When it comes to choosing a bag, it can be a jungle out there. With so many irresistible styles to pick from, all offering a myriad of different looks and functions, it can take a while to settle on ‘the one’. To help you to make the perfect choice, here’s your A to Z – or rather, B to W – of bag styles.
The bag of choice for the practical fashion follower, the backpack evenly disperses the weight of the bag’s contents across the shoulders. Having previously been banished to fashion obscurity, the backpack has recently enjoyed a style revival thanks to the return of 90s-inspired fashion.
Those who lead a carb-free lifestyle need not fear: this baguette is less the thing of diet nightmares and more a bag style made famous by Fendi. Long and thin with a short strap, the baguette is worn over the shoulder. See Carrie Bradshaw for style inspiration.
The barrel bag has a cylindrical shape with top handles. It is a typical style for sports and gym bags, though smarter canvas and leather versions lend themselves perfectly to a weekend away.
A product of the 90s, the bowling bag with its retro-inspired styling was originally modelled on the American bags that were used to carry bowling balls. This style is wide at the bottom and narrow at the top, with two top handles.
The briefcase is a bag for those who mean business. It usually takes the form of a hard case with a short top handle and is used for transporting that all-important paperwork. A far cry from the bulky styles of the 80s, today’s stylish designs are sure to induce office envy.
This spacious pouch swings from the most stylish of wrists. The structured, bucket-shaped bag typically has a drawstring closure and a strap, so it can be worn over the shoulder. See Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen for inspired bucket bag styling.
Another design that has enjoyed a style renaissance due to the 90s revival, the ‘bum bag’ is a small pouch for money and essentials, attached around the waist with a clip fastening. New editions in leather and luxe fabrics have made the style feel contemporary all over again.
The bag of choice for everyone’s favourite nanny, Mary Poppins, the roomy carpetbag has a similar shape to the doctor’s bag, but is typically made of carpet-like, tapestry fabric. This style works well with vintage or boho-inspired outfits.
The perennially popular choice for evening looks, the clutch does exactly what it says on the tin: this bag has no straps or handles so should be held by hand. Fits a minimal amount yet offers maximum style.
Cross-body (or messenger)
Perfect for the city, the cross-body bag – otherwise known as a messenger bag – is roomy yet practical. It has one long strap and can be slung across the body for comfortable wear. See Kate Bosworth for the art of laid-back cross-body styling.
Once upon a time, the doctor’s bag was reserved for those in the medical profession. These days, it’s a fashionable style of arm candy, which works particularly well with office wear. The doctor’s bag has a flat base and a metal frame at the top with handles.
A large, roomy bag with handles, which can be soft or structured, the duffel is a casual style suited to a weekend away or a trip to the gym. Rather like a Tardis, it holds much more than you ever thought was possible.
This bag is typically worn on the shoulder or held on the arm, and features a flap that folds over to fasten the bag.
Similar to the doctor’s bag for having a metal frame, the frame bag has a more petite shape and slightly longer straps, and looks like an oversized purse with a snap-top closure.
Another bag that is popular for everyday use, this roomy, slouchy style is easy to wear and can be carried on the shoulder by its long strap. See Michael Kors and Coach for the most stylish of hobos.
Thankfully, the laptop bag has now evolved from being unattractive and cumbersome to fashionable and functional – in fact, some now look so alike to a regular handbag that you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. With special cushioning to protect your machine, the laptop bag has all manner of pockets and compartments.
As glamorous as it sounds, this evening bag takes the form of a hard case with a snap top closure, and is often embellished with beads, stones or sequins.
Originally created to attach to a horse’s saddle for the rider to transport their essentials, the saddle bag features a curved shape with a fold over flap, which fastens with a buckle at the front. It is typically made of sturdy leather with decorative topstitching.
Originally a practical style for schoolchildren to transport their books to school, the satchel – which features a long strap and a flap that folds over with two buckles to fasten – has long since been adopted by the fashion elite. The undisputed Queen of satchel style: Alexa Chung.
Often made of canvas, this simple rectangular bag with top handles is an ideal supplement to your regular handbag, and is perfect for transporting shopping essentials – or spare pairs of shoes. Cath Kidston has an array of fun printed versions in canvas or oilcloth.
A popular choice for daily use as it’s so easy to use, this medium/large size bag has an open top and two handles, often with an interior pocket. Sleek leather styles are the preserve of the contemporary and minimalist dresser – and Céline is the must-have brand for tote lovers.
The wristlet is a veritable feast of both practicality and glamour. It offers all the joys of a clutch but with a handy strap to wear on the wrist, saving the wearer from the inevitable ‘clutch claw’ towards the end of the evening.