Already Prettypoll: Handbag Requirements

I used to have very specific requirements for my handbags, and a very small collection. I may have eased up a bit and let a few trickier bags sneak in, but I still have some absolutes:

  • Roomy: I carry a huge wallet, huge sunglass case, and sizable makeup bag. And I prefer a bag that’s big enough to accomodate a pair of mittens, some tissues, and even a bottle of water if I’m sneaking one into the movies. Small bags just don’t work for me.
  • Silver hardware: I may have eased up on this in my shoe collection, but it’s still non-negotiable for bags.
  • Easy to open: Nothing makes me more insane than having to contort myself around and fight with a sticky zipper in order to extract a ringing mobile phone.

What are YOUR handbag requirements?

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  • All my hand bags have to have handles that go over my shoulder. I have to be able to be hands free.

    Recently got a Kate Spade handbag and I have fallen in love with its outside zipper pocket- now car keys are instantly available. I find myself looking for that in every handbag.

    Open from the top – only two of handbags have flaps. Rest all open from the top. Just too hard to whip out that wallet, grab that ringing cell phone

  • I like the roomy bags for the same reasons, plus I have extra medical supplies in my bag. Try the small ones, but they are a pain. Might try a small cross body for my trip this Fall.

  • Eleanorjane

    My requirements for my current bag were: large enough for water bottle, umbrella, cardie, cross body for ease of carrying walking about town, colourful but likely to go with most of my wardrobe, fairly classic design, not too casual or formal.

    I find that having a bag over just one shoulder drives me crazy after a while, especially while wearing winter coats or things they keep slipping off. After 30 min of walking tension starts to build and build in my shoulders… I don’t know how everyone copes with it- do most women have little raised bits at the end of their shoulders so bags don’t slip off?

    It’s unfortunate that backpacks are so unfashionable ‘cos they’re a lot comfy to wear for any length of time.

    I think I could do with a smaller bag for times when I just want to take keys, wallet, cellphone and not have the weight of a bigger bag.

  • Jennifer

    I’m with you on Roomy. You even mentioned my “needs to fit a water bottle” that I thought was just my own quirk!
    As for hardware though, I’m the exact opposite. My bag is already weighed down with stuff (see: water bottle), so I don’t want the extra hardware that’s going to make it even heavier! Also, I find that I don’t like the *clank* sound that some hardware can make when I set the bag down on a table. It just rubs me the wrong way.
    A big one for me is Hands Free. Even before I had a child, I liked to have my hands free. Now, chasing after a toddler requires it! Also, I guess I have slanty shoulders, because bags do not stay on my shoulder unless I hold them there. So, crossbody all the way, baby.
    And lastly, I’m a purse monogamist, meaning I commit to one purse for a long time (I could never change purses as often as you do!), so it needs to be neutral enough to match whatever I were. Or, it needs to be a color that matches my general color scheme (purples, reds, pinks).

    • I too am a purse monogamist. ( love that, btw) I prefer very open, with just a side pocket or two. My current purse has a bit of a flap, bit it isn’t a big deal. My musts are that I love it. Until christmas, I carried a longaberger basket. Now it’s red leather croc, but essentially, it’s just a big, open, void…no dividers. I prefer it that way.

  • Angela

    I don’t really have any, I like neutral colours so I don’t have to switch out every day. I prefer them to be leather but have been known to sport a ‘pleather’ one now and again. No big buckles or logos and not too big,

  • Mine: I don’t carry much stuff so I don’t like roomy/unstructured bags. Small and compact, so I don’t have to fish around and wonder. Crossbody/handsfree. Interior divisions and pockets. Solid closure and no way for things to escape if I put the bag down carelessly — I like strong magnet closures best.

  • Heather

    Hangs on the shoulder, has outside pocket for phone, and … has metal loops from bag to handle that I can hook my keys to.

  • D

    No ridiculous logos, pockets where I can put my keys and cell phone and retrieve them quickly, not so big that I start to develop back issues, and I definitely prefer cross body straps. And I want some color! I don’t care if my bag clashes with my outfit.

