Desperately Seeking: The Perfect Versatile Handbag

A reader writes: 
I love your fashion ideas!  And in all your pictures you always have a lovely handbag, I wanted advice on what kind of handbag do you use to go with most outfits, I always seem to have trouble finding ones to buy that will match most things.

This is a good question, and one I struggle with. (Clearly. I mean, I have a different handbag with almost every outfit!)

Sometimes I love changing out handbags with my outfits so that they coordinate well. Other times I wish I had one go-to handbag that I could just carry every day, all season long. I actually found one this past summer. I adore my R Minkoff striped tote and carried it with almost everything all summer long, but I lovingly packed it away for the winter and have been changing around amongst my various fall/winter bags ever since.

I’m actually currently on the lookout for the winter equivalent. I often end up carrying a smallish black tote but I need something larger to hold my new tablet along with all my other paraphernalia, and as much as I love a black bag, I prefer something with a bit more pizazz.

So. I’ve been on a purse hunt.

Of course purse shopping is a very personal thing. It’s hard to give advice because everyone has different needs and different tastes. But I have learned one thing — I’d rather have too much room in my handbag than not enough. Not only is it annoying to try to find things in an overstuffed bag, but it looks sloppy when your bag is too full to close properly. So I tend to opt for a larger bag.

You also want to consider your size and frame. A larger woman should carry a larger bag. A smaller woman should carry a smaller bag. GENERALLY SPEAKING. It’s a good rule of thumb.

Also, my best advice: Don’t feel like you have to stick to neutral colors!

I’ve got in mind something like this ECCO Belaga Handbag

ECCO Belaga Handbag

Or this Donna Karan New York The Hydroform Medium Handbag that I’ve been drooling over since I saw it in InStyle Magazine last summer.

Except, you know, $$$$$.

For this post, I’m setting out to find versatile handbags that are more affordable.

Stylish Handbags Under $100

Don’t rule out Target. I saw some really darling bags there at Christmastime. I was surprised how nice they looked. If you’re not set on having leather, you can find some really great bags there. Here are a few of my faves.

Stylish Handbags Under $35

Merona Hobo – Mossimo Brittania Dome Handbag – Merona Solid Tote

Another place to look – Kohl’s! Their Stone & Co bags are leather, and this Bucket Bag prices in right under $100 at $99. If you like neutrals, this stone color is really lovely.

 Stone & Co. Tina Leather Bucket Bag

Another neutral pick, this Jennifer Lopez Arcadia Shopper for $69.

Jennifer Lopez Arcadia Shopper

I always check Zappo’s when I’m looking for a new bag. You can search by color, style and price! These stylish, versatile handbags are all less than $100.

 Steve Madden Taylor Large ToteBCBGeneration Ollie Shopper Tote – ALDO Ferruso

Finally, I love to shop Marshall’s and TJMaxx for quality handbags at discount pricing. I’ve found some fabulous deals on gorgeous bags there over the years. Marshall’s and TJMaxx are not necessarily selling last season’s styles. They are able to take odds and ends from the current inventories that major retailers can’t accept because they have to have a certain amount of each size and color. Also, not all Marshall’s and TJMaxx stores are created equal. They stock stores depending on the demographic they serve, so you can often find something at one store that another might not carry. So be sure to check out several, or learn where the best ones are. I went on a press trip with TJMaxx a few years ago and learned all sorts of fascinating things about how they stock their stores!

Since they do carry all sorts of different things, I can’t really link to specifics in this post, but definitely check them out before you plunk down a chunk of change at a department store. They can’t advertise the retailers they represent on their site, but they do picture a few options to whet your appetite. For example…

GORGEOUS, right?!! Royal blue is a huge color trend right now — along with emerald green. And I’m always a sucker for an orange bag. In fact, I think I’m overdue for a little trip to Marshall’s.

I cannot guarantee that these are less than $100 (as the prices are not published online), but I can guarantee that they are priced well below retail prices.

 So… what do you think? Did you find your dream bag in these selections?? What are your requirements for the perfect, versatile handbag??

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36 Responses

  1. I may have too many purses and I am trying not to buy any this year but now that I’ve see that green bag I realize my green bag is worn and needs to be replaced. I buy one great purse each year. I use zappos for ideas , then shop around. I like color,too. I bought a yellow bag last fall and received an orange bag for Christmas.

  2. I agree, I’d much rather have too much room than not enough. I like to have my bag be a bold color, green and blues are always my first choices for the very reasons you said.

    I LOVE that teal bag from Target. And the left brown one from Zappos is very similar to something I’ve been looking for for a while. Great picks!! 🙂

  3. Hmmmm, lots of places to look. I’m going to Target this morning because I really need some fun-colored long-sleeved shirts for layering. I’ll check the purses, too.

    I was shying away from the leather purses because they can be stiff, another factor for a short person. I have a wonderful red Nine West one that just isn’t practical for every day because of the stiffness.

    Maybe I’ll instagram what I find at Target to see what y’all like. I’m not above group decisions especially when it comes to the PSMM peeps!

    1. Hey! You Instagram what you find at Target, and I’ll Instagram what I find at Marshall’s! Maybe between the two of us, we’ll come up with something. 😉

      I didn’t post canvas options b/c I tend to go for leather or leather-ish bags, but Target has some nice canvas styles too.

      1. Target was picked over. 🙁 I am going to look at DSW which always has a good selection. Of course, if I pick up another pair of shoes, it’s all to the good.

