They hold all of our day-to-day items, shielding our valuables and not-so valuables from inclement weather, damage and theft — and, in most cases, they help complete our polished looks. But with so many types of handbags — different bag styles at different prices — the endless number of options can be overwhelming.
We’re here to help. Here’s our guide to the only types of handbags you’ll ever need, with low- and high-priced options.
And one editor’s note before we begin, the prices listed were accurate as of the date of publication, so please check with the seller for the most up to date cost when budgeting.
The Day Satchel
This is the essential workhorse handbag. A medium to large top handle bag that can hold almost everything like your paperback book or tablet (and your pouch for makeup touch-ups). Try to choose one in a neutral-color leather like black or medium to dark brown so that scuffs and stains won’t be noticeable, because who else has spilled their morning coffee on their bag? Also try to steer clear from types of purses with lots of hardware or logos — those can date your bag.
Skimp: Nine West Tansy Jet Set Satchel, $89
Splurge: Kate Spade Knott Large Zip-Top Satchel, $428
The Day Clutch
A neat, tailored daytime clutch is a fantastic option if you can deal with editing what goes in and what stays out. Smaller pouches are cute and light, but you usually can’t get more than a lipstick and a smartphone in there. Try to pick one that has multiple pockets and a bit of dimension so you can carry your essentials. This is one of those bags you can have fun with — you don’t have to spend a lot on this type of handbag style, so try playing with different materials and colors.
Skimp: Coach Small Wristlet, $75
Splurge: Saint Laurent Monogram Quilted Leather Clutch, $795
The Crossbody Purse
The Evening Clutch
Most of us will need an evening clutch at some point, so why wait until the night before a big, fancy event to run out and buy one? The most timeless (and versatile) style you can own is a simple black satin or metallic clutch in gold or silver. This is one type of handbag that should be as seasonless as possible, because you want to be able to hold onto it for years and use it for any event. If you want a little bit of sparkle, try to pick one with a jewel on the clasp. This has a more classic, lasting appeal and goes effortlessly with everything.
Skimp: Katie and Kelly Pleated Bow Clutch, $39.99
Splurge: Loeffler Randall Rayne Champagne Bow Clutch, $250
The Straw Basket
The straw basket can be your go-to bag in the warmer months. It’s an ideal summer carry-all and can and should be a little more playful than your other types of handbags (cue colorful pom-poms). Pack it up with snacks and a towel for a beach day with your friends or with your everyday items as you commute to work.
Style icon Jane Birkin made the straw basket famous in the ‘70s when she made it her signature handbag, long before Hermes crafted bag in her honor, The Birkin.
Splurge: Mark & Graham Pom Pom Straw Beach Tote, $109
The Medium-Sized Shoulder Bag
Shoulder bags have a sleek and sophisticated yet sporty appeal — and are another perfect daily go-to. Rich leather or textured suede are ideal, but even a neat canvas fabric in the summer can be perfect for a lightweight, weather-appropriate look. The options for these types of purses range drastically, so a lot of what’s worth it is also determined by your own personal style, taste level and budget.
Skimp: Old Navy Crescent Handbag, $12
Splurge: Tory Burch Robinson Spazzolato Shoulder Bag, $398
The Chic Tote
The Casual Day Bag
This is your wildcard, and it allows you to show off your personal style. There are plenty of this type of handbag that won’t break the bank, from a striped hobo to a sporty messenger to a croc patent clutch. On those days when you can have a little more fun with your look, switch things up and work this bag into your 9-to-5 routine. It’s a great way to kick up — and show off — your style.
Skimp: Lululemon Everywhere Belt Bag, $38
Splurge: Longchamp Le Pilage Original Backpack, $140
The Iconic Bag
Splurge: Chanel Classic Handbag in Black, $10, 200
The Color Bag
Splurge: J. Crew Edie Italian Leather Bag, $198