Only the world’s most committed minimalists would try arguing you just need one handbag in your wardrobe. From work to play to work-slash-play, modern life includes a glossary’s worth of activities that all require a slightly different size, shape, or functionality.
And, as the city that never sleeps, Manhattan proved to be the perfect playground to test our theory. We drafted up an itinerary that showed NYC at its most iconic, including a stop at Saks Fifth Avenue’s just-opened handbag floor, then recruited model Louise Follain to give it a go.
Follow her adventures below as she shows how certain situations are best outfitted with a specific shape and silhouette of bag. Then, make sure your closet includes something from each of the five categories.
At its core, shopping is comprised of strolling, browsing, inspecting, and considering—all actions that need unencumbered hands (if you’re going to do it well).
The ideal bag isn’t too small or too big and has both a shoulder strap and top handle that make carrying it easy. Don’t think you need to go staid either: If your retail destination is as much of a sensory explosion as Saks’ just remodeled handbag floor, your accessory should be similarly bright and bold (or covered with a rainbow of fringe à la this Loewe find).
Where: Saks Fifth Avenue’s new handbag floor, 611 Fifth Avenue
A fun night out with friends is the ideal time to pick a bag that shows your personality. With relatively low needs, space-wise—it only has to fit a few credit cards and your cell phone—the ideal shape is tiny and lightweight.
Shop like a magpie, looking for shiny accents or attention-grabbing fabrics like Miu Miu’s leopard jacquard. With the potential to overwhelm on a bigger shape, those finishes are just right done smaller.
Where: Bemelmans Bar, 35 East 76th Street
Whether exploring on vacation or running around closer to home, no bag wardrobe is complete without a crossbody. Big enough to include all your daily essentials, but not so large as to invite over-stuffing, it’s the most practical shape of all.
The classic silhouette can easily become your everyday go-to, so opt for a look that fits in seamlessly with your personal style. Louise took out a recent iteration of a quickly-becoming-iconic Chloé shape, but options abound in bright colors or flashy monograms.
Where: J.G. Melon, 1291 Third Avenue
Situations requiring items out of the ordinary, like snacks or a book, will pop up and demand a bag bigger than your standard one. For those times, nothing can beat the usefulness of an open-top tote like Stella McCartney’s Falabella.
As a broad category, it’s one that the avid shopper might think about investing in multiples for. If your load is heavy, bring out one with a shoulder strap; on a day that requires less, go for something that fits in the crook of the elbow.
Where: The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, Central Park
Nothing captures iconic NYC quite like the lights of Broadway. Whether you’re catching a show, watching the ballet, or sweeping into another elegant affair, your bag should be able to be hand-carried and compete with the best jewels.
A minaudière always works (and, as reliably demonstrated by Bottega Veneta, makes the perfect canvas for embellishments and rich embroidery). More unexpected shapes fit the same purpose while acting as an instant conversation starter.