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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. Take the Five Must-Haves Challenge with Real Life Style. Join us on Zoom for suggestions on how to shop for and style these pieces every Tuesday from March 9th to April 6th, 2021. Register for all of the remaining sessions here.

What’s a perfect work tote, you ask? It has to be structured so you don’t look sloppy at work. And, it also has to be perfect for you.

As we consider what meets your criteria, ask yourself if a bright color is 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 or a tote? Nylon, leather, or vegan leather? Next comes the fun part of the process, choosing between all of the wonderful options RLS has pulled together for you!

If you own any of these work totes already, let us know. And, tell us what you think makes a work tote “perfect.”

Happy Shopping!

P.S. If you love any of these bags, click through to the website to check for sale prices!


Cuyana‘s bags are simple, functional, and almost designer quality. This first option features a zip-top close, a popular request for the perfect work tote.

Real Life Style Work Tote Bag, Cuyana Brown Leather Classic Zipper Tote

Cuyana Classic Leather Zipper Tote, $195

Real Life Style Work Tote Bag, Cuyana Burgundy Leather Oversized Double Loop Bag

Cuyana Oversized Double Loop Bag, $395

Dagne Dover

Dagne Dover is a “greatest hit” in the super functional tote category. They’ve thought of everything from a laptop sleeve, multiple pockets, and a water bottle holder. If you’d like to try their pieces in person, check out your local Nordstrom.

Real Life Style Work Tote Bag, dagne dover burgundy oxblood leather allyn tote

Dagne Dover Allyn Tote, $325

Real Life Style Work Tote Bag, Dagne Dover signature classic tote in grey

Dagne Dover Signature Tote, $245


We discovered Leatherology when we were looking for small leather pouches for a client a few years ago. I own and wear their elegant phone crossbody constantly. They have a ton of colors, so don’t be afraid to try something fun!

Real Life Style Work Tote Bag, Leatherology lavender monogram leather zippered tote

Leatherology Aleena Soft Zippered Tote, $195 (Add $120 for Trapunto Monogram)

Real Life Style work tote bag, Leatherology canvas belmont tote with hand painted monogram

Leatherology Belmont Tote in Canvas, $150 (Add $40 for hand-painted monogram)

Real Life Style work tote bag, Leatherology uptown vertical tote in blush leather

Leatherology Uptown Vertical Tote, $150

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 now obsessed. The materials and construction are high quality. And, the pockets are endless, well-thought out and specific, and the straps are really comfortable. As a bonus, the interior is available in Real Life Style’s signature lavender!

Real Life Style work tote bag, lo and sons rowledge work laptop backpack in black nylon

Lo + Sons The Rowledge Backpack, $465 $279

Let me tell you why Lo & Son’s Seville Tote is genius. Ever have a hard time choosing the one color tote to buy to match your whole wardrobe (the pressure!)? Hate having to change your tote at the last minute because a different color might match better? Lo & Sons has solved your problems by creating a tote that comes with interchangeable sleeves. Change the outside, not the inside of your bag.

Real Life Style work tote bag, lo and sons seville tote in black leather

Lo + Sons The Seville Tote, $578 $346.80


So many women swear by the Madewell tote for its hardy leather and edgy looks. There is a reason it has been a bestseller for years! The Zip-Top Transport Tote works well as a casual work tote, while the Sydney Tote reads “creative entrepreneur”.

Real Life Style work tote bag, Madewell zip-top transport tote in black leather

Madewell The Zip-Top Transport Tote, $188

Real Life Style work tote bag, Madewell brown leather sydney tote

Madewell Sydney Tote, $188

Matt + Nat

Matt + Nat was one of the original brands to make high quality vegan leather. I 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!

Real Life Style work tote bag, Mat and Nat vegan hyde bag in faux leather

Matt + Nat Hyde Vegan Tote Bag, $170

Real Life Style work tote bag, Mat and Nat Krista Satchel in red vegan faux leather

Matt + Nat Krista Satchel, $160

Real Life Style work tote bag, Mat and Nat Evelin Vegan Satchel in beige faux leather

Mat + Nat Evelin Vegan Satchel, $170

Mark and Graham

Mark and Graham‘s bags are all super cute and monogrammable. The options are endless, including custom combinations. You can see all of the options on their website. I can attest to the quality of the product too. Mr. Real Life Style has a camo briefcase (the same pattern as the tote below) from Mark and Graham that practically stops traffic.

Real Life Style work tote bag, Mark and Graham camo tote with customizable strap

Mark and Graham Build Your Own Tote, $249 (an additional $49-$59 for customizable straps)

Real Life Style work tote bag, Mark and Graham Caroline Leather Handbag in caramel brown leather

Mark and Graham Caroline Leather Handbag, $299


Nisolo began as an ethical solution to leather shoes, before expanding into bags and accessories. Feel good purchasing their totes made by fairly paid workers at their own leather factories!

Real Life Style work tote bag, Nisolo Lori tote in two-tone brown and black leather

Nisolo Lori Tote, $168

Pixie Mood

If you’re looking for a fashionable vegan leather tote, Pixie Mood should be your first stop. They have tons of styles and colors for professional to casual workplaces alike. Kyle and I both have a Pixie Mood tote in a limited edition holographic silver!

Real Life Style work tote bag, Pixie Mood Caitlin laptop tote in black vegan faux leather with croc stamp

Pixie Mood Caitlin Laptop Tote, $105

Real Life Style work tote bag, Pixie Mood Alicia tote in desert clay faux vegan leather

Pixie Mood Alicia Tote, $75

Rebecca Minkoff

Kyle and I have matching Rebecca Minkoff bags too. They have lasted wonderfully well, after several years of trips to New York and running around DC. Of course I haven’t seen Kyle’s bag in a while, but I can tell you that mine still looks brand new. Rebecca Minkoff always has fresh and exciting designs for a more fashion-forward workplace. Although usually in a more relaxed silhouette, the leather is such high quality that the bags don’t look sloppy.

Real Life Style work tote bag, Rebecca Minkoff Megan leather laptop tote in navy leather

Rebecca Minkoff Megan Leather Tote, $198


Shinola makes elegant bags that are designer-quality and beautiful. We’re big fans of the Shinola Pocket Tote. because it stores files and a laptop without bulk.

Real Life Style work tote bag, Shinola pocket tote in brown leather

Shinola Pocket Tote, $595

Real Life Style work tote bag, Shinola Sibley large satchel in black leather with crossbody strap

Shinola Sibley Large Satchel, $895


Tumi bags are a go-to for functionality but give you a hint of fashion too. They’re sleek, low-profile, and sometimes come with straps that fit onto luggage handles.

Real Life Style work tote bag, Tumi Lisette backpack in black leather

Tumi Lisette Backpack, $595

Real Life Style work tote bag, Tumi ella laptop tote in navy blue leather

Tumi Ella Tote, $595

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.

You can find Lani Inlander and Real Life Style on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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