47 Types of Purses & Handbags: Complete Style Guide for 2023

Types of purses & handbags - faverie

While some people seem to have a massive shoe collection, owning many purses appeals to many women.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the most expensive purse in the world is the Mouawad 1001 Nights Diamond Purse, which is estimated to be worth $3.8 million. This bag is embellished with 105 yellow, 56 pink, and 4,356 colorless diamonds.

We cannot guarantee every person that they can afford a handbag or purse like that one. But, I can ensure that after reading this post, you will know more about the difference between a purse and a handbag, 47 different types of purses, and how to store yours properly. 

If you are beginning to get the urge to start a handbag collection or just looking for a new purse to carry, you will want to read this post on the different types of purses and handbags.

Let’s get started!

Introduction to purses and handbags

Almost every woman carries a purse or handbag. If you peek in their closet, they usually have several different choices. Choosing the right option can complete an outfit but choosing the wrong one can make an outfit look completely thrown together.

You can even select handbags and purses that will make you look shorter, taller, wider, or narrower. In this chapter, we will define purses and handbags and look at their history.

What’s a purse?

A purse is a small bag used to carry essentials that you need with you. Initially, a purse was used only to hold coins, but its use has been expanded to include other essential items.

Close up purse legs boots footwear street

While purses are usually associated with women today, the first purses were carried by men who carried their silver and gold coins in them. Since that time, about 5,000 years ago, the list of essential items carried in a purse has dramatically expanded. 

Today, many women take their wallets, phones, basic makeup, and other things they need throughout the day in their purses. Each woman’s purse will contain a slightly different collection of items, but they will be essential to her daily life.

I will have more to say on the subject in a few moments, but the first purses were usually made of leather and fastened with a drawstring. Today, women can find purses made from various materials, including cotton, canvas, and nylon.

While many of the first purses were carried by wrapping a drawstring around the wrist, that is seldom the case today. Instead, purses can be carried by holding a small strap on the top of the purse. 

They can also be carried by hanging a longer strap from the shoulder. Manufacturers design some with straps designed to cross over the upper body. You can still find some elegant options with a handle designed to be carried around the wrist.

What’s a handbag?

A handbag is a bigger purse so that women can carry more of their lives in it. Handbags are often used as a fashion accessory to add a pop of color to an outfit or to accentuate a woman’s features, such as making her look taller if she is short or making her look wider if she is skinny.

While I will have more to say on the subject in a few minutes, the first modern purse may have been made for Mrs. Samuel Parkinson. She frequently traveled with her husband, who was a traveling salesman. 

Mr. Parkinson noticed that his wife’s purse was not big enough to be practical and was not durable. Therefore, when he ordered new cases to hold his merchandise, he had the company design a new case for his wife. Today, women still look for durable handbags that are large enough to carry many things.

Handbags allow women to keep their most essential items together so they can grab and go on the spur of the moment. It also allows them to keep crucial things together, so they do not forget anything at home.

As I will discuss in the next chapter, many different types of handbags are designed for unique purposes. Therefore, women can easily find options that work well at various stages of their lives. For example, young mothers may want to carry a diaper bag, while those going shopping might take a tote bag. If you plan a day on the beach, then a beach bag may be the perfect solution for keeping all your stuff together.

What’s the difference between handbags and purses?

The most significant difference between handbags and purses is their size. Women who carry very few personal items with them may want to take a purse, while those who like to be prepared for any emergency need a handbag. Handbags are often carried by hand, while purses often have straps that hang from the body.

In the United States, the terms purse and handbags are often used interchangeably, but that is not common in some countries. In some regions, a purse is only big enough to carry a few coins, while a handbag is big enough to hold more essential items. While not functional, the world’s largest handbag is 17 feet tall and 22 feet 6 inches long. By comparison, the world’s smallest purse doubles as a bracelet.

If you are going to a fashion show, you will want to use the term handbag. The term purse is seen as outdated among those in the know. Yet, many people still use the term. In the United States, the term handbag is often used to describe both purses and handbags, except in the Southwest and the Northeast, where the term handbag is used to describe both choices.

Many people use the term handbag to describe bags carried by hand while calling all other bags purses. Some use the term purse to describe the bag that holds essentials while using handbags for all different types of bags.

In other words, it depends on your location if it is a bag or a handbag. I will take some of the confusion out of the subject in the next chapter by describing different types of purses and handbags so that you can use more technical terms effectively.

History & origins of purses & handbags

Archeologists believe that the oldest purse they found was unearthed near Leipzig, Germany. This bag was studded with over 100 dog teeth. The teeth appear to be decorations on the outer flap of the purse, which archeologists believe is about 4,500 years old.

As I have already discussed, the first modern purse was built for Mrs. Parkinson in about 1841. Her husband had the bag constructed of the same leather he used for his traveling cases.

In 1836, Luis Vuitton moved to Paris and started building luxury travel cases. As the business grew, Luis’ son joined him. In 1896, the brand created its first dome-handled purse, exclusively for Gabrielle Chanel, and it was not available to the general public until 1934. This started the legacy of luxury handbags that many women prefer to carry today.

As women became a force to deal with in the workforce in the 1950s, Coco Chanel introduced them to the flap bag. This quilted padded bag by jockey’s outfits. It also featured a gold-chain strap so that women could carry it from their shoulders.

At about the same time, Gucci introduced women to bamboo-handled bags. The idea for these bags was forced onto the company because of politically caused shortages of some supplies in Italy. 

Soon, many stars, including Ingrid Bergman, Princess Elizabeth, Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, and Sophia Loren, were carrying Gucci bags.

Over time, there have been many iconic purses and handbags. One is the Lady Dior leather handbag, which Dior designed for Princess Diana in 1955. Coco Channel introduced her flap bag, called Chanel 2.55, in February 1955. 

Detail woman holding dior purse
Source: Nassim Boughazi on Unsplash

In 1981, English-French celebrity Jane Birkin was seated next to Hermès Chief Executive Officer Jean-Louis Dumas. After watching her struggle with her carry-on, he designed the Hermes Birkin bag. 