  • Katharine

    Spacious. Sturdy and well-made. Has at least some pockets (I don’t like bags that are just one big black hole). No extra fooferaw (fringes; ponyskin roses on the front; bling; “pockets” that aren’t or zippers that go nowhere). No large ugly logos (although I give a pass to the little Matt & Nat metal plates, or ones of similar size and modesty — but there was a really nice, functional-looking Puma bag at Winners that in the end I had to give a pass on because it had a big effing trendy puma smeared across the side). Goes over the shoulder, and stays there (some do, some don’t). Silver or dull-brass hardware. SOLID shoulder strap; none of those flimsy detachable ones with dainty little clip clasps that get the vapours just seeing a paperback (I usually carry a journal/sketchbook around on a daily basis, at least). Not too corporate/grannyish; that has no specific definition, but “I know it when I see it.”

    I don’t do bag changes; that’s way more time than I want to invest in my portability.

  • Anne

    I feel like the princess and the pea when it comes to handbags these days. I like a bag that has at least one external pocket for keys or cell phone. It has to be big enough to accommodate my junk but no so big as to encourage me to pack more junk. It needs to have a light interior so everything doesn’t get lost in a black hole. I tend to lean towards brightly colored bags, especially for summer. it needs to be under $100.00. I am just too hard on my handbags to buy anything more costly.

  • My requirements:
    – must come with strap that can over my head and one shoulder. I want to be hands free.

    – must be roomy, I carry my life around with me.

    – must have specific spaces designed for phone and keys. Helps to have to lots of inner pockets with zippers.

  • Anna

    Except for a small crossbody bag for rare special occasions, I almost never carry a bag. Yes, I know it’s weird — but why else did God make pockets? All my clothes have pockets. Left pocket: car/house keys, loose change, pencil stub, folded index card for quick notes. Right pocket: small leather wallet containing driver’s license, credit/bank/store cards, folded bills, today’s receipts. A friend who saw my setup asked, What if you put your wallet down on a counter? Answer: I don’t put it down. It’s either in my pocket or in my hand. My system is quite secure.

    This does not keep me from admiring the handbags on Already Pretty and other style blogs. I spend far too much time drooling over Fossils and such on eBay. The leather! The colors! The shapes and sizes! Time to join the rest of the human race! Then I ask myself: What would I do with a handbag if I got it? Well, if my admittedly peculiar practice ever changes, this friendly community will be the first to know.

  • Mrs.M in MI

    I may be in the minority here, but I generally prefer small handbags. I have one tote large enough to hold files and my lunch for work, but otherwise I want something just big enough to hold my wallet, keys, lipstick, and grocery list.

    Oh, and I have a specific bag just for the movies. It looks small, but you can get two water bottles and a dollar-store box of candy in there.

    I don’t carry a cell phone, so I don’t need to get in the bag quickly. In fact, I prefer a zipper or flap because then I don’t have to worry about stuff falling out.

  • Stacy

    Side pockets that fit my cell phone and badge for work, so I don’t have to dig around inside the main compartment for either. I have a bag with a third outside pocket that also fits keys and sunglasses.

    For vacations and outings during which I want to take photos, I have an even roomier bag with even larger outside pockets to fit my camera and the extra lens, so I can avoid carrying the camera bag along with everything else. We call it the “adventure purse.” It’s bright orange. 🙂

  • jen b

    Should strap & room to fit my kindle. That’s all! =)

  • I looooove handbags but have to be very strict with myself and maintain only a small collection. So any bag I add needs to be leather in a neutral color. I live in Portland so I need to be able to carry an umbrella at all times. These days I have my eyes on the look out for a black, not-too-heavy, classic leather shoulder bag with gold hardware that’s big enough to hold my netbook and umbrella. It’s surprisingly difficult to find…I would prefer the size to be just right, not humungous.

  • For everyday handbags I’m also a serial monogamous. I *hate* transfering all my things to new bags on the daily.

