Editor’s note: This is regular series in which we help Styling You readers solve a particular wardrobe or clothing crisis with a little advice and some shopping suggestions. If you think you’d like to be considered as part of a Wardrobe Boot Camp post, then please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with a couple of photos and a brief run down of what specific help you would like.
Nardia is a regular reader here at Styling You. She’s returned to work after maternity leave and is on a new quest to find the best everyday handbag that can work for her on the corporate frontline as well as when out with her baby. She’s currently using three bags and wants to streamline that down to one.
Since returning to work two months ago after seven month’s maternity leave, I have been on a quest to find the ultimate everyday handbag. I have handbags (many, many, many handbags) but I’m finding that all my favourites are now all too small to be able to transition from a corporate handbag to one that becomes filled with the needs of my bubba.
We’re a pretty low maintenance pair and I normally only take the bare necessities when we’re out and about anyway but sometimes I find having to take my wallet, keys etc from my “work” bag to throw into my nappy bag just another task that my poor brain can’t cope with (because it is true that baby brain sticks around long after the baby has arrived!). This results in trips down the street sans wallet or phone or nappies etc.
I prefer a slouched/style (ie not rigid), oversized bag so there is plenty of room for the extras like a hundred pens, trillion lip glosses, dozen USB sticks, couple of moisturisers, a magazine etc – you know, all the important stuff :).
I’m not into fads but am into unique elements that make the bag stand out a bit. Once upon a time I was the fad queen, but these days, quality is key. I’d rather pay a couple of hundred dollars for a quality bag that will still be stylish in a few years than go for the gorgeous new fad (as much as I might love it).
I want a beautiful quality piece that will last me a while, be all that I need and be able to reflect my personality somewhat. Surely that’s not too much to ask for!
These are the bags I’m currently using (see below):
1. Oi Oi Nappy bag: I really love this nappy bag. And when I know I’m out for the day on my day off or on the weekend it’s perfect. It’s big enough for what I need (I don’t use the change mat or bottle warmer which take up most of the space!), has a long strap to fling across my body if I’ve got my arms full and it’s a little bit different in colour than some of the more traditional style of nappy bag. But it’s not very corporate or practical for work.
2. Red KK bag: I bought this bag online on a whim thinking it was a lot bigger than it is. I don’t like it because the top opening is quite small – a real pet hate of mine! I tend to ditch the long shoulder straps on my work bags, but I definitely need enough room to be able to have the carry straps on my shoulder. Am a huge fan of colour but am also very fussy. In hindsight, this bag is not really me at all.
3. Black Jendi bag: This was given to me by a girlfriend for Christmas and I LOVE it. I sometimes fly from regional Victoria to Melbourne for day meetings and it’s the perfect size for an A4 notebook, a few files, a laptop or ipad and my personal items. It is also great as an overnight bag too (If I have to stay overnight, I use this as the overnight bag and take another handbag). I went to Melbourne about three weeks ago for a meeting and used this bag and couldn’t bear to revert back to the KK bag. The downsides – the tab over the top is really inconvenient on a day-to-day level. Without the files and laptop/ipad in there, it’s very cavernous and empty! Plus it’s very rigid which makes it seem even bigger (that said, I have walked to the supermarket in my lunch break and fit some baby wipes, a can of formula, a pumpkin, some carrots and zucchini and a couple of cans of tuna in there without having to carry a shopping bag back to work – LOL!). I’ve just got into patent leather recently, but even after a few uses, I’m seeing scuff marks and chips in the base which means it’s not going to last particularly long. I do love this bag, but again, it’s not what I want for an everyday bag.
1. Searching for the perfect everyday bag can seem like an impossible mission. I claim I’m still trying to find The One … but that could be to justify ongoing handbag purchases ;). The good news for Nardia is that she’s only made one purchase that didn’t suit her needs. She can put that bag in storage until her baby is at school and she’s looking for an easy bag for the weekend – one that’s distinct from her Monday-Friday option.
2. Make a list of all the ideal components of your perfect everyday bag. Nardia’s reads: Slouchy, oversized, plenty of room for extras, quality, easy opening, straps that can go over her shoulder, something with some personality. Also take stock of what you actually want to fit into your bag everyday. Does it need to fit a tablet or laptop?
3. Measure up an existing bag that you’re happy with as a guide to finding a replacement online or in store. I need an everyday bag to have a width greater than 30cm but maximum of 42cm as then it’s getting into overnight bag territory and that’s a whole other purchase altogether.
4. Nardia’s Jendi bag will still come in handy for those trips away, so I’d hang on to that because I think if you travel you do need two types of bags – the one you carry each day and the one that has to work a little harder if you’re on the road. This My Best Friend is a Bag leather tote bag works for me when I travel as it perfectly handles all my stuff plus has a laptop compartment built in.
5. Buy the best your budget can afford. The word everyday means that it will be used everyday. That’s a lot of wear and tear. And a lovely cost-per-wear ratio.
6. Opt for a wide opening bag that also includes external and/or internal storage options. This minimises the handbag rummage when looking for a lipgloss or keys.
8. Beware of heavy hardware on your bag. I’ve been caught out with a new everyday bag weighing a tonne once I’d put my stuff in because it was already quite a weight in itself.
9. Want your bag to stand out from the crowd? Design your own. The Bag Department lets you choose the colours and trims on its three available designs.
10. Look for bags like Il Tutto’s After Baby bag. This is a bag that meets your weekday needs but can also easily adapt for weekends when you need to carry extra bits for a baby or kids. Love the outside pockets.
11. Invest in a range of handbag liners. These make my bag switch very easy – I’m a big fan of the Borne Naked liners as you can see what’s in them. That way if you want to revert to the nappy bag at weekends and casual situations, it’s a matter of swapping over the insert filled with essentials.
1. Il Tutto After Baby bag $349 | 2. Trenery satchel $186.75 (on sale) | 3. Country Road hobo $269 | 4. Mimco handbag $450 | 5. Borne Naked trio pack of liners $79.95 (on sale) | 6. The Bag Department (design your own) tote $350 | 7. My Best Friend is a Bag tote $160 (on sale) | 8. Witchery carry all $139.95 (on sale) | 9. Trenery tote $246.75 (on sale)
Have you found the perfect everyday bag? What would I find in your bag today? Any tips for Nardia and her quest to find one that works for her working week?