The company renamed the Gucci Jackie after First Lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis began carrying it regularly. The Longchamp Le Pliage was designed to be a lightweight and durable tote bag by the founder’s son. 

Fendi’s Baguette that tucks securely under the arm became an overnight hit in 1977 after Carrie Bradshaw started carrying it in “Sex in the City.”

The future is bright for this industry as more fabulous choices continue to be available every year.

How many purses & handbags should a woman have?

The average woman owns nine purses and handbags, but experts say that every self-respecting woman should own at least five types of bags. Of course, it is perfectly acceptable to own more than one of each type. After all, you will want to be able to pick out options that go with your personality and activities each day.

Every woman should have an everyday bag that fits their lifestyle. That will be an extremely large handbag for some women, while it will be a slim crossbody bag for other women. 

The purpose of this bag is to have an option you can grab when your life is routine, and you know that everything is in your bag, so no pre-planning is necessary. These bags are often the least expensive option that a woman owns because she knows all the oopses that happen in her life.

You also need a roomy work bag. This bag should hold the contents that you need at work every day. Many women find this bag essential because they can keep a notebook, pen, security badge, and other items all in one place. It may even be large enough to carry your laptop or a small tablet. Choose one that is durable as you will be using this bag often.

You also need a signature bag. Like your everyday bag, this one should fit your lifestyle, but it should be a trendy option, unlike your other bags. You will want to change this bag several times a year as new bags hit the market. 

Consider environmentally friendly options made by quality artisans as you want these bags to last. You may also want to consider choices with cute designs or some other features that help draw attention to them, as they can be a great way to start a conversation.

You also need a statement bag. Ideally, this bag comes from a top fashion house. Stick with a classical style so that you use it over several years. Do not be afraid to get it second-hand if you are beginning to build your collection. Ensure you do not end up with an imitation bag as you want to make a good investment.

The final type of bag that you must own is an evening bag. This small bag is perfect for holding your essentials when going out for a night on the town. It should be cute and fashionable. Options with diamonds and sparkles are a fantastic choice. Many of these bags have a small hook that slips around your wrist.

What purses & handbags are in vogue this year?

Heritage bags continue to be hot, with women often buying them and carrying them for a short while before selling them as an investment. Macrame, knit, and other bags that show extreme craftsmanship are trendy. Bags made from environmentally friendly materials are also in vogue.

Fashion model with bag

As the name suggests, heritage bags come from top designers like Louis Vuitton, Loewe, Gucci, Prada, and Dior. These bags are built to last, and they are a significant investment. You may also want to take a chance on a startup and hope that their purses and handbags become big someday. Keep these bags in great shape, and when the supply becomes scarce, you may be able to make a profit off selling yours.

As with many things since 2020, many women have been shopping for purses and handbags made by craftspeople. These bags may be knitted, crocheted, or made in some other way by hand. Consider options made by fair-trade artisans globally, as they can be a great way to add interesting purses and handbags to your collection.

Woman holds cat beach knitted bag

Bags made from environmentally friendly materials are also a popular choice. Many women are forgoing leather purses and choosing washable paper, organic cotton, wool, and recycled plastic.

Regardless of what is trending, you will enjoy carrying a purse or handbag more if it fits your lifestyle. Classical choices are often designed to last for a long time, so consider obtaining these purses first if you are starting a collection.

Now that you know the difference between a purse and a handbag, a little about their history, and how many you need in your closet, the next primary task is to look at the different options available. 

I will cover many of them in the next chapter, so keep reading. Educating yourself is an essential first step in choosing functional and fashionable handbags and purses.

Types of purses & handbags

In the last chapter, we looked at the difference between purses and handbags, and we also examined the history of bags. I talked briefly about the most iconic purses and handbags and what is trending right now.

In this chapter, I will tell you about many different types of purses and handbags. There are over 32 types, and we will dig into details about each one. Therefore, make sure to keep reading.

Most women have a favorite handbag or purse, and many men use handbags. They often carry briefcases, tote bags, messenger bags, duffle, weekender, barrels, backpacks, fanny packs, satchel bags, and shoulder bags. 

In fact, Mr. Parkinson’s traveling cases and other similar products are types of handbags. Therefore, men and women will both want to read this list to learn more about the styles available.

Manufacturers make purses and handbags from various materials. The six most common materials used are mesh materials, leather, nylon, straw, canvas, and vegan leather. Some manufacturers have gotten very creative in the materials that they use, and you may want to explore those made from washable paper, organic cotton, wool, and recycled plastic.

Let’s start exploring different types of purses and handbags.

Shoulder bag

As the name suggests, a shoulder bag is a long bag that hangs from a strap that you place on your shoulder. People who want to look taller will want to choose one that ends below their waist. 

If your upper body is your strongest asset, choose one ending at or above your waist. Shoulder bags usually have numerous pockets, so consider how you want to organize them. 

Since you are likely to carry this bag often, choose an option made from durable materials. These purses are available in many different colors but think about sticking with a neutral color so that you can carry them with many outfits.

Crossbody bag

A crossbody bag has a long strap designed to be worn diagonally across the body. Since the weight is distributed across the upper body, they are usually very comfortable to carry. These bags do a great job of staying in place, where a shoulder bag often slips down your arm. 

Woman street shopping bags phone

They are also outstanding in places where you may be worried about getting robbed because your purse stays close to your body. These bags do not require a hand to carry them, so they are a great option when pushing a stroller or carrying shopping bags. 

While these bags were used in Ancient Greece, they became more popular during the Industrial Revolution when travel by train was standard.

Fanny pack

A fanny pack is a small pouch attached to a belt with a buckle that fits about the waist. These bags are called many names, including bumbag, belly bag, belt bag, and moon bag. 

Woman posing sunglasses fanny pack

People in many cultures traditionally used these bags because they let the wearer keep their processions near them while keeping both hands free. In modern times, manufacturers make these bags from nylon or another synthetic fabric. 

In the 1950s, they were a popular choice with skiers who carried their lift tickets and other possessions in them. Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, and others have included them in recent style shows.

