Guide to the Types and Styles of Bags

A bag is the one accessory that women can’t do without. A lot can survive the day not wearing a bracelet, earrings, necklace, or hair accessories, but they can’t go out of the house without a bag. Women’s pockets are so small, so even if you’re only bringing your phone and wallet, you still need a bag.

And what’s interesting about bags is that they have many different types and styles. Bags are such a fashion craze that some are even willing to splurge for a collection and pay more than a car would cost to own those designer bags.

But most importantly, the reason for buying a bag is to have a container for your essentials when you go out. This is why there are so many different kinds of bags – for everything you have to bring and for every occasion you have to go to. Here are some of the types and styles of handbags that you can own, plus some of the best picks for each type. Do note that some bags overlap in functionalities and features.

Types of Bags Based on Material

When it comes to bags, the material it’s made of is fundamentally essential to consider. The style and function of a bag often depend on the material it’s made of. While there are probably hundreds of bag materials out there, these are the most commonly used ones:

1. Leather bags

Leather handbags in the same style but different colors

Leather has been the ultimate handbag material since the dawn of fashion. Luxury and cheap brands alike use leather (genuine or faux) because it looks elegant and beautiful. Leather bags are durable enough to function as your everyday bag and dressy enough to bring to business and professional settings and special occasions. But they look in touch when paired with casual outfits, too.

Leather is sturdy and versatile yet soft to the touch. It’s easy to style as it can be available in different colors. Genuine leather is made of animal hide – the most popular of them is cowhide, but leather can be made of various animal skins like crocodile skins and ostrich skins.

But as the world becomes more environmentally conscious (and against animal cruelty), different types of vegan leather were developed to create leather bags. Synthetic vegan leather is usually made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane (PU). But vegan leather types are also made of plant sources like pineapple leaves and grains.

2. Nylon bags

A purple gym bag made of nylon

Nylon is another common material from which bags are made from. It’s made of plastic compounds derived from petroleum, making it a strong, light, and durable material. It’s a flexible and affordable fabric option that is widely used because of its ability to bear weight. It can hold its shape, and most are water-resistant. Many backpacks, athletic bags, and affordable handbags are made of nylon.

3. Polyester bags

Black, drawstring polyester bag

Like nylon, polyester is a standard bag material that makes bags light, water-resistant, strong, and cheap. However, it’s stretchier than polyester and can be stronger than a nylon bag without adding weight. Polyester also pills less, so it looks newer for longer and fades less when exposed to the sun. Polyester is also commonly used for backpacks, totes, and sports bags.

4. Canvas bags

A blank canvas bag on a woman’s shoulder

A type of knit fabric, the canvas is reliable as an everyday bag material. It’s made of cotton or linen and designed in a plain woven style that is durable and flexible. Canvas material works well with casual outfits, and it’s commonly used nowadays in trendy tote bags that are either patterned or minimalistic in design. It can also be coated to make it water-resistant.

5. Neoprene bags

A black neoprene material

Neoprene is a type of synthetic rubber that’s used as a highly versatile and robust bag material. Neoprene bags are often thick and padded, making them comfortable to use. But like nylon and polyester, it’s lightweight, durable, and water-resistant.

6. Straw bags

A wicker straw basket bag

Straw is a classic picnic basket or beach bag material because it looks elegant yet down-to-earth. When we think about its chunky knit appearance, it immediately brings an easy elegance to mind. It’s a sturdy material that brings structure to a bag, but it’s often chosen for its fashion statement than function.

Types of Bags Based on Design

Bags come in different designs as they are made differently. Sometimes, what makes them distinct from other bags is their handles or how they are meant to be worn, while some are notable for their appearance or how they look. Here are the different types of bags based on design:

1. Crossbody bag

A stylish lady wearing a small crossbody bag

Crossbody bags reign supreme because of their hands-free appeal. It’s one of the most popular and versatile handbags. It has a long strap to let you wear this bag over your shoulder or across the body (hence the name). As you wear it, the bag will sit on the hip of the opposite side of the shoulder you wear it on. Most crossbody bags have adjustable straps so you can also wear them as a shoulder bag.

Beyond the strap, the style can vary from elegant to petite to functional to casual. This bag type pairs with casual, dressy casual, or business casual attire. If you want a formal crossbody bag, look for something with a chain strap – although most of these types are worn over the shoulder because this type of bag is usually too casual for formal events and occasions.

