3 Handbags Every Woman Needs

I love to use handbags to accessorize my outfits, but a lot of women don’t care to fuss with swapping out their bags several times a week and prefer to have one go-to handbag each season. In fact, I often get asked to recommend one handbag that “goes with everything.”

I would have a hard time narrowing down my selection to one because there are times your everyday handbag won’t do, so I propose three handbag styles every woman should own. You may have multiple options or one of each, but you should be able to complete almost any outfit if you have these three types of bag.

3 Essential Bags Every Woman Should Own

Of course this is general advice, so tailor it to your specific needs, but these are the three styles of handbags I think every woman needs. And while mine tend to be higher end labels, there are beautiful bags in every price range that allow you to dress well and create classy outfits, so I rounded up a bunch of different options in the shopping widgets below each section.

#1. Everyday Bag

The most important bag to have is one you can use on a daily basis. That’s generally a tote or some type of shoulder bag, and it needs to be practical because it’s the bag we carry the most. Think about how easy it is to get in and out of, and decide if you want one cavernous hole (that’s what I prefer, lol) or if you want a bag with dividers for organization.

While I love to carry a fun color from time to time, I recommend going with a good neutral like grey, taupe, brown, or beige if you’re only going to carry one main bag throughout the entire season. It can also be black, (and I personally love a black bag!) but black can look heavy and isn’t as versatile as a lighter neutral like beige or taupe. If I only had one bag in this category, it would be taupe or some shade of beige.

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You also want to think about materials. Suede is pretty, but it’s hard to keep clean and shows wear faster than a leather bag. Soft leather scratches faster than the Saffiano leather, but some don’t like the hard surface of Saffiano. A nice pebbled leather is a good compromise, or there are some nice coated canvas out there, and woven bags are nice for summer.

#2. Smaller Crossbody

For those times you want to be hands-free and don’t need a large bag, a smaller crossbody is a great option to have. I personally love a camera style crossbody that I can carry both ways. This is the style bag I carry when I’m going to sporting events, my daughter’s band events, or when I want to go shopping hands-free.

I like to have one that at least carries my phone, wallet, lipstick, and a compact. I don’t recommend going too small with this bag unless you are truly a minimalist and don’t carry much with you.

You can certainly spend a lot on this bag if you want, or you can go a little cheaper on this one. You may not use it as much as your everyday bag, or this may BE your everyday bag. It’s up to you!

#3. Dressy Clutch

This is your going-out bag, and it can be fun and whimsical or fancy and elegant. It just depends on your needs. I have a few options for dressy events such as weddings, etc. And I do occasionally carry a clutch to dinner, although I usually opt for a crossbody because it hangs on the back of your seat.

I doubt any of this is ground breaking, but hopefully it’s helpful. While some of the prices in the little shopping widgets look steep, I almost always buy my handbags on sale. These days there are no shortage of good sales, even occasionally on higher end designer items, if you know which sites to watch.

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photos: Alison Cornell

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25 thoughts on “3 Handbags Every Woman Needs

  1. Love all the options! I’ve had my eye on the YSL Lou camera bag. Any hope of ever finding that on sale?

    1. It used to be that YSL would occasionally be included in the Farfetch sales, or the Saks or Bloomies promos. I am pretty sure I got my first YSL on sale, but I haven’t seen them on sale in a few years.

  2. What wallet do you use? Mine is fairly big which limits my purse selection. I would like to find something smaller that still holds a lot .

    1. Heather……I’ve always carried a large regular size wallet my whole life and then when I started wanting to carry the crossbody bags, I decided to change out for the Coach, small wristlet my daughter bought me for my b’day years ago. Its like 3 1/2″x 5 1/2″ and works perfect for crossbody bags and it carries more than I thought. I tend to carry more than I need in my wallet, so this made me clean out the things I really didn’t need. I also cut up many credit cards I no longer needed, so that helped. 🙂 LOL If you go wallet shopping, there is lots of smaller versions these days for sure.

  3. Although I do have a couple of shoulder bags, my everyday bag is a crossbody. I don’t carry a lot and I love the hands-free aspect of it. Any bag I have MUST have a zipper on top–I can’t stand those bags with a flap! I think some are called saddle-style bags.

  4. You look great in all your photo’s. I know you work hard to get nice photos with pretty backgrounds and I know I appreciate it. I just received the Lou and Grey(LOFT) brand crossbody, quilted in black. I love it. Its going to be fun to wear with black and white this Spring and Summer. The quilted fabric is fun for a change. I’m like you, I don’t usually buy black for Spring/Summer, but I thought this one would be fun. It also comes in bright pink. I ordered it on 50% off and free ship day. I’m one of those who doesn’t like to keep changing out her hand bag, so tend to go neutral and carry the same one all the time.

  5. Ooh, the YSL cross-body has been on my list as the perfect bag to wear to weddings and dressy events where I need something neutral! It’s priced a little less than a similar Gucci style so thanks for the info! (A few classic handbags are worth the investment IMO! My Neverfull from Louis Vuitton has gone up $1000 in value since I purchased it 5 years ago!)

  6. Very helpful post, love the choices; already put the straw clutch in my shopping bag. Can you share what sunnies you are wearing with the last outfit featuring the clutch, looks like they would fit my small face.
    Your Neverful bag would be my dream but would never be able to afford it, I ordered the HOBO Crusade you featured last year from Amazon at a great price and it is really a nice bag but at 5’2 to use as a crossbody was just too large for me, hated to have to return it as it is a very quality leather.
    Like you, I prefer a simpler bag interior; too many dividers/pockets just complicate things for me rather dig around for my stuff. ha!

  7. Teri and Susan,
    Enjoy your time at OBX, I am from eastern NC and don’t get to OBX nearly as often as I would like, hope the weather is good for both of you!

  8. For my 60th birthday I splurged on the YSL bag in black- best investment I made last year. I love it- it’s so versatile.

  9. Hi Jo-Lynne! Great post! I was wondering, do you think the Longchamp Le Pliage tote is still on trend? Thank you! Julie

  10. Before I went to Italy last fall, I read up on purchasing designer handbags at the designers’ stores while there, and it is significantly cheaper. I saved HUNDREDS of dollars! If you look on the YSL European website, your YSL purse is 1390 Euros. It retails here for $1690. Right now, 1 Euro equals 1.07 dollars, so that’s a savings of about $202. Local taxes are figured into the European price, but present your passport at purchase, and the store will give you a special receipt that allows you to recover the VAT tax, which can be up to an additional couple of hundred dollars or so, depending on the amount of your purchase. You just need to present your receipt to the VAT booth in the airport before you leave Italy. It’s a very simple process that I learned about by reading articles on the internet. Enjoy Italy! It’s FABULOUS!!

  11. I love all of these bags and definitely need to update mine! Where did you get your blue shirt, btw. I love it.

  12. Totally agree. It’s the midsized totes and shoulder bags that I use 90% of the time. I’m not personally a fan of cross body bags so I don’t really use those, but I do like a cute little bag of some sort for going out to dinner… LOL, it can’t be too little anymore though because it has to at least hold my reading glasses

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