Diaper bag

These large bags usually have many compartments, and mothers and fathers carry supplies needed to care for their offspring. These bags are often brightly colored, but more recently, manufacturers have been making them in more neutral colors to make them more attractive to men. 

Manufacturers often make them from materials that you can easily wash. Most have one or two carry straps, and many options are small enough to fit underneath the baby’s seat in a stroller. 

While parents used to believe that they had to always carry many supplies, diaper bags have gradually gotten smaller.

Accordion handbag

An accordion handbag typically looks like an accordion and is most open to revealing different expanding pockets. These handbags have a playful appearance, and most have large carrying capacities. 

These handbags can have long carrying straps, so they can be worn as a shoulder bag or short carrying straps designed to be carried by hand. In the beginning, people sewed different clutches together to make this bag style, but they are usually only one piece of material now. 

They come in various sizes. These purses were trendy in the 1930s and 1940s, making them a perfect vintage purse to add to your collection.


Detail fashion model walking clutch

Most clutch bags are flat handbags designed for holding in your hand. You can easily find options that have attached or detachable straps designed to fit around your wrist. The oldest clutch bag known to exist is about 700 years old, but historians believe they existed long before that from studying paintings. 

That purse is very similar to modern ones in that it had a front closure designed to hold it shut. Most clutches are very decorative. Manufacturers create them to be eye-catching since you must keep them in your hand.

Tote bag

A tote bag is a large bag with two handles designed to carry many things. Manufacturers traditionally make these tote bags from cotton or canvas. Those made of canvas can handle more weight than cotton options. 

You can use tote bags for many purposes, including picnic, school, work, or baby supplies. One unique type of tote bag is a boat tote bag. The bottom of these bags looks similar to a canoe or kayak, and they expand to hold lots of stuff. 

Make sure to consider the bottom of the tote bag as some have a flat bottom while others have a rounded bottom.


As the name suggests, a wristlet attaches to the wrist with a short, small handle. These purses are handy when you do not need to carry many things, like only your identification, passport, and debit card. 

These purses are often worn with formalwear when women need to take the bare necessities. Other styles look great on the run or when exercising, and you don’t want to worry about keeping up with a purse. 

Some strap around the wrist, so they look like a bracelet. Like the Louis Vuitton Mini Pochette and Coach Wristlet, others are slightly larger and designed to hang down from the wrist when not in use.

Barrel bag

A barrel bag is a larger bag that typically closes with drawstrings at its top. Manufacturers usually make these bags of canvas with a long strap to hang from the shoulder. You can also take them by holding one or two small straps at their tops. 

These cylinder purses are useful for fancy or everyday occasions depending on the designer’s fabric choice. You can find some that are larger than others. If you choose a larger option, ensure that there is enough drop between the top of the handle and the purse that you can carry it easily.

Satchel bag

A satchel is a purse that has two straps allowing you to carry it like a backpack. This purse can be large or small, so you can easily find one to accommodate your needs. Traditionally, manufacturers made these bags of strong material, such as leather, because they were designed to have books strapped to the outside of them. 

Some satchels have a flap on their fronts to hold your everyday essentials more securely. These bags first became popular in the 1700s when schoolboys used them. Today, both sexes use them to carry books, laptops, and other essential things. 

The main difference between a satchel and a messenger bag is that this option is made from leather, while manufacturers use canvas for messenger bags.

Flap purse

Men or women can carry a flap purse. This purse has a small flap in the front that covers an inside opening that usually has a zipper. A button on the purse’s bottom often holds the flap shut. You can find flap purses in a variety of styles. 

Detail behind woman flap purse

Some are slingbacks that have straps so that the carrier can carry them securely across their backs. Others are smaller and designed for carrying like a clutch. You can also find options with long straps designed for carrying like a crossbody purse. In the first chapter, I discussed the iconic Chanel 2.55 flap bag that the company introduced in 1955.

Drawstring bag

A drawstring bag closes with a drawstring on the top. Manufacturers usually make these purses from fabric. People have been using drawstring bags almost since the beginning of time. 

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs show these bags on belts as a fanny pack. While some are small and designed to be carried by hand, others are much larger, and people wear them like backpacks. 

Manufacturers often use luxurious fabrics, like satin and velveteen, for the smaller ones, while canvas is a popular choice for larger drawstring bags. You can find many types of personalization on these bags. Companies may even stamp their logos on them and give them out for free.

Bucket bag

A bucket bag gets its name because it resembles a bucket. Typically, this handbag closes with a drawstring on top. Hermès was one of the first companies to offer this bag in the 1940s. And in that case, manufacturers made the bag of leather with a small handle on top and a flat piece that went across the bag’s top. 

This purse’s minimalistic design makes it a favorite for many people. You can find it in various colors. So you can easily carry this bag throughout the year and use it to add a pop of color to many outfits.

Duffle bag

Manufacturers usually make duffle bags from canvas. These bags were initially made in the 17th century, taking their name from the canvas used to make them came from Duffle, France. Duffle bags usually close with a drawstring. 

Woman walking brown leather bag

They were a popular choice with sailors because their flexibility allowed sailors to stuff many different things into them. That is still true, making them a popular choice with athletes and others who need to carry gear in one place. 

These bags come in many different sizes, with some small enough to take daily while others can hold a week or more of clothes.

Sling bag

Unlike a backpack, a sling bag has only one crossbody strap. You can find options designed to be worn crossbody in the front and the back. Usually, the strap on this oblong bag fastens with an off-center buckle. You can find many styles of sling bags. 

People who love the outdoors often use tactical slings. You can wear high-fashion slings with many designer outfits. Backpack slings are a fantastic option for people who are going on a weekend trip. When choosing a sling bag, make sure that it does not limit the range of motion in your arms.

Hobo bag

A hobo bag has a crescent shape, and designers usually make it slouch. Typically, they have one strap designed for people to carry over the arm. This style of purse takes its name from the stick that hobos carried. 

These bags come in various sizes, and they are made of soft materials so that they slouch. They were trendy during the 1990s when Paris Hilton and Ashley Olsen often carried them, but high-fashion hobo bags date back much further. For example, Gucci Jackie is a hobo bag that First Lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis often carried.

