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 Rebecca 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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Disclosure: I’m excited to announce that I’m an InStyle Ambassador. InStyle Magazine is one of my guilty pleasures, and I get so many great ideas from there every month. This post contains affiliate links, thank you for your support!

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