a couple of them! Not only that…it was at the top end of my price point. It is the gorgeous Reed Krakoff Springbok Mini Atlantique Bag. It arrived today and I could not be happier….so thank you for the inspiration and information!

    • Susan B
      February 3, 2018 / 7:59 pm

      I’m so glad you found the one that you love and within your budget!

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