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The perfect mom handbag

Categories: accessories


Banana Republic colorful exotic hobo, $120

Shannon needs a bag. And, like many of us, she needs it to work in a pretty specific way. All the time. Of course.

“My girls are 4 and 6 - -partly in school, partly not, and still young enough that my bag goes to the playground and to playgroup as often as it goes to, say, the supermarket or a moms’ coffee date. I need a day bag that’s large enough for all my stuff (kid water bottles and spare granola bars and packets of antibacterial wipes) but no longer needs to be a diaper- or spare-clothes-for-the-toddler bag, one that can go from parent-teacher conferences to toddler soccer. I need to be able to carry it to school drop-off but also on an impromptu walk to the park, where it might sit on the grass or on a dusty park bench. AND it needs to fit with my mom-style, which tends toward the dark skinny jeans, striped tee, boots, and scarf end of the fashion spectrum, or, in summer, casual dresses and chino skirts with flats or sandals. It has to have two handles, that I can both carry in one hand or over one shoulder — not a long strap or that cross-body style. (I know, I’m pretty picky. I prefer to call it discerning.)”

I totally get all of this. I’ll bet the rest of you do, too.

Shannon needs to look for three things when she’s shopping for The Perfect Bag: shape, color, and craftsmanship.

Ellington Nicole hobo, $189

Shape: I would recommend either a tote or a hobo-style bag; both can accommodate everything Shannon needs to carry without being overwhelming. A softer tote, like the one from Banana Republic pictured above, will collapse around whatever is inside it, effectively molding itself to Shannon’s stuff. In other words, when it’s not entirely full (on the days when the water bottles stay home, for example) the bag won’t look outsized — but when Shannon needs to fill it with snacks and sweaters, it will easily hold everything.

Color: When you’re opting for a go-to bag, choose a neutral shade, like gray or taupe or navy. I’m not a fan of the black handbag — too heavy and hard — but if this is going to be The Bag, steer clear of bright orange or yellow (unless, of course, bright orange or yellow really goes with EVERYTHING in your closet). My go-to day bag is Ellington’s Nicole Hobo, in gray; it truly works with every single piece in my closet, and I get endless compliments on it.

Big Buddha Arlene, $99 currently $71.99 at Piperlime

Craftsmanship: If Shannon is really planning to carry this one bag everywhere, she needs a really well-made bag — which will mean spending a little more money. I’m partial to leather bags (I think they wear better, and I love the feel of leather) but a great synthetic bag is also an option, particularly if you’re going to tote it to soccer and set it on the grass. Big Buddha makes some beautiful synthetic bags; my sister-in-law is carrying the Arlene around right now and it’s stunning in person; it’s also very well made and will last for a long time.

You can find a great bag anywhere — I would suggest that Shannon start in a department store, like Marshall Fields — as long as you know what you’re looking for. And needing to carry a Mom Bag doesn’t mean being relegated to a diaper bag forever; a beautiful leather or faux-leather handbag can be kid friendly and chic at the very same time. Promise.

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3 comments so far...

  • Susan, thank you SO much for these recommendations. I really love the look of all 3, but especially the BN tote and the Ellington hobo bag. Can’t wait to explore my options further! Just in time for spring/summer. :)

    Shannon  |  April 23rd, 2011 at 8:46 am

  • You CAN NOT go wrong with an Ellington bag. I have two. A travel bag I use foe every vacation and my Bella hobo which is my perfect mom bag (but I need a cross body and shoulder options) great functional pockets, beautiful leather and I get complements everywhere. Quality of Coach or similar but unique.

    I second the choice of grey. It is very current and goes with everything.

    Lisa  |  April 24th, 2011 at 2:23 pm

  • I also love, love, love Orla Kiely’s bags. A little pricey, but she has great half-off sales at the end of summer and winter on her website. I don’t really like pleather - these are coated canvas with leather accents. Super high quality, and pretty, fun prints. I have collected a summer bag, a winter bag, and a punchy wallet that makes me smile every time I use it.

    Leslie  |  April 26th, 2011 at 1:50 pm