Crossbody bags differ in size and shape, but it’s widely-available in medium sizes that allow you to carry all your everyday essentials. This makes it ideal for shoppers, commuters, and travelers due to its hands-free, secure design and overall casual looks.

2. Shoulder bag

a woman walking in the streets with a shoulder bag

A shoulder bag is an everyday bag worth investing in. A classic handbag style of the ‘90s, shoulder bags are fashionable once again. It’s either slung over the shoulder or sitting in the crook of your arm. It’s an easy bag to hold, as it can go over the shoulder or by the hand. If it has a removable strap – which can be found in small shoulder bags – it can be clutched for a night out.

As mentioned earlier, crossbody bags can be transformed into shoulder bags, too – you need to adjust the straps to make it shorter so the bag will drape at your side by the hips or waist. A larger size shoulder bag is perfect for utility, as it can be used for work, school, travel, or more, while a smaller bag is perfect if you are packing light.

Shoulder bags are available in a myriad of styles, from functional leather bags to luxurious designer bags, to casual nylon or canvas bags. Rich leather and suede are ideal for everyday use and for keeping your outfit on point, but a neat canvas fabric shoulder bag is handy for summer. As it is available in various sizes, colors, shapes, designs, and closures, you can be sure to have a shoulder bag that suits your taste and needs.

3. Top-handle bag

A yellow top-handle bag

The original handbag, a sturdy top-handle bag, is the most work-appropriate. They are professional-looking and sleek and come in practical sizes and compartments. A top-handle bag is available in small, medium to large sizes that allow you to carry your essentials.

Top-handle bags are practical for people who don’t need to carry their bags for a long time (i.e., those who drive to work or any other destination) because most of us prefer hands-free bags to let our hands do other things and carry different items. If you like a bag, you can hold it by the top handles while also making it convenient to use when taking public transport. You may get a top-handle bag with an additional shoulder or crossbody strap.

4. Satchel bag

A red leather satchel bag

The satchel bag is the essential workhorse handbag. It’s a close cousin of the messenger bag that features a long shoulder strap and flap that fastens over the top. It’s usually thinner and less structured than a traditional messenger bag. The main difference between a satchel and a messenger bag is that satchels are often made of leather, while bag makers use canvas for messenger bags.

The term “satchel” typically refers to large, sturdy handbags with flat and wide bottoms. A flap covers the main opening and usually comes with two top handles. Sometimes, it doesn’t even come with top handles but a long single strap so that you can wear it as a crossbody or shoulder bag. There are even satchel backpacks, which are called satchels because of the flap at the top.

Satchels are often large, as they are commonly used for carrying bulkier items like books, laptops, files, and the like. These purses are often used as a daily bag to work, school, or travel. Both men and women wear satchel bags for work, school, or travel.

It’s a great go-to bag because it’s functional and stylish enough for a transition from desk to dinner. It’s popular for casual and everyday applications and or business casual attire. Small satchel bags with chain straps are dressy enough to be used as an evening bag or for dressier occasions.

5. Backpack

A woman outdoors wearing a backpack

The backpack – also called a knapsack, sackpack, rucksack, pack, or backsack – is the ultimate carry-all bag for bringing everything you need. It’s a sturdy bag carried on the back with two straps over the shoulders, so you can keep your hands free.

It’s popular for students, as a backpack can carry books, notebooks, and other school supplies and essentials. Backpacks are also popular for people off for travel, sports, and outdoor activities such as hiking or climbing, as they can carry all their gear and needs. There are many different kinds of backpacks for different kinds of outdoor activities.

But nowadays, backpacks are not limited to those activities, as there are now many sleek leather and cool printed canvas backpacks that people use for work and other adventures. There are also small backpacks that can only fit a cell phone and some other little essentials. These backpacks look cute, making any wearer feel younger.

Generally, backpacks are great for everyday wear, but some designs are not too informal for business casual or semi-formal dress codes.

6. Tote bag

A canvas tote bag in white

Also known as a carry-all bag, tote bags are roomy and perfect for carrying with you at work and on the weekend. When you need to bring a lot of items, tote bags are the best because of their large capacity and heavy-duty design.

Tote bags are typically rectangular in shape and are made of leather or canvas. It’s a handy shopping bag that can still make you look polished, compared to a typical shopping bag. Some are open, while some are closed with a zipper. They always have some handles, typically a couple of shoulder handles. Some tote bags are lined to contain inside pockets for easy organization, while some are unlined for a more casual look.

