Buyers Guide: For choosing the correct handbag

This guide is written for anybody who needs to know a bit more about how to choose a handbag, the generic bag names and the various functions. 

It is directed mainly at husbands or partners who want to be 100% sure that they are making a sound purchasing decision, to be honest, they are asked us for a bit of help - so here we are.

Firstly let's look at bag types: below is a list of the most common bag names :

To make matters worse there are more expressions that are regularly used,  these are more descriptive of the look.

They are:



Here is a quick resume of the key features that come with the different bag types:

Backpack: Should always have the straps positioned to enable the bag to be put on quickly and worn easily on your back, leaving hands free for life chores etc.

Clutch: Usually quite small, and used in more formal, evening or sophisticated settings, should still have enough capacity to carry the basics, phone, key (s), credit card & potentially a lipstick or mascara.

Convertible or Multi-Function; These bags give the owner the flexibility for different occasions, the most popular is usually the addition of a crossbody strap, that quickly attachs with trigger hooks enabling say a Clutch to be worn or used two ways.

Crossbody: Always very popular because it facilitates busy lives, crossbody bags can be slung over the shoulder or body leaving the hands free, but still affording quick and easy access to the bag (unlike a pure backpack that has to normally be taken off to access the inside).  Note: Crossbody bags generally are considered to be more casual in styling and presentation.

Overnighter: This is always a toughie because some users carry more things for an overnight stay than others, but the key is functionality (which we will cover that again below) it has to be carry on compatible - a must.

Shoulder: The bag presents on the shoulder, one handle or two handles is a personal preference - but this type of bag would be equal in popularity to the crossbody because it generally offers good capacity and easy access for the user.

Tote or Shopper: Can be used alone, but quite often will be used in conjunction with another handbag, because of their size and practicality Tote bags often get used for business, travel and shopping.

**Work or Business:  We have asterisked this one because a bit of clarification may be needed, very often the phrase "work bag" can be used for Tote bags or Shoulder bags that have enough capacity to hold an A4 file or laptop. 

Other descriptions that you could encounter:

Bucket - The shape resembles a bucket - it has a flat base and fairly straight sides.

Drawstring - The method of closure is via a drawstring finish that draws up the top by using ties, strings or thonging - this type of closure can be used on a lot of different shapes.

Satchel -  Is a very hard structured bag, that was traditionally used by school children but was revived as a fashion accessory in the mid 2000s. OB doesn't offer these.

Organiser - Is a term that is used for a bag with many pockets and zippers, used so that the contents can stay organised.t

Slouchy -  A soft unstructured look and feel, that affords the flexibility of capacity, allowing the bag to expand when required, but also can slouch down and become "smaller" less cumbersome when capacity isn't needed.

Structured - This means the bag stays fairly firm and upright retaining its shape at all times, very often this rigidity allows good access as the walls stay firm (caveat sometimes this type of bag has with a lot of pockets and dividers that ironically could reduce the internal capacity).

Duffle - A drawstring style that can be worn crossbody and more importantly across the back of the body, based on the kit bags used by servicemen and boy scouts back in the day.

Framed - A framed bag is opened & closed with a metal frame that snaps shut with a clasp. OB doesn't offer these.

Things to consider when selecting the correct handbag style:

Have you been instructed about the style required?

  • YES =  identify it in the bags above and then carry on down to remind yourself of key points to consider.
  • NO  = If this a surprise or an unguided purchase, the best thing to do is look at the recipient's present handbag collection, what does she use every day/frequently ? perhaps that might be a good place to start, or perhaps her present bag is looking very tried, again a new stylish replacement should always be gratefully received.  Finally (and the riskiest) does she have a space in her collection?  This space could possibly be filled, just one thing, if it hasn't been filled by now, and she hasn't hinted, it might be that style just isn't required. 


Size - what has to fit?

There are two things here-  1) Does it have the capacity to hold what is required? 2) Does it look good on the wearer?

Firstly,  try to work out the essentials that have to be carried at all costs and select a size accordingly – bear in mind a bag for an evening out doesn’t have to carry as much as say an everyday bag. Use a tape measure – it’s the only way to be sure when comparing. If you are ordering online,  always check the measurements and descriptions quoted. 

Looking good:

If the wearer is petite then an oversized bag will look and feel uncomfortable. For example, an oversized tote, when worn over the shoulder, will add unwanted bulk to the waist area.

Whereas, if the wearer is a larger or taller person, then a smaller undersized bag could look out of place and can make the wearer feel and potentially look out of proportion.

Please, can we suggest, here at OB we have most sizes and body shapes in our team, so if you are in any doubt, why not give us a shout, we can always provide images of the potential styles on the right body shape. If you want to discuss any aspect of the bag,  a team member will also be pleased natter it through with you, if that helps?


Being too heavy is one of the main reasons that bags get thrown into the closet and never used, even before the contents have been put into it !!      Lightweight but strong bags are our raison d'etre, but if are considering other makes of bag then please remember, chunky leathers, loads of metalwork and trimmings, will mean extra kgs on the bag weight, as will, thick internal linings and add on components, so whilst they may sound great extra poundage is NOT ALWAYS GOOD. 

Bad shoulders and backs:- There is statistical data that says heavy bags contribute to ongoing back pain and poor posture - take it from us, no matter how beautiful (or expensive) the bag, if it is uncomfortable and possibly painful to wear that is not a good result; plus it is made worse, if the recipient feels guilty for not using/wearing the heavy or poorly balanced bag!.  You might be surprised how much metal hardware, can add to the weight and balance. 

If the wearer does suffer from back or shoulder pain, perhaps, now could be the time to consider downsizing? The bigger the bag,  the greater the temptation to throw in everything in ‘just in case’ perhaps it's time to invest in a bag just big enough for (actual) essentials.


This is a tricky one,  some people are paranoid about security, whilst others prefer easy access, it is ideal knowing the preference of the wearer if possible, (again check other bags).

Some bags have no zipper, snap or flap, but fit neatly over the shoulder and tuck up very securely. Other ladies like to have inside zipper pockets or slip back pockets against the body, as they feel this is more than adequate for valuables. 

It's true zippers and flaps are the best for security, but they can also make access difficult and frustrating, please bear this in mind if buying for less able wearers.

RFID is sometimes offered in bag linings to prevent data theft, but it can also block phone signal and adds weight, so nowadays people seem to prefer RFID purely for purse or wallets.


Other factors to consider:

Does the bag have to carry have access to specific things regularly or quickly  i.e. Epi-Pen? Kids stuff (i.e.wet wipes/bottle?) Poo bags? Laptop? Passport? - yes, all of these things matter. 

Colour, of course:- 

Yes we do black bags,(NO not bin bags!!) black leather bags,  but it is good to be a bit different, we offer a free of charge colour swatch option, we also have a smashing customer service team to help you decide.

Be brave (not crazy), you'll be glad you did, brave gets compliments and turns heads and every lady loves that and will thank you for it,  plus, never fear,  we offer a no-quibble 45-day return option ( providing the bag hasn't been specially custom made for you) so if the choice does prove wrong, you can redeem yourself,  please rest assured that British Made, beautiful quality, great styling, friendly customer service and lifetime guarantee will earn you all the brownie points you'll need.... promise!

Can we help you with any more ideas or information? - please send us an email or drop us an email, we will be pleased to ensure you get the perfect handbag, or 01458 442858. 

If you would like to download this guide click here.


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