Backpack purse

A backpack purse has two straps and is designed similarly to a larger backpack. While it is customary to carry a backpack with straps across both shoulders, you can also find options with a small carrying handle on their tops. 

These purses distribute the weight across the entire body, so they are ideal for people with back issues. Manufacturers make them from various materials, including leather, nylon, and canvas. 

Many backpack purses have fun designs printed on them, making them ideal for wearing with casual outfits. While you can find neutral-colored options, there are also many in bright colors.

Baguette bag

The baguette bag takes its name because its shape looks like a French baguette. It hangs from the shoulder with one strap. When Silvia Venturini Fendi introduced this bag in 1997, it marked a sharp contrast from the larger bags carried by most women at the time. 

The bag became an overnight sensation when Carrie Bradshaw carried it often in the HBO series “Sex and the City.” Many options come with a detachable strap and a small carrying handle so that you can choose the choice best fitting your needs.

Bowling bag

The bowling bag is a medium-sized purse. It is carried on the forearm using its two straps. This purse takes its design from bowling bags used to carry bowling balls. It usually has many compartments, making it a perfect option for organized women. 

Manufacturers often produce this purse in fun colors or with interesting designs printed on them. While Coco Chane receives credit for creating this purse style in the 1930s, it took off again in the 1990s when Louis Vuitton released their Alma bag. This bag’s history dates to the start of automotive travel, and it still is an excellent choice for people on the go.

Mini bag

Stylish woman detail legs purse heels

Mini bags come in many styles, and they are perfect for times when you do not want to take much with you. One of the world’s smallest handbags was shown many times at the Paris Fashion Show, and it measures just 2 inches across. 

This leather bag is often monogrammed. The Le Chiquita Bag comes with a shoulder strap, so you can choose how you want to carry it. There are many other mini bags that manufacturers design to look like their larger counterparts. So everyone can find an option that is ideal for them, even if it may not be the most practical purse.

Beach bag

If you plan a day at the beach or the pool, a beach bag is a perfect solution for carrying your towel, swimsuit, and small water toys. These bags are frequently made of canvas, so they are incredibly durable. But you may want to consider other waterproof options. 

Look for one that is the size that you need because many size options are available. Ensure that the bag has a wipe-clean exterior. You can find lots of new materials being used in beach bags, but you need to make sure that your choice is waterproof.

Messenger bag

Woman sportwear messenger bag walks park

A messenger bag is a large bag with a long strap intended to be worn across the body. Most have many pockets, which is ideal if you need to get more organized. While this bag style was used initially by mail carriers and bike couriers, the De Martini Globe Canvas Company redesigned them for their line workers. 

And they ensured that the workers had plenty of space to keep their tools. In 1984, John Peters redesigned the original messenger bag and made it a fashionable bag. Instead of canvas, which was commonly used, Peters used nylon and added bindings to make the bag appear more business-like while keeping its classical shape.


A saddlebag purse resembles one of the saddlebags initially attached to a western saddle. These purses have a long strap. You can find options that hang from your shoulder and other options where you wear the strap across your body. 

Most options are lightweight, but they are also room, so you have plenty of space to carry your essentials. Since manufacturers typically make this from washable, durable materials, they can be a great everyday bag. Coach made one of the earliest purses of this type in 1972, and they have stood the test of time ever since.


Carpetbag purses are medium-sized purses designed to look like the carpetbags used for travel during the 18th century. Most have a metal frame across the top and snap shut. Additionally, most have a chain handle designed to be carried in your hand. 

These purses often have elaborate embordered designs resembling an Oriental rug. Since they are typically made from soft material, they can be compressed into many shapes. And they will expand when you put your processions in them. 

While many bags were created in fashion houses, this bag was created by individuals who had old carpets and a need for a purse. Then, manufacturers started making them. 

Basket bag

Woman walks seaside maxi skirt sunhat

Manufacturers always weave basket bags and usually make them from straw. They may also use wicker, rattan, bamboo, and other materials. These small-to-medium-size bags have stiff sides and a short carrying handle. 

Traditionally, they have a round design, similar to a bucket bag, but you can find other shapes. Some of these purses even resemble Victorian picnic baskets. They can have a lid or be open on top. 

The most elaborate options have a picture or design woven into the side. These are an excellent option for those who prefer an environmentally friendly purse.

Laptop bag

The laptop bag is a convenient modern invention. When choosing one of these, make sure it is lightweight and padded. You will also want to choose a waterproof option. Look for options that have sturdy clasps and zippers. 

Choose one that can be easily locked to protect the laptop and its contents. You can find laptop cases designed for you to carry under your arm, but most people find it easier to bring a laptop case. Laptop bags evolved from briefcases after business executives and others frequently took their laptops.

Envelope bag

These long bags are rectangular, like an envelope. They usually have no straps as designers make them for you to hold in your hand, but some have a very short strap that wraps around your wrist. 

A few have a zipper at the top, but most fasten with a snap at the bottom of the flap that comes down in the front. These purses usually contain numerous pockets inside. They gained popularity in the 1940s and are still popular today. Manufacturers often make envelope bags of leather.

Frame bag

Designers create frame bags to fit on a bike to hold essential gear, including a repair kit. Manufacturers make most from nylon, which gives the biker great flexibility in what they can stuff in their bag. They make others from a hard-sided material, and they are more durable. 

The best choices are fully waterproof. Consider the size of the bag carefully because they should fit between the head, top, down, and seat tube on your bike. Bags holding up to a gallon are ideal for short bike rides, while those on multi-day bike rides will want larger options.

Kelly bag

The body of the Kelly bag is in the shape of a trapezoid. This purse is held shut by two straps at its top. Most have a shoulder strap. Hermes produced the original Kelly bag, which they called Sac à dépêches, in 1935. 

The bag’s name was changed to Kelly bag after Princess Grace Kelly started carrying it frequently after set designer Edith Head purchased the bag for the Alfred Hitchcock movie “To Catch a Thief,” where Grace Kelly was a star. Most of these bags are leather and have luxurious white gold hardware.