        1. Bummer. I felt the same about Marshall’s. There was one I was considering, but it’s in the pink/puple family and I’m just not sure I’d love it for more than a season. It wasn’t cheap – a Bob Makowsky for $150 so I think I’ll keep looking. For that, I want to LOVE it.

  4. I bought a Louis Vuitton Neverfull three years ago and it’s my go to bag. It was 750 at the time, but I have not bought a purse since, I don’t want to put it down and it looks in great condition. It matches everything and I was sick of dropping 200 every so many months for purses after two years I don’t want to wear any more. I would highly recommend as a go to bag. I bought the summer white check style for my birthday and have two to rotate between…just a thought 😉

  5. Oh boy. I could write a book on this subject. I probably have an addiction to handbags. I am, however, finally learning what I really like/want/need and how to obtain it. I’m kind of a snob when it comes to bags. I really like leather and name brand leather bags just look, feel and hold up better. Rebecca Minkoff is one of my all time favorites but I can’t exactly afford to have a closet full of them. I’ve discovered that if I can just be patient and find what I really want, I can get a good deal. The RM website, if you sign up for their email updates, has periodic sales that pretty good. Also, I have found an RM style that I really like and then searched for it on ebay. For now, not Rebecca Minkoff is not a huge knock-off label so it’s easy to find the real deal on ebay.

    Also, Kate Spade has great deals when the sale is on sale. Right now, the deal is 25% off of sale items and she has some cute, colorful bags for around $150. It may seem pricey but for a $350 bag, that will last forever, it’s not a bad deal.

    Since my eye is drawn to bags, if I see one I like in a magazine or on a blog, I find the designer and name of the bag and do a google search. That’s how I found that striped RM bag! I saw it in a magazine and discovered a website that had a great deal on it!

    Really and truly, if you don’t mind searching and going back a few times, Marshalls and TJ Maxx are great places to find a nice leather purse. If I find one that I like, I usually carry it on my shoulder for a while around the store. Nothing drives me crazier than when a bag is constantly slipping off of my shoulder!! I also want to make sure the bag itself is not too heavy before loading it with my gear. I also like the trend of having a longer, detachable shoulder strap and two handles. That gives a lot of flexibility. OK…be quiet…

    Sorry for rambling… 🙂

    1. OMG I could have written this comment. I like your rambles. 🙂 so I went to the mall today and now I”m back at home googling, trying to find the one I fell in love with. So far, no dice. So irritated that I didn’t ask the saleslady the name of it. I assumed I”d be able to locate it. It’s a Cole Haan. I KNOW. Shoot me now.

      1. Have you ever signed up for “Shop It to Me?” https://www.shopittome.com/ It’s a website that you sign up for and you check all of your favorite brands/stores. They send you an email once a week to let you know all of your favorites that are on sale. I checked Cole Haan as one of my favorites and it always shows up on sale somewhere!!! Also, Cole Haan is another one that is not faked out on ebay. Try a search like “Cole Haan Tote” or “Cole Haan Satchel” on ebay. Whatever describes it best. 🙂 Even if you don’t want to get it that way you might be able to find the name.

  6. I love all of them! As the mom of 5 my budget requires me to be more of a vinyl customer these days but I’m fine with that. I found a green tote at TJ Maxx recently that’s just perfect, it fits everything! It also goes easily with everything and I hadn’t really figured out why until I read your post.

  7. I am a total sucker for an orange bag too. Those instantly jumped out at me! I also love the teal one from Target. Great picks!

    1. I know, I went shopping today, looking for green or blue, but the orange ones kept speaking to me. And also, the PINK ones! Who wouldathunk!? There are tons of cute pink ones!

  8. I love that J Lo shopper. I know it’s probably not your style but I love Vera Bradley bags. I also like Coach bags and am lucky to live near a Coach outlet.

  9. I ditto the TJMaxx/Marshalls comment – I always find good stuff there. Also, when I wanted a fun laptop case and suitcase – I found a purple laptop case and a same brand turquoise suitcase at Burlington Coat Factory which was pretty awesome.

  10. Great post! I’m one of those people that carry the same handbag forever until I find another one I want. I never switch handbags much because I find it a pain to move everything over to a new one. I guess it would help me keep my purse cleaned. I have switched to carrying bigger handbags and do like them better, except I cant keep them organized like the smaller ones I used to carry. Any ideas on ways to keep them organized and make it easy to switch to new bags?

    1. Hey Andrea, I just switch em and clean them out when I do and they stay pretty clean. Lately though I think I need a few cosmetic bags to help organize the insides of my bag. THe smaller items are hard to find. I’ll let you know if I find a good solution.

  11. I personally love two kinds of bags: Coach (these are my window shopping wish I had that bags) and Vera Bradley. I can wash VB’s and I love the patterns. I don’t have to be afraid to carry them and they are SO practical. Love them!

  12. I don’t remember the last time I bought a purse from somewhere other than TJ Maxx! The one I have now is black, but the ends are a beige fabric with a black and blackberry colored flower print. It’s big enough to carry all my regular purse stuff plus a board book and an extra paci for my son, and frozen lunch and two bottles of water for work. It was $40 and I’ve used it since September! Sometimes you can find nice bags on the flash sale websites, too.

  13. I have that Merona hobo in teal. I love it. It has held up quite well, as I’ve had it since early fall. It is a good size for me–still holds a diaper and wipes when needed, but not huge. I love handbags, but tend to go for cheaper ones because I get bored quickly. 😉

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