Women’s handbags are getting bigger and bigger. Tote bags used to be a specific category – a bag large enough to carry your shopping. Now a tote is more or less the norm, as our nomadic working patterns and consumerist lifestyles mean we need to carry anything from a change of shoes to a laptop.
As the bags get bigger, we fill them with more and more stuff to fill the available space. So apart from the essential business tools – my reading glasses, a notebook, laptop and two mobile phones, I also now carry makeup, umbrella and a book. Because I can.
It’s no surprise I can’t fit everything in a cross body bag anymore.
I felt it was time for a tote audit and wanted to share my top 5 large handbags, some of which I bought a while ago, others I’ve been lucky enough to have been given by generous brands. All have been thoroughly road tested (or London Underground tested to be precise). Here are my favourites:
Susie in the Sky
Susie in the Sky’s handbags and accessories are made in Britain using real leather. They all have a distinctive star patterned lining and luggage tag.
Pros: The envelope style Sophie Satchel closes with a magnetic clasp, has internal pockets and wide straps which help it sit really firmly on the shoulder. Metal studs protect its bottom from wear and tear. I just adore this colour. I only have one orange piece of clothing, but this contrasts beautifully with any one of my spring jackets.
Cons: I haven’t found any yet.
Price and availability: The Satchel is available on Susie in the Sky’s website for £279.
Originally on sale for around £70, this structured bag is made from a synthetic material and has a metallic finish.
Pros: This Dune Dana Tote in navy from mybag.com was under £30 in the sale. The detachable purse is a useful addition to the zipped pocket and mobile phone compartment inside. The zip closure makes this secure for your most precious cargo. Wipe clean.
Cons: This bag has taken a bit of a battering and you can see it’s looking a bit dented.
Price and availability: The Dana is still available on mybag.com in metallic grey. – current price is £42. It looks like the navy has sold out.
The Yoshi Mariel tote in mushroom is made from the softest raw leather. The bag is unlined inside and has an attached purse (which you can see perching on the top of the bag).
Pros: Good value at £75 given the quality of the leather. Being so soft and unstructured, the Mariel is very spacious…
Cons: … which means I’m always rummaging around trying to find my keys. A knot or bow closes the bag at the top, which is a bit of a concern when I’m travelling by tube – I have to keep this bag very close to me.
Price and availability: Available from Yoshi’s website for £75.
O bags are Italian designed and made using a waterproof material called EVA. This is the O bag Classic. There is a smaller version of this bag called the Mini as well as several other shapes and designs.
Pros: I’m a big fan of O bag and you can read why here. The handles, inserts or inner bags and trims are all detachable, so with one bag carcass you can create different looks for every season. The bag is vegan, wipe clean and huge.
Cons: Because the O bag is very stiff and large, it doubles as a battering ram when trying to get on a crowded train – which could be seen as a benefit.
Pricing and availability: O bag is in London and you can order online here. The body of the Classic O bag is £35 and accessories such as handles and inner bags start at £15.
This is the Mulberry Dorset in soft red leather. I have had it for a few years and wear it to brighten up a plain black dress.
Pros: Made from soft, unlined, raw leather, this is another unstructured tote with an attached purse rather than internal pockets. As it doesn’t have all the unnecessary hardware usually associated with Mulberry, it’s very light. The tote opens wide and sits high up when worn on the shoulder. I think this bag has improved with age. Plus, it’s a Mulberry.
Cons: The gaping holes make my belongings easy prey for pickpockets.
Price and availability: Originally on sale for £595, this has now been discontinued, so you’ll have to hunt around on eBay for a second hand one. I found 10 bags listed when I looked.
My thanks go to Yoshi, Susie in the Sky and O bag for generously providing their handbags for review.
Do you have a favourite? Please let me know in the comments below. Vx