Quilted bag

A quilted bag has the appearance of being quilted. Manufacturers make some of these bags from leather and emboss the quilted design on them, while they make others from fabric and quilt them. 

You can find quilted bags in many styles and sizes, making them perfect for many occasions. Options made from quilted fabric are often lighter in weight than other purses. You can easily wash fabric purses. 

If you love shopping with independent entrepreneurs, this can be a great choice. Quilted bags can be open at the top, so there are no zipper or hardware malfunctions. They are available in various colors, so they can be a great way to add a pop of color to an outfit.


Hand holding gold metallic pochette

Van Cleef & Arpels designed this small clutch that is sometimes highly decorated, and they received a patent on it in 1935. They created it because Hollywood stars did not want anything that would interfere with their body silhouette when walking the red carpet. 

They took the design from a Lucky Strike metal cigarette case carried by American socialite Florence Gould. 

While many companies, including Tiffany & Co., Cartier, and Chaumet, followed suit and made these bags out of lacquer, Bakelite, and metal, that is no longer the case. These purses demand a high price because very few companies make them today.


The word pochette comes from the French language and means small envelope, which perfectly describes this purse. This purse hangs from a shoulder strap, which is usually very short. 

The body of the bag, which is generally leather or nylon, is just large enough to hold a phone. Many luxury purse makers, including Louis Vuitton and Prada, have made versions of this purse. 

Many women started wanting this purse after Sarah Parker wore it in “The Guardian.” Select options with a thicker strap if you are looking to wear it with casual outfits. Alternatively, ones with a thinner strap are ideal for pairing with formalwear.


A reticule is a small drawstring purse carried in the 17th through 19th centuries. The word reticule was first used in 1730, but this bag, often decorated with embroidery, remained largely unknown until the latter part of the 18th century. 

The word reticule comes from the French language and means mesh bag, which can be an excellent description of this bag. When these purses became more popular, they were seen as pockets that had suddenly moved from a woman’s undergarments to be carried separately, and they were looked down upon by socialites.

Doctor’s bag

Doctors initially carried these large bags as they made house calls. They are usually made of durable materials and have a frame at the top. Most have a snap closure, but some have a zipper. 

J. G. Beard receives credit for creating the first doctor’s bag, named the Gladstone bag, after British Prime Minister Wiliam Gladstone. These bags are exceptionally roomy so that you can carry lots of things. It has a short handle, but many also have a shoulder strap. While you can find different options, manufacturers make many from leather.

Trapezoid bag

A trapezoid bag is a structured bag with a short handle. If you remember back to geometry class, a trapezoid is a four-sided bag with two parallel sides. These bags are typically smaller at the bottom than at the top and have a flat bottom. 

You can find options that are bigger at the top than at the bottom. Many women prefer these bags because they stand up on their own. Manufacturers typically use leather, but they may choose other materials. Women carry most of them with a short handle attached to their top, but options with shoulder straps are available.

Gym bag

A gym bag is a small cloth bag that closes with a drawstring at its top. As the name suggests, they are often used to carry gym clothes and equipment. Usually offered for sale by athletic companies. Manufacturers make most gym bags from polyester, canvas, or nylon. 

While some have only one large pocket, others have smaller interior and exterior pockets so that the carrier, a man or a woman, can stay more organized. While all gym bags are duffel bags, not all duffel bags are gym bags. The difference lies in the size of the bag and its intended purpose.


A daypack is a small backpack helpful in carrying things on a short trip or books and other necessities during your everyday routine. Many manufacturers offer specialized daypacks. 

For example, if you are going on a hiking adventure, look for options with a hydration system attached. Alternatively, if you are going climbing, a narrow choice is your best option. 

Woman hiking cliff
Source: Dan Smedley on Unsplash

If you are headed out on the run, think about choosing a vest with easy-to-reach exterior pockets to keep snacks and other necessities in. But if you are going biking, look for choices that fit tight against your back to experience less wind resistance.

Bermuda bag

A Bermuda bag is a round handbag with wooden handles. These bags are unique because you can change out their covers, so they match your activities or how you are feeling. Most options are brightly colored, making them a great choice to carry with a casual outfit. 

While manufacturers have made these bags since the 1960s, they were especially popular with schoolgirls in the 1980s. Therefore, they make the perfect party accessory. They are also a great option to carry to ladies’ retreats and other fun events. 

Women usually carry these cloth bags by their short wooden handles. Some industrious individuals also buy only the handle and make their bags.

Boston bag

A Boston bag has an oblong base. The sides of this bag either taper in or fold in. It closes at the top with two handles. Since the handles are usually large, women can securely carry these bags in their hands. 

The shape of these bags has changed a little over time, but the original may have been the green bag that sat behind the speaker’s chair at the House of Commons in England. By the late 1800s, the Boston Bag Co. made these bags, and almost every woman from Boston carried one regardless of where life took her.

Canteen bag

People initially used canteen bags to carry water as the fabric would help keep the water cooler on a hot day. Most of these bags are round and close with a double zipper. Manufacturers typically use rigid material, like leather, and these purses may have a tassel. 

These round bags are a fun option that is usually brightly colored, but you can find options in neutral colors. These bags are perfect for carrying from their shoulder or crossbody straps when dressing casually. Some also feature flowers or designs similar to those found on carpet bags but in a circle shape.

Foldover bag

A foldover bag is an easily cleanable bag made of nylon or another material. These bags are unique because you can fold over the top and cover the contents or leave them open and use them as a tote. 

Most have sturdy handles that are often similar to the webbing found on lawn furniture. These handles can be long, allowing you to carry the tote from your shoulder, or short so that you can easily carry the tote by hand. Some come with detachable straps, and almost all fold flat, so you can easily store them.

Half moon bag

A half-moon bag has a body shape similar to a half-moon. The way that the short handle fastens onto the body has caused some women to dub this bag their banana bag. Regardless of its name, this bag is made from durable material and often has a sleek finish, making it perfect for formal wear. 

Its small size allows women to carry some necessities in it. You can find different size options from very small to mid-size. These purses can either stand up rigidly or slouch a little bit. They generally have a minimalistic design, with most options closing with a top zipper.