Leather tote bags are structured enough to use for the office. Many can carry their laptop to meetings or stash their plane essentials as carry-on bags. Meanwhile, canvas tote bags are common nowadays, as they look great with trendy casual fashion like loose-fitting trousers, chunky sneakers, or midi skirts. Tote bags made of PVC or straw are perfect for use as beach bags.

7. Messenger bag

A woman on a bicycle wearing a messenger bag

Traditionally used by messengers and couriers, the messenger bag is a medium-sized bag worn across the body but larger than most crossbody bags. It has a flap on the front. Messenger bags are designed for couriers to transport bulky goods, but they have now become a staple accessory casually.

It can fit your essentials for workweek commutes, especially laptops, documents, and books you have to bring. Most have many pockets, making them ideal for getting more organized.

However, it’s not commonly used by women, so most messenger bags are for unisex or men’s use.

8. Bucket bag

 

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With its casual, unstructured look, a bucket bag is nice to bring if you need something for the weekends. It has a flat bottom, drawstring closure or zipper top, and long handles. Named for its bucket shape, it’s great for transporting a variety of items.

Though the bucket bag craze has slowed down a bit, this roomy handbag option always stays in style. It can store many items such as phones, wallets, books, vanity items, and more. These bags are often made of sturdy materials to give the bag its bucket shape. Because of their unique appearance, it’s sometimes worn only as a fashion statement, but they are quite helpful and comfortable.

Bucket bags come in a variety of sizes, materials, and designs. Fabric bucket bags look relaxed and casual, while leather bucket bags can make your outfit look chic. Bucket bags can even come with backpack straps, while it usually has a shoulder strap and/or a hand-carry strap.

9. Hobo bag

 

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The hobo bag is slouchy and has a bohemian feel that looks youthful and casual. It’s a perfect weekend bag for your short day trips. Its shape slumps down in the middle when you wear it by the shoulders, and the loose shape hugs the body. It has a distinct silhouette that makes it a casual carry-all with an effortless vibe.

This type of bag often comes with two handles for carrying. It often comes in roomy sizes to accommodate a wide variety of stuff, but there are also small hobo bags that can only fit your phone, cards, a little makeup, and maybe a wallet.

10. Drawstring bag

A hiker wearing a drawstring bag in the woods

One of the most casual bag types, the drawstring bag, comes with a drawstring closure on top. Usually, you can find these bags in simple style with no interior or exterior pockets, and comes in different colors and prints. However, you can also find drawstring backpacks and bags with more pockets.

These bags are compact and take the shape of the object you put into them. It’s also one of the cheapest ones you can buy, making it a perfect giveaway for events. It’s best for running errands and for casual daily use.

11. Belt bag

A woman wearing a black belt bag

Belt bags (also known as fanny packs or bum bags) have gotten a bad reputation, but nowadays, they are stylish and fashionable once again. It’s a small bag attached to a belt or strapped to the waist. It keeps your valuables within reach while your hands are free. Fanny packs are convenient for music festivals and other outdoor activities.

Some belt bags are structured and dressy enough since they are made of leather, which can elevate an outfit instead of dressing it down. Meanwhile, polyester or nylon belt bags are used to keep your essentials close to you while working out or running. Then, there are fanny packs that are hyper-casual, which can help you carry your essentials when you’re running errands during the day.

12.  Clutch bag

A woman in an elegant black dress holding a red and silver clutch bag

A clutch bag is a small and stylish bag you bring to fancy events and parties to suit your special outfit. It’s a slim, small bag with no handles, as the wearer “clutches” it to transport. Usually, you can’t fit more than a smartphone, cards, keys, and lipstick in there, but it’s alright – that’s the point of it. It’s the go-to purse for formal occasions, from cocktail to black tie to white tie.

There are day clutches and evening clutches. Day clutches are more casual-looking, as they can be used for doing errands or going somewhere you don’t want to bring a bag. Evening clutches are usually fancier and more glamorous-looking. Some come with a bit of sparkle. Clutch bags are meant to be held in hand, but some come with handles or chain straps, so you cannot hold them by hand.

Here are some types of clutch bags that you may encounter:

  • Wristlet

 

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A wristlet is a type of clutch that has a wrist strap. The bag itself is small, thin, and rectangular – usually only able to carry a phone, a small wallet, or even just a few credit cards. It’s something you bring on a quick trip or evening affairs like a date night or black- or white-tie events. It keeps your cash, receipts, and cards within easy reach while providing a convenient pocket for your phone. Some wristlets also work as a makeup bag or cosmetic bag.

