This post on the perfect work tote is part of The Five Must-Have Pieces for Your Work Wardrobe series.
Lani taking a shopping break in NYC with her trusty
Lo + Sons The Rowledge Backpack
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, if 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 nylon, 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 own any of these work totes already. And, tell us what you think makes a work tote “perfect”!
P.S. If you love any of these bags, click through to the website to check for current prices and all available colors!
Calpak bags are great for work trips. One of the many practical features in the Calpak bags we chose to highlight is a sleeve for easy pairing with a suitcase. Calpak’s products come in a rainbow of solid colors, and their organizing items also come in super fun prints. Perfect for brightening up the inside of your bag of choice.
Cuyana’s bags are simple, functional, and almost designer quality. The Cuyana System Tote comes in two sizes. This perfect work tote family includes the System Flap Bag and Laptop Sleeve with smart snaps, as well as multiple strap options. These straps can be used on both the tote and to turn the system flap bag into a crossbody for evening or a lunch run. Simply unsnap, add your strap, and go!
Kyle owns a version of the Cuyana Oversized Double Loop Bag in a burgundy color they no longer make. So now I (Lani) will instead have to start pining for this gorgeous dark olive color!
Everlane is not new to the perfect work tote blog. What is new is the cactus or bio leather versions of some of their staples, such as the Day Market Tote. And how chic is the Cactus Leather Hobo? Everlane claims their cactus leather has a great CO2 sequestering capacity, acts like a natural carbon sink, uses zero irrigation, and naturally regenerates soil. Plus, 50% of the byproduct is redirected to the food industry and used to feed cattle. As always, click through to see all available colors in each style. Still interested in the Everlane “cleaner leather” Italian leather tote? Click here.
Hereu, meaning “heir”, is a sustainable brand utilizing a network of artisans across Spain. Their approach to craft is guided by tradition and defined by a contemporary aesthetic. I’d like to say that I found them in my world travels. Nope. Just the Bergdorf Goodman website! I love the color, handle options, and the lightweight canvas!
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.
Kaai is a brand discovered by one of our clients with great taste. We make sure to give her credit every time we recommend the Kaai Midi Pyramid bag to another client! The Kaii Out of Office Pouch and Cardholder are terrific additions to one of their Pyramid bags, or any bag for that matter.
Our most recommended bag from Leatherology is the Alex Work Bag. And the Leatherology Bag Insert is genius, no matter what brand of bag you use. I own their elegant phone crossbody in Bordeaux. Leatherology is known for their many beautiful color options, so don’t be afraid to try something fun. How about the very RLS lilac below!
Lo + Sons
I’ve been using the Rowledge backpack for business and personal trips alike since connecting with the owner of this family business. I am obsessed. Apparently, so is everyone else. I joke that the company should give me cards to hand out for the amount of times I am stopped and asked about my Rowledge backpack. Available in two sizes, the materials and construction are obviously 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, I couldn’t possibly list them all for you. As a bonus, the interior is available in Real Life Style’s signature lavender!
Change the outside, not the inside of your bag! Lo & Son’s Seville Tote is genius. Ever have a hard time choosing one color to match your whole wardrobe? The pressure! Hate having to change your tote at the last minute because a different color matches your outfit better? Lo & Sons has solved your problems by creating a tote that comes with interchangeable shells.
Mansur Gavreil was doing “Quiet Luxury” before everyone else. No logos? Solid colors? What? These things were unheard of at the time. The quality is high, the colors amazing, the price more reasonable than some others in the same arena. We say watch for the sales (or not!) and go for it.
Matt + Nat
Matt + Nat was one of the original brands to make high quality vegan leather. We appreciate the many, well-thought out styles and colors they always have available. There is not a shape or function they have not thought up! How gorgeous are these colors???
We have been fans of Nisolo’s ethically made shoes and bags for many years now. Therefore, we were absolutely thrilled to wander into the Georgetown store recently. The staff is super helpful and of course, the product is amazing. Nisolo’s Carry-All Handwoven Tote, available in two colors, is a bag your can count on wearing for many years to come.
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 their signature bar hardware and beautiful colors.
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 across the country. 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!