Round bag

These bags are like canteen bags, but they have a circular design. Unlike canteen bags that manufacturers almost always make from fabric, they make these bags from various materials, with leather being a popular choice. 

They have a long strap designed to hang from the shoulder. Many have very decorative designs on their outside, and they may also have tassels. These purses are usually small to medium size. Many have zippers that go clear around the bag. Some have a top lock, which is generally for decorative purposes.

Lunch box bag

A lunch box bag is a lunch box designed to look like a handbag. They are ideal for taking lunch to the office because most are black and feature a sleek design. While you can find a few options with long handles, most have short handles attached to their top. 

Many are insulated, making them a great choice when you need to keep your food cold. You can find options in many different sizes. Some zippers allow you to open them more completely when packing your lunch or dining, while others have only a top fastener.

Kiondo bag

The Kiondo bag is similar to a tote, but it is made by handweaving parts of the sisal plant together. Most also include some leather trim work. Workers in Kenya make many of them. Since they use only the outer leaves in making these bags, the plant continues to grow and produces new outer leaves that workers can harvest again. 

These outer leaves are very fibrous, and weaving them together makes them even stronger. The plant that the leaves are harvested from looks like a yucca plant, but the outer leaves shoot straight into the air at various angles to form a head.


Manufacturers have been making muff bags since the mid-19th century. They are a combination of a muff and a purse. Muffs are usually made from an insulating material, like faux fur, and are tubular. Then, they have small interior pockets where a lady can carry a few coins or credit cards. 

Woman hands muff

These are a unique option for wearing with formal and semi-formal wear. Other options have the same tubular shape but close with a zipper and have no way to stick your hands inside. They often have a short wrist strap attached when designed in this way.


A rucksack derives from the German words meaning the back and sack, an apt description of this bag as it is essentially a backpack made of technical material or waxed canvas. They are designed to be carried from straps placed across both shoulders. 

These large backpacks usually have a large opening at the top. They also have a hip belt, which is ideal for carrying heavy loads. The hip belt helps distribute the weight more evenly and helps to keep it from shifting when you walk. These bags are particularly popular for long hikes and extended camping trips.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you usually think that purses and handbags are only for women, you need to reexamine your train of thought. There are many options that guys will love. 

For example, a briefcase is a type of handbag. Godillot of Paris was the first to put fabric over an iron frame. Their idea was soon followed by doctor’s bags and the oval-top Rosebery before the modern-style briefcase came into existence.

For many men, the briefcase has given way to a laptop bag, but it is still a handbag. Some professionals regularly carry handbags. For instance, photographers often use a camera bag to take a backup camera, extra lenses, and filters.

Men also use many types of handbags and purses when they are not at work. For example, they use backpacks, daypacks, and gym bags to carry recreational equipment. They may also use tote bags and messenger bags when they are shopping. 

Men may also use a weekender bag or a duffle bag when going on a trip as they make great options for carrying clean and dirty clothes and other items. They may also choose to take their money or necessities in a fanny pack when they are exploring.

You now know many types of purses and handbags that are useful for men and women. While I gave you some basic ideas in this chapter, we will dive more deeply into which ones work best for different occasions in the next chapter. 

While the average woman owns nine handbags or purses, after you read this chapter, you may want to start shopping for many more options. Keep reading to find out more!

Best purses/handbags for different occasions

I have now told you about 48 types of purses and handbags. I have discussed how many different options are perfect for men and women. I have also discussed the difference between a handbag and a purse.

While you now have lots of knowledge, you may be confused about which purse or handbag to take on different occasions. This chapter will help to clear up some of that confusion.

Just like you do not wear the same clothes to a pool party and a white-tie dinner, you should not carry the same purse. Thankfully, many options are available, and the key is knowing what purse or handbag to bring to every occasion.

You do not want to make the same mistake as my friend Susan. She went to interview the other day at a conservative financial company. While she made sure to wear a dark-colored suit and her heels, she carried an evening bag because she did not think it mattered and ran out of time to change her stuff over. After you read this chapter, you should not make mistakes like hers.


There are so many fun choices in handbags and purses to wear with your casual clothes. You may want to carry a Bermuda, canteen, or kiondo bag to add a pop of color to your outfit. They look especially great when paired with a pair of leggings and an oversized t-shirt.

If you are exploring, a daypack can be a perfect choice. Consider wearing it with your denim skirt, a great pair of walking shoes, and a knit top.

You may also want to go with a more athletic vibe by carrying a duffle or gym bag. These bags are perfect when you wear your hiking boots, blue jeans, and a t-shirt. Choose one that is the right size for the length of your adventure. They also look great when paired with your workout shorts, a t-shirt, and trainers.

Formal attire

Most purses that are right for formal attire are petite and intricate. Depending on the event’s formality and the amount you need to carry, a sequined clutch can be a great option. You may also want to consider one covered with a silky material. Often, the best choices are those that match your formal dress.

Another fantastic choice is a small crossbody bag. Be sure to choose one in a neutral color. Black is often a great choice. Choose one that will not detract from your appearance, although you may want to consider options with a fancy silver or gold clasp. 

When choosing a crossbody bag, consider options that end above your waist if you are tall and options that end below your waist if you are short.

An excellent third choice is a shoulder bag. As with a crossbody bag, opt for a choice with some ornamentation. You may want to consider options with a beautiful chain strap.

The office

Tote and foldover bags can be a perfect choice for the office, depending on the amount of stuff you must carry. Look for flat options because you can easily tuck them into a desk drawer. Lunch bag purses are another great option if you usually bring your lunch to the office.

Guys and ladies may want to carry a laptop bag. This is an excellent choice if you are in and out of the office all day or take your laptop home at night to finish last-minute tasks. Be sure to choose one that is the perfect size for your laptop and is well padded.

If you work in a more conservative office, opt for a trapezoid, kelly, or other rigid bags with a short carrying handle. If your office is not too formal, a purse that slouches, like a hobo bag, can be a fantastic choice because it allows you to carry lots of stuff you may need throughout the day.