  • Minaudiere bag

A minaudiere bag is a clutch bag with a structured (usually solid) case that acts as a bag. They are typically encrusted with beads, crystals, and other decorations, as it is usually brought as a clutch in events such as weddings, proms, awards ceremony, graduation, and other fancy events where you wear a long dress, a classy outfit, or a gown. Like most clutch bags, it can only handle a few small articles like phones, keys, cards, and lipsticks.

Types of Bags Based on Purpose

We carry bags for different purposes, so we don’t own one bag for use on every occasion. We got different bags we use for school or work, short day trips, travel, errands, gym, or overnight with friends. Here are the types of bags according to their purpose:

1. Work or office bags

A professional lady wearing a black handbag

A work bag is the type of bag we bring to work. It’s not too small nor too large – just the right size to carry our everyday essentials. It’s often made of leather to make it appropriate and dressy enough for business and professional settings. Great work bags also usually come with different compartments and pockets to keep things organized, and most are large enough to contain laptops or files.

While leather bags are the first kinds of bags that come to mind when we think of work bags, not all jobs require us to wear business attire. In more casual work settings, the backpack you used in college can pass up as a bag to bring to work. Anything that looks more mature than a typical children’s school bag can be used as a bag to bring to the office or your workplace.

2. School bag

A girl putting things in her school bag

School bags come in various designs, as they cater to different age groups – preschool children, grade school, middle school, high school, or college. School bags for young children are often found in bright and vibrant colors, featuring fun designs like cartoon characters, animals, or food. School bags that reflect children’s interests excite them enough to go to school, which is a win for parents and students.

Meanwhile, school bags for teens come in more mature designs than childish bags. These bags are designed to contain lots of books, notebooks, and other school supplies. Some come with laptop compartments, especially those bags for high school and college students.

As for the styles, the backpack is the most popular for school children and teens. There are trolley bags for elementary school children, as they can carry lots of books without straining the young child’s back and shoulders. Meanwhile, backpacks and crossbody bags are more popular with middle school to college kids.

3. Briefcase

An office girl putting things in a bag

Briefcases are a type of handbag that is hard, rectangular, and box-like with a small top handle. Originally, these are designed for carrying lawyer’s briefs, thus the name. Nowadays, the name “briefcase” is also applied to laptop bags that are carried by hand.

Men often use hard-cased and boxy briefcases in professional settings (like those carried by men in suits), and in movies, we may often see them carrying wads of cash. But women’s briefcases tend to be softer looking. They can be made of leather, with a longer strap for carrying by the shoulders, and they have rounder and softer edges. Briefcases are often used for work carrying laptops and documents.

4. Beach bag

A woman on a beach with a beach tote on her shoulder

Going to the beach? Head to the shore in your fancy beach gear. A beach bag is a must, especially for taking along your sunscreen, snacks, water, towels, change of clothes, and more along the shore. It’s something you must have in your wardrobe for use on vacations. Most people choose beach bags that can elevate their beach look.

Usually, beach bags are canvas totes, plastic totes, straw tote, or nylon totes. Straw beach totes are popular for their beach vibes and style, but they can be hard to clean and are not waterproof. If you want something that’s easy to care for, practical, and can be brought next to the water, go for waterproof materials like plastic and nylon.

5. Evening bag

A black and gold minaudiere bag

Evening bags are a type of dressy, often handheld bags worn by women during the evenings for dinners, dates, and parties. Clutch bags often function as evening bags, embellished with pearls, sequins, and other decorative surface work. These are paired with formal dresses and other articles of clothing that make you look dressed up.

6. Phone bag

 

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This small bag is designed to carry only a phone and a few essentials like cards, cash, a small wallet, and other small knick-knacks. Phone bags are usually worn across the body like a crossbody bag.

7. Lunch bag

 

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When you carry a lot of other bags, there’s one thing you shouldn’t forget: food. If you want to pack your own lunch for your office, school, travel, picnics, and more without messing up the insides of your bag, get a lunch bag. Some offer an insulated cooler with interior vinyl lining to keep your food fresh. These bags with special insulating linings are also mess-free. Meanwhile, there are still simple ones that are made with fabric and nothing else. Some lunch bags have a zipper or drawstring closure, while some have an open top.

8. Duffle bag

A woman packing up her gym duffle bag
A woman packing up her gym duffle bag

The duffle bag, also known as the weekender bag, is a large, cylindrical bag that is a perfect companion to your luggage or suitcase. It has enough space to fit your change of clothes, towels, shoes, and other stuff. On its own, it can carry your essentials for the weekend trip. Duffle bags also work as gym bags for most people.

