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Handbag Styles/Types: Your Complete Handbag Guide

Updated on February 2, 2015

Fashion today focuses a lot on accessorizing and handbags play an important role from that perspective.

Choosing the right handbag can be tedious considering the different styles/types available in the market today. And that's not all, you need to find one which will match your outfit, occasion, figure and personality.

Certainly, it could get confusing when we are showered with so many options! Here is a guide on the types of handbags available and how you can decide which one to buy depending on your preferences.



Keep your figure in mind!

Most women choose their handbags depending on the occasion and outfit but another important factor to consider is your figure.

  • You should pick one which is the 'opposite' of your figure.

If you are short and round then look for a bag which is square or rectangular in shape as that would make you look less round and if you are tall and thin pick a round shaped bag like a hobo so that it makes you look more full. You may also need to consider the size of the bag in comparison to your size. A petite woman should not carry a huge, round bag and a very tall lady should not carry a tiny purse.

Keeping these basic tips in mind, let us see what are the different types of handbags available in the market today and what is the best outfit with which we can match them.



A clutch is a small, rectangular handbag without a handle. It can be called more of a purse than a handbag and is used to carry some basic items which you cannot do without when you are out. It is mostly used with an evening wear, like a formal dinner or a sophisticated party or an event and is used to add contrast and detail to your ensemble.

Clutches are usually classy looking and are make up of suede, silk or satin with sequins and embellishments. If you want people to appreciate your sense of style then you must always add an exquisite clutch to your evening outfit!


Burberry Satchel
Burberry Satchel


A satchel is a large, hand held bag with two distinct handles. They are usually made of leather and resemble a doctor's satchel. They are typically used to carry books and clothing. However, the modern day designer satchels are used more for style than utility.

Satchel's look great and professional with workplace attire but can also be carried with a pair of jeans and a tee.

Burberry has a great collection of classy looking satchels suitable for carrying to work. Their signature tartan print matches most outfits!

Shop for Burberry satchels at Bloomingdales.


Duffel Bag

A duffel bag is a large, shoulder bag. It is elongated in shape and has lots of horizontal room. Typically used for travel or sports this has also evolved as a modern day designer handbag.


Perfect beach tote!
Perfect beach tote!


A tote is a medium to large sized bag with shoulder straps and an open top. Due to their open design, totes are very spacious handbags and many women prefer to carry them around for everyday use. Totes can be made up of leather, cotton or jute. The cotton and jute versions come in bright colors and patterns.

They are mostly used during the summer months and are perfect for a picnic or at the beach. Totes look chic with a summer dress or a skirt and a hat.


Hobo Bag

Hobo bags are crescent shaped and are big enough to be carried by the shoulder. It is easily the most popular style available today and almost every designer makes a hobo bag. Hobo bags are made up of soft materials which gives them their characteristic slouchy look. They can be just big enough to carry essentials or much larger to carry even clothes!

The hobo bag is sported by Hollywood celebrities like Jessica Simpson and Sienna Miller. Of course if you are not willing to pay a fortune for a designer hobo bag go for a cheaper version. Many small retail shops sell cheap hobo bags for as less as $20.


Messenger Bag

A messenger bag is one which has long straps and is often worn across the body. It usually hangs on the hip or the back. It can be used to carry books and a laptop. Laptop messenger bags are quite common these days. They can be made up of leather or canvas.

Messenger bags are popular among men and women because of their versatile style of carrying them across the shoulder. Canvas bags look trendy with casuals whereas leather bags are used by many office goers.


Leather Messenger Bag
Leather Messenger Bag


Cloth sling bags create a slouchy, Boho look
Cloth sling bags create a slouchy, Boho look

Sling Bag

It is a bag with a long strap, similar to a messenger bag but not necessarily rectangular in shape. The backpack sling and the hippie style sling (also known as the Boho or gypsy sling bag) fall under this category.

The rectangular sling bag can be called a clutch with a long handle. It can be used to carry essential items like credit cards, keys, cellphone and some cash when you are on a casual outing with friends and don't need to carry too many things.