    My everyday bag MUST have some sort of shoulder strap (preferably one wide one). It must have space to store my wallet, keys & mini-wallet/keychain, a normal sized book, a makeup case and some of my fiance’s things. I always fall for bags with multiple inside sections (that way I can keep the important things and fun things separate). Because of the monogamous relationship with my bags I also have a tendency to stick more towards neutral bags or colours that go with my favourite coat of the season (if I’m wearing an orange coat for fall I don’t want a pink bag).

    I keep some small wristlet type bags for nights out, and the requirement there is they be large enough to hold my cell phone and keychain/mini wallet as well as powder and lipgloss.

  • It must have a single wide strap, Zipper close. Outside pocket for cell phone. Silver details. Awesome bold color.

  • * Must have a strap that goes across my body so there is no chance of me losing it. I once left a clutch purse on public transportation, and of course it was never recovered. No more purses that can be put down without serious effort!

    * Must close securely. See above re: public transportation; I don’t want anyone to be able to easily stick their hand in it.

    * Must be roomy, ideally big enough to hold a paperback book.

    * Must have small pockets for keys, phone, wallet. Ideally a couple on the exterior for keys and phone and one inside that zips for the wallet.

    * Must be vegan!

  • I am quite a handbag addict (usually only buying one or two nice bags a year though) and I’ve come to realize that I prefer crossbody bags. They’ve become my default, especially now that I work downtown and take public transportation. I also prefer my bags to be leather (I am hard on bags, and I like them to last, so thick leather is best), roomy but not TOO roomy, or I will stuff them far too full of crap. They do have to be big enough to hold a makeup bag, my wallet/keys combo, phone, sunnies, micro-sized umbrella, ebook reader or iPad, and a small pouch with earbuds, cords, pens, and miscellany. An easy to access outside pocket is preferrable as well. I’ve been carrying a small crossbody satchel since January that is pretty much perfection.

  • tagatha

    Crossbody strap so my hands are free, big enough to fit this: (I have the medium structured one) and preferably some more stuff, like a small knitting bag or the occasional water bottle. Also at least one or two pockets outside for bus pass and keys. Needs to be weather tolerant, so my bags are mostly sturdy cotton or nylon. If I’m lugging around a LOT of stuff, I’ll carry a backpack. Oh and I love colours: I have bags from basic black to bright orange!

  • Jenny

    When I had little babies, I carried a bigger purse, because I needed to carry snacks, lost socks, pacifiers, etc. in there. Now that they are older, I carry a smaller purse because I don’t want it to get too heavy: just wallet, phone, keys, sunglasses (no case), migraine meds, and a lip gloss. I want an outside pocket for the phone so I don’t have to fish around for it, a couple of inside pockets for cards and lists and the lip gloss, sturdy over-shoulder straps that will fit over a winter-coated shoulder as well as a summer shoulder, and, as several others have said, color! Right now I have a yellow purse from Fossil. It goes with everything: red, green, navy, neutrals.

    I don’t change purses. I’d never remember, with all the other things I have to do in the morning.

  • Diana

    my handbag requirements:
    -BIG enough to hold all the stuff I take to work on a regular basis (including my lunch, which takes up a surprisingly large amount of room)
    -hands free, must fit over my shoulder or crossbody – carrying a bag in my hand makes my wrist and elbow ache, and I don’t like having to set it down every time I need to do something with my hands.
    -strap(s) not so long that the bag bonks around on my butt
    -zipper closure (for rain, public transportation, general security). The only exception is a latched flap satchel style.

  • I share many of the requirements previously mentioned: roomy, silver hardware (I don’t wear any yellow gold, ever), shoulder straps, and I prefer a nice strong magnetic closure to a zipper on the main compartment. One of my biggest though is external pockets. I MUST have a few external pockets on the bag. I like to have somewhere I can put my keys, my phone, my badge, and maybe a lipgloss so I can easily retrieve any of these items without digging into the main part of the bag.

    Also, as a rule, I’m not crazy about pleather, so I try to stick to fabric or leather. Although technically the bag I’m using right now is made of PVC and I actually really like it, so maybe that’s not a very firm rule. 😉

  • Big black leather shoulder bag w/lots of pockets inside, a couple zippered pockets. That’s my ideal purse — I gave up on switching out purses, it takes too much time bec. I carry a ton of stuff around (I only switch out for an occasional evening purse).