Date night

Depending on the formality of the date, you can choose to carry many different purses. If you head out to a casual dinner, then a Bermuda or bucket bag in a fun color can be a fantastic way to add a pop of color to your outfit.

If you do not need to take much with you to dinner, you may want to consider a clutch. One with a motivational message or a favorite picture can be an excellent option for a first date, as looking at it will encourage you to lighten up and have a good time. 

If you want a little more formal option, think about an envelope or a half-moon bag as both are small enough that you can easily tuck them away under your arm or hold them in your lap.

If date night includes a little recreational fun, consider bags in which you can tuck your stuff securely. For example, duffle and daypacks are a great choice.

Cocktail party

Since the lines at bars during cocktail parties can be long, consider options that you can easily carry without using your hands so that you can carry two drinks at once. Drawstring, reticule, and pochettes can all be great choices. Consider ones made from velvet, velveteen, or another luxurious fabric with a little sheen.

Closeup woman party dress sequined handbag

Another fantastic choice for a cocktail party is a nice crossbody bag. Consider sticking with those in a neutral color. Round bags are often an excellent choice, especially when they have decorative detailing on them.

Your purse may get noticed, making it an easy way to strike up a conversation with someone. A vintage Boston bag or carpet bag can also be a great conversation starter, especially now that you know a little about their history.

Besides, at a winter cocktail party, a muff purse can be a great choice as it will help to keep your hands warm and carry your essentials.


The amount of stuff you need to bring to a wedding and your role in it can make picking out a purse for a wedding a challenging task. If you are a bridesmaid or the mother of the bride, consider carrying a clutch during the ceremony. 

Opt for one that is elegant. A satin-covered one is often a fantastic choice. Another excellent option is a minaudiere, as you can easily carry it or tuck it under your arm.

If you are a guest at a wedding, a half-moon bag may be a great option because its short strap makes it easy to tuck under your arm if you need to use your hands to carry a plate at the reception. 

A wristlet can be a fantastic choice because a fancy one can double as a bracelet if you plan on leaving most of your processions at home or locked in your car. Choose one that has lots of sparkles to it.


A colorful tote bag is a fantastic option to take to the beach. Choose one that is waterproof and that you can easily clean as you do not want to be carrying sand for the next month. If you need a little more room or want to tuck some of your things out of sight, a foldover bag can be ideal because it has a flap to cover your stuff.

Duffle bags are another fantastic option. As with tote bags, choose a waterproof option that is easily cleanable. If you are not planning on taking many things with you, a medium-sized drawstring bag can be a great choice because pulling the string will help keep everything in it.

Of course, the favorite option to take to the beach is a beach bag. These large bags are big enough to pack a lot into, making them ideal for families.

Weekend trip

Many handbags are big enough that you can pack for a weekend trip in them. A large backpack or rucksack is an ideal choice if you think you may need to carry your stuff a little way. Choose an option with wide shoulder straps as they are better on your back.

Tote bags are often an excellent option for packing. Choose one that has a few pockets so that you can keep the supplies that you may need to access while on the road easily accessible. Likewise, a foldover bag can be a fantastic choice because the flap helps ensure that everything stays in the bag if it gets jostled while traveling.

Once you arrive at your destination, a daypack can be handy. You can fill it with the supplies that you may need for the activities that you want to do. It can also make a great camera bag.


Do away with the hassles of plastic and paper bags tearing by taking a tote bag with you when you go shopping. You will want to choose one strong enough to handle the weight you usually put in it. 

Of course, it is easier to carry one tote bag than several, but that may not be feasible. You do not want to be shopping with a bad-looking tote bag, so be sure to select a cute one. Choosing a strong and lightweight tote bag is a great way to ensure you do not have to lift extra weight.

A quilted bag that is open on the top and large enough to hold many things is also a fantastic option. Choose fabric ones where the quilting lines are close together as they are stronger than other options.


The type of handbag that works best for exercise depends on the kind of exercise you plan on doing. A gym bag or a small duffle bag is a great way to keep all your stuff together if you are off to the gym. Choose a rugged option and keep it in your car so you can head to the gym on the spur of the moment.

Woman cap large black leather bag

If bike riding is your favorite sport, think about a frame bag as they fasten securely to your bike’s frame. Most are big enough that you can carry a small repair kit and a first-aid kit.

If you love hiking, then a daypack may be a great choice. Choose one that is built ruggedly. You may also want to consider a backpack. Many have special features allowing you to fasten your tent and sleeping bag directly to them. 

If you are going to be gone for multiple days, then a rucksack is ideal because of its larger size, which allows you to carry more things. Its waist strap will also allow you to distribute the weight better across your body.

Family outings

Family outings can be great fun, especially when choosing the right purse or handbag. If you have young children along, be sure to bring a diaper bag with you.

If your children are beyond that stage, consider a larger purse as you may still need to pack snacks and other things. A satchel can be a good easily pack books for your children to read as you are traveling. A doctor’s bag has plenty of room in it for necessities. The expanding sides of a trapezoid purse also make it an ideal choice.

You may also want to get every child a daypack. Then, you can fill it with snacks and activities that are appropriate for them. It can be an excellent way to cut down on family quarrels, and everyone can help carry the load.

This is a great advantage after you have chased kids through their favorite activities and are ready to drop. If your family enjoys recreational activities, consider bringing a duffle or gym bag loaded with the gear that you will need.

Once you build your purse and handbag collection, you need to care for and store them properly. You will want to keep reading to find tips on how to do that properly. The better care you take of your bags, the longer they will last and the better they will look. 

Then, you can start investing in bags of higher quality that may be worth more after you tire of them than when you purchased them.

Purses & handbags storage and maintenance tips

Now that you are armed with the information you need to purchase many new purses and handbags for different occasions, and you have learned what bags are best for different looks, it is natural to wonder how you need to store and maintain your bags.

This is especially vital as you spend more money on bags, like luxurious, investment, and vintage options. After all, you want them to look their best when carrying them.

My friend Susan called me the other night and was pretty upset. She had put all her handbags in a basket in her closet. Then, the roof sprang a leak, and the water poured down on them while she was out of town. 

