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A new year has begun, and the search for a new, perfect bag commences. Ever since was I was a little girl, I enjoyed shopping for a new school/work bag. I loved browsing through the rows of colorful backpacks and messenger-style bags. I don’t think I ever picked the same color twice (except when I was in college and wanted to wear all black). My criteria for the perfect bag has always prioritized function, then fashion. What’s the purpose of having a beautiful bag if it doesn’t hold all my stuff comfortably?
The definition of the perfect bag evolves as my life evolves. When I was in college and graduate school, textbooks and a laptop had to fit in my bag. Now, as a working parent, I try to keep a snack or stickers for my daughter for emergencies, plus my wallet, keys, sunglasses, a scarf, a small makeup bag, a few pens, a small notebook to jot ideas or entertain my daughter Ilse, and my mobile phone.
Here are a few things I’m looking for in my next perfect bag.
Is it me, or are bag straps getting shorter? How am I supposed to carry a bag if I can’t even put my hands through it, let alone put it over my shoulder? Unless it’s an evening bag, I need long straps. For shoulder bags, my ideal length is at least ten inches, as it is long enough to go over my shoulder with and without a jacket. For crossbody bags, I like at least twenty inches, long enough to drape across my body without crushing my breasts. Crossbody bags like this Timbuk2 version are my personal favorite for daily use, as they keep my hands and arms free for wrangling shopping bags and my daughter at the same time.
Shopping Tip: Try on a bag with the clothes you intend to wear it with so you can see how the bag looks against your body and how heavy the bag feels (without stuff).
Plenty of pockets
I can never have enough pockets. Pockets help me compartmentalize all my bag stuff, at least some of the time. At the very least, my keys, mobile phone, and business cards are placed in the same pockets every day. Three or four interior pockets are ideal, coupled with at least two outside pockets. This Lesportsac City Chelsea Tote is great for staying organized. I do have one gripe that bag designers have failed to change: the size of the mobile phone pocket. The average mobile phone pocket is about four inches long and four inches wide and has not changed to accommodate the growing size of our mobile phones. Perhaps those pockets are no longer meant to hold mobile phones, but where is a person supposed to store it then for easy access? When I try on a bag, I put my phone in one of the interior pockets to make sure it fits and doesn’t stick out too much.
Shopping Tip: Examine all the pockets in a bag to make sure you have enough storage for your stuff.
The perfect bag will be a perfect size, which is dictated by how I’ll use it. For example, an evening bag is small, as it’s meant to hold the basic necessities for a night out, like a lipstick, keys, and some cash. For me, larger bags have always been better, and I carried this Coach Legacy Duffle for a while. To accommodate my daily stuff, the perfect bag needs to be tall enough and at least five inches deep. On the few occasions that I get a pedicure after work, it’s also nice to have enough space to throw in a pair of thongs along with everything else I carry. The internet is your friend when you need to determine the size of any bag. I often research a bag’s dimensions online before I see it in person, so I am not wasting time in the store trying to figure out if the bag is large enough to meet my needs.
Shopping Tip: My test for any bag has been to stick a standard legal pad in it. If the legal pad fits, the bag is tall enough.
Shopping for the perfect bag can sometimes be a daunting experience. One time, it took me a year to replace a beloved black leather tote bag. However, I like to look at bags as an investment in personal organization and storage, albeit a fashionable one. If I am going to use a bag every day with my daughter in tow, then the bag should meet some basic criteria, especially since I live in the city. All three of the criteria I mentioned above have evolved from my nearly twenty years of living in San Francisco. Carrying one less bag can make a difference.