Full disclosure: I’m not what you—or a fashion magazine—might call a “bag girl.” Give me some waxed canvas in the shape of a tote, add an interior pocket or two and a sturdy handle and I’m good to go. My current canvas tote (made of vintage canvas by Forestbound) has been with me for going on three years now. With very few exceptions, it’s been the bag that I’ve used every day. It’s big enough to fit a laptop and a wallet and a deliquent library book or two. When I need it to, it can fit my camera (tucked safely into an insert). But in the past six months, the things in my bag belonging to me were slowly being taken over by the things in it belonging to Faye. And when I returned to work a few months ago and began to leave Faye with a sitter, I finally admitted that my bag had become a de facto diaper bag. So I fished out the last of my chapstick and replaced it with an extra teether among other things better suited to an infant. (The poor bag is a little worse for wear at this stage, but it’s still kicking, so we’re still using it.)
Then I took stock of what remained in my bag collection. Besides the aforementioned trusty tote, there was a vintage clutch in a curious faded brown color, a second clutch in cream with embroidered blue flowers, a canvas computer bag which I adore (but which is really only big enough to carry a laptop alone), and many assorted canvas bags of the free variety. In sum, a modest but motley crew.
A few months out, I haven’t perfectly remedied my bag situation, but I have a better idea of what would be helpful to trade in, what has been helpful to add to the mix, and what I should opt out of from here on out.
The particulars of your own bag collection will depend on personal preference. If you’re really hoping to pare down, the four bags I’ve written about below could easily become two with some careful consideration. A leather tote, for instance, can be dressed up more easily than a canvas one and might omit the need for a handbag. And a handbag that turns into a clutch can do double-duty.
1. A large, sturdy tote for everyday….toting. Giving up my tote hasn’t been quite as tricky as I expected, but I sometimes miss having a large(ish) dedicated bag of my own. Another heavy-duty canvas bag (like this or this) might do the trick, but lately I’ve been tempted by the idea of an all-leather bag that I can dress up a bit. This one and this one and this one all look lovely and would be big enough for me to slip my camera insert into when I need to carry that around, too. (The addition of a small zipped pouch or two keep a cavernous bag neat and clean.)
2. A handbag for the in-between days. Handbag is terrible word, but I think it’s mildly better than purse, so let’s agree to use it. I was recently given my very first adult handbag and it’s been a kind of revelation for me. For me, a handbag isn’t an everyday bag exactly, but it is an out-about-town bag. If I’m lucky, it’s a bag that can serve me when ducking into a museum and a bag that’s just as at home at an interview as it is at dinner out. The bag I’ve been using is a crossbody big enough to carry a book, but sleek enough that the strap can be removed and it can work as an oversized clutch.
3. A simple clutch. The two clutches that I had were put to use practically never. On the occassions when a clutch might have been helpful, the ones I had rarely offered quite the right look. I’ve since kicked both clutches to the curb. For now I’ve been doing just fine without one, but if I did invest, I like the idea of owning one basic clutch that can be dressed up or down. This one is a nice option. It’s affordable and it pairs as well with jeans and a t-shirt as it does with a dress.
4. An assortment of smaller thin canvas or otherwise foldable bags: If you’re like me, you probably have more of these bags than you know what to do with. I’ve vowed to refuse any additional freebie bags whenever I can this year. The thought is very much appreciated, but I was starting to drown. Still: a few are essential for groceries and errands, etc.
Here’s one more thing to be mindful of:
Less means less: It might go without saying, but deciding not to have a lot of something means getting comfortable with making a few concessions. It might mean, for instance, that you opt not to have a satin clutch if you’ll only use it once a year. Or that your clutch doesn’t always perfectly match your shoes. Or that your husband occassionally carries lipstick in his suit jacket. Stranger things have happened.
More disclosure: The handbag that I’ve been using and loving and that I photographed for this post is the Petra Crossbody. It was a gift from Everlane, but they did not sponsor this post. Happy hunting, whatever your bag—or bags—of choice might be.
And now I’m curious: how many bags are lurking in your closets?
More minimalist wardrobe posts, HERE.