A Favorite Bag for All Seasons

Almost all women have one favorite bag that they carry with them day and night.  What features make these bags special and where can you buy them?

By Stacia Friedman



Updated May 21, 2023

The average woman owns eleven or more handbags, but unless you are Kate Middleton, chances are you carry just one favorite bag almost all the time, day and night. We wanted to find out what makes a particular bag your fashion signature. So we asked around.

“Once I leave the house in the morning, I usually don’t come home until late at night, so I need a bag that can keep up with me,” says Abbey Plotkin, a member of the Mambo Mammas who teaches dance at senior centers during the day, then spends the rest of her time taking dance classes and burning up the floor at salsa clubs. Her go-to bag? A roomy, lightweight, waterproof, nylon duffle by Olivia & Joy. “It was a gift from a friend who bought it at Century 21. The khaki color goes with everything and it has lots of zippers and compartments, including a side-holder for water.”

Check out Olivia & Joy’s Block Party Tote (sorry readers, no longer available …ed), a roomy navy and black, or all black leather tote with detachable double handles and exterior zipped pockets on every side. Reduced to $29 at Olivia & Joy (below left). Designers showing big bags for Spring 2017 (all shown above) include: Givenchy’s black and coral, color-blocked, leather and suede tote: Antonio Marr’s floral print tote: and JW Anderson’s super soft, bucket bag in coral leather with this season’s accent—heavy metal hardware rings, big enough to wear on your wrist.

Tote-Satchel-550“My favorite bag originally belonged to my mother and dates back to the 1970s,” explains Dr. Kathy Udell Martin, clinical Associate Professor of Dentistry at NYU. “Ironically, it’s in the shape of an old doctor’s bag. I love it. It has a zipper that goes in both directions and it coordinates with everything because it’s constructed of multi-colored leather.” Dr. Martin is rarely without the retro bag, which at 16″ wide and 9″ high becomes her “traveling file cabinet” as she zooms around town during the day or spends an evening out with her husband.

Believe it or not, your mother’s constructed handbags, the ones with metal clasp closures, are making a comeback. Celine showed them in white leather and black croc on the runway. Nice for The Ladies Who Lunch but impractical for the rest of us who need our hands free while dashing about town. You’ll find softer versions at Nordstrom Rack such as Cole Haan’s Benson Large Leather Dome Satchel in white with a detachable shoulder strap and two media pockets (above right). Reduced from $330 to $115.50.

Bonjour Monsieur-275Fashion stylist and professional shopper Valerie Halfon of Shop With Val loves to wear things that are “fun, playful and grab people’s attention.” Her favorite bag is a witty Kate Spade clutch (sale: $230). “It’s white leather and says ‘Bonjour Monsieur’ on it with graphic kisses in different shades of lipstick. It honestly looks like someone kissed the bag!” says Halfon. “I purchased it recently from a consignment shop. It was brand new with the tags still on it for over 50% off.” What makes it a keeper besides the price? “It has plenty of room for my phone, keys, and lipstick without being bulky. It even has six slots for cards and a zipper in the middle. Plus, it comes with a gold chain to wear over your shoulder.”


Note: Gucci, Christian Dior and other top brands featured witty bags with graphic designs on the Paris runways for Spring 2017. While you’ll find a large selection of Kate Spade bags at Macy’s, for the best deals try online consignment shops such as TheRealReal.com, BagBorrowSteal.com and Poshmark.com.

There’s a reason that the tote is on every woman’s wrist and in every designer’s collection. It’s the Manhattan day to night workhorse. We asked Lucy Wallace Eustice, co-founder and designer of MZ Wallace about her company’s best-selling tote. “We launched the Metro Tote in 2010 and it continues to be our most popular style,” she said. “It is durable, packable, even crushable and doesn’t lose its shape. It folds up into the detachable pouch that comes with each tote and it’s so lightweight—you are only carrying the weight of what you put in it.”

5-TOTES-550The Metro Tote’s Quilted Oxford Nylon exterior comes in 16 different colors and prints, including Black Patent, which screams Spring! Metro Totes come in small, medium and large, $275 to $295 at Bloomingdales, Nordstrom and Saks.

Favorite bags show their age much faster than the satin minaudiere you wear to the opera. If yours is frayed, faded or falling apart at the seams, this is a great time to treat yourself to a new one. Look for a roomy, lightweight tote with a zipper closing and lots of compartments in a neutral tone or a fun floral such as the Cherry Blossom Tote at Anthropologie, $138 (no longer available, but check here for other totes. Given the dark grey cloud hanging over the political landscape, we could all use this promise of spring.

Stacia Friedman is an award-winning Philadelphia-based journalist who writes on health and lifestyle for regional and national magazines. She also contributes humorous essays to NewsWorks.org and PurpleClover.com.

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3 Responses to “A Favorite Bag for All Seasons”

  1. Sally Wendkos Olds Says:

    Terrific article. My constant companion is a backpack from http://www.GreatBags.com, which you can order online — or from their twice-a-year visits to the Lincoln Center crafts fair. They come in different sizes and a few different patterns and have been on my shoulders since I first moved to Manhattan and have been doing so much walking. Before then I had their shoulder bag. They hold up very well and I get tons of compliments on them. And not too expensive.

  2. Maria T Says:

    Just a heads up……the Olivia & Joy website closed as of 3/13/17 @ 4:30pm. The above link will work and I was in the ordering process & entered most of my information, but I wanted to see if there were other items to purchase & saw the home page message.

  3. skhuyser Says:

    Thank you for letting us know, Maria. Olivia & Joy was bought out and the website closed. I thought $29 for that bag was too good to be true! …Susan

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