9. Laptop bag

A businesswoman wearing a laptop bag

A laptop bag is meant to carry a laptop and its accessories. It’s rectangular in shape, with an interior padded lining and an exterior waterproof fabric. Usually, it has a sturdy top handle, plus longer handles for carrying by the shoulders or across the body. Nowadays, a lot of people are opting for laptop backpacks, which have a special padded compartment for a laptop and space for other essentials. Since laptops can be heavy, a backpack may be more comfortable and practical for many people, as it can balance the weight of the gadget on the wearer’s shoulders.

10. Gym bag

a hot pink gym duffle bag on the floor with a pair of shoes

Gym bags are available in many different forms. The type of gym bag you pick depends on the kind and quantity of things you bring to the gym. It can be as simple as a drawstring bag or as sizeable as a duffle bag. Backpacks and tote bags are also popular forms of gym bags.

What makes gym bags different is their versatility, sports-oriented design, and lightweight construction. Gym bags usually have a lot of compartments and features like a water bottle compartment, pockets for wet clothes, and zip-up compartments for stowing shoes and other exercise essentials. The materials used for making gym bags are often water-resistant fabrics to wick sweat. You don’t want a bag that absorbs your sweat after the gym, nor a bag that feels sticky or uncomfortable as you bring it home after a good workout session.

11. Doctor’s bag

A doctor’s brown bag with a stethoscope

Doctor’s bags are designed to carry medical supplies for house calls. They are often made of durable materials with a frame at the top. Some come with zippers, while some have snap closures. These bags are roomy and can carry lots of things. It often has a short handle for carrying by hand, but many have a shoulder strap. It’s usually made from leather for a professional look.

This bag is all about function, so it’s typically large and has a flat bottom. Modern doctor’s bags are not exclusive to doctors – It serves similar purposes to duffle bags and barrel bags, offering abundant spaces for travel essentials or clothing. It’s a great bag to use for travel or overnight stays, with a touch of a formality than a duffle or weekend bag.

12. Diaper bag

A diaper bag hanging on a stroller

For moms, a diaper bag is an essential item you need to have when you’re traveling or going out with your baby. Diaper bags are spacious, containing endless compartments and pockets for baby’s extra clothes, diapers, changing pads, towels, wipes, milk bottles, snacks, toys, and a lot more.

Diaper bags often have a wide opening for their main compartment, and it comes with parent-friendly features like zip-top closures and adjustable straps. It can be found in the form of tote bags, backpacks, handbags, or crossbody bags. Many options are small enough to fit underneath a baby’s seat in a stroller.

Back then, diaper bags were commonly brightly colored and came with baby-oriented designs. But nowadays, they are now available in more subdued and toned-down colors to make them attractive for any parent or caregiver. Sometimes, a diaper bag may look like an adult’s everyday tote or backpack, making it more appealing to use for both moms and dads.

13. Micro bags

 

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Micro bags have been a trend in recent years. These bags are smaller than the palm, which makes them purely decorative. It can only hold some IDs, cards, and a small makeup item, and that’s about it. Mini bags are small enough but still can accommodate a large phone, but micro bags take it to the next level.

14. Shopping bags

a woman holding many shopping bags by the arms

A shopping bag is a large handbag with top handles used for shopping. It’s often without closure, but some come with a Velcro strip or a snap closure in the middle so you can close it a bit. Shopping bags are often made of paper, plastic, and jute. Shopping tote bags are often made of canvas or cotton. These bags are cheap and reusable and may be given by shops to hold purchased items to give to customers. They are often used for carrying groceries, or any purchased items.

Some fashion brands use the term “shopping bag” for describing bags that are large and may have top handles, which are designed to be carried while shopping.

15. Camera bag

a woman holding a camera and wearing a camera bag

A camera bag is a structured and padded bag used to keep and protect a camera. It’s useful because putting a camera on any ordinary bag or pouch may put it at risk of being broken – something you don’t want to happen since cameras are expensive and fragile. These types of bags are used to carry digital SLR cameras and are designed for specific camera sizes.

These bags are marketed first to photographers, but people who own a camera and casually use it also use a camera bag. These bags often come with separate compartments (or at least enough space) for storing extra lenses, memory cards, batteries, and chargers.

16. Toiletry bag

 

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A toiletry bag is a compact type of bag designed to carry toiletries and cosmetic items. It can be made of different materials, but the best ones are made of water-resistant materials. It usually comes with one top handle or a wrist strap to make it easy to carry and hang.