The four handbags you need in your life, and how to choose them


Even the best bag in the world can’t carry you from work, to weekend away, to glamorous evening out and back again. After years of careful handbag analysis (hey, someone had to do it), I’ve distilled down minimum handbag requirements to four essential bags that will get you through absolutely any social occasion:

  1. The casual bag – the sling over the shoulder/across the body bag that is capacious enough to carry the bits and bobs you need for a day out, but doesn’t need to store a laptop or work folder, and won’t look too stuffy and formal paired with jeans and a sweater.
  2. The formal bag – smart enough for the most important boardroom meeting and capacious enough to fit all your working day essentials.
  3.  The party clutch – this doesn’t need to fit in much more than a wallet and lipstick (and possibly a pair of squashy ballet pumps for the walk home if you are a heels wimp like me) and will accompany you to everything from weddings to nights out.
  4. The hold-it-all – this doesn’t necessarily need to be a holdall, but it does need to be able to carry everything you might need for a night away when you want to travel super light, or perhaps a day away when you’ll have an outfit change to make.

Of course, getting your bag right isn’t just about choosing the perfect colour (although that certainly helps!). The size, style and strap length all matter in choosing ‘the one’.

Choosing the perfect bag also needs to take into account your personal style and body shape – there’s no point buying a tasselled hobo bag if your style is classic and formal, and if you’re petite and delicate you’ll quickly look drowned if you’re toting round an enormous ‘it’ bag. However, three simple rules will mean never again choosing a bag that doesn’t work for you:

  1. Look at the colour first – if it’s wildly outside your personal palette, it’s not going to go with anything you own. Don’t worry if it’s not one of your best colours within your palette (there’s only a limited amount of time any of spend with our handbag clutched up under our chin), but make sure it ties in.
  2. Consider your own body shape and size – if your body is neat and petite, consider bags that reflect that. Conversely, if you are larger framed then small bags will look lilliputian; you will look far more stylish with a bag that matches your own proportions.
  3. Think about always owning one bag in a neutral colour that will work across your palette, so if you’re wearing one of your more tricky colours you’ll always have one bag to match.


Details of all the bags shown can be found on the Kettlewell Polyvore page

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