The Everyday Guide: Why Handbags Just Don’t Work For Us


In my mind — form must always follow function.

This axiom applies even when we are discussing fashion accessories.

I’ve spent most of my working life searching for the handbag which does not reduce me to a puddle, when searching for a parking garage ticket. Daily life is made so much more challenging when your essential items are in disarray. (Travel only emphasizes the problem for me.)

I can only imagine what the person behind me in line must be plotting, as I sift through the ocean that is the interior of my handbag.

Know this — I am silently cursing my handbag misfortune.

Personal complaints aside, designer handbag sales have dropped precipitously over past years. As discussed in this article, one reason may be all too obvious — the bags being made just don’t meet the needs of the women who carry them. Pretty handbags simply need to have more substance than being emblazoned with a chic designers name. I’m over it.

I have loved and lost quite a few great bags to wear and tear — which leaves me with another search for my next “holy grail” bag. This one, which I owned in black, will live in my heart forever as you could view everything that lived inside at one time. No digging required. The straps had ample drop to allow me to sling the bag over my shoulder. (So many of you clicked on the photo, that I’ve identified an updated version here.)

A lost love. Sigh.

Feeling professional definitely extends to my accessories. Handbags need to really work for their owners. I had a friend who described her handbag search as a grueling “interview process”. I get that. I really do.

I posed the “perfect handbag” question to YouTube lifestyle vlogger, Marnie Goldberg. (Find her down-to-earth, intelligent advice here. Hoping she’ll be back with more advice.) She shared this, “I think the key is a few pockets — a somewhat structured shape but not too many pockets or you’ll forget where you put everything. It’s hard to say there’s one perfect bag. Everyone has individual preferences.”

Structure, yes! You hit the nail right on the head! I also agree, there is more than one bag “soul mate” out there. But like any soul mate, they are not hanging out on the corner for you to discover them. Searching is necessary. (Find Marnie’s video perusing her own collection here.)

Below you’ll find a few handbags worth considering. They all have what it takes:

  • Proper handles for shoulder or back slinging.
  • Compartments/pockets for small items. (A divided interior works best).
  • Enough structure (so the purse isn’t too slouchy), for easy “browsing”.

~ New addition! Great in-person!
Kate Spade Cameron Street Byrdie:

Kate Spade Cameron Street Byrdie

~ Gigi New York Python Tote:

Rebecca Minkoff Backpack: (Friend recommended. You can see the compartments here.):


~ KNOMO Tote Pack:







Do you own a handbag that really works for you? Please share what you know in comments.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from running a company — to the perfect fragrance. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.


9 thoughts on “The Everyday Guide: Why Handbags Just Don’t Work For Us

  1. After years of “the interview process,” I have settled in a Tumi wallet. It is fashionable, yet organizes my credit cards, cash, phone and lip balm. All I need in one spot.


  2. Henri Bendel (NYC) makes a wonderful backpack that is professional looking (I.e., a little fancy), has structure, and is very comfortable. It’s called the Jetsetter — highly recommend!


  3. Personally, I find that the answer is to go vintage. If you want a bag that combines class, quality, practical structure and real impact, look for a good vintage piece. Great un-branded vintage handbags offer several advantages: excellent quality, affordable price and a real statement as it’s very unlikely someone else has one like yours.
    I’ve got several wonderful examples; can’t figure out how to attach pictures here…


  4. I have carried different variations of this bag for the past 10 years:

    It is lovely to look at – I am asked where I got it all the time, especially when I’m on the subway – and practical, durable, and eminently useful. It is big enough to carry my iPad mini or my Kindle, pockets on each outer side hold my cell phone(s), a back pocket holds my LIRR pass and my MetroCard and my parking garage ticket. A front zippered pocket holds my (meager) makeup and other essentials of life. Inside there are 2 large pockets – one with a zipper and one without, for easy access. The middle section is large but not so big that I lose things. And there is a tether so my key ring is always easily available. And if it gets dirty, I take everything out and throw it in the washing machine. It comes out looking new again.


  5. I’m still looking for the perfect handbag. Love totes but some are way too big. Now with my part-time business I am always carrying “my stuff” around with me for customers. I’m thankful my DIL shares my love of bags and we are trying each other’s out…maybe one day I will settle on one. Although last year bought me a Coach and still love it….


  6. I share your quest for the perfect professional bag. Not only does it have to look sleek, but it must be large enough for my iPad, it must have outer pockets to hold my phone and keys (no digging in the interior for them!) Bonus points for additional outer pockets for sunglasses and business cards. I actually have found a few of these babies over the years. My current bag is NOT a designer bag but produced by Urban Expressions. It’s a red barrel bag with two small side pockets, two larger pockets – front and back and no less than 4 interior pockets. LOVE.


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