Recently I sold a few handbags for the very first time, after carefully re-evaluating my collection. Each one of my designer bag purchases are precious to me so it was extremely hard to part ways, but closet needs change over time with lifestyle and life stages (i.e. being a mama to a toddler with perpetually sticky little fingers)!
I made a list of my most used and least used bags at the moment and wrote out some of the reasons, for those debating over any of the styles. I actually removed the “least used” section since the reasonings were more personal to my own lifestyle and I wasn’t sure if it’d be interesting to anyone, but let me know if you’d want to read it! (Update: read that post here!) In the meantime, I’ll start with my most used bags over recent years and how they’ve held up. This list is designer-heavy, but these are the actual items that I reach for most regularly now and been worth the splurge for me!
Most used bags at the moment
This bag has been a common sight for years now across the blogosphere, but for good reason. I’ve owned it for 4 years and it’s consistently been one of my most used casual bags! It has a wide zippered opening, allowing the full capacity of the bag to be useable and easily accessible. It’s fairly lightweight, can be worn crossbody or on the shoulder, and the rose beige color (a light caramel tan) I own is just super versatile.
This bag does not come without issues, but here’s how I’ve been addressing each one:
- Base sag. The overall leather on this bag will soften and slouch with use, so do not expect it to maintain a sharp looking rectangular structure. I noticed the base of mine sagging in the center early on, so I cut out a piece of cardboard in a rounded rectangular shape to fit inside the base. I used this as a template and sent the measurements to a company to order a custom acrylic base shaper. The acrylic shaper ended up not fitting my bag, so I just ended up using the piece of cardboard as my base shaper all these years!
- Long flapping strap tail. If you’re petite and need to adjust the strap to the shortest setting, you’ll likely end up with a long flapping tail end. Here’s my quick and easy fix for this.
- Color transfer. The #1 question I get is how to avoid getting color transfer from dyed denim onto this bag. There is no magical answer but there are a few things that help mitigate it. I personally did not spray my bag, but I have done so with others so you could try using a leather protectant spray to help any future color transfer wipe off a little more easily. I mostly choose not to use this bag if I’m wearing a newer pair of blue or dark jeans that hasn’t been washed at least several times (and be extra careful if it starts raining). If you’re unsure how potent the dye on your denim is, rub a soft white cloth vigorously back and forth on a pair of jeans to see whether it gets stained. Lastly, if the damage has already been done, you can try blotting any color transfer off with a soft white cloth and some leather conditioner. I’ve also read a tip to try using a little saddle soap on a very slightly damp cloth to remove denim dye transfer.
2. Saint Laurent Wallet on chain (WOC)
It’s easy to see why a timeless small bag that converts seamlessly from elegant evening clutch to daytime crossbody would earn a spot on this list. They’re also awesome for traveling with due to the versatility. Previously the Chanel wallet on chain pictured below was my no-brainer choice for the WOC category (and it’s still well loved), but after getting my Saint Laurent ones they are a little more practical for a few reasons, not to mention easier on the budget!
If you are considering a first wallet on chain purchase and want the most practical and durable option, my top recommendation would be the YSL monogramme wallet on chain (larger size starts at $1550 USD). This is made in a lower maintenance pebbled leather, and if you get a darker color it should last you decades and show minimal wear when cared for. As pictured below, the larger WOC has a higher quality, thicker chain strap that is actually a little shorter in length (perfect for my height) compared to the smaller WOC. The capacity of the large is also quite decent (see this review post for what fits inside). Mine has held up remarkably well over the years, and I just wipe it clean with a very slightly damp cloth if needed. There is one corner where the color has scuffed off a little, but leather polish / cream in a similar color will be an easy fix.
My YSL Kate tassel bag has also been appearing in a number of posts over the past year, but FYI bags in this style are made of a smooth leather that requires more care than pebbled, and are more prone to scratches. I usually use this when my toddler will be nowhere in sight and try to make sure my hands do not have lotion residue and are completely dry, etc. So the practicality prize within my YSL collection goes to the large pebbled WOC, without a doubt.
3. Goyard St. Louis PM TOTE
This should come as no surprise as this is likely my #1 most used and featured bag! But as a testament to how tastes and lifestyle needs change over time, the very first time I had this bag in my possession (as a gift from my husband 9 years ago – he never tried to surprise me with a bag after that ; ) I actually returned it thinking it was highly impractical for my lifestyle and flimsy. I still do acknowledge that it’s quite expensive for a coated canvas bag with thin leather straps and no zipper.
That being said, what make this bag a serious workhorse for me:
- Pliable and light as air. What I initially thought of as “flimsy” has ended up being the reason I use this bag the most. I tend to load this tote up, so the bag itself not adding any extra weight is much appreciated. I’ve come to realize that the lack of structure makes it look smaller and more petite friendly compared to a structured tote with the same dimensions. I also like that it folds completely flat for tossing into either my suitcase or another bag when traveling.
- Low maintenance material. The print camouflages any potential stains, is easy to wipe clean with a very slightly damp cloth, and I’ve also been caught in light rain with no concerns (except for my laptop, since the top is open).
- Versatile black/brown chevron pattern. This seemingly goes with pretty much everything I wear. Also since I wear a lot of solid colored, more basic pieces, I love having a pop of print from this bag.
I’ve had my St Louis tote for 6 years now and there is some creasing on the handles and light scuffing on two outer corners (which can get patched up someday if it gets more serious), but for the most part it’s still looking great with lots of life left. I do treat all of my bags with care though and avoid putting them on the ground. Here’s some examples of how this bag can complete a dressier, professional outfit vs a very casual one:
4. Chanel beige Medium flap
This is a newer addition, but one I can’t stop wearing! I do have to be careful about color transfer, so if “low maintenance” is a priority for you then definitely go for a dark color handbag. From owning other Chanel flap bags, I also know that proper storage is important for helping the bag keep its structure over time, so I try to stuff this with a white cloth bag when not in use. We also try to keep our home at an optimal humidity level for our skin, which hopefully also helps with bag storage since overly dry or humid conditions could affect leather over time.
I’ve gotten a lot of questions on the small vs medium classic flap, both of which I own. I think both sizes are petite-friendly and the size difference looks fairly minimal from the outside. You will fit more inside the medium though, and the key benefit to me of the medium is that the strap is a little longer. It is just long enough for me to wear crossbody style (may not work if you are much taller or have a longer torso), which is actually my favorite way to wear it to dress it down a bit! If you haven’t noticed a pattern yet within this post, having the ability to wear a smaller bag crossbody is KEY (esp as a toddler mama! I’ll just swivel the bag to my backside while carrying Nori).
See my blog post on 5 ways to wear the straps on a Chanel medium flap bag.
5. budget buy: Sole Society Zeda tote (under $60)
Also sold at Nordstrom. Compared to the other bags on this list, this one is quite different budget wise but it’s been a bit of an unsung hero in my wardrobe over the past year! I got my first Zeda tote during the NSale last year and love the neutral colors it comes in like the new “mocha.” When I go to work daily at my local coworking space, if I’m not toting my Goyard St Louis then this is my weekday or travel workhorse bag.
The bag itself is fairly lightweight (given the thickness of the material) and roomy, so I load it up with a laptop, change of shoes, lunch, and makeup bag (or with toddler gear). Sometimes I’ll even fold up my Goyard or just stack it inside this Zeda tote for travel, since bags can get manhandled through TSA and then under airplane seats and overhead bins. You kind of get what you pay for in that this is faux leather, and the edge trim on one of my handles is peeling off with use. The overall bag is still well intact though with pretty much no marks or other signs of wear on the faux leather despite undergoing a fair beating.