The backpack sling is good for traveling as it has a lot of space to stuff in all your travel needs and it is easy to carry around since it sits on your back.

The hippie sling can be worn cross body or on one shoulder and is a great accessory with a gypsy skirt to complete the Boho look. Usually made of cloth, this bag is slouchy and has lots of room to stuff in clothes, books and other things that you may want to carry.


Vera Bradley wristlets come in fun and colorful patterns
Vera Bradley wristlets come in fun and colorful patterns


A wristlet is a small purse with a tiny strap and as the name signifies, it can hang on your wrist. It is used to carry some personal belongings like a cellphone, cash and maybe a lipstick! It is usually used to keep cash separate from other belongings within another larger bag.

Nowadays most women use wristlets while they are at a lounge bar or a disco so that they can keep their hands as free as possible while dancing.

Well known wristlet brands are Coach and Vera Bradley.


Princess Grace Kelly with the Hermes Bag

Kelly Bag

This is a timeless bag made famous by Princess Grace Kelly. In 1956 while pregnant with Princess Caroline, she was photographed in New York City by Life Magazine carrying the large black crocodile Kelly bag, which was used to cover her pregnant tummy. After this image appeared on the cover of Life Magazine, the bag became a hit and was later renamed the Kelly bag.

Kelly bags come in five different sizes and are usually made up of crocodile, alligator, ostrich-skin or plain leather. They are distinct from other types of handbags because they have a metal clasp which can be closed by a small padlock. Victoria Beckham is known for her collection of Kelly bags.

Hermes makes authentic Kelly bags.


"Posh Spice" Victoria Beckham is known for her collection of Kelly Bags


Health Issues - Tips to Carry your Handbag Correctly

  • The weight of your handbag should not exceed 10 percent of your weight so do not fill your bag with junk so that you are carrying around unnecessary items most of the time.
  • Purchase a handbag with at least a few compartments so that things can be kept organized and the weight gets distributed evenly throughout the bag.
  • Clean up your bag from time to time to throw out the useless things and reduce its weight.
  • Look for a bag with wider, adjustable straps to aid in weight distribution.
  • Shift the bag from one shoulder to another from time to time so that all its weight is not concentrated on one shoulder.



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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I love all of these bags, the article is very interesting, I never knew you should choose a bag based on your figure, great information. There's another cute site I like that's affordable

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great hub! Lots of good information. In my opinion it's always better to go with designer-inspired handbags rather than designer bags, this way you can save tons of money AND have a wide variety of bags to choose from to give you the perfect accent for every ensemble. A great site I've found to get top-quality designer-inspired bags is

    • jamila sahar profile image

      jamila sahar 

      6 years ago

      interesting hub, my fave is the birkin bag by hermes, and i love the picture from 'breakfast at tiffany's'

    • ponx profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from USA

      Hi JIN, Sorry I don't know which brand they belong to in that pic!

    • JIN1128 profile image


      7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      loves hubs about handbags. For your first pictures, there several light colored bags with checkered patterns on it. Do you know what those are called? Which brand?

    • profile image


      7 years ago provides designer handbags for less.

    • ponx profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from USA

      Thank you James.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great hub and nice info, thumbs up :)

    • ponx profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from USA

      Hi mysisters! Thanks for stopping by. Yes, the figure is to be kept in mind while looking for a handbag since a handbag is an accessory used to add glamor to your outfit.

    • mysisters profile image


      7 years ago

      Great Hub with some useful information. I never thought of keeping your figure in mind when purchasing a handbag. Thanks for sharing!

    • bestbrandhandbags profile image


      8 years ago

      check out my hub, it's also about cheap designer handbags

    • ponx profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from USA

      Thanks for dropping by Susie :)

    • SUSIE42 profile image


      8 years ago

      I do love handbags. It make sense to buy compies.

    • Arielle00 profile image


      8 years ago

      I have an article similar to this. Consider checking it out.


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