Her daughter called her about the damage, and Susan was just heartbroken. I tried to calm her down, but putting all your handbags and purses in a basket was not the most brilliant move.

Let’s learn what Susan should have done instead. Then, you can prevent a catastrophe from happening to your purse and handbag collection.

Avoid placing your handbags and purses all in one basket

You should never put all your handbags and purses in one basket. While using a basket can be a great idea for inexpensive bags, the handles can get tangled together if you do not use them for a while. Furthermore, the colors may rub off on each other. 

Like my friend Susan, you may have an emergency and lose your whole collection. If you want to use baskets, then designate a basket for each type of purse. For example, you would have a basket for crossbody bags, shoulder bags, and handbags. 

Then, line them up in the basket. You will want to use a divider to separate each bag. A piece of plain cardboard can be a great choice. Then, put the basket in a large pillowcase. Decide where you are going to store the baskets. You will want to keep them away from moisture and sunlight. Make sure that none of your bags touch the plastic.

Use a bag to protect the outside of your handbags and purses

While you should not store handbags and purses in a plastic bag, putting them in a dust cover is a great idea. The reason that you should not use a plastic bag is that the bag needs to breathe. This is particularly true of leather ones. 

You should store each bag separately because handbags made of leather are very susceptible to picking up color when left against other handbags. Leather and many other bag materials can easily be damaged by the least little bit of moisture. 

Putting them in a dust cover allows the moisture to escape while keeping the shoes protected. Consider putting them in bags you can easily see through so that you can find that bag you want to carry quickly. 

Once you have the bags in a dust cover, you can put them in a bin if you wish to or just lay them on your closet shelf, but I will have more to say about that in a moment.

Store your purses and handbags on a shelf

Storing your purses and handbags on a shelf is a great idea. If you lack shelf space, consider putting your bags in a bookcase. You can put it in your closet or leave it out. For purses and handbags that do not stand up on their own, add clear dividers to the shelf so that they will stand up. 

Several purses wooden shelves

You may need to measure the width of your purses so that you know how far apart to keep the dividers. Consider putting a silica gel packet or two in each bag to absorb moisture, but I will have more to say about that in a little bit. 

You need to ensure that there is enough space between your bags so they do not touch. You may also want to put a plastic curtain on the front of the shelves to protect your purses from dust. Otherwise, you can insert each bag into a dust cover and protect them.

Leave space between them

I briefly touched on this concept several times, but leaving space between your purses and handbags is vital. The best way to do this is to use a purse shaper that will fit the bottom of the bag. 

That way, you are better assured that the purses stay in place and hold their shape. Purse shapers come in many different styles, so choose the one that fits each bag. These plastic pieces that are inserted into the inside of the bag make them more rigid. So they hold their shape better. 

They are not very expensive, but you can also make your own using stiff cardboard or another material that does not have acid in it. The point is to maintain the purse’s shape, making storing them more manageable.

Do not wrap your handbags in plastic

You should never wrap your bags in plastic or put them in a plastic bag. This is especially true of leather bags because they need to breathe. As moisture-filled air sinks into the leather, the material releases old oils that have served their purpose. 

If you put your bags in plastic, the air cannot reach the bags. Then, the leather will start peeling, cracking, and look nasty. If you have already made this mistake, you may be able to clean your bags and restore them with a leather restoration cream, but that is a lot of work. 

Instead, put your bags in a mesh bag or use a dust cover. If you set them on a shelf where the sun cannot get to them, which is about the same temperature all the time, you may not need to wrap your bags at all.

Stuff your handbags and purses before storing them

Another key to keeping your handbags and purses looking great is to stuff them before storing them. I have already discussed using a purse insert, but that is not enough. You need to keep the bag’s shape clear up to its top. 

You can buy a purse pillow especially made for this purpose. Make sure to choose one that is made for the size and shape of your bag. Crafty people may be able to make their own at home from a silky fabric. 

You can also stuff the purse with acid-free paper. Many manufacturers make acid-free tissue paper. Make sure that whatever method you choose, the ink in the fabric will not come off on the bag’s inside. For example, the ink on the newspaper will come off on the purse’s inside over time, so it is not a great choice.

Clean your handbags and purses

You should always clean your handbag before putting it away. Some handbags are washable, such as quilted bags, and you can just put them in the washing machine. Other waterproof bags must be wiped down with a damp sponge and dish soap if necessary. 

If the purse has a liner, pull it as far out of the bag and use a lint roller to remove dust from it. Depending on the material, you may also be able to spot wash it if necessary.

Leather purses require special care. You should use a cleaner specially designed for leather. Then, mix it with water as directed by the manufacturer and rub the outside of the purse. Be careful to only rub in the direction of the grain. 

Let the leather dry for 24 hours. If spots remain, use a weak vinegar solution and work only on those areas. Start at the outside of the stain and work your way to the middle. Since you do not want to spread the stain, dab the area with a white cloth instead of scrubbing it.

Store your purses and handbags in a dark, cool place

Regardless of the type of bag, you should take it out of storage at least once per month and let it get some air. In the evening or early morning hours, take the bags you are not using and let them get some air. 

Then, you can put them back into storage. Failing to do this can cause your bags to mold, and you do not want to spend extra time and money cleaning mold off your purse.

You should always store your purse where it will not get too hot. Just like leather furniture, if your bags get too hot, they will dry out and start to crack. 

The second factor you will want to consider is the humidity level where you store your bags. If you live in a humid area, you may need to operate a dehumidifier near your bags.

You now know a little about how to clean your bags, and you know a lot about how to store them. In the next part, I will share some concluding thoughts, so make sure that you keep reading. I will remind you of some main ideas that I have covered and allow you to ask questions.


I hope you have enjoyed learning about the different types of purses and handbags. The next time you are shopping for a new bag, you might want to refer to our list of the different types.

If you think I left one off the list or have questions about handbags and purses, leave a remark in the comment section.

Most men and women have at least one friend who seems to be carrying a different purse each time you see them. Please share this post with them so they can learn more about some new options to add to their collection.

If you have found a new style of purse or handbag to add to your collection, then read our other informative posts. They will help you create a perfect outfit when you get the new purse.

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