Stylish Bags That Won’t Break Your Back

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

Baggu Leather Tote

Credit: Courtesy of Baggubag.com

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Baggu Leather Tote: Hand-crafted in New York City, this chic, gently oversized, softly structured leather tote bag  is perfect for everyday errands. The straps are double-riveted for strength, and the tote has an inside zip pocket for keys and small treasures. $240

Kate Spade Deborah Dot Bon Shopper

Credit: Courtesy of KateSpade.com

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Kate Spade Deborah Dot Bon Shopper: Don’t be afraid to add some fun and color to your life. This printed canvas and patent leather tote goes from office to dinner with style — and a joyful pop of dots. $198

Baggu X3 Zip Shopping Bags

Credit: Courtesy of Baggubag.com

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Baggu X3 Zip Shopping Bags: Go green at the grocery. These generously sized nylon shopping bags answer the question “paper or plastic?” with a happy “neither!” All three fold up into one tiny pouch that you can toss into your bag so you’ll always be prepared to shop and schlep. $24

Marc Jacobs Classic Q Hiller

Credit: Courtesy of Marcjacobs.com

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Marc Jacobs Classic Q Hiller: This hobo bag, from the designer’s less pricey Marc by Marc Jacobs line, is a balanced mix of professional and casual and makes for an ideal everyday bag. $428

Aldo Eskeet fold-over satchel

Credit: Courtesy AldoShoes.com

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Aldo Eskeet Fold-over Satchel: Synthetic leather has come a long way from the Naugahyde look and that unavoidable chemical smell. Today’s faux-leather bags look and feel like the real thing. In this fold-over satchel by Aldo, an expanding zipper bottom lets you customize the size to suit your life (and your load). $50

Sak Classic Crochet Hobo

Credit: Courtesy The Sak

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Sak Classic Crochet Hobo: This simple crocheted hobo bag is just the thing for casual occasions. Light yet generously sized, it has lined zippered pockets that keep everything organized, as well as wide, soft straps to ease the burden on your shoulders. $49

Aldo Slightam Crossbody

Credit: Courtesy of AldoShoes.com

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Aldo Slightam Crossbody: This classic quilted crossbody bag will keep your most important things close at hand without weighing you down. Score bonus style points by tying your favorite scarf on the strap. $35

Clare Vivier Messenger bag

Credit: Courtesy of ClareVivier.com

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Clare Vivier Messenger Bag: Sleek, colorful, simple: Everything a good bag should be. Handmade in Los Angeles and available in seven colors, this unlined messenger bag in buttery nubuck comes with a matching clutch that leashes to the bag to secure smaller precious things. $363

Cole Haan Crosby Metallic Ali Mini Crossbody

Credit: Courtesy of ColeHaan.com

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Cole Haan Crosby Metallic Ali Mini Crossbody: Just right for a night on the town, this dressy little number jazzes up a simple party dress yet is roomy enough for the bare necessaries. $98

Dooney & Bourke Backpack

Credit: Courtesty of Dooney & Bourke

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Dooney & Bourke Backpack: Big day out? Pack up this cute and perfectly sized backpack. Features include a cell phone pocket, an interior key hook and a drawstring top to keep everything secure. $195

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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.

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