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Stylish Bags That Won’t Break Your Back

Lightweight bags in natural materials ease the strain on the body — and the wallet

By Frank Helmer | October 26, 2012

Stuff — so much stuff! Phone, tablet, wallet, keys, checkbook, tissues, reading glasses. … And of course we have to lug it all around with us everywhere we go.

Enter the handbag, our savior and our curse. Too small and you can’t fit everything in. Load it up with too much and you can’t find anything when you need it. Worse, you can wind up with an aching back and shoulders from all the weight.

A smart approach is having a “wardrobe” of bags, each of which serves a unique purpose. The star player in the lineup is your favorite daily handbag, your constant companion, which reflects who you are. This most used accessory needs to work for you on a day-to-day basis: It should be neutral enough to match almost everything, big enough to hold enough — and light and comfortable enough to be pain-free.

(MORE: Vintage Handbags: Owning a Little Piece of Fashion History)
When you’ve got a busy day planned with errands and socializing, consider a stylish backpack, which is a convenient way to carry a lot of things, and it’s easy on the back. It’s the perfect conveyance for books and small packages or carting bottles and snacks to parties.

On shopping days, toss your wallet in a leather or structured canvas tote with a trio of nylon shopping bags folded into a zippered pouch. You’ll be not only smartly stylish but “deep green” when the grocery clerk asks “paper or plastic?”

And for those times when you’re flying light, have a little more fun with something small and chic. Bringing only what you need and leaving the rest behind is a wonderfully liberating feeling.

These 11 bags represent the entire spectrum of bags that won’t break the bank — or your back.
Frank Helmer is a Los Angeles–based stylist and costume designer for film and television.