  • sigourney

    Medium size cross body, square shape, three inner, one outer compartment, zippered in black pleather. Watertight. Holds an umbrella, a medium size notebook, a Kindle plus miscellaneous stuff. The one and only ever perfect bag. I found it without meaning to look for one at a small shoemaker’s/Mr Minute stand at my local mall. 20 euros, and the material still looks like new two years later, no scuffs although I lug it everywhere.

    I even wear it in summer since I always have a spot of black in my wardrobe so the bag is sure to correspond. If it ever gets shoddy I’ll be very hard put to find another like it. Cost per day, not even per wear: 2 cents so far…

  • Mary

    Until recently I ONLY used midsize, simple purses with silver hardware. I hate big bags and I do not like gold anything and I have been alternating the same two utilitarian wal mart (gasp) “cargo style” purses in black and tan for longer than I care to admit here because I’m so picky. Unfortunately when I went shopping for a new one last month it was obvious I could no longer avoid the big bag trend as everything was diaper bag huge or clutch tiny. I found a not quite huge joe boxer one and now I feel a little more on trend but I’m still getting used to it’s bigness.

  • My bags must have two handles that are long enough to sling onto my shoulder in a hurry (my elbow must easily go through it). I learned really fast that I like keeping my bag open, but being able to ‘press’ it closed most of the time. I’m pretty attached to my ecko Red bag because the denim/brown combo looks great with almost everything I wear. The bag clips from one corner to another, then has a magnetic snap on the other two which I usually leave undone. I also dislike middle dividers, prefer a couple of cellphone sized pockets on the inside for phones, cameras, and mp3 player.

    I pretty much only own two bags at once. All the other storage goes to shoes, I just don’t have the space.

  • Eliza

    Thinking about the bags I have, there’s really not much overlap. I switch out between 6 bags, though it’s really a matter of shoving my wallet and other necessities into a smaller bag when I’m not going to school or fleamarkets. In winter, I use a leather satchel all week, and switch to vintage bags on the weekend, but it’s the opposite pattern in summer. I do like bags to be as small as I can get away with, and I’m REALLY good at fitting a ton of stuff into a tiny bag. I also prefer the look of slightly more structured bags. Great if hardware is gold, but not a dealbreaker.Oh, and I can’t stand pleather or patent leather.

  • jen

    Cross body is most convenient for me and so I look for straps long enough to fit my long, curvy torso. I also want it to be black with at least one zippered pocket, a secure closure, no gold hardware, and no obvious branding. As for size, I like to carry a very small purse that just holds the essentials. When I need to carry around more I just put the smaller purse into a tote. I’m sure a tiny purse only works for me because I live in the suburbs and drive most places. My car is like a gigantic purse filled with snacks, clothes, books, umbrellas, and assorted kid stuff.

  • Signe

    My first 3 everyday handbag requirements are the same as yours: roomy, silver hardware and easy to open (manipulate with the contents). But my bag really must also have handles (or strap) for carrying it on or over the shoulder. Quality is self-evident, of course. And last, but not the least – simple design. Bags with dozens of details (bling-blings, useless pockets, crazy, mismatched prints etc.) are not for me. There can (even – must) be one particular detail or set of details that catches the eye, but that’s it for me.

    There, I guess, these are the reasons I have just 3 everyday bags. But I’m not sorry, because when I buy them, I’m not a saver. In the end they are going to spend years with me.

  • Debi

    I have bags in all my coordinating colors…. silver, red, yellow, pink, purple… and in my primary colors… black and white.

    Frankly, the black and white ones are my every day bags, have to have a shoulder strap, and be small. I have a horrible back and shoulders from arthritis, so I need something that doesn’t put pressure on my joints.

    I wish I had pockets!! I was reading above, and I wear dresses, and skirts most of the time. Pockets are a problem, unless I wear a jacket and even then frankly women’s jackets just don’t have the same number of pockets with a proper size like men’s. My hubby finds it very weird, and I agree! I can’t do cargo’s for more pockets… they look horrible on me! Sigh… so small bags…. shoulder straps… oh I do stick extra lip gloss etc…. in the car! Love those cubby holes!

