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Work Wardrobe

Your Perfect Work Tote

This post on the perfect work tote is part of The Five Must-Have Pieces for Your Work Wardrobe series.

What makes the perfect work tote? The perfect work tote has some structure to it, is comfortable to carry, isn’t too heavy, and is perfectly functional (and beautiful) for you.

Let’s discuss some of these criteria in detail. What size is your laptop, and do you even carry one? Do you always have a water bottle on you? Is a bright color a welcome pop to your usually neutral-colored clothing? Or, do you often wear brights, so favor a neutral bag? Do you prefer a backpack to a tote? Would your perfect work tote be made of canvas, leather, or vegan leather?

We’ve pulled together many beautiful options for you to choose from. Please let us know in the comments below if you already own any of these work totes. And, tell us what you think makes a work tote “perfect”!

Happy Shopping!

lani signature

P.S. If you love any of these bags, click through the website to check for current prices and all available colors!

Lani trying on the Cuyana System Tote in navy at their Argent pop-in!


Cuyana’s bags are simple, functional, and almost designer quality. The Cuyana System Tote comes in two sizes, 13″ and 16″. This perfect work tote family includes the System Flap Bag and Laptop Sleeve (also in 13″ or 16″) with smart snaps, the Adjustable Wide Strap, and the System Pouch Insert. Choose from multiple colors in the pebble finish or, if you prefer, stone and black in the croco finish!

Cuyana System Tote 16″, $298

Adjustable Wide Strap, $88

System Pouch Insert, $178

System Laptop Sleeve, $98


This season, we’ve added DeMellier to our list of favorites. Sustainably crafted in Spain, these totes are elegant and stylish, with plenty of sizes and color options to meet your tote needs. We love the simplicity of The Tokyo Tote, which is also available in some not-so-common material options like leather/canvas and leather/raffia!

If you’re looking for the perfect size tote, choose The New York, which can fit up to a 16″ laptop, or the Midi New York tote, which is much more compact, fitting only an 11″ laptop or iPad. We get it. Sometimes, the bigger the bag, the more you carry. If you like the Midi New York bag in the black croc-effect pictured below, jump on their pre-order list now!

DeMellier The Tokyo Tote, $595

DeMellier The New York, $695

DeMellier The Midi New York, $625


We’ve seen a trend of more casual totes and backpacks appearing this year, but not all are blog-worthy. However, The ReNew Transit Backpack made the cut! This backpack has an exterior laptop pocket (especially great for air travel), 2 spots for water bottles, lots of nifty interior pockets, a strap to attach to luggage, and is MACHINE-WASHABLE. What more could you want in a backpack? Oh, right, a sleek and trendy look. Check, check, check!

We’ve also tried the Everlane New Day Market Tote, which we are featuring again this season. This is an all-around classic and practical tote, one of the best out there. Especially if you love an environmentally friendly option!

Everlane The ReNew Transit Backpack, $95

Everlane The New Day Market Tote, $275

Il Bisonte

Il Bisonte is a classic Italian leather goods brand. Known for their super soft yet incredibly durable leather, an Il Bisonte work tote is an investment in which you can feel confident. These are bags meant for a lifetime of use. We love that their Talamone Leather Tote comes with a removable zip pouch instead of paying for something extra to complete your tote storage.

Il Bisonte Talamone Leather Tote, $575


Kaai is a brand discovered by one of our many tasteful clients. We give her credit whenever we recommend the Kaai Midi Pyramid bag to another client! A very exciting new addition this year is their Vegan Midi Pyramid tote. This new offering is the same as the classic Midi Pyramid but plant-based and cruelty-free! Also, check out their Kaai Loop vertical tote with space for a laptop and a more slender silhouette. The Kaii Out of Office Pouch and Cardholder are terrific additions to any Kaii brand bag, or any bag you already own.

Kaai Midi Pyramid, $725

Kaai Vegan Midi Pyramid, $799

Kaai Loop, $845 (fits 13″ laptop)


We’re having a moment with Leatherology these days and loving it! If you read our Mother’s Day Gift Guide blog post, you’ll notice we featured several Leatherology items. So far, one of our favorite finds of the year is the Willow 4-in-1 Gift Set. As for work totes, our most recommended bag from Leatherology is the Alex Work Bag. They always come out with new, fun color options and different wallets that match their bags, so check back frequently. One of their newest additions is the Sloan Backpack, which comes in Leather, Canvas, and a Mini version! As always, every bag from Leatherology is customizable, so add your name or initials to any bag you like.

Leatherology Sloan Backpack, $295

Leatherology Alex Work Bag, $260

Leatherology Devon Wristlet, $80

Lo + Sons

Since connecting with this family business, I’ve used the Rowledge backpack for business and personal trips. I am obsessed. So is everyone else. I joke that the company should give me cards to hand out for the number of times I am stopped and asked about my Rowledge backpack. Available in two sizes, the materials and construction are seriously high-quality. And, thanks to working closely with a Real Life Style client on the product’s development, the pockets are endless and well-thought-out. There are so many ingenious features that I couldn’t list them all for you.

Lo + Sons The Rowledge Backpack, $299

Mansur Gavriel

Mansur Gavriel was doing “Quiet Luxury” before everyone else. No logos? Solid colors? What? These things were unheard of when this business launched. We love the beautifully feminine pink color of their Small Zip Tote, which comes in several other lovely spring/summer colors. And no need to worry about your bag on a rainy day with the amazing Eva Rubber Tote. It’s water-resistant and easily wipes clean! This bag is so popular that it’s on a waitlist for every color except black!

Mansur Gavriel Small Zip Tote, $545

Mansur Gavriel Large Eva Rubber Tote, $195

Matt + Nat

Matt + Nat was one of the original brands making high-quality vegan leather. We appreciate the many well-thought-out styles and colors they always have available. There is no shape or function they have not thought up! These totes come at an incredibly affordable price point compared to a leather bag and are made of fully recycled materials. The lining is made from 100% recycled plastic bottles, which makes for a fashionable bag you can feel good about. How fresh and summer-ready is the Hyde Vegan Tote Bag in Daffodil?

Matt & Nat Tristan Vegan Tote Bag, $170

Matt + Nat Hyde Vegan Tote Bag, $180


Ok, I know this isn’t a tote, but I was shopping in Georgetown yesterday in the Sézane DC pop up (currently here until January 2025), and saw all the fabulous bags and accessories they have to offer. I decided I had to include one! Their signature Claude Bag is a chic and versatile compact handbag, with most colors having a matching wallet available. Of course I had to add it here in our signature RLS lilac color!

Sézane Claude Bag, $450

Sézane Small Milo Wallet, $145


An elegant brand with understated details, Strathberry is designed in Edinburgh and sewn by artisans in Spain. Meant to be a true luxury brand at an accessible price point, Strathberry has won us over with its signature bar hardware and beautiful colors. Want to add a bit of flare to your bag? Check out their Silk Skinny Scarves as a bag handle accessory!

Strathberry Osette Shopper, $675

Strathberry Lana Hobo Midi, $695

Strathberry Mosaic Tote, $795

Which structured work tote is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

Real Life Style is a style consulting firm that teaches busy women to wear their power so they can live their lives fully and confidently. Lani Inlander and Kyle Dunphy are based in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and serve clients nationwide. We offer personal styling services, an on-demand e-course, corporate services, and training to become a personal stylist.

Once in a while, you can find Lani Inlander and Real Life Style on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. Mostly, they are happily busy serving their fabulous clients, not hanging out online!

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