    • Debi

      BTW… that shoulder strap goes across my body…. and gets switched back and forth between the shoulders and front to back… I keep moving it so I don’t get stiff…

      Also, I have a back pack and messenger bag for traveling… one that hooks on my wheelchair (if I need it to use it).

  • Alicia C.

    I hate, hate, hate when I spot a bag I like from afar and walk up to it only to find that it has gold hardware! Silver really is a huge requirement for me too.

    If it’s an everyday purse it needs to have enough room to fit a book and all my standard crap (large wallet, 2 sets of keys, iPod, cell, notepad, minimum of beauty products, key ring-sized flashlight, and iPod charger), and if it’s really awesome it will hold a drink as well. (I’ve been known to take 32 oz. Slurpees with me while purse shopping to see if they will fit.)

    It absolutely cannot have one of those tabs in the center that magnetically attract or snap together. Most of the time I don’t think they serve a purpose but to get in the way and annoy me! I also avoid most PVC. It often looks cheap and I hate how it looks when it gets scratched.

    Other than those few things, I don’t really have requirements. Sure, I prefer some pockets inside or a wider shoulder strap, but that won’t make or break a purchase most of the time.

  • Anna

    Do you guys want to hear my handbag PSA? Through high school and college, I was a hardcore messenger bag user. So most days for about eight years I would lug around far too many text books and spirals and a waterbottle and a calculator and various writing tools, so it was really heavy. A couple of years ago I went to the doctor and she discovered I had a blood vessel that had grown bone around itself due to ‘repeat trauma’ (ie, my ultra heavy messenger bag pressing on it every day). The moral of this story is pretty obvious right? Don’t overload your bags!

    Anyway, these days I’m still all about over the shoulder bags; I’m not a fan of actual ‘hand’ bags or clutches as it is far too easy for me to leave them somewhere. I carry a sketchbook and a water bottle around so they need to be pretty big. I guess pretty neutral colored; I like them to match whatever I’m wearing, but I also don’t love switching stuff back and forth. It’s a big plus if they have a few smaller pockets here and there to put a cellphone or mp3 player or something I don’t want to dig frantically for. And I tend to prefer something I can wash easily (art supplies, very messy).

    • Sal

      Yoiks! Hope you’re recovering, Anna, and thanks for letting us know about your experience. An overloaded bag of any kind carries risks.

      • Anna

        Aw, thanks Sal! It’s actually not something that bothers me day to day, though I do wonder if it will mess with my collar bone in the long run. It’s just a physical oddity that I have to explain to the occasional massage therapist.

  • Sal

    Fascinating to hear how many of you strongly prefer crossbody. I bring a little Manhattan Portage bag when I travel and wear it crossbody, but for everyday I’m fine with one shoulder or in-the-hand!

  • T.

    My quest for the perfect bag has been never-ending (not to mention expensive). I want something that fits over my shoulder, has no flaps, a zip-shut top, a couple of outside pockets that will actually accommodate small items, has one large main compartment with a few small pockets inside, and doesn’t weigh too much empty. The closest ideal is the Vera Bradley Villager bag (although the patterns are too loud and clashy to be useful for daily use), and the LeSportsac Travel Tote in size medium. I hate an overstuffed bag, so even though I could fit my daily essentials into a smaller bag than what I use, I prefer having the larger bag and carrying it half-full.

  • I seem ti lean toward two handles and have it hang near my bent elbow, kinda like Sophia from goldgirls. lol Hate shoulder straps, if I have a long strap, it’s cross body.

  • April

    I love small bags! If I really need to tote stuff, I’ll get a big bag or a tote bag specifically, but I LOVE my small bags: wallet, keys, lipstick, phone, sunglasses. And if they’re really small, I ditch the wallet and just pull out what I need, usually a driver’s license and a credit card. Some little bags are so cute, they’re worth it!

    I’ve stayed away from bigger bags as I’ve always despaired that I’d lose things in the bag!

  • Lobbyist

    A little off topic, but can I say how much I love my purse organizer?
    I keep everything in it and then can switch purses easily.
    I have one from here

    but I suspect others would work just as well.

  • GingerR

    I’ve had surgery on my underarm area and have been advised to avoid bags with shoulder straps as they can cause swelling of the arm due to impaired lymph drainage, so no shoulder-strap/cross-body bags for me.

    I like clutch type bags, or satchels for holding in my hand or crooked on my elbow (that doesn’t seem to have the same swelling risk). It means I can’t carry too much around. Once you get adjusted to that it’s not that difficult.

  • Marie

    My requirements are that it has to be fairly small (I don’t like to carry a lot of things around), a neutral color or red, structured, easy to get into (if it does have a zipper, it must have other pockets that I can easily access), have a mid-length strap, and not have patent leather or too much hardware. I’m hoping my current handbags never wear out!

  • *Size, it has to be proportionated to my body, not to small not to big. *Easy to open, I carry my bag on my right shoulder (I know go right, return left, I can’t do it) so most of the times the zipper closes at my back and to open it while I’m walking is impossible. *Key chain, I always waste time looking for my keys even when the bag it’s almos empty. * Never, never, never cross body, big boobs. * cloutches with a band wrist. *Internal pockets. *rainproof * Silver hardware.

  • Barb

    Lightweight, lots of pockets, shoulder strap, smallish but roomier than it looks. I’m passionately in love with the milli bag from Sherpani. Now have it in 3 colors rather than actually changing my bag. (For going to work, i.e. carrying my lunch, I have a Sherpani messenger bag.)

  • Lydia

    I used to do crossbody ages ago, but with a larger bust, this is simply so uncomfortable (even when the bag was smaller).

    I carry a large shoulder bag (a bit heavy at times) with my life in it. Essentially, I need large comfyish straps, outside pockets, always a top zipper, and room for a water bottle, small umbrella, wallet, makeup/ advil, notebook, pens, etc…

    I love colour, and always have a colour, usually pale yellow which for me, goes with everything. Lately, I only look at leather bags (I have faux leather ones, but I break the strap on them pretty quickly, so I use them mostly for travel as they are easier to wash). I honestly do not mind gold hardware or gold zippers as long as it is tasteful I also am a bag monogomist and use one bag for a year or more (ok I get attached to the point of using it until it falls apart, even though I have others in waiting. Lately, I have had trouble finding a bag with shoulder straps long enough that has a top closing zipper, in a vivid colour. Why is that so hard to find?

  • Mollie

    I have to be able to bike with it on. I used to keep my bag in a basket on the back of my bike…until it was stollen while I was riding! Now it has to be on my person so these days that’s a backpack as I have the same problem as romina….how does one wear a crossbody outside of winter (when big coats help) without major boob splitting?

  • Elise

    I’m not all too picky about my handbags.
    They can’t be too flashy, because I constantly see women walking around, who have no idea that their silver/glitter/giga sized handbag that might look quite fashionable otherwise, makes them look overdressed and ridiculous paired with this particular pair of flashy shoes their wearing. And I really can’t be bothered to have handbags for every kind of color scheme.
    And they have to have complicated zippers. I get what you mean about having easy access, but I get kind of paranoid – because everyone else has easy access as well. I’d rather fumble with my bag a little than suddenly find my purse gone.

  • St Pete Mom

    I’m not picky – BUT – no dark interiors. I hate that big black hole when I can’t see what I’m looking for.

  • Cat

    A padded, easily accessible pocket for my S&W snubby.

    • Katharine

      Are there specialists for that? I can’t say that I’ve EVER come across a bag thus factory-equipped.

  • * Big enough to hold my necessities, but not so big that I’m tempted to stuff a lot of random extra stuff in there (because if I have room, I will, and then I can’t find my necessities.
    * A small pocket on the outside, for quick access to keys and cell phone.
    * No shoulder bags–they just fall off of my narrow shoulders. Crossbody is way better, or a